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My shoes trudge up the path, caked with gooey mud. My shirt sticks to my body, and my hair clings to my flushed face. The winding path steeply curves on and on, taunting my burning muscles. My eyelids droop, as my legs become more and more mechanical, moving up and down with no real motivation. I snag a strawberry guava off a tree and stuff it in my mouth to suppress the gnawing in my stomach. Ginger, our dog, runs off ahead through the wilderness. My dad climbs next to me, panting heavily. “If the path doesn’t start curving down to the left soon, we’re going to have to turn back,” he says, exhaustion creeping at the edge of his voice.

I knew he was right. If we didn’t see the pools of this hike soon, we were either lost or on the wrong path. I couldn’t believe that we had hiked all this way for nothing.

Ginger runs toward us, sweat dripping off her tongue and creating miniature pools below her. I grab a drink of water from my dad’s pack and we continue on.

“Let’s turn back in five minutes,” he sighs.

“Sure,” I say, disappointed that even my dad has pretty much given up.

One… Two… Three… Four…

The minutes tick by, until I reluctantly decide that five minutes has come and gone. Even so, I wait for my dad to voice his affirmation that we will have to turn back. As we round another bend in the trail, the path goes out of sight.

Hidden Pools finding a pool
“Did the trail end?” I wonder aloud

“Did the trail end?” I wonder aloud.

I tentatively take another step, gazing ahead. I break into a grin as I see—finally— that we are on the right path.

The trail descends steeply into the valley, plunging into a forest of strawberry guava trees, mossy rocks, and ferns. I stumble down the rocky path in a delirious anticipation of the thirty-two miles of pools we came all this way to see.

“Whooooohoooo!” I scream when I reach a pool and jump into the water. The achingly cold water chills my bones. I laugh as my dad comes in and Ginger does a belly flop. I gaze up at the sky as a fleck of rain hits my head. When I feel more drops come down, I can’t help but wonder how close we came to turning back. I thank my lucky stars, because I know I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Hidden Pools Risa Askerooth
Risa Askerooth, 12
Mililani, Hawaii

Hidden Pools Amy Yu
Amy Yu, 12
San Diego, California