"What are you doing over Easter?" Shannon had asked vonAppen one day in the coach's office in Honolulu.
"I'm working," vonAppen replied, surprised that any player—let alone a walk-on—would dare ask such a question. In 1996, vonAppen's first year at Hawaii, the Rainbow Warriors had won only two games. "Until we turn this thing around, Shannon, I don't take time off."
"Have you ever been to Kauai?"
"Yes, I have, and it's beautiful."
"I can show you things there you haven't seen before. It's my island."
VonAppen cocked an eyebrow, impressed by the kid's confidence. "Come over and stay with my parents at their bed-and-breakfast," Shannon said. "We'll take care of you."
As it turned out, take care to Shannon meant filling virtually every waking hour of the trip with adventure: kayaking down rivers, touring the Fern Grotto, hiking up the steep mountain face of Sleeping Giant. VonAppen's wife, Thea, 37, is a natural-born daredevil, but Fred, 19 years her senior, is the cerebral sort, more likely to be thrilled by a volume of obscure poetry. The coach wanted to hibernate in his room for three days and read the hours away. Shannon, though, wanted him to experience all the magic of the Garden Island, as Kauai is called, and to love the place as much as he did.
With that in mind, Shannon had saved the best adventure for last. The vonAppens were scheduled to fly back to Honolulu on Easter Sunday. On Saturday, Shannon set out to show them Slippery Slide.
They left Rosewood, the Smiths' B&B on the eastern side of the island, and headed northwest toward a mountain range shrouded in fog. After driving about five miles down the washed-out roads of a sugarcane plantation, they hiked past a gate posted with WARNING and NO TRESPASSING signs, then along trails so muddy that they were easier to negotiate without shoes.
For days rain had fallen in the mountains, and the stream feeding Slippery Slide was dirty with runoff and several feet deeper than usual. To reach the waterfall the hikers descended into a valley clotted with wild ferns and strawberry guava trees, then padded over black lava rocks worn smooth by ancient waters.