March 8 stories

Here is a photo of the world in action. Computer Dave we call him. The first morning that Mo and I were on Kauai, we went walking and found Dave. I called him the florid man who showed us the way to Rene’s Trail. As our internet connection continued to baffle Karl and Rene, they asked their friend for help. He knocked on the door, and lo and behold it was Dave. Dave is a great guy, every time we see him he is smiling and happy and helpful. When he wasn’t able to correct the cable problem, he offered his home office for me to check email and print our vouchers for the kayak trip we ordered online. (gotta remember that part about travel, computers, and online orders, there has to be a printer somewhere!!)

So we walked down the road, over Rene’s hidden trail, along the beach and up a little sand bar to this magnificent home overlooking the water. Dave’s house. Everything was all open and breezy and lovely in that island way, and his wife was standing at the sink, looking a bit pertubed that friendly Dave was hauling some strange woman into the house, probably not for the first time. He took me up to his climate contolled office the only room in the house that has air conditioning and where he keeps all his equipment. He makes his living now doing computer consulting when he feels like it. What he told me is that he worked in San Jose and retired in 91, and his stock options bought this house, he moved to Hawaii, and the market crashed 6 months later. No wonder he is so happy all the time!

March 7 Waimea Canyon

After seeing the south and east side of the island on our first day out, we decided that today we wanted to see the famous Waimea Canyon, Grand Canyon of the Pacific, as it is referred to. Our typical granola and banana breakfast and we were on the road by 8 am, traveling south on 56 and then west on 50 through the towns of Hanapepe, which we saved for another trip, and Waimea, and up Canyon Road. Interesting that the road to the canyon isn’t well marked because the powers that be actually want you to miss it so that you will continue on to the next town of Kekaha to hopefully spend some more money before continuing up this other route to the canyons. We had our trusty guidebook which warned us of this little problem, so even though we also missed the turn, we knew enough to turn around and fine the hidden turn.

The road goes up very fast, from sea level to 1500 feet in about 2 miles and then it settles down to a bit more reasonable elevation. There are several wide spots in the road for views, and the main lookouts are marked well with parking and of course, lots of people. We were glad to have stopped at one of the earlier unmarked areas for the first view of the canyon because we had the dramatic run of a herd of wild goats running along the cliff sides. Of course, the telephoto on my camera works great, but I can’t seen anything in the viewfinder in the bright sunlight so I have a closeup of some very pretty rocks, and no goats. But we at least got to see them. On up the canyon, we stopped at each of the bigger viewpoints, including the main Waimea Canyon Lookout where I bought fresh pineapple (a hit) and ice cold coconut floating in coconut water (a miss). We also stopped at the Pu’u Ka Pele and the Pu’u Hinahina Lookouts where you can see the lovely Waipo’o Falls in the canyon and the forbidden island of NiHau in the west. We got much better views of Nihau later in the day but it was fun to see it from the high point of the canyon drive.

As we drove higher, over 3500 feet, the fog started coming in and the views lessened. We drove past the Koke’e State Park and on to the end of the road and the two lookouts that give views off the Kalalau valley and those famous vertical green cliffs and the Pacific Ocean. The road wasn’t as potholed as suggested in the guidebook, but the clouds were there and the views were not. Ah well. I looked at the photos and imagined what I might see if my timing were better. There are several trails that take off from the last viewpoint, including the Pihea Trail and the Alaka’i Swamp Trail. All trails that would have beckoned us another time, but on this day our legs were still complaining about what we did yesterday on the Kalalau trail so we looked at each other and said, “Hey, who needs to hike in the fog, we couldn’t see anything anyway. Let’s go find a beach”.
On the way back down the canyon we decided lunch was a good idea and stopped at the Koke’e Lodge for a surprisingly nice meal and some fun watching the feral chickens doing their chicken thing. Chickens on Kauai are like seagulls on the Oregon coast. They are everywhere, brought here originally by the first settlers with their pigs and dogs, but since Hurricane Iniki they have multiplied even more. According to Rene they are a good thing, eating roaches and centipedes, two bugs that were also imported here. The feral cats seems to keep the population of the feral chickens to a manageable number as well. It was shocking to find a feral cat half the way into the wild area on the Kalalau trail, and out on the distant beaches of Polihale. A sound in my memory of Kauai will be of roosters crowing. All the time, in town, in the country, at home, everywhere.

After our refreshing lunch we continued back down to the western beaches, long long stretches of sand and hot sun. It was amazing just how much hotter it was down here, and the clouds of the mountains completely dissipated as we drove to the end of the road and Polihale Beach. Here the sand dunes are 100 feet high and the sand is HOT. We were happy again to have the guidebook that directed us to go left at the monkeypod tree to find the Queen’s Pond and the southern end of Polihale beach. The surf on this side of the island is huge and strong and scary, and this is supposedly a nice gentle place to swim safely. We tramped across the deep hot sand to plop down next to this lovely spot and swim. I love it, the keiki (baby) beach, and it was plenty strong for me. I swam and swam and played in the waves and felt the strength of it and remembered childhood days at Huntington Beach in California, getting pounded into the sand by waves and wondering if I was ever going to surface. Just outside the boundaries of this little reef area there were huge waves, so big the a couple of surfers trying to get into the water walked up and down the beach and finally gave up. We swam and rested and swam some more before finally decided to leave this lovely place. Drove a bit farther north into the state park to check out the picnic area and camping and after checking out the wild surf we were really glad to have found our baby beach at Queen’s Pond.

Heading back along the coast to Waimea we stopped at the famous Jo’Jo’s Shave Ice and had the tropical treat. If you have never had a shave ice, believe me, it is NOT a snow cone. The ice is shaved really fine, and the best way I can describe it is like the texture off eating a really good crispy watermelon. It ‘s ground really fine, then covered with fresh tasting tropical juices and all on top of a scoop of macadamia ice cream. Unbelieveable. Like the best watermelon you ever had, and maybe something like a tropical root beer float as well. Ahhhhh! Another perfect end to a perfect day. Home at sunset to reading and relaxing and enjoying our tropical breezes and home.

March 6 Kalalau Trail

The book we are using is called, “The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook, 5th Edition” by Wizard Publications. At first it was a bit disconcerting, because they talk about things to see and then direct you to another part of the book for more information regarding hiking, or whatever, so until I got used to it, I couldn’t find anything. But as I get used to using it, I like it better and better. The writers have a great sense of humor and a ton of really good information once you find it.

We woke early again to the sound of the ocean and the birds. I’ll never get tired of that, I am sure. Having granola and sweet baby bananas for breakfast before we headed north on HWY 56 to the north side of the island. Driving north from Anahola leads into a lovely rural area of gentle sloping terraces that face the ocean backed by those amazing vertical green mountains to the east. There are mango and other kinds of orchards along the way, and even a fresh fruit stand where I got a pineapple and banana tropical smoothie that was perfect. As we approached Kilauea we found a roadside stand with 2 little girls and their mom selling banana bread as part of their home schooling in economics. Of course, we bought a very tiny loaf for 5 bucks, and it wasn’t that great, but the pictures were cute.

On through small towns and to the famous overlook of the Hanalei Valley, where most of the taro plant is grown in wet fields, much like rice. We passed through Princeville and Hanalei, with our destination in mind, expecting to return another time to explore the shops of both those charming little towns. We did have to stop to take photos of the famous green church with the mountain backdrop. It was truly lovely.

The road on the north side narrows considerably with 7 one lane bridges. Everyone is polite, and there is a certain island etiquette as to how to cross these bridges. We followed a road just so incredibly beautiful it defies description until we arrived at the end at the Ke’e Beach. This is the end of the road, as far as you can drive This seems to be a very popular place because even as early as we were there was very little parking available. There are two huge caves, one dry and one wet, and the beach is quite a distance from the main parking lot and the main trailhead.

The Kalalau trail is according to all our books not only the most famous in Kauai, but the most famous in all of Hawaii. It follows the precipitous north coast along the cliffs with a sheer drop to the ocean below. I had imagined a lovely tropical hike with waterfalls and ocean views. There weren’t that many waterfalls, but the ocean views were breathtaking. So was the hike! It was a perfect temperature, and with all the elevation ups and downs I was really glad to be hiking at mostly sea level or close to it. The hike is beautiful. It goes for 11 miles along the cliffs of the inaccessible Na Pail coastline, to beaches and waterfalls, and ends at the Kalalau valley and beach in the midst of this magnificent coast. This is the part of the island that is usually seen only by helicopter or by expensive charter catamaran trips. We decided to opt out of either of those, but thought that the shorter part of the hike to Hanakapi’ai beach would do just fine. 2 miles each way, piece of cake, right? We do that all the time. Well, let me tell you, 2 miles up and down on slippery volcanic rock is not a piece of cake. It was a wonderful trip, and we began fairly early in the morning, and by the time we limped to the end of the trail it was mid afternoon. Lovely. Mo and I laughed and said, ‘I wonder how much longer we are going to be able to do this kind of thing?” Well, hopefully a bit longer anyway.

Aching knees made the cool salty waters of Ke’e beach call to me and I went directly into the cool clear water and what an amazing feeling. The surf didn’t look heavy at all, but as soon as I relaxed into the water, I noticed that I was going out to sea very very quickly. I swam hard and went nowhere and laughed a lot as I let the current take me where it wanted, and eventually went back into shore. The sandy bottom was perfect and clean and I could see it as clearly as if I had on a mask. I loved that part especially. Swimming felt so good on my legs, and when I finally got out and attempted to walk up the beach I remembered again that they were tired. Back to the car and comfortably settled into our seats, we traveled the lovely roads home to Anahola without any thought whatsoever of checking out a single thing!

Nice to come home to our lovely little house, make a great stir fry dinner and relax with some reading and writing and the gentle afternoon breezes. The end of a very perfect day!