Sunday, July 29, 2007

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Polihale State Park

Last weekend, Conor and I went with Prashant and Kalpana to Polihale State Park. This is the longest stretch of continuous beach in the state of Hawaii, with over 15 miles of golden sands. To get there, you take a dirt 4-wheel drive road. Since the Civic sits only two inches off the ground, we've never had the opportunity to visit Polihale before now. Prashant and Kalpana have rented a trusty Jeep during their stay, and it handled the dirt road with ease. After our Jeep experiences on the Big Island, we weren't surprised.

Although we had heard good things about Polihale, it turned out to be even more amazing than we expected. This beach is on the west side of Kauai, at the furthest point you can drive on the highway before hitting the Na Pali from the west. You can see the island of Ni'ihau in the distance from the shore. It has large sand dunes, and some people even drive their 4-wheel drive vehicles across the sand dunes. We started to attempt this, only to get stuck in the sand about two feet in. Luckily a surfer was there to give us tips on how to get out (the tip being keep the wheel straight and hit the gas). After that experience, Kalpana and I thought perhaps leaving the Jeep parked on the road was a better idea. The gentlemen finally relented.

Conor and I have a kayak trip of the Na Pali coast planned in a couple of weeks, and we'll start at Ke'e beach on the north shore and kayak 16 miles until we hit land at Polihale. We're pretty sure that Polihale will never look so good as when we land our kayaks at the end of the day.

The Jeep got us to Polihale with ease:

Many miles of sand to the left:

The western end of the Na Pali coast to the right:

A beach facing west is a nice spot to watch the sunset:

Monday, July 23, 2007

Panoramic Views of Waimea Canyon

Secret Lava Pools Footage

Prashant and Kalpana Arrive

Prashant and his finacee Kalpana arrived Saturday evening from Boston. On Sunday, we took them to Koke'e State Park and hiked along the muddy Pihea trail. After that, we watched the sunset at Polihale State Park on the west shore. They have an action packed week planned, including a boat tour, an ATV tour, and a much anticipated round of golf at the famous Poipu course.

Secret Lava Pools

Conor and I recently visited the Secret Lava Pools. This is an area next to Secret Beach in Kilauea. If you walk along the lava rock to the left of the beach, you'll eventually come to an area with several large pools filled with ocean water. Some pools are shallow, while others are deep enough to swim in. There are also a couple of small waterfalls that you can play under. We had tried to come here in January after first arriving on the island, but the North Shore ocean is rough in the winter, and the lava pools were covered by ocean and inaccessible. We had fun finally seeing this nearby gem in all its glory.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

'Beaches of Kauai' - Rock Quarry Beach

'Beaches of Kauai' - Ke'e Beach

Ke'e Beach

One of the North Shore's most popular beaches is Ke'e Beach. Ke'e Beach is located literally at the end of the road, where the highway stops in Ha'ena before the Na Pali coast. The famous 11 mile Kalalau trail begins here. It's also a popular spot for snorkeling.

This beach, like many North Shore beaches, can be turbulent in the winter. But during summer, the sandy area doubles and the waters are usually calmer. From the beach, you can look to the left and see the beginning of the majestic Na Pali coast down the coastline. The view is the best feature of this beach.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Mr. Accessory

Meet my husband, Mr. Accessory. He is every retailer’s dream. Do you have a product of little use or value? Mr. Accessory will take two, please. A quick trip to the beach requires no less than 17 things: beach chair, beach mat, beach umbrella, beach towel, sunscreen, water shoes, snorkel gear, binoculars, pocketknife, water bottle, guide book, camera, zinc oxide, travel cooler, lip balm, bug spray, and that’s just for starters.

Here in Hawaii, a flashlight can come in handy every now and then. Since we only brought a small one, I purchased another cheap one when we got here. However, these two didn’t suffice for Mr. Accessory. He asked our friend Megan to bring him another from the mainland. When she arrived, I learned that she had called from the store to ask which specific kind he wanted. He made her buy not one, not two, but THREE different models. Yes, friends, with Mr. A by your side, you’ll have the illumination of a major league baseball field spotlighting you at all times.

Conor may have an ointment for every ailment known to man. His daily routine consists of coating himself in a thick layer of creams, lotions, and body butters. When he has a bug bite, he wanders around with a bottle of Bactine in one hand and a q-tip in the other, reapplying every 5 minutes. I once cut myself and needed some disinfectant. Mr. A volunteered to go to the store, when I suggested using the Bactine we already owned instead. He was in awe when I informed him that its purpose is two-fold – anti-itch AND anti-bacterial. Who knew?

Mr. A never leaves home without his trusty backpack. This pack has no less than 17 separate compartments, each one home to a different accessory. It’s a struggle for me to remember where the lip balm goes….is it the left side pocket, or the front mesh pocket? If I choose wrong, I risk a scolding from Mr. A who has each pocket dedicated to one of his essential tools. It’s quite possible to put something in the backpack and have it never be seen again.

Mr. A is confident that not a bead of sweat will drip on those fancy sunglasses

We have a travel cooler that is good for bringing a few cold beers to the beach on occasion. However, Mr. Accessory will pack it with ice and bring it along to carry one bottle of water to the beach. We can’t just throw it in the backpack, says Mr. A, because the condensation will get our book wet. It needs a separate pack of its own, specifically designed for the transportation of cold beverages.

Perhaps the most outrageous accessory purchase during out time here has been the hiking poles. While I agree that these poles can be useful for serious hiking, we’ve spent 5 months doing plenty of recreational pole-less hiking without any problems. But that kind of logic is wasted on Mr. A. Why use only your legs when you can have an accessory shipped across the Pacific to distribute the effort between legs and arms? If only they came with a carrying case…

Yes, we own these.

And these are only the accessories we use here in Hawaii. Don’t even get me started on the pile of stuff in our garage back in Virginia. Fate would have it that Mr. Accessory would end up married to a minimalist who hates clutter. Lord help us all once we have the accessory magnets known as children…

Mr. A in 10 years

Most embarrassing to be seen with accessory: Sweatband to wear on hikes and to yoga

Most ‘used more than you’d think’ accessory: Binoculars

Dorkiest accessory: Hiking Poles

Most useful accessory: Pocketknife with 15 features

Most annoying accessory: Bactine with q-tips found all around the house

Most unnecessary accessory: Deluxe golf pull-cart #2 to replace cheap golf pull-cart #1

Best value accessory: $12 beach chairs

Most abundant accessory: Flashlights

Most impulsive accessory: Camelback bought to qualify for free shipping on hiking poles

The Campfire to End All Campfires

As most of you know, I am a bird of the odd variety. If I enjoy doing something I want to do it for as long as possible and have as much fun as is humanly possible. Enter the Hawaii Beach Campfire. The Hawaii Beach Campfire is without question, one of my favorite activities on the island. For one, it involves fire. I am a man which means that I like a campfire. For two, it involves copious amounts of beer. What's not to like?

If you have ever been around a man and a campfire, you've probably noticed that the guy will not leave the fire alone, even if it's in perfect working order. I squire, am no exception to the rule. Neither are Derek or Chris, who fooled around with the fire just as much as I did. Every time we have visitors, Jessica and I bring our friends out to Hanalei Bay and get a good fire going. The bay is half a mile wide and on a clear night, the stars look close enough to touch.

Enter my best friend Rob. He was my best man and I'm his best man when he marries Alissa next February. Weeks before he even arrived, I told Jessica that I was planning to have the Woodstock of fires. Guys typically want to stay at the fire much longer than the girls do so I had to strike a preemptive attack. I also spoke with Rob on a secure phone and told him to do the same with his better half.

The day of the fire, we purchased 2 firelogs and some beer. We got there at 10:15PM and had a decent amount of firewood from a trip earlier in the day. The last two times we had visitors, we found a lot of wood and kindling with relative ease. This time, we weren't so lucky. Our best find was a root that Rob found about 200 yards away. I might have found 3 or 4 damp twigs.

We had a blast hanging out as a group but after 2 1/2 hours, the women wanted to go home. They asked us to "Come home soon" and I tried to mask my laughter. After they left, we drank more beer and tried to keep the fire going. It started to rain a few times so we jumped under the beach umbrella (I told you that I planned this well). We threw some more wood on to the fire and watched it burn. It started to rain again and the fire was almost out completely. We had no new firewood so things got a little sticky. We tried to make some moves and suddenly, there was no flame. I freaked out and started huffing and puffing with all of my might. By the grace of God, the fire came back to life.

The fire proceeded to go out two more times. One time I saved it with an old book of matches and Rob saved it the other time with the root. We felt like we were invincible and all we could talk about was the incredible job that we were doing in keeping the fire going. Eventually we were down to almost nothing but the fire was still going strong. I had to get up in a few hours for work and Rob had an early morning activity planned. I was so tired that I could barely keep my eyes open. If it was a Friday night, I seriously would have laid down on the sand and driven back home in the morning.

This is how I must have looked to Rob after hour #6

The fire never did die on its own so I need to give it a name. How does "Never Surrender" sound? Never Surrender was eventually extinguished by smothering it in sand and dousing it with water. We sleep-walked back and got home at 4:15AM. That's right ladies and gents, our fire lasted almost 6 hours and it could have gone longer. I know that I shouldn't feel like a cool guy because of this but hey, it's my blog.

Our Best Footage Yet

This post is a little late in the making because I have been extremely busy with work and extremely lazy with posting on this blog. Now that we have just over 4 weeks before we heard back home, I need to get off my lazy behind and talk about all of the cool things we have done over the last couple of weeks.

Jessica spoke of our 10 mile hike with grace and eloquence so I will do the exact opposite and describe it with the mind and maturity of a 13 year old boy. Kudos to Rob and Alissa who handled the hike with relative ease even though they have never been hiking on Kauai. The hiking here is much different from the East Coast in that many sections of the trail are literally on the side of a cliff and if you take the wrong step, your significant other better hope that you didn't make your life insurance policy null and void. This hike had drops of over 25oo feet (half a mile) so we had to be extra careful in certain spots.

Below is some video that I took at the top of the Nuololo Valley along the Na Pali coast. I'm new to this whole video thing but with the help of my better half, I was able to lay one of my favorite groups, Air, over the footage. Let me know what you think.

You probably saw the picture of Jessica holding on to some gravel for dear life and me taking a picture of her. The next picture is the shot that I got. Having 2 cameras around definitely opens up a whole new window of opportunity.

The hike wasn't too bad in that there weren't many steep inclines or declines but it was long and there were parts where you had to literally push through 6-7 foot high plants and shrubs. Alissa was the only one smart enough to wear long pants so the rest of us were rewarded with scratches all over our legs.

The hike was extremely bad in that it started to rain pretty hard for the last 2 1/2 miles. It got progressively muddier and colder and there were markers every quarter mile. At certain points it felt like we ran a marathon and I would look up to see that we had gone only 400 meters. Someone up there had to be laughing at us. To make matters worse, we were going to have to walk 1 1/2 miles on the road back to our car and within 25 feet of starting this trek, a torrential downpour hit us.

Jessica was on the other side of the road and she put a thumb out in the 1% chance that someone would pick up a soaking wet, filthy hiker. Sure enough, a pickup truck stopped. My guess is that if Rob, Alissa and me were on the same side of the road as her, the guy would have kept driving. But he saw a lonesome girl trudging along and felt pity. He must have been shocked when he saw three more dirty hikers darting for his car. I felt like we were sneaking into the country illegally as I dove face-first into the bed of the pick-up. For the first time in my life I can say that sitting in the back of a pick-up in a torrential downpour was the highlight of my day.

In the second part of this video, you see what appears to be a fly.That my friends, is a helicopter.It gives you some perspective - this valley is enormous!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Al B Learns to Fly

Our albatross chick (who we refer to as Al B. Tross) is growing up fast. The photo above shows him back in May, when he still had most of his fluffy gray feathers. Since then, he's shed almost all of his gray, except for around his head and neck. His body is covered in white adult feathers. He's also moved from his nest under a bush next door to the area right in front of our back patio. He's taken a liking to us.

Just recently, he's started to practice his flying. He'll stand and spread his massive wings, and flap away while awkwardly hopping around. He does this a lot when the wind blows, as if he's trying to catch the wind to help him up. His mom (dad?) comes back every so often to feed him, and he gets REALLY excited when she returns. He'll run (more like a fast waddle) over to her and start chirping loudly while he eats out of her mouth. Now that he's older, he has a lot more personality and is a lot more active than he was as a young chick. We're not sure when he'll head to sea, but it shouldn't be long now. We'll miss him!

Video of Al B learning to fly:

Video of Al B getting fed:

Happy 4th of July!

Conor and I celebrated the 4th of July island style this year. We went to the annual festival in Lihue, a fundraiser for Kauai Hospice. There they had several food booths sponsored by local restaurants, as well as a kiddie play area, a stage with local bands, and a silent auction. We spent the evening there, having dinner and setting up on the lawn to watch the fireworks show. They played had a blend of Hawaiian and Americana music during the fireworks (including our favorite jam, "Have you seen these islands?").

Rock Quarry Beach & Pools of Mokolea

These are photos of Rock Quarry Beach, in Kilauea. From there, you can do a short shoreline walk along the lava to the Pools of Mokolea.