October 10, 2010
Sharing Knowledge and the Love of Hawaii's Land - Lorin T. Gill
People count themselves blessed to have a teacher like Lorin in their lives. I was fortunate to have two.
first one was literally a biology teacher, Mr. John Obata, who taught
science for many years at Kawananakoa Intermediate School. He was the
first character that got me out of the urbanized, backyard streams of
Nuuanu Valley, then my wilderness domain. Windswept vistas of green,
fluted mountainsides rimmed by deep blue oceans, were the rewards to
his students for keeping up with him on his Smithsonian Museum specimen
It was, however, Lorin Tarr Gill, who set
the standard and generously shared his Knowledge and Love of Hawaii
with me, his Mongoose Gang and everyone who signed up to learn.
was Lorin, who opened the door to serious wilderness backpacking and
gave me sublime days away from urban Honolulu. It could have been 1969
when Lorin, ever the perfectionist, looked at the images of two budding
photographers, Jan Becket and myself, and said, "Good, but why not use
more endemic flora in your pictures?". In those days, we were entranced
by light, form and texture. It was hard to find an Ohia tree in the
city, so we gladly took up his challenge to explore the more remote
trails of Oahu.
After a few of those mud splattered, tabi clad
outings, I was a happy member of Lorin's Mongoose Gang, addicted to the
expansive beauty of Hawaii's vistas. The beach at Wailau Valley, for
instance. I was ecstatic, even after being dumped over the side of a
pitching fishing boat and emerging soaking wet from relaying plastic
wrapped cardboard boxes to the shore.
Ah, the incident of the
swollen Kohala Ditch valley stream and the dramatic guava branch rescue
Lorin concocted. We were based at the remote, historic water ditch
maintenance cabin in Honokanenui Valley. It was further in than Awini
Cabin on the ridge, with its sour lemon tree and many valleys in from
the Pololu Valley waterfall we loved walking behind. When we finally
arrived at the old wooden cabin, we quickly shed our heavy packs and
went off for a quick botanizing hike before the afternoon took our
light. Lorin was happily sharing the history and explaining the biota
of this old, dissected landscape. He was tricked by the decent weather
I had fallen behind the explorers, playing with my
black body Nikon F-1 perched on my heavy Slick tripod, humped all the
way in from the trailhead. It started to drizzle and then got heavier
and heavier. The rain moved makai, after thoroughly soaking the mauka
interior. Eventually, I came to a rushing, swollen river and stopped
dead in my tracks. "How did Lorin cross that whitewater? And should I?".
I only pondered that question for a few minutes.
Lorin and the
poncho draped Mongooses popped into view on the opposite shore, now
about 30 yards away. I could barely make out their shouts, the river
was so loud. At first Lorin and some guys tried to wade through, but it
quickly proved to be too dangerous.
Pondering our dilemma, it
became clear to all that this was a known location for dangerous flash
flooding. Overhead, crossing the river was a thick, braided wire cable,
and on my side was a padlocked, hand operated wooden bench on pulleys.
tested the lock and unsuccessfully looked for a hidden key. I could do
nothing to break the chain and shrugged in defeat as the gang shouted
undecipherable suggestions over the whitewater.
I don't recall
whether it was Lorin not wanting to be made fun of for forgetting the
old timers admonitions about this stream crossing, or not wanting his
Mongoose charges to be stuck out in the rain all night. Ever
resourceful, Lorin went off into the brush to search for options. He
came back with a stout guava branch, shaped in a "Y" with branches that
he placed over the cable and wove together to make a seat. I was
laughing so hard as Lorin hauled himself over the raging river, foot by
foot, that I stayed warm. I did not comprehend till later, how
dangerous it would have been for Lorin, had the branch or cable
To make a long story short, we all enjoyed hours of
laughter in the crowded, steamy cabin that night. Lorin and his
Mongooses safe, dry and fed. For many camping trips after that
incident, Lorin would grin, shake his head and say, "Sheesssh. At least
I replaced the lock that I smashed to release that wooden bench."
adventurous explorations were many, eagerly anticipated and thoroughly
enjoyed. One was my first time up to Lake Waiau on Mauna Kea. Several
times we experienced the serene chain of cabins in Haleakala Crater. We
twice bounced up Hualalai's rutted 4x4 road to the summit cabin (the
first time in 1979). We counted at least three trips with Calvin Harada
and his dad exploring the first Hawaiian settlement around Waiahukini
cabin tucked in on the lee of South Point. There were two memorable
valley trips along the Molokai North shore. We eagerly ascended Mauna
Loa several times, where Lorin, with his 65 lb pack, finally set aside
his beloved tabies.
One further reflection about Lorin.
happened in Hilo, on the front yard of Cathy Lowder's old house on
Manono St. on a cloudless perfect morning. We were packing up the gear
of the just arrived Mongoose Oahu contingent and readying for the
arduous Mauna Loa summit cabin trail. In those days, passengers to Hilo
used the old Lyman Airport facilities, but that was still very close to
Cathy. Lorin paused, sighed in contentment, as he looked at the two
proudly massive mountains basking in the early morning sun. He was
purring in his Lorin way, delighted with the magnificence before him.
not live here, like us recently transplanted Oahuans and see this all
the time?" I asked. He furrowed his brows for a second and then
responded by saying he could not live on the Big Island, the views of
the Mountains would mesmerize him and he would spend all his time
marveling at their beauty.
All the hikes and backpack trips we
undertook with Lorin, were full of laughter, learning and beauty.
Mahalo Lorin, we will treasure those times with you in Nature, always.