The Hawaii Gap Year Students (Group 3) started their adventures on the Big Island a few weeks ago, and used some hands-on risk assessment techniques on their first hikes. Read all about journey to becoming a more positive group that's confident with outdoor exploration.


Our first hike started perfectly. The trail winded down into the valley underneath a completely clear sky and overlooked an incredible view of the outskirts of the island with the scattered buildings of the nearby town barely in sight. We briefly stopped at a vantage point to finish our last orientation meeting, which informed us on the proper risk assessment techniques to use throughout our trip.

At the bottom of the moderate hike, we rewarded ourselves with multiple hours of snorkeling, swimming, and napping. The beautiful cove was not only comprised of a vibrant coral reef and many different species of colorful fish, but also a pod of dolphins that circled a few of the members of the group and ventured almost close enough to touch. After spending a few hours in this paradise, we began the trek back up the trail.

The whole group was surprised by the steep returning incline, which none of us had taken notice of on the way down. One of the members of the group quickly began to struggle with the hike, and was not alone in this experience, but had a history of knee issues that further impeded her ability to make it up the mountain. At this point, the group was scattered at vastly different points up and down the mountain, and we were all corralled to assess the situation.

While we had joked about the seeming ridiculousness at the practicality of the risk assessment meeting, we were now thrown into a real-life application. Many suggestions were thrown out, varying in usefulness and seriousness, from taking turns carrying our injured friend up the mountain to leaving her there and moving on with the trip. After deciding to cut some distance off with an alternate route, we eventually completed the hike multiple hours behind schedule and with many essential group tasks to complete. Although our first hike was quite a struggle, we were further bonded through this intense experience, and much better prepared for out next excursion into the wilderness.

This past week, we were guided through an 8-mile hike through the sacred Waipio Valley, which began with what I would qualify as the steepest road I have ever seen before in my life. Our guide warned us the hill “was not as bad as it looked” on the way back up. I can say for certain that he was wrong. Additionally, the flatter section of the hike posed a different set of challenges, as it traversed the intersection of a river with the ocean, and the river bed was comprised of 20 feet of impossibly slippery rocks.

While attempting to cross this river, 3 members of our group lost the battle with these slippery rocks and fell into the river fully clothed. While these events may have sparked conflict if they had occurred on our first hike, our group approached the situation with a completely different attitude, and everyone jovially accepted their soaked clothing and belongings and passionately exchanged stories detailing their experiences.

For the last mile of the hike, which included the entirety of the elevation change for the hike, we used our refined risk assessment skills, and many of the wearied members of the group opted to drive up to make it up the steep incline. While we have many hikes to come on the rest of this trip, I am confident our group will handle our future encounters with the outdoors with optimism and grace.

- Allison Barker, 2021 Hawaii Student

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Author Pacific Discovery Outreach Posted

Category Hawaii Departure Fall 2021