Sunday, November 26, 2006

20 November 2006
It is our last day in Hawaii. We checked out of the hostel and headed to the Wailua River for a 4-5 hour kayaking trip. On the way we stopped at the Kapa’a Library to drop off the books we had taken out for the trip. We gave a ride to another hostel resident who is from Los Angeles but was originally from Mongolia. It’s funny, but the person we had the hardest time understanding due to an accent was a woman who had lived in the country for ten years. She had asked us whether we thought that she should spend her last day in Hawaii going to the Kilauea Lighthouse or to the Wailua River, which was supposed to have a popular tourist site called the Fern Grotto. It’s hard to make a judgment like that for another person, since we didn’t know her or know what she would find interesting. We really enjoyed the lighthouse, but mostly because of the bird-life. She ended up coming with us to the Wailua River, although she had no interest in kayaking. They have a tour boat that has a trip on the river giving facts and folklore on the way up and Hawaiian music and hula on the way back. Unfortunately, the fern grotto area had been severely damaged by excessive rain this spring, so it was off limits. She decided to take the guided boat trip, while we decided to rent a double kayak (without a guide) for five hours to travel the river. I brought my camera, since I had the ammo box which was waterproof. Just to be sure though, I put the box into a dry bag.

The first stretch was upstream, which we thought was going to be difficult, but there was very little flow in the river. After about an hour we came to a fork in the river. The left fork would take us to a swimming hole with a rope swing and cliff diving. We took the right fork which took us up to the trailhead for a waterfall hike. We pulled the kayak up on the right bank alongside of twenty-or-so others, most of which I believe were with guided tours. We then had to walk across the river, which was about thigh deep. They had a rope strung across because the current here was surprisingly strong. The trail to the waterfall was about a mile long, through mud and over rocks and roots. It really surprised me that there was not a better trail, considering the number of people who make this trip. The waterfall was stupendous. I was glad that Julie got to experience this one, since she missed the last one. The falls had a clear drop of over 100 feet. Someone had built a mound of rocks along the course of the stream creating a pool under the falls big enough to swim in. The water was cold, but the experience was fun. Back in the kayak we chose to go up the left fork to check out the swimming hole. The rope swing looked like fun but it was cooling off and we were ready to get back. The kayak trip back down the river was against the wind, which negated any positive impact the current might have had.

We returned our rental car at the airport and took the 7:00 Aloha flight to Honolulu. The flight was delayed until 7:20 because President Bush had been in Hawaii and all flights had been delayed while Air Force 1 was in the vicinity. We still had plenty of time before our 10:40 flight to the mainland, which made me regret having convinced Julie that we should get to Honolulu so early. That was compounded by the fact that the plane we were supposed to board needed repair and the flight was delayed until 11:45. The delay meant that we did not land until 25 minutes before our connecting flight from Newark to Columbus was to take off. Unfortunately, we were in the second to last row of seats. By the time we got off the plane, we had 10 minutes to make it to the departure gate. We thought that both gates being in Terminal C would mean that we wouldn’t have too much problem, but we underestimated how big Terminal C is in Newark. We ran the whole way only to be told that the flight was closed when we got there. Fortunately, one of the counter attendants was aware of the situation and had already checked us in. Our luggage was not so lucky. Three of our four bags were delivered to our house later that night. The fourth came the following night. It had somehow ended up in Cincinnati with no tags or other information. Someone going through the bag found our Bible which had some junk mail as a bookmark. The junk mail had our name and address, which allowed them to call us.

It’s great to be home now. The trip was fantastic, but we were ready to back to family. We have always said that this was a once in a lifetime trip, which I think is still true. It was great to experience everything, but if we were scheduling another major trip like this, I think we would choose to go someplace new.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

17 November 2006
When we made the reservations at Classic Vacation Cottages we were intrigued by the suggestion in their literature that they were very close to a golf course that overlooked the water and charged only $8 to play nine holes. The Cottage’s owner even had golf clubs to loan. While neither of us are golfers, it sounded like a great opportunity and a nice way to spend a few hours. We were a little intimidated as we drove into Kukuiolono Park, which was donated to the public and is supported through some sort of trust. We had to wait about 45 minutes for our turn so we went to the driving range and hit a $2 bucket of balls. Julie described the experience as “humbling”. We were paired up with two gentlemen from Arizona, who also were walking the course, and their wives who walked along to cheer us on. At the last minute a gentleman who lives in the area tagged onto our group. He knew the course very well and gave us pointers on how to play it. They were very patient with our level of play. (Julie actually drove her first ball onto the green on one of the par 3 holes.. I thought I was being set up!) It was a beautiful setting and a lot of fun.

After golf we stopped into a local place for lunch and followed up hamburgers with a slice of Sour Cream Apple Pie and Pineapple Macadamia Nut Cream Cheese Pie. The cream cheese pie was great! Then we checked out and drove to Kapa’a on the islands east side.
We had reservations to spend the night at the Kauai Beach House, which we had high hopes for, since it was right on the beach. After some trouble finding it (they had absolutely no signage) we parked and were shown around the place. We had a private room reserved, but most of the accommodations were what I can best describe as berths: a bed set into a cubby hole with a curtain across the front. I’m sure it would have been fine, but we did not feel completely comfortable there. (Julie describes it as a ramshackle hippie joint.)
Instead we found that the place where we would be spending the next two nights had our room available, so we decided to check in there a day early. It saved another day packing. The International Hostel has a sign on the front gate which says that the area inside is a sanctuary for its guests. It felt like that when we walked through the gate. Except for the initial uneasiness of walking into a strange place with people who you don’t know, it had a very relaxed atmosphere. We have a private room with our own bath, which is luxury for a hostel (but also costs $75/night, which is higher than some other choices).

18 November 2006
We headed out this morning for the Kilauea Lighthouse on the north shore of the island. The lighthouse is now a wildlife sanctuary with an emphasis on preserving marine bird habitat. We got to the front gate before it opened at 10:00 and waited at a wonderful overlook outside their gate. There were dozens of Red-footed Boobies swooping across a beautiful bay and perched along the cliffs on the sides. We got to see them very well, which was satisfying since I thought that I had seen them earlier on the trip, but was unsure of my identification. As we walked up to the lighthouse we passed by the occupied nesting holes of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters which were close enough to touch (if it were allowed or a good idea). It was a beautiful view of the coastline from the lighthouse. We were hoping to see some Laysan Albatross but were disappointed (for the moment).

We had gotten directions to a “swimming hole” called the Queen’s Bath from the owner of Classic Vacation Cottages, and actually managed to find it. It is an area on the coastline where the black rock has been eroded away to form a pool which is separated from the pounding surf by a natural wall of rock. It was only about 25’ by 75’ but was fun to swim in. There were fish to see and every time a wave crashed on the wall it sent a wave of bubbles into the pool. We had a picnic lunch of bread and cheese sitting on the rocks overlooking the pool and the rest of the coastline.

As we were leaving the area we were driving through the Princeville Golf Course and saw a large bird sitting along the fairway under a tree. It turned out to be the Albatross we were looking for. It would have been nice to see it in a more natural setting, but it was fun to see anyway. He even awoke from his nap long enough to lift his head for a few pictures.

We drove along the north coast stopping at several beaches which were too wavy to swim at, but made some nice pictures. I even tried some infrared photography using a filter that I have which blocks all visible light. It made the exposure 15 to 30 second which had an interesting effect on the waves. Unfortunately, they all look blurry, which is probably a combination of the fact that IR light focuses differently than visible light and that the filter may not be very good. Hopefully it doesn’t mean that my camera is having problems focusing again (it has been sent in once for that already). It would be very disappointing to have a focusing problem with all of the pictures I have taken so far.

We ended up at the farthest point that you can drive to on Kauai, Kee Beach. It was fairly busy, possibly because others, like us, had ended there by default. It was also one of the few beaches that were protected enough from the surf to allow swimming. We went snorkeling, which was fun, but it was very shallow and the water was not very clear. We headed home and stopped back at the lighthouse to finish off the day. The adult shearwaters were supposed to come in to feed their young, but we couldn’t see any.

Back at the hostel we had lettuce topped with chicken, avocado, tomato, and dried cherries for dinner.

19 November 2006
Today our goal was to get up early and drive to the “end” of the island to hike a trail along the Na Pali Coast. We had volunteered to drive another couple from Germany to a beach on Hanalei Bay. Because of the way the hostel is organized, residents with private rooms get the kitchen to themselves until 8:00 when the manager opens the front door. We agreed to leave at 8:15 to give them time to get in and have breakfast. By the time that we got to the trailhead it was 9:30. The trail is 4 miles in to a waterfall and then back out again for a total of 8 miles. We had been told that the trail generally takes about 6 ½ hours, but we travel at photographer/birder pace, so we figured on 8 hours. Since the sun sets at 6:00, we did not think that we gave ourselves much lee way.

It would have been a good place to cool off in the surf, except for all of the warning signs that let you know that it was dangerous to even go near the water. The waves just off shore were huge and the currents in the little cove were all over the place. There was a sign that tallied the 82 deaths that have occurred at that beach. Needless to say, we didn’t go swimming.

From there the trail headed inland up a stream that flowed over well rounded volcanic rock. The trail actually was higher on the wall of the gorge, so that we could hear the stream, but rarely see it. The times that you could see it were when the trail dropped down and crossed the stream, which meant jumping from rock to rock. (Julie’s favorite activity!) This trail was also supposed to start out level, but was quite a climb as far as I was concerned. At about 12:00 we passed someone who estimated that we had about another mile left to go to the falls, and that the way got steep enough that you would have to use your hands in places. Julie was starting to get worried that we would complete the trail and be out before dark. It was not a trail that you wanted to be on with bad light. At 12:30 she decided that she would just enjoy the stream and sent me on up to the fall at a faster pace. By about 1:00 I arrived at the base of Hanakapiai Falls, which internet sources say is somewhere between 300’ and 450’. It was very impressive. (Shhhh! I told Julie that it was nothing special.) We ended up making much better time on the return trip, so we were back by 4:15. If we had it to do over again, Julie would have made the final climb. We stopped for Hawaiian Ice at Hanalei Bay and headed back to the hostel to begin packing for our trip back home.

Sunday night the hostel records a web broadcast of Chefff Jeff (extra “f” intentional) cooking different food types. Tonight it was Native American. They recorded a 20 minute segment with the guests as a studio audience, then we had an incredible meal that included pine-needle smoked salmon, cranberry glazed Cornish hens, acorn squash, squash bisque, maple syrup beans, and much, much more. It was an incredible spread. You can view the show at their website at

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

16 November 2006 (7:20 AM HST)
I am sitting on the lanai at Classic Vacation Cottages on the island of Kauai. We’ve been on the go the last couple of days, which means that this journal has slipped into the past-tense narrative again.

On Tuesday, November 14, we moved from upcountry on the eastside of Maui to a resort on the beach on the western shore. Maui has two distinct mountains from two separate volcanic episodes with an expanse of lowland in between. The day started off rainy and overcast, but we’ve learned that weather is very geographic and changes quickly in the islands. Our first stop was the Iao Valley, which is incised into the eastern slope of the West Maui Mountains. The rain and clouds followed us, but what it took away in panoramic views it gave back in drama and mystique. The drive up the valley ended at a walkway along a beautiful stream which cascades down the mountainside. They had interpretive signs which explained some of the history of the island. Again, it was interesting to note how the valley was described as the site of the biggest battle the island has ever experienced where the bodies filled the streams when Kamehameha I overran the island in order to “unite the islands”. It always sounds so altruistic when you see it presented on the information signs. As always, the conquerors get to write the history. I’m not sure why the signs have such a strong prejudice for the reign of King Kamehameha I.

As I mentioned, we had intended on snorkeling a lot on Tuesday, but a parting comment from Gary as we were leaving left a pall over our plans. He mentioned that he was not going wind-surfing because he thought it was a bad idea to be in the water when it was overcast or the water was murky, because sharks couldn’t see as well and it was too dangerous. Jerry on Oahu had also mentioned that he didn’t go surfing after a rain because the fresh water flowing into the sea brought with it runoff that attracted the sharks in to shore and the mix of salt and fresh water was not as clear. The rain had stopped and it was starting to clear when we got to the first spot where someone had recommended snorkeling (the 14 mile marker on Rt. 30, the Honoapil’ilani Highway, on the south shore). We found good parking (a rarity) and a few other people snorkeling. We also found signs posted along the beach which said, “Swim at your own risk. Shark attacks have occurred along this area.” We decided that even if it was great snorkeling, it would be hard to relax and enjoy it. This coastline is also within sight, although not very close, to where a man got bitten by a shark a few days earlier only 30’ from shore. We decided to find a more protected area.

This time we were trying to find Black Rock north of Napili. We knew where it was, but found it very difficult to get past the “No Public Access” signs at all of the resorts that line that area of the coast. By the time we found the small sign indicating beach access, the rain had started again and didn’t look like it would let up soon. We ended up spending the day going through art galleries in Lahaina. We checked into The Mauian and I got to swim a little at their very nice sand beach while Julie talked on the cell phone to the kids. We relaxed in the evening and started packing for another inter-island flight the next day.

We decided to make one more attempt at snorkeling along this coast in the morning (Wednesday, November 15) at Honolua Bay. Just after sunrise we headed out to find this area which is supposed to be one of the best in Maui. We traveled light, which is a change for me, leaving my camera, wallet, and other valuables back in the room so we wouldn’t need to worry about them while we were both in the water. We only had about 45 minutes before we had to be back to get ready to head to the airport, so we were a little stressed. We had gotten detailed directions from a woman who had been there before, so we felt good when the landmarks all fell together and we found a good parking pull-off. As we walked down the path to the beach we passed a crudely-lettered sign that said that there was a $5 fee for accessing the preserve along this path (to pay for upkeep and portalettes). Being 7:00 in the morning, we hoped that whoever had posted the sign would not be around to collect their fee. Unfortunately, we were met down near the water by a man who claimed to own the property fronting the beach, and he would not let us enter without paying. I wish that I had told him that it would just be for 45 minutes and asked for a break, but he was pretty brusque and I didn’t think of it.

We got back in our car and tried unsuccessfully to find another way to get to the water. Finally, we found a nice, government owned and maintained trail down to the bay next to the area we were trying to find. It led to a beautiful beach with a calm surf. I was sure that we had used up all of our time, but Julie insisted that we could make up the time somewhere else and suggested that we go snorkeling for 15 minutes. By the time we had gotten our gear, there was a “set” of waves rolling into the beach that were probably four feet high. They didn’t last long though and we pushed out into the water. The snorkeling was not as good as it looked like it would have been in Honolua Bay, but it was still nice and we saw a lot of fish and the biggest sea turtle that we have seen to date. It was well worth the effort, even after the very spooky swim back through the churned up water at the surf’s edge. I’m okay swimming where I can see into the distance, but I’m very uneasy in close to the beach.

We spent the rest of the morning packing and taking the plane to Kauai by way of Oahu. We still haven’t learned these security ropes yet. I had done a good job of making sure that my water bottle was empty before going through security, but managed to forget that I had my Swiss army knife in my fanny pack. The ticket desk put it in a cardboard box which I could check through. Julie had to give up her suntan lotion since it was over their 3 oz. maximum for a carry-on.

After having a new rental car on Maui, we chose to have a less sporty looking car for Kauai. It’s not a good idea for your car to look too much like a tourist’s when parked at some of the waysides. There are some people who break into cars to get valuables, and others that vandalize the cars of tourists to discourage intrusion on their local space.

On the way to our new lodging, we stopped for a picnic lunch at Poipu Beach. The book said it was good for body-surfing, but the bay was filled with coral that made it much better for snorkeling. It was probably the best fish-viewing that we have seen. We then headed upcountry to Classic Vacation Cottages in Kalaheo where we are staying. Julie describes it as a "quaint cottage nestled in lush vegetation and very nice," aside from the overwhelming smell of mildew. Fortunately, we don’t have to spend too much time inside. At $45/night it helps make this vacation in paradise more affordable.

16 November 2006 (11:12 PM HST)
Today was a great day visiting the Waimea Canyon on the west side of Kauai. The canyon was formed by the combination of a fault and erosion by the Waimea River. It is described as The Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and while it doesn’t compare to the Grand Canyon, it is still very impressive (two miles across in some places and 3000’ deep). We stopped at some great overlooks and hiked a two mile trail around the rim of a gorge that led down to the Na Pali Coast. The first mile of the walk was along a road that was closed, even though it looked in perfect condition and was probably newly paved. The second mile was along a very rough trail of red, sticky mud that made the hiking kind of difficult. Fortunately, the trail was wide, because it ran along the edge of a huge drop-off. We had hoped to see more native birds along this trail, because it does run through native vegetation and is above the “mosquito line”, but the only birds we saw were the native ‘apapane and the introduced Erckel’s Frankolin (which we had never seen or heard of before). We also got a quick view of an owl flying overhead, which we assume was the native pueo. The trail ended in a very steep climb over red clay knobs which led to a knoll with a 360 degree view of the surrounding gorges. Gorgeous!

We headed back down the mountain and stopped in Hanapepe to do some more Art Gallery gawking. We treated ourselves to ice cream; a two dip sundae cost $7.30 so we shared it. It was delicious! We did our grocery shopping for the rest of our stay and headed home.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

12 November 2006

We “survived” the road to Hana today. Hana is a small town on the eastern shore of Maui. Taking “The Road to Hana” is a popular tourist excursion because the road is very windy with several nice overlooks from the cliffs along the coast.
We thought there would be more access to beautiful waterfalls, but if they were there, we missed them. We did walk in to Twin Falls, which was a pretty falls, but not as impressive as we expected. I’m guessing that most of the impressive falls are on the private property that lines the roads.
Several of the streams that come down off of the mountain have been diverted from flowing into the ocean so that they flow to somewhere else. It looks like it was probably done a long time ago, so I assume that it has to do with harnessing the power of freshwater for the sugar cane crops which used to be the life-blood of the area.

We stopped for a picnic lunch at an overlook that was probably 400’ above the water on a sheer cliff. I have never stood so close to such a huge drop-off. I wouldn’t have stood as close to this one if it had not been for a pair of very interesting sea-birds that kept teasing us by flying by and disappearing from view below us. They turned out to be White-tailed Tropicbirds, which have a long, thin tail about as long as their body.

As we neared Hana we stopped at Wai’anapanapa State Park. The sky was threatening rain and the surf was building up which made the coastline very interesting. We sat at an overlook and identified a colony of Black Noddies which were flying in and around a huge rock tower that jutted out of the water. Then we walked down to Black Sand Beach and explored the caves along the coastline and took pictures of the waves crashing through the rocky shore. (To understand the colors in these images you have to visit our photography blog at

We had decided when we scheduled our trip to stay out at Hana for one night so that we wouldn’t have to drive back the 40 miles in the same day. It was a very good decision, since the drive (along with sight-seeing) took us six hours and Julie was wiped out after all those miles of curves. We were planning on spending tomorrow visiting more sights at this end of the island, but there is a bridge that was knocked out by the earthquake a few weeks ago. Supposedly, you used to be able to walk past the bridge for an hour and a half to get to the Seven Sacred Pools (which we have been told repeatedly are not sacred or seven), but now they have closed it off all together. We are spending the night at Joe’s Place ($45 for a private room with shared bath), which seems nice.

13 November 2006
We are back at Peace of Maui tonight after taking the “Road From Hana” today. I am so glad that we stayed out at Hana last night. We spent this morning checking out the coastline past Hana. The surf has been up which makes the waves very energetic and exciting. We didn’t feel comfortable swimming at the first few beaches that we stopped at because of the size of the waves. We did swim at Red Sands Beach which is a secluded beach in a small bay protected by a natural breakwater. Most of the beaches are not marked in any way, but Red Sands Beach takes the prize for the most difficult to get to. You have to park along the side of the road, cut across a lawn area for a school, follow a path through five foot high grass that looks like it hasn’t seen more than a few people walk by in weeks. Then you get to a path that leads along the face of a cliff that is only about 1-2’ wide and sloping toward the 50’ drop off to the rocks along the coast. If that wasn’t bad enough, the path is not cut into a stable, hard material, but is made up of gravelly volcanic rock that was covered with little round pine cones that made it very treacherous. You could see where the path had slid away in some places, and you hoped that it wasn’t going to do it again soon. It was a relief to get down to the beach, but while there I was worried that someone would come behind us and knock off the narrow ridge and leave us stranded.

We managed to see more of the falls along Hana Road coming back than we did see going there. We pulled off and hiked into two of them which had a big enough pool below to go swimming in. We managed to get back in three hours which was much quicker than yesterday’s trip. We stopped at several art galleries which were inspiring. Dinner was at the Pa’ia Fish Market where Julie had a chicken taco and I had Mahi fish and chips. We got in early enough to do a load of laundry, although their drier is not working, so we had to hang it out on a line. I hope it will be dry tomorrow since we will be leaving in the morning and heading over to the west side of Maui to spend our last night. We spoke with a woman tonight who was telling us about several good snorkeling beaches over there.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

11 November 2006

We are sitting around in the living room at Peace of Maui solving world problems with Nicole from Oregon and Gary from Nova Scotia. It’s always interesting to get the benefit of other’s perspectives. I realized that I missed yesterday’s entry. While it seemed like we spent the day at the airport, it actually went pretty quickly. The flight from Oahu to Maui was smooth, but we sat on the wrong side of the plane (the right side) to see much of the islands. We got in to Maui after a 40 minute flight at about 10:30. By 11:30 we had our baggage and rental car and were on our way.

We decided to visit the south shore of Maui before going to the hostel, so we drove along looking for a great beach. We had heard a lot about Big Beach in Makena State Park, so ultimately we were heading there. We stopped at a roadside stand for hotdogs and drinks and pulled into the nearest turnoff toward the shore to find someplace to eat. We found a nice parking area with a nicely paved access to the beach which had restrooms and showers. It was a great place to have lunch, but we still wanted to see what this shoreline had to offer so we continued to head along the coast.

When we got to Big Beach we found a very full, very long parking area which was quite a ways from the beach. We lugged our beach and snorkeling gear down to a very long and wide crescent of a beach which had a lot of people, but also had plenty of space to put them on. I can understand why people like this beach, but we found it too big. We parked our stuff in the shade, which was quite a ways up from the water. There were no facilities, other than a few port-a-potties, so changing into our suits was going to be a hassle. The beach also had no place that looked like it would be good for snorkeling. I checked out the smaller beach next door which was supposed to have good snorkeling and be on a smaller scale, but being one of the few “clothing optional” beaches on the island, it was packed and we didn’t feel comfortable.

We ended up going back to the beach where we had lunch, which I believe is Polo Beach, and had a great time. The reef is very close to the shore, so we had a good time snorkeling. Along with a lot of very colorful fish, got to swim with a rather large green sea turtle. I had heard that it is best not to approach them too closely, but instead sit back and let them come as close as they are comfortable. It happened that the way the waves were I drifted over to within about ten feet of him (or her?). Then he swam down in between two coral heads and stared up at me. I thought I might be making him uncomfortable, so I moved on.

After swimming we headed to our lodging and Peace of Maui, which is up-country from the north shore. The hostel has seven bedrooms, two bathrooms, and three showers along with a common kitchen and living room. After dropping off our stuff we headed down towards the coastline to Pai’a which is a bustling little town with lots of shops and eateries. We did a little window shopping in some of the art galleries and had dinner at Café Mambo where Julie had a hamburger and I had a duck burger. Then we stopped at Mana’s grocery store which was very crowded with a Friday evening crowd. We bought enough groceries for our stay on Maui and headed home to relax.

This morning we considered getting up early and heading up to the top of Haleakala, which is the dormant volcano which makes up the eastern side of Maui. It would take an hour to get to the top, which would mean leaving before 5:00 to get up to the top. We decided to take the advice offered in The Birdwatchers Guide to Hawaii and get up there a little later after the crowds had left. There are a lot of bike tours that start at the top of Haleakala (at 10,000 feet) and coast down the 38 miles to the bottom. We ended up getting to the summit around 9:00. We had brought warm clothes specifically for being on top of this mountain, and we were glad we had them. While it was 60 degrees on top, the wind was fierce. The terrain makes you feel like you’re on Mars, with lots of reddish rubble and little to no plant life. On the way back down we stopped at several areas to hike along the ridge or into the “erosional valley”, which is where the crater used to be before it eroded away. It was very dramatic. Near the top we had lunch in a parking area with a Nene Goose looking on. Then we drove down to Hosmer Grove where there is a nature trail which was supposed to have many of the native birds. We spent a good part of the afternoon birdwatching on the short nature trail and learning some new birds. We sat at one overlook which had an informational sign identifying some of the birds and saw almost everything mentioned. It included the red, endemic birds (the I’iwi and the Apapane) and several Amakihi. While we were watching and fretting over whether or not we were seeing enough to be sure of our identifications, a Pueo (short-eared owl) soared over the opposite crest and down through the valley in front of us. It took our breath away. Pueo are one of the few owls that are active during the day, so it was the best look that we had ever had of a wild owl.

As we were leaving, the clouds were coming in which was an experience in itself. There was a wall of fog that was thick enough to limit visibility to about 30’, but next to it was completely clear. Driving down the mountain with the fog was a little treacherous, but we were glad that all of the bikers were off the mountain by the time we left. We managed to catch the sun just as it dipped below the horizon as we neared the bottom of the mountain.

Since we weren’t quite ready to head back to the house, we went to Makawao and checked out some more art galleries. There are some very creative people who live in Maui. I hope that there are enough buyers visiting the area to keep them all on financially solid ground.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

10 November 2006 – 9:00 AM HST
I’m two days behind in journaling this trip. We are sitting in the airport waiting to fly over to Maui for the next five days. I didn’t realize that we would have to go through security that is just as tight to fly from one island to another. It gets to be a hassle, but as they say, they’re doing it to keep the flight safe. While packing our bags we had packed a soft-sided cooler with some food that we had bought and packed it in Julie’s suitcase, which is already big and heavy. It ended up being overweight by about ten pounds. We had to unpack some things out of that bag and stuff it into another bag. When they were scanned at security, that was the bag that they wanted to open. It would hardly close back up. I hope it doesn’t pop open on the flight. The bag with the ammo case went through without any concern at all. We had started keeping my epi-pen in Julie’s backpack. I had forgotten that I had put a razor blade in the kit a few weeks ago for removing bee stingers. The security agent was almost apologetic when he suggested that we couldn’t bring a razor blade on the airplane. I’m impressed that their scanners picked it up.
On Wednesday (11/8/06) we went to see Pearl Harbor.
We had been told to get there at 7:00 (before it opens) to avoid having to stand in line for three hours. We got a little lost on the way and didn’t get there until 7:40. The line was probably 300 feet long. Fortunately, when they did open, the line files in fairly quickly and we were into the museum within half-an-hour. They give out tickets for the introductory movie and the ferry ride over to the Arizona Memorial. We had 1 ½ hours to look through the museum before the movie, which was actually just about perfect. Some of the history was amazing. They were experimenting with radar in 1941 and actually followed the attack flight of almost 200 planes in for an hour before the attack.
The technician told his superior, but was told not to worry about it because it was probably a flight of US planes they were expecting that morning. The information never went past those two or three people.
It really made me appreciate that the attack occurred in a peacetime setting when their defenses were down. At the time, the US was building up its military strength and the Japanese military knew that they would have to strike quickly to be successful. It was really sobering to think about all of the life-and-death decisions that were being made in those few minutes after the attack.

After a morning of museums, we decided to go swimming and snorkeling in the afternoon. We had been told that the beach below Diamond Head had good snorkeling. We found a pull off, but the area made us uncomfortable. While there were a lot of cars parked along the road near the beach, it seemed like too many of them had solitary men just sitting in them. There was a little foot traffic down along the shore, again all men. When we rounded the corner looking for a good place to access the water, we came to a larger group of men on the beach wearing very little (at the most). We decided that we weren’t the clientele that normally visited that area. We decide to go to a beach near Kapiolani Park where I snorkeled just off the swimming beach. It’s amazing how much there is to see so close to shore.

We had dinner at the International Marketplace where we ate the first night. We stopped in at a bakery where we bought a piece of chocolate cake and croissants for lunch tomorrow. It was odd being in a bakery with a French name, speaking English to a Japanese clerk, and feeling the need to say Mahalo (Hawaiian for “thank you”). It is quite a multicultural experience.

We started off Thursday (11/9/06) with a trip up to the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout, which is up in the Ko’olau Mountains. It gives a great view of the windward side of the island … at least it does when it’s not raining and foggy (cloudy?). There was not much of a view when we got there, but we could wait around a little until the weather broke a little and we could see out to the water in some places. The overlook is on the side of a cliff where King Kamehameha drove the Oahu warriors off of the cliff when he came from The Big Island to “unite the islands”, as the sign so politely put it.

Driving down the windward slope of the mountain, we stopped at Ho’omaluhia County Nature Park, which is a botanic garden that lived up to its name (peaceful). We walked around a lake and saw a lot of the birds that we have become familiar with, and Hawaiian Coots, which were a new bird for us. We were hoping to learn some of the native plants, but can’t seem to get our tongues wrapped around the native names. We then drove along the coast looking for a good snorkeling place, but decided not to stop anywhere.
We did stop to do some bird watching along the coast across from a marine bird sanctuary. The sanctuary is a ways off shore, so you can’t see birds on the island, but can sometimes see them flying along the waves. Julie was sitting on the rocks staring out to sea when she realized that there was a large gray bird hunkered down on a rock not more than twenty feet from where she sat. It turned out to be a Pink-footed Shearwater, which was another new bird for us. (Such excitement, you say! It takes all kinds in this world.

We ended up the day hiking up to Makapu’u Lighthouse to view the sunset and several hang gliders flying along the cliffs in the dwindling light. It was quite a sight, but made us wonder how one learns to hang glide, considering that making a mistake leads to instant death. Can’t just chalk it up to experience and try again in the morning.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

4 November 2006
Our day was spent today at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve on the southeast corner of Oahu. Hanauma Bay is an extinct volcanic crater that has eroded to form a very protected bay which has an amazingly diverse coral reef. The coral was not completely healthy, but considering the number of people that visit the preserve each day, I was very impressed. Parking was on top of the rim of the crater and you had to walk down to the water. They had a shuttle which cost $0.50 to go down, and $1.00 to go back up. Before you could go down to the water you had to watch an 8-minute movie on protecting the preserve. One of the most important points was not to touch the coral as, while it looks like nothing but rock, it is actually a living organism. The concept seemed to be lost on many of the visitors.

We found some shade under a tree on the far side of the beach and tried out my newly created beach-gear locking program. I was determined not to worry about theft off of the beach, but did not want to feel like I couldn’t bring my camera or other toys down to the beach. We brought with us a 9’ long cable which I wrapped around a tree and looped through our locked bags. The end of the cable was locked to the ammunitions box which contained my camera and other valuables. It might have been overkill, but I felt completely safe leaving our gear on the beach while we went walking or snorkeling.

This was our first time in the water since we arrived and it was wonderful. The tide was fairly low, but rising. I was concerned that Julie would be uncomfortable when we got out to the deeper water, but her primary concern was when we were over the reef and the coral (and sea life) was only an arms-length away. There was a lot of warning about currents, but the water was very calm. I could recognize many general groups of fish (parrot fish, trigger fish, etc.) but the species were things that I had never seen before. The colors were amazing. Before leaving home I had spent too much time trying to get an underwater camera of my dad’s working so that I could record some of the snorkeling. I suffer from an unfortunate syndrome in that I don’t feel like an experience has really happened unless I can record it on film. I felt pretty confident that I had gotten the camera in good working order, (it had a knob broken off of it), but when we got out of the water, I could see that the inside was starting to fog up. Hopefully I got some pictures out of it (at least enough to prove to me that we were actually there). We saw several green sea turtles, which is the first time I have been able to swim with them. I was concerned about approaching them for fear of disturbing their activities, but they actually would swim up to me. We also saw at least two kinds of trumpet fish, an eel (although Julie would not dive down to see it under the coral), and lots of fish that I couldn’t even begin to classify. It’s a little frustrating not to know what you are looking at. It’s probably a birding issue, but I feel like I should learn the names of everything that we see. We spoke with a naturalist who mentioned that there is a resident reef shark that lives in the bay and pointed out where it was likely spending the day. Julie wasn’t interested in seeking it out, but I went over to the area and looked around a little. I never found it, but I heard someone on the beach mentioning that he had seen a shark. The naturalist said that they are not worried about the reef sharks; only tiger sharks, and they have not been seen in the bay.

After snorkeling we went to the Hawaii Kai Public Library which earns a 3 on a scale of 1-10 for friendliness. We posted the last entry to our blog and spent close to half an hour uploading pictures for the last few entries. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be showing up. This blogging is still a work in progress. (Microsoft Word doesn’t recognize “blog” and thinks that I mean that I am “bogging”, which may be just as accurate.) At the Foodland grocery store across the street we stocked up on the makings for the rest of our meals while on Oahu. When we got “home” we had rotisserie chicken for dinner which was convenient, but was scrawny enough that I think it had been fighting off all those roosters we were living with up at Shark’s cove. We crashed by 9:00. We have not been feeling the effects of jet-lag too much, although we have been getting up before sunrise to start the day. Part of that is the excitement of being here and the desire to make the most of our time. It should slow down for the next few days.

5 November 2006 (7:50 HST)
We just finished our dinner of marlin fillets down by the pool. Being on an island can hit you hard at the grocery store when you are buying milk ($4/gallon), but the marlin was only $2.99/pound, which I understand is very good, although I can’t say that I’ve ever bought marlin before. Julie encouraged it and even said that she would eat it. Her conclusion is that fish doesn’t have much flavor and is just a way to eat butter and seasoning. Our day was pretty laid back.
We walked down to Waikiki Beach, which is about three blocks away. I have been reading a lot about the Hawaiian language in the travel guides and in the book on birding in Hawaii. It’s no wonder I get so confused. The Hawaiian alphabet is made up of the five vowels plus seven (or eight) consonants (p,k,h,m,n,l,w). Each syllable ends in a vowel and the accent is usually on the second to last syllable. The diphthong “ai” is pronounced “eye”, and “i” is pronounced like beet. That means that Waikiki should be pronounced Wye kee’ kee’, (in this case with the accent on the last two syllables). I have yet to hear anyone pronounce it that way, though. You do hear “Hawaii” pronounced Ha vie’ ee. The words that you hear most often are:
• “Aloha” (ah low’ ha), which means love or affection, and is used both in greeting and leaving (Hawaii is the Aloha State).
• “Mauka” (mow’ kah), which means toward the mountains (the units we have stayed in were in the mauka building, meaning away from the beach and toward the mountains.
• “Makai” (mah kye’), which means toward the sea.
• “Mahalo” (mah hah’ low), which means thank you
You almost need to take the time to learn some of the rules of the language so that the names of streets and places make sense. With Julie driving and me navigating, I sometimes have to resort to spelling the street name that we are looking for so that we both know it when we see it.
The beach where we settled in for the morning was adjacent to a city park. It was nice in that it was one of the few places along this stretch that did not have high-rise buildings built right up to the beach. I swam along a breakwater with my goggles seeing some of the same fish that we had seen at the preserve, only smaller. Julie sat on the beach reading Jane Eyre. On the sidewalk near where we were was a woman who appeared to be homeless. She had a shopping cart loaded with several suitcases and plastic grocery bags. The whole time that we were there, which was over two hours, she walked around that shopping cart rearranging items and looking through pockets. At one point she laid a towel over the cart and meticulously picked some small somethings out of the material for probably half-an-hour. We assumed that she was not high on the mental health continuum and discussed what our responsibilities (personally and as a society) were to people in her position. My guess is that any government-sponsored programs would be missed by her completely. You read about people who are in that position by choice, but I have to wonder if they really understand what options they have to choose from. If she was mentally capable enough to assess all of her options, she might choose to be doing something else, but in her mind she might be very fulfilled by her careful organization of her possessions. From our perspective, it looked like shoveling rocks from one pile to another and then back again. If I’m honest with myself, though, is it that much different from our choice to spend the morning staring at unnamed fish and reading a book for the third time. Kristin ended a letter to us she had tucked into our bags with, “Hopefully you will come back with a renewed vision for God’s direction in your life.” I guess that is the best thing to strive for; each of us fulfilling our God-designed role, whatever that may be.

After lunch we went to the Waikiki Aquarium (how did you pronounce that!). It was incredible! They have aquariums of most of the marine and fresh water ecosystems in the area. The fish were amazing, but it was just as interesting to see the corals and other invertebrates up close. They had a great exhibit of jelly fish that looked like poetry-under-glass. One of the naturalists suggested that as much as 1/3 of the reef at Hanauma Bay may be made up of coralline algae which produces calcareous stone, but does not have the polyps that coral has. Maybe the reef was healthier than I realized.

Across the street from the aquarium is the Honolulu Zoo which was having a sidewalk art sale along the fence. We got there just as they were leaving for the day but saw some great art work. They have been having this art sale along the fence of the zoo every weekend for over 50 years, but there is a push to make them stop. Currently it is all independent artists who show their own work. There is the suggestion that it is too commercial. We visited a similar art show in San Francisco and thought it was a great idea. The artists are required to show only their own work, so that it doesn’t just become a flea market. We signed a petition to support the idea. From the zoo fence we went to another beach a little ways down the coast to cool off. We watched the sun set over the water and headed home for dinner.

6 November 2006 (8:30 PM HST)
Our day started off leisurely with an orientation sponsored by the concierge associated with the resort. Different individuals shared some of the tours and restaurants in the area. Nothing tempted us, so we decided to continue on our course of finding our own things to do. After lunch we went in search of a birding area not far from Honolulu and Waikiki. We got driving directions from the front desk and headed off to Makiki Valley in the Ko’olau Mountain Range. It only took us about 15 minutes to get there, which surprised us because it is so close to the city. Most of the development occurs in the relatively flat land along the coast. Once you get into the mountains, the world takes on a completely different feel.

We were looking for the Makiki Valley Loop Trail which was supposed to start near the Hawaii Nature Center. Instead what we found was another trail head parking area which required us to walk through a residential area with old cars parked alongside the road, similar to what we had in our last woodland adventure. We came to a sign that told hikers to proceed no further and directed them onto a trail that didn’t match the name of the trail we were looking for. I had left the guide book back in the car, so I was a little worried. We started up the Kaneolole Trail, not really knowing whether it was a 30 mile trail across the island, or a short round trip. Fortunately, there was a trail map not too far along the trail which set everything straight. The loop was actually three independent trails which could be linked together to bring you back to the same spot. The Makiki Valley Trail that I was looking for was the middle leg flanked by two trails that I had not heard of. In all, the hike was about 2 ½ miles, with about 700 feet in elevation gain. Near the top you could look down on the coast and Honolulu.

We were hoping to see some native birds on this hike because there are some native tree species in the area, but while we saw a lot of beautiful birds, we did not see one native species. That says a lot about the situation of the wildlife in Hawaii. I believe that all of the species that we saw were intentionally released by people who wanted to “improve” the bird life in Hawaii. Many are song birds and “cage birds” from other islands and Asia. Some of them, such as the Common Myna, were released to help control other pest problems in the islands. The birds of Hawaii have had a tough time for the last 1000-1500 years since people arrived on the island. The first Polynesians came to the islands and set about clearing all of the lowlands for slash-and-burn agriculture. They also introduced pigs, roosters, and other animals which set about modifying the stable ecology. It is estimated that before the first people arrived on the islands, over 90% of the species found here were found no where else. (Hawaii is the most remote group of island in the world.) The first Europeans to visit the islands dropped off goats, sheep, pigs, and cattle to establish on the islands so that future ships could stop and replenish meat supplies. They made an agreement with King Kamehameha I not to harvest the animals until their populations had grown to a level that was sustainable. The larger European pigs bred with the smaller Polynesian pigs and produced a strain that could live in the tropical jungle and were large enough to do serious damage in their rooting about. Interestingly, one of the most serious impacts to the native bird population is the introduction of mosquitoes (which breed in the pig wallows). While migratory sea birds which have carried avian malaria and other diseases have been around “forever”, there were no vectors on the island to spread the diseases to the native population. Because of that, they did not develop any natural protection. When mosquitoes were introduced (probably in water barrels in visiting ships) the diseases found their way in to the native population. The only thing that keeps the whole native bird population from being destroyed is that the species of mosquitoes found on the island are from the tropics and can’t survive in the higher elevations on the islands. There is a serious concern that if the island is invaded by temperate mosquitoes, they would spread up the mountainside and finish off the rest of the native bird population.

They are also worried about the Brown Tree Snake, which has already invaded Guam. Since 1975 the Brown Tree Snake has led to the loss of nine of the eleven forest birds found in Guam. The snake is arboreal and has already been intercepted after climbing up the landing gear of military planes in Guam which then flew to Hawaii. The stories of ecological disruption could fill a book, but you probably have already heard more than you care to. Despite my rantings, we did have a very nice walk with some incredible scenery.

This evening the resort had a picnic around the pool with music and a hula dancer. We won a pupu platter (appetizers) at Plant Hollywood.

7 November 2006
Today we took the guide book’s advice and started early for a hike up the rim of Diamond Head crater. We kept hearing about how Diamond Head was the poster child for Hawaii and a familiar landmark to everyone. To be honest, I had no idea what it was. The first time I heard it mentioned I thought it was a golf course. Actually, it is a crater formed by volcanic activity which shot ash and cinders into the air to settle into a large dish-shaped crater which covers 350 acres. To start the hike you drive through a tunnel in one side of the crater and park in the middle. Then we followed a combination of steep trails and stairs up the 200 foot south rim. The crater was part of a military defense structure in the early 1900s so there are still observation decks and gun placements (without the guns) around the rim. Half-way up the slope we stepped into a side path with views up the eastern coastline. While there I heard a woman say that she was anxious to get going because she didn’t want to get behind the tour group that was coming. I figured, I’m in no hurry. I don’t mind following a tour group.
It turned out the group was about two hundred young Japanese students. I had assumed that you climb to the top of this crater and then everybody would spread out and take their time with the scenery. What we found was that the trail and steps (sometimes only wide enough for one person) led to a relatively small observation platform. We basically were in line the whole way up, while we were at the top, and most of the way down. The view from the top was spectacular, though.

We had intended on stopping at the library after Diamond Head, but found that it was closed due to Election Day. We then headed east up the coast stopping at several beaches and rocky shores. I went body surfing at one and we stopped and sat in the shade and read at another. I am reading Michener’s Hawaii, which has been very interesting. I’m currently at the point where the first Polynesians are traveling by canoe from Bora Bora and making the several thousand mile journey without any sure idea where they are going. It is fiction, but based on fact. At some point someone needed to be the first to make the journey. It’s astounding to think what an accomplishment that was.

We then stopped at Kawainui Marsh, which we found listed in The Birdwatcher’s Guide to Hawaii. Even though it was in the middle of a fairly big town and right along a busy road, we finally found some of the native birds we had been looking for (lots of Black-Necked Stilts, some Hawaiian Moorhens, and Pacific Golden Plovers). While we were along the coast we also saw a Wandering Tattler and several flights of either Red-footed or Masked Boobies. On the way back across the mountains to the condo we were going to stop at Na’uanu Pali Lookout which is up on top of the mountain giving a great view of the east coast. Unfortunately, the sign came up too fast and was adjacent to another sign that said “CLOSED” in large letters. It wasn’t until we were passing it by that we could read the rest of the sign which clarified that it was closed from 8 PM to 4 AM. Maybe we’ll get another chance to visit before we leave.

Tonight we grilled steaks by the pool and ate out next to the waterfall garden. Pretty nice. Julie is reading several books on home design and garden design (always a potential new project in the making) so we discussed effective garden lighting. We are looking forward to doing something around the gardens and decks at home.

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