Waimea Canyon Drive

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On our last day on Kaua’i, with a late evening flight to Honolulu ahead of us, we didn’t want to lay out on the beach or do a strenuous amount of hiking since we didn’t want to sit on a plane, even for a 35 minute trip, being all sweaty and gross.  So we hopped in our little Mazda 2 rental and made our way south from Kapa’a.  Our destination? Waimea Canyon.

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I remember the first time I’d even heard of Waimea Canyon, on a friend’s Instagram of all places.  Like Na Pali, I was immediately drawn to its natural beauty (we don’t see a lot of this jaw-droppin’ stuff where I come from.)

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While the label “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific” is erroneously credited to Mark Twain (who, in his travels to the Aloha State, never stepped foot on Kaua’i), the title is an appropriate moniker.  While not as deep or wide (that’s what she said?) as ol’ GC, Waimea is a gorgeous watercolor of greens, reds, oranges.

“Are you crying?” Lance said, obviously delighted over my emotional reaction to…well, anything.

“No, it’s windy up here and suntan lotion and shut up, you stupid jerk!” I whimpered, wiping tears from my eyes.

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If you take 550 further inland, up to it’s dead-end deep inside Waimea Canyon State Park, you’ll dead-end at the second Kalalau Valley lookout, which straddles the top of a ridge overlooking rolling trees to the east, the grandeur of Kalalau Valley to the east, and Wai’ale’ale ahead of you, one of the rainiest spots on earth.

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For two kids from topographically-challenged areas of the United States, this double-whammy of incredible sights was hard to comprehend.  It definitely made me appreciate, right in that moment, how fortunate I am and my ability to even be there to see these things.

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The Last Year

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As an old fuddy-duddy wrapping up another year, it’s hard not to feel that particular wave of anxiety every time my birthday approaches.

OMG, what have I done with my life? I haven’t accomplished anything! I’ve wasted a whole year!!!

…You know, that.

That was me yesterday, the last day of what could be called, at a stretch, my mid-20s.  I had a sharp sense of disappointment in myself, about not doing, seeing, experiencing more.  I’m almost 30, dammit! I don’t have much time left! ::sniff::

Thankfully, I saw a few fortuitously-timed tweets by my pal @bkroz_, who, aside from catfishing me, is also wiser and more articulate than I ever was at his age.  They read as follows:

@bkroz_: This is weird, but today I realized my 2013 travels include Orlando, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Williamsburg, NYC, Philadelphia, and Puntarenas.

@bkroz_: In other words, I’ve had a pretty great year and I’ve seen a lot. I’m proud and thankful for what I’ve seen and done! I’m a globetrotter!

…And those got me thinking.  It’s always easy to think about what you don’t have or haven’t achieved.  It’s easy to never be satisfied, to not put things into perspective.

I’ve done a lot since my 27th birthday.  I traveled (a lot!): Walt Disney World and Dollywood at Christmastime, Chicago to see my favorite singer, New York to see some amazing shows.  I went to Hawai’i (twice!) and Kaua’i stole my heart.  Lance and I spent a day with new, awesome pals at Hersheypark and I almost threw up.  Oh, and we went to freaking Japan (!!!) and rode the shinkansen and ate udon in a tiny little shop in Kyoto and made a traditional Japanese meal in a family’s home.  We went to Tokyo Disney and have no regrets (except not spending more time there.)

I got to go back home to Michigan several times this year…oh, and I went skydiving!

I earned a promotion at work and have been able to work on some really great, challenging projects.

We were lucky enough to meet some amazing people because of this blog, in person for the very first time!

And, of course, I got to do all of the above with friends, family, Ripley, Kitty Boo, and especially Lance.  Even though I have the itch to do more, I’m incredibly fortunate and grateful for the opportunities I’ve had.

It’s been a good year.

Na Pali

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If you’re sick of more Hawai’i posts after our vacation absence from the blog, well, I hate to break it to ya, but…

Instead of our normal day-by-day trip report, we’re gonna break down our latest, greatest Hawai’i trip into “experiences.”  This one came from our third full day on Kaua’i (which we’ll talk more about in another post).  I am a faithful user of TripAdvisor and had seen in the zygote-stages of our trip planning that the #1 rated activity on the island of Kaua’i was the Na Pali coastline.

The Na Pali coastline, like everything in the Hawaiian island chain, has been formed by millennia of volcanic activity, erosion, etc. etc. (Wikipedia, to my aid!)  The ruggedness of the mountains, cliffs and valleys of Na Pali have made roadbuilding untenable, so the only way to access the northwest side of Kaua’i is by helicopter or to hike (I couldn’t afford the former and am seriously too lazy to do the latter.)

After seeing trip report photos of Na Pali, I knew, in the deepest parts of my shallow soul, that I had to go to there.  It seemed beautifully, naturally impossible, and I had to see it.  I poured over several dozen reviews of different boat and catamaran tours of the Na Pali coast, and finally settled on the Southern Star sunset cruise run by Captain Andy’s out of Port Allen.  It wasn’t cheap (about $145 a person), but it included a freshly made-steak dinner and as many drinks as you could drink, so after doing some fuzzy math, Lance and I were able to justify the expense.

As soon as the boat left the dock, dozens of spinner dolphins came up along side to greet us, jumping and (duh) spinning wildly in the air.

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I don’t have the greatest photographic equipment, so no fancy jumping photos for you, dear readers!

Lance, of course, sobbed like a baby upon seeing a school of dolphins play in their natural habitat. “It’s the salt in the air!” he said, wiping away tears.

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The first half of the tour had us motoring up the coast, and the water was pretty choppy (and it’s supposed to be rougher in the winter!) so we got fairly soaked if sat anywhere outside (though why you’d sit inside the cabin at all during this tour makes little sense to me.)

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Sea cave!

The first stretch of Na Pali along the south side, right after you pass the naval station, is pretty “flat;” lots of red and brown and gray rock, shorn by pummeling winds which, we were told, only surpassed by the Cliffs of Dover for their intensity.

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Ahoy, mateys!

As we made our way north, the cliffs became much more rugged and fantastical.  These photos with my shitty point n’ shoot don’t do them justice.  Vibrant greens, reds, and browns highlighted this impressive, practically alien terrain.  Not only did we spot waterfalls cascading down these cliffs, but mountain goats too! (Unfortunately, no photos exist of the mountain goat because he was SUPER far away.)

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Once we approached Ke’e Beach on the north shore of the island, which is the last beach you can access via car from the opposite direction, the catamaran shut off its motor and the crew began hoisting the sail.  They also starting passing out “Sneaky Tikis,” a rum-based cocktail of which Lance took full advantage.

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As the sun set behind Niihau, the Forbidden Isle, (just behind Lance’s head in the photo above), our tummies full and, at least with Lance, heads a little fuzzy from too many cocktails, the Southern Star swept closer to port.

This post was hard to write because trying to articulate, much less justify, what we saw seemed impossible.  Nevertheless, we both said to each other, afterwards, that the expense was totally worth it.  Heck, it wasn’t even worth considering.  The sail was a marvelous experience, Na Pali spectacular.

Lance summed it up in a way that made my heart all tingly: “Best day ever.”