Hawaii, 2016

This year’s Thanksgiving adventure took me to the island of Kauai in Hawaii.  This was a fun, surprisingly relaxing trip that had a few twists and turns I had to navigate.

After an all-day flight from Denver-to-Seattle-to-Honolulu, I met up in the evening with longtime friend Yurii Shvetsov, his wife Pei Pei Chan, and their daughter Fiona.  It had been 14 years since we parted company back in our grad school days at Montana State University.  We had dinner together and got caught up on each other’s lives.  The next day, Yurii and I tooled around the island of Oahu before meeting up with Pei Pei for lunch.  It was then off to the airport for a short 45-minute flight to the remote island of Kauai.  I landed in the town of Lihue, picked up a rental car, and then drove north to the town of Kapaa.  Here, I stayed at the Hotel Coral Reef with an ocean view that was to truly die for.

The next morning, I had my first scuba diving lesson ever.  I wish I could say that I immediately felt at home in the water.  Truth of the matter is it was an intimidating experience for me — too much, too soon.  After a firehose of information on technique and gear, in the space of all of 20 minutes, it was off to the ocean we went.  After some time, I did manage to get underwater, breath, play around with technique and gear, but declined to don a second tank and dive any deeper into the reef.  Upon reflection, if/when I ever do this again, I will certainly take lessons at the local shop in Fort Collins and be better prepared and practiced to optimize the experience.

After lunch, I visited the Kauai Coffee Company for a tour and way too many free coffee samples 🙂  Then, I had terrific sunset cruise for several hours out on the ocean with Blue Dolphin Charters.  We saw turtles, spinner dolphins, and a humpback whale, all capped with a postcard picture sunset.

Kauai has a huge amount of annual rainfall.  Therefore, the next morning, it was no surprise when I woke up to a steady, driving rain.  I had planned a hike of the famous Kalalau Trail as the centerpiece of my trip.  Putting on a rain coat, I slipped and slided up and down two miles of trail strewn with roots and rocks before coming to a boiling stream.  Two rangers from the local state park were there and warning against an attempt at fording the stream.  One woman, ignoring their warnings, went ahead anyway.  In short order, her feet were swept out from underneath her and she fell on her side into the water.  The hiking boots dangling from around her neck fell off and were swept off towards the ocean in an instant.  Seeing this, I made the decision to turn around; after all, even if I got across, there would be no guarantee I would be able to recross later in the day.  It turned out to be the right decision because by the time I got back to the trailhead, the state park had closed down the trail and had strung “do not cross” tape across the entrance to the trail!

I had to think fast because I had not planned for such an unfortunate circumstance and I did not have time to waste.  I made a brief stop at the beautiful Kilaulea Point to see the picturesque lighthouse before driving the whole way around the island to Waimea Canyon to hike the Awa’awapuhi Trail.  This turned out to be the highlight of the trip.  After 3 miles of relatively intermediate hiking in the rainforest, and with the rain abating, I was treated to a sudden and stunning view of the ocean where massive cliffs calved off into the ocean.  The cliffs were bounded by a brilliant double rainbow.  I’ve never seen such sheer vertical relief; it wouldn’t surprise me if it pushed 2,500-to-3,000 feet.  One false step here and you would certainly meet your maker.  This is the indelible image of the trip I will forever remember … please scroll through the pictures below to see for yourself.

On Thanksgiving Day, I made sure to wake up extra early and went for a long hike along the beach.  Kapaa made the ingenious decision to place a paved path for several miles along the remote beach; in some cases so close to the ocean, you could feel the salt spray from the waves breaking against the rocks.  I also got a chance to visit Wailua Falls before starting the long journey home.  The flight went from Honolulu-to-Los Angeles-to-Denver.

Hawaii is a great place to vacation and I will look forward to seeing other of its islands in the future.  Well worth the time and expense to visit this magical place.  I hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving, too!


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