ON HIS OWN TERMS: There are two worlds in Kalalau Valley. One is populated by tourists hikers and campers. The other is inhabited by the “outlaws”... some of the best people you’d ever want to meet.
Rodney Ahn was one of them and that’s where we met him about two decades ago.
Those self proclaimed “outlaws”- who, like the “nitpickers” at county council meetings take pride in the pejorative name given them by the authorities who harass them and chase them down- are the heart and soul of the valley and without them the valley would suffer tremendously.
They are the ones who are always there- except for when they become all but invisible upon the invasions of the conservation enforcement agents who “sweep” through the valley now and again- and remind the real transients to be respectful of not just the physical environment but the more intangible elements with which they co-populate the hills.
We met Rodney there sitting across a circle, the two of us playing the only two guitars in the valley, reeling off Elton John songs- of which Rodney, despite being a local boy, somehow had an encyclopedic knowledge.
We saw him back there over the years and also we’d see him around town. We ask “whatcha up to Rodney” and he’d say “just got out of the valley and I’m headed back in as soon as I can”.
He’d usually find some work, buy some supplies and return to the world he loved.
Rodney and the other outlaws have found something back there that is impossible to find anywhere else, at least for them. It’s not always clear what that is as we live out our lives here on the outside. But every time we go back there we remember what that is and what drives Rodney and the other handful of outlaws to return over and over despite the dozens of tickets and even jail time some receive for daring to live their dream.
We’ll always envy Rodney. As his brother was quoted as saying in today’s newspaper
(Rodney) told him, “‘That’s where I wanna be and that’s where I want to end up.’ So I guess he was happy.... He got all the choices he wanted. Maybe we should all get that lucky,”
It was a shock but not a surprise to find out that he left this world from his camp in the valley.
Even those who spew venom at the “outlaws” have said they envied Rodney.
See ya in the valley brother.