At Limahuli National Tropical Botanical Garden, we never work the same day twice. We might be landscaping in the garden, hiking into the preserve to do invasive species restoration, or helping run the keiki (kids) summer program. Sometimes, our supervisor has other ideas in mind, like when she set us up for the day with a pair of stream researchers visiting from Arizona State University. They are studying the impacts of floods on stream systems through the movement of boulders and flood debris. Since the grounds of Limahuli contain a beautiful stream system and were impacted by a major flood in April 2018, the site was definitely of interest.
However, this expedition was not just a casual stream walk with some discussion and data collection thrown in. It was an 8-hour hike not by the stream, but through the stream. I’m talking a full day of thigh-deep wading, 6-foot-tall boulder scaling, and under-tree bending. Questions that I never imagined having flashed through my mind. Do I trust these felt-bottom shoes? Is black moss more slippery than green moss? Should I just walk through this dead tree? Would jumping or crawling be more safe? Somehow the ASU pair didn’t seem to be doubting themselves at all. I swear I saw one of them just walk down a flat rock face and not even slip! My only explanations: practice, good shoes, or possibly magic.
Despite the uncertain terrain, we learned a lot as we made our way along. The researchers showed us what they look for to assess flood strength, like large boulders moving locations or becoming stacked on top of each other. They also note piles of flood debris and signs of the maximum water level, like flattened vegetation. One of the most triumphant moments of the day, besides eventually returning safely, was getting a closer view of Limahuli Falls. We set out not thinking we would get that far, but we made it!
After we got back, Danielle and I were thoroughly beat. We collapsed in the van completely exhausted, and I truly don’t remember a time my whole body was as tired as it was after that 8-hour day. However, we got to go to a place and learn about things I could never have anticipated when we started this job. Just another awesome and inspiring day at Limahuli!