#Kauai: Waimea Canyon

Kalalau Viewpoint, overlooking the Kalalau Valley and Napali Coast of Kaua'i
This is the reward at the end of the road: the Kalalau Viewpoint, overlooking the Kalalau Valley and Napali Coast of Kaua’i. Even with rain threatening all day, we kept seeing a slice of sunshine ahead, and we made it here in time to enjoy the view.

The weekend before last, when YaYu was over on Oahu for an overnight Key Club meeting, Brett and I decided to head out to Waimea Canyon on the west side of Kaua’i. Although the end of the road through the Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Parks is only 50 miles from our house, the trip out and back takes several hours and we just had never had the time to make the trip. We had taken the girls to see the canyon right after we arrived in 2014, but the winding road up through the canyon made Meiling feel car sick, so we headed back down after only getting to the first viewpoint.

Red dirt waterfall beside the road on the way to the canyon
Red dirt waterfall beside the road on the way to the canyon. This water feeds into an irrigation stream.

The entrance to the canyon starts in the town of Waimea on Kauai’s west side. The Hawaiian word Waimea means ‘reddish water,’ and the first thing that catches your eye as you start up the road into the canyon is that the deep, rust red color of the soil seems much more intense in the canyon than it does elsewhere on the island, maybe just because of the vast amounts of it all layered in one place.

The day we visited was heavily overcast - we were outrunning the rain the whole way up the canyon.
The day we visited was heavily overcast – we were outrunning the rain the whole way up the canyon.
The view from the Waimea Canyon viewpoint. We were running a few minutes ahead of the rain all day, so not the best lighting, but the views were still spectaular.
Another view from the Waimea Canyon lookout. We  didn’t have the best light for photos the day we visited, but the views were still spectaular.
Another look into the canyon, further up the road at the xxs viewpoint.
Another look into the canyon, further up the road at the Pu’u Hinahina Lookout.
A closer look at the waterfall from the xx viewpoint. The falls can be seen in the distance from the Waimea Canyon viewpoint.
A closer look at the waterfall from the Pu’ukapele Lookout. The fall is the one that can be seen in the distance from the Waimea Canyon viewpoint.

Mark Twain called Waimea Canyon “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Located on the west side of Kaua’i, the canyon is a geological wonder. The canyon’s deep walls, ridges and gorges were created by erosion, both from the Waimea River and rainfall from the slopes of Mt. Wai’ale’ale. The catastrophic collapse of the volcano that formed the island over four million years ago also contributed to the canyon’s formation. The trip up through the canyon is only 19.2 miles long, and but in that distance you travel from a dry, almost desert-like climate all the way up into forests of eucalyptus and other trees, and you can find pine, fir and cypress trees at the top. The variety of plants and flowers we observed kept our jaws open in wonder. The temperature drops the higher you go as well; the day we visited there was a full 20° difference in the temperature between Waimea town and the end of the road at the Kalalau viewpoint.

Taken at the xx viewpoint, the gray smudge on the horizon is the "Forbidden Island," Niihau, being overtaken by rain clouds.
Taken from the Niihau lookout at the Pu’u Hinahina Viewpoint stop, the gray smudge on the horizon is the “Forbidden Island,” Niihau (which is being overtaken by rain clouds).
We did not think hydrangeas grew on Kaua'i, but spotted them several times as we approached the Kalalau Viewpoint.
We had no idea hydrangeas grew on Kaua’i, but spotted them several times as we approached the Kalalau Viewpoint at the top.

There is plenty to do in the canyon besides stopping along the way to gape and take pictures. The two State Parks contain numerous hiking trails, from easy to challenging and trout fishing in the reservoir (our girls have done this each year with Big Brother/Big Sister) among other activities. At Koke’e State Park headquarters you can have breakfast or lunch in the lodge, set up your tent and camp, or even rent a cabin for an overnight stay, something Brett and I are planning to do once we’re officially on our own. Every overlook and viewpoint as you drive up through the canyon is worth a stop, with each offering something unique, from breathtaking canyon views to looking out over the ocean to Niihau, the “Forbidden Island,” so called as it’s privately owned by the Robinson family, and no visitors are allowed. The spectacular view of the NaPali Coast and the Kalalau Valley from the Koke’e Viewpoint is the ultimate reward for completing the journey on the canyon’s winding and twisty roads. There is one slightly further viewpoint, but the rain had finally caught up with us and we decided to save that as a goal for our next trip.

Even as the rain rolled in, the view from the Kalalau Viewpoint was breathtaking.
Even as the rain rolled in, the view from the Kalalau Viewpoint remained breathtaking.

Although it’s just 50 miles from our home to the Koke’e viewpoint, our visit to the Canyon took around five hours, including a stop for lunch at Island Taco in Waimea before heading back home. If you’re visiting Kaua’i, I can’t recommend enough giving yourself a day to explore this amazing scenic wonder – it is not to be missed!

To visit Waimea Canyon, take the Kaumualii Highway (Hwy 50) west to Waimea, and either turn on Route 550 (Waimea Canyon Road) in town, or go all the way through town to Koke’e Road, which eventually joins 550 further up (I personally think taking 550 all the way gives you more and better scenery). The speed limit is 25 mph, which you’ll probably want to follow fairly closely in order to enjoy the scenery and not get thrown by the curves. If you or anyone in your party suffers from car sickness, medicating yourself or them before you go is a good idea – the road up through the canyon is that twisty. The Koke’e Lodge restaurant is open daily from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.; cabins and campsites need to be booked in advance. Hunting is also allowed in the state parks, for wild pig or seasonal feral goats, but permits are required in advance, and bringing guns into Hawai’i requires advance planning as well. The parks are open daily during daylight hours.

This Week’s Menu: KP Duty

Slow cooker Thai-style pork stew
Slow cooker Thai-style pork stew

Brett will officially be on KP (“kitchen patrol”) duty this week. I saw my doctor yesterday and have been put on bed rest with heat applied to my back, given pain medication, and I’ll start a round of physical therapy next week to get rid of what apparently is a nasty knot of nerves and muscle in my lower back. What I won’t be doing is standing in the kitchen to cook (or wash dishes), at least not for the next few days.

Brett has been doing a great job getting dinner on the table, and made a delicious balsamic pork roast on Sunday and chicken adobo yesterday. He and I put our heads together yesterday afternoon and came up with a menu that he feels comfortable tackling this coming week (with some help from YaYu). None of the recipes are too complicated, and we included an extra night of leftovers because they seem to have been accumulating faster than usual.

Hopefully I’ll be back on my feet and back in the kitchen soon. The new pain medication is already making a difference, and I know the therapy will help as well. In the meantime, Brett’s got the KP duty.

This week we’re having:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Leftovers
  • Wednesday: Grilled lemon chicken thighs; quinoa salad; grilled zucchini (‘chickenless’ nuggets for me)
  • Thursday: Pizza for Brett and me; YaYu has her cross country spaghetti dinner tonight
  • Friday: Leftovers again (not sure when the cross country meet will be over)
  • Saturday: Tuna noodle casserole
  • Sunday: Slow cooker Thai-style pork stew; steamed jasmine rice; cucumber salad (not sure yet what I’ll have)
  • Monday: Spaghetti with marinara and meatballs (vegan meatballs for me); garlic bread; steamed broccoli

We’ll need to get parsley, limes, zucchini, cucumbers and broccoli from the farmers’ market this week but otherwise we have everything we need on hand.

Keeping my fingers crossed and thinking good thoughts that I’ll be cooking again next week!

Rock Fever?

did-you-know-map-pacific-hawaiiI’ve been asked on more than one occasion if I or any of us in our family ever suffer from rock fever, or if we feel that we are trapped out here in the middle of the ocean on this tiny island, with absolutely no way to escape other than to get on an airplane.

Although rock fever is a very real phenomenon for some people, I can honestly say I’ve never experienced it, or any sort of “trapped” feeling since living here on Kaua’i. I love living here.

I couldn’t live anywhere where I couldn’t get in my car and drive whenever I wanted to get away, I’ve heard people say. But, when I’ve queried those same people about where they drive, or how far from home they typically go, many admit to never traveling more than a few miles away in their cars. If they do drive long distances it’s on the Interstate, with stops at brand-name hotels and restaurants along the way. Many people opt to fly if they’re traveling any distance, which is exactly what we do whenever we want to get away.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy road trips. I traveled all over the U.S. as a child, and Brett and I have driven across the mainland more than a few times, from the east coast to the west for change of duty station moves, with loads of sightseeing included along the way. We’ve taken to the road to visit family, or attend special occasions like graduations and weddings, and we’re looking forward to a couple of road trips on the mainland in the future. But, the reality is that most of the time we stayed pretty close to home, no matter where we lived, with our longest drives typically things like an occasional 80-mile trip out to the coast when we lived in Portland, or down to the campground for our annual camping trip, or up to Miami a few times when we were stationed Key West, or to Washington, D.C. when we lived in Maryland.

Rock fever is a frame of mind where one convince oneself that they need to be able to get in their car and escape from wherever they are. Here on Kaua’i though I can escape to someplace different simply by driving to the end of the road on the west side, with its different climate and lifestyle than what we experience here on the east side. The same is true whenever we head to the north shore. Each part of the island enjoys its own microclimate, and driving 20 miles to north or south provides the same change in scenery and temperatures that the 173-mile, three- to four-hour car trip to the campground did back in Oregon. Daily driving distances here are shorter overall, and after living here for a while and adjusting to those distances, a trip of more than 20 miles or more takes on a similar feel to long-distance journeys back on the mainland. We know if we do feel a need to go further we can get on one of the many flights that leave Lihue each day for the other islands. It might not be as inexpensive as driving, but it’s still very doable. Each Hawaiian island has its own unique climate, culture and sights to see. Kaua’i is not like Oahu which is not like Maui which is not like the Big Island and so forth. Adventure awaits!

Rather than feeling trapped, seeing the ocean every day, and looking out to the horizon gives me a feeling of great freedom. I wonder about what lies beyond the horizon, of the places I might visit, the cultures I might experience, the foods I could try. There’s a world out there beckoning me to explore it. In the meantime, I get to live in one of the most beautiful, friendly places on earth.

Rock fever? Not me. Besides, how can I feel trapped when I’m surrounded by all of this?

Sunday Afternoon 9/25/2016

We have had one of the most beautiful weeks weather-wise that I can remember since we moved here, with blue skies every day and balmy temperatures (well, yesterday was quite humid, but it was still beautiful), and I’ve gotten to experience it all through the window of my bedroom or the living room, thanks to my continuing back issues. It had been getting better, and the pain had settled into on area on one side of my lower back. I was able to get out and go to the farmers’ market on Wednesday, and a trip to Costco on Thursday went pretty well, although I had to lie down for a while again as soon as we got home. I picked up a package of Salon Pas while we were out, and wearing one of those helped quite a bit, or at least let me get up and walk around a bit more. All was well on Friday and yesterday morning, and then in the afternoon I stood and chopped some onions and celery for less than 10 minutes and now my back is worse than ever. Why? I will be spending the day in bed again, and calling the doctor tomorrow morning because this has been going on for too long.

Our son and grandson at the shrine for the ceremony
Our son and grandson at the shrine for the 7-5-3 ceremony

Our grandson celebrated his Shichi-Go-San (7-5-3) ceremony on Saturday in Japan. It’s  not a national holiday, but a traditional rite of passage ceremony for three- and seven-year-old girls, and five-year-old boys. The children and parents visit their local shrine to drive out any evil spirits and make wishes for a long, happy life. The ceremony is also the first time for most children to wear traditional formal clothing (hakama for boys; kimono for girls, with seven-year-old girls wearing an obi for the first time). Children are traditionally given chitose ami, long pieces of stick candy, in bags that are often decorated with cranes and turtles, symbolizing long life.

The hunt for flights over to Japan next March has begun in earnest, but so far fares are still a bit more than we want to pay so we’re holding back and staying patient. There were some terrific fares for a couple of days after I got back home at the end of last month, but neither Brett nor I was feeling motivated enough to buy anything then. We also sort of got ourselves hung up on holding out for Hawaiian Airlines in order to accumulate more FF miles, but then realized it would end up costing us more because we would have to fly in a day earlier than planned and pay for a hotel for one night – the Hawaiian flights arrive in Tokyo too late for us get to the Sanno Hotel on time (if we are not checked in by 10:00 p.m. on the first day we lose our entire reservation). So, unless Hawaiian suddenly offers some amazing fares, we’ll be flying with another carrier. I feel confident we’ll find something within the next few weeks.

This afternoon, I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Man In the Rockefeller Suit mid-week and started Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, by Mary Norris, who has worked for over 30 years in the copy department of The New Yorker. I taught English grammar for years, from basic to advanced, and Norris makes the topic of grammar (and the job of editing) fun, irreverent, interesting and helpful, even if you think you have English all figured out.
  • Listening to: It’s very quiet around here this morning other than the sound of the ceiling fan overhead, and a very assertive rooster out in the backyard. Brett is doing something in the kitchen, and YaYu is studying in her room. I really do not want to be back here in my bedroom all day, but I need to help my back feel better.
  • Watching: I didn’t watch any TV most of week; we don’t have a TV in the bedroom, and it’s been too uncomfortable to sit or lie out on the sofa in the living room. I finished The People vs. O.J. Simpson yesterday evening, and Brett and I started watching Penny Dreadful, a fantasy/horror/mystery series set in Victorian London that’s available on Netflix. We’re hooked. Tonight though the three of us are going to watch Zootopia, also on Netflix.
  • Cooking/baking: Brett got the balsamic pork roast started the slow cooker, but I made the vegan stuffing in the slow cooker yesterday and will reheat it for our dinner tonight. I was going to steam some petite peas to go with the pork and stuffing, but we picked up a lovely, big head of broccoli at the farmers’ market, so we’ll be having that instead. We bought a giant peach pie at Costco this week, so there will be no baking going on until it’s finished (which will take a while).
  • Happy I accomplished last week: Just getting back to moving around again felt like a huge accomplishment even though it didn’t last. Otherwise I didn’t accomplish much of anything.
  • Looking forward to next week: I hope to get things figured out with my back and start doing more again, including maybe going to the beach at least once and attending YaYu’s cross country meet next Friday afternoon, but that will all depend on how I’m feeling. On Tuesday I have an eye appointment and I will be going to that, pain or no pain. The exam is long overdue, and it’s finally time to say goodbye to the red frames that I’ve worn for the past three years. Since her cross country meet is on Friday afternoon instead of Saturday morning, we’re planning to take YaYu out on Saturday for breakfast at the Tip Top Cafe, and then we’ll all head over to Costco for a few more things on this month’s list that go on sale on Friday. Fingers crossed!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Our rent will not be going up next year! We had been starting to wonder as our lease renews in November, and we were feeling a bit nervous about it after our experience with our previous landlord last year, but our current landlord said no increases. He did warn us though that his taxes will be going up next year, and we may see a slight increase year after next. Brett was able to get out for a long hike last Tuesday, and we put $9.10 in the change/$1 bill jar.
  • Grateful for: I’m feeling very thankful for how much Brett and YaYu have stepped up while I’ve been incapacitated by this stupid back pain. Brett has done most of the cooking, and done the dishes every day so I don’t have to stand at the sink, and YaYu has also helped out in the kitchen. Both will be helping me with the laundry today, especially since it was bending over to pick up the laundry basket last weekend that began this whole sorry mess this time.
  • Bonus question: How are you doing with your holiday shopping? We’ll just have the three girls home this year for Christmas, so plan on keeping it fairly low key. Brett and I don’t exchange gifts, and while I haven’t actually purchased anything yet, I do have my list made, and between Swagbucks earning and savings, everything is covered. Each girl will be getting one “big” present and one smaller one, as well as their smaller stocking gifts. We’re just going to send a check to Japan this year for our grandchildren’s gifts as the cost of sending over a package has become too high – the postage alone is now usually twice as much as the value of the package, or more. I’ve also discovered a very fun activity that we’ll be playing on Christmas Eve. I think the girls will love it, and I’m hoping to make it a new tradition. I’ll post the details later.

That’s what’s going on here at Casa Aloha this Sunday. How was your week? How are you feeling? What good things happened for you? What plans are you making?

#Kauai: Island Taco

This is the reason I don’t order fish tacos back on the mainland.

Island Taco is one of my all-time favorite places to eat on Kaua’i. The above is the incredibly delicious Island Taco grilled wasabi ahi taco that I had last Saturday: a big, fresh homemade flour tortilla loaded with rice, shredded cabbage, big pieces of seared, locally-caught ahi tuna, and wasabi sauce . . . all for just $9. Look at the size of that thing – it takes up half of a full-size plate! The fresh tortilla chips and salsa were pretty darn good too.

The tacos and burritos at Island Taco are definitely “Hawaiian style” and include rice and flavors that reflect island versus mainland tastes. Come expecting a Mexican or Southwest-style taco and you might be disappointed, but if you’re open to trying something a little bit different these will knock your socks off! My only complaint would be that the wasabi sauce could do with a little more kick to it.

Island Taco is located just before the turn to go up  into Waimea Canyon.

Besides several different taco variations (Cajun-style ahi, mahi mahi, kalua pork, shrimp, teriyaki chicken and more), Island Taco also offers huge burritos (our girls’ favorites) as well as enchiladas, quesadillas, taco salad and other specials. Tacos range in price from $8.25 to $9.00, and a double plate, with two tacos, from $14.50 to $15.50. I can’t imagine eating two of these big things, but if you and someone else want the same flavor tacos, this is a good way to save a little. Burritos are $11 to $11.50, and come with refried beans and dirty rice on the side.

If you’re visiting Kaua’i, and heading to the west side to visit Waimea Canyon (which is a must-see), give yourself time for a stop at Island Taco!

Island Taco even has their own security . . . to make sure you don't drop anything!
Island Taco even has their own security 🙂 – he’s there to make sure you don’t drop anything!

Island Taco is located at 9643 Kaumualii Highway in Waimea, and is open daily from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

This Week’s Menu: The Best Laid Plans

The Cuban Bowl from Laughing Planet Cafe in Portland was the inspiration for our Cuban-style burritos.

At the end of last week I did my usual menu planning, and based our meals on what we have on hand and what we would be picking up at the farmers’ market on Wednesday and Costco on either Thursday or Friday.

And then on Sunday I injured my back (again) and am now on Day Two of bedrest, hoping that I can get myself back to where I can at least stand and cook, let alone shop and do all the other things that need doing. My long day of sitting in airplanes and airports, and lifting my carry-on in and out of the overhead bins at the end of last month apparently was more than my lower back could handle, and it’s had good days and bad ever since. On Sunday all was well until I bent to pick up a basket of laundry, and suddenly my back was a hot mess again, and here I am in bed.

We switched yesterday’s planned Homemade Fish Cake sandwiches to hamburgers which were easier for Brett to fix, and although I’m going to go ahead and stick to the planned meals for this week, I decided to switch a few days around and front load the week with meals that are easier for Brett and YaYu to prepare. Hopefully by the end of the week my back will be pain free once again and I’ll be back in the kitchen.


Here’s what’s planned for this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Beef & broccoli stir fry; steamed rice (vegan lo mein for me)
  • Wednesday: Grilled mahi mahi; roasted sweet potatoes; grilled zucchini
  • Thursday: Cuban-style burritos (stuffed with saffron rice, Cuban-style black beans, roasted sweet potatoes, fried banana, and pico de gallo)
  • Friday: Pizza for Brett and me (YaYu will be dining at her cross country team spaghetti dinner)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Slow cooker balsamic pork roast; vegan stuffing; petite peas (“chickenless” nuggets for me)
  • Monday: Slow cooker adobo chicken with bok choy; steamed rice (tofu for me instead of chicken)

We’ll see how it goes. I’m feeling confident that by giving my back the rest it needs and deserves, and then being careful, I can get things back to normal and keep them that way.

Fingers are crossed.

Travel Makes Us Happy

88d31facfe02cb69b0c75d117d3e9ce1Studies have shown that money can buy happiness, but only up to a point. At that point, money spent on things begins to show diminishing returns. Things need to be replaced, or upgraded. They wear out. We “adapt” to our things as we get used to having them around, and over time they bring us less joy than they did when newly purchased or acquired.

Experiences, on the other hand, have been shown to bring increasing happiness over time. We don’t become sick of our memories; instead, the longer we look back at them the fonder we typically become, and the happier they make us. Even bad travel experiences eventually get turned around – over time we usually come to love to share them with others, or even brag or laugh about them. We carry our travel stories, good or bad, like badges of honor.

Travel is all about experience.

But beyond just creating memories, “Happiness Expert” Britt Reints explains that travel experiences in particular make us happier because they also:

  • Give us sense of accomplishment. Travel, especially travel in a foreign country, gives us a real sense of success. Finding a restaurant in a strange city, figuring out public transportation, getting ourselves from Point A to Point B by following a map helps us feel that we can solve any problem. All travel stories are stories of personal success, which leads to greater happiness.
  • Help us learn more about ourselves. Travel give us opportunities to know ourselves better, to discover our strengths and our weaknesses, and change if necessary. Travel also can help us discover new passions or indulge in the ones we already know.
  • Make us more interesting. Travel experiences allow us to bring more to relationships with others, and help deepen our relationships with others. Travel makes us more interesting. And, being interesting attracts more interesting people into our own lives.
  • Connect us more to others. Travel let us realize how much the same we are than different from others in the world, or even our own country. Everyone in the world shares the emotions of love, joy, hope, and fear of change. As Maya Angelou wrote in her beautiful poem “The Human Family,” We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.
  • Give us a sense of perspective. Travel and experiencing different ways of life and ways of doing things has a way of helping us appreciate what is important in our own lives. We become more appreciative of what we do have, and realize how tiny our little piece of the world is in relation to the grand scheme of things. We are very small compared to the size of the world, and compared to others our problems are usually pretty small as well.
  • Help us live our life to the fullest: While travel itself will not lengthen our physical lives, it can make our lives richer, fuller and happier. Travel keeps stagnation at bay, and allow us to use the time we have to live, and to experience rather than just react.

Joy. Surprise. Interaction. Adaptation. Accomplishment. Whether it’s across the state, across the country, or to other lands, travel experiences give us all of these things and more. Travel makes us smarter, and it makes us happier, not just for the short term, but far into the future as well.

Sunday Afternoon 9/18/2016

Beautiful shades of blue at the beach last week
Beautiful shades of blue at the beach last week.

They say you can’t go home again, but this last week I learned we probably couldn’t afford to go home again, at least not back to Portland, which I think most people imagine has a lower cost of living than Hawai’i. I found our former house in Portland on a real estate website, and was more than a bit surprised to learn that the current estimated price is nearly half again higher than what we sold it for just two and a half years ago. The property taxes this year were more than double what they were when we bought the house. Even more surprising was that the house next to ours sold for $50K more last month than our house did in 2014, and it’s a house with more than 400 fewer square feet than our former house, no yard, no garage, etc. Housing prices in Portland seem to be spiraling higher and higher over all, and I read a couple of articles last week about how many these days are being pushed out of the housing and rental market in Portland, including young people who have grown up there, and recent immigrants and refugees – problems that we hear about all the time on Kaua’i as well. I also checked some recent Portland grocery flyers, and food prices aren’t much lower there if at all, and gas is only 25¢ per gallon more here at Costco than there. From the frying pan into the fire, or vice versa, I guess.

We’ve had a somewhat creepy ‘visitor’ come to our back yard two nights this past week: a large dog. It’s been dark enough that I can’t tell the breed of the dog or whether it’s wearing a collar or tags, but I’ve seen it moving around, and both YaYu and I have definitely heard it as it stood up at our windows at the back of the house to sniff around. I use the word creepy above because during its first visit last Tuesday night, around 1:00 a.m., I watched it kill a chicken and some baby chicks right outside our bedroom window, and then listened to it eat the chickens (it left body parts throughout the yard for Brett to dispose of in the morning). We don’t know if the dog is a stray, or if it belongs to someone in the neighborhood and has gotten out, but we’re definitely not going out to check on it or interact with it. If it returns again we’ll contact the Humane Society.

Meiling still has another week to go before her classes start, and WenYu continues to enjoy her college experience at Wellesley. YaYu comes home later today from an overnight Key Club meeting on Oahu, and she will leap right back into her busy schedule here next week. Brett and I made it to the beach just one day last week; otherwise, we were busy or the weather wouldn’t cooperate. The day we went was absolutely lovely though, and we practically had the place to ourselves. I went into the water for a while, but was whistled back by the lifeguard, and when I turned around and looked back I could see all sorts of rip currents that hadn’t been there when I went out. Never underestimate the power of the ocean!

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I started The Man In the Rockefeller Suit by Mark Seal this past week, the story of Christian Karl Gerhardsreiter, a German from Bavaria who pulled off one of the longest known cons in American crime history, using multiple identities around the U.S. When he was arrested he was living in Boston as Clark Rockefeller, claiming to be a member of the Rockefeller family, and had an extremely valuable art collection, membership in elite clubs up and down the east coast, a catamaran, etc. He lived as Christopher Chichester for a couple of years in my hometown (San Marino, California) before moving back east and eventually assuming the Rockefeller persona. Gerhardsreiter was convicted in 2013 of the first degree murder of Jonathan Sohus in San Marino – a chopped up body was found when the backyard of Gerhardsreiter’s former residence in San Marino was dug up in 2004 to put in a swimming pool, and eventually the murder was linked to him. I definitely know of at least one person, and the names of some others, who socialized with him and were totally charmed by him, but many, many others in SM were as well when he operated there.
  • Listening to: Since last Tuesday’s incident with the dog, the chickens have been much quieter, or at least it’s seemed that way, but today we heard baby chicks peeping again. The house and neighborhood seem very quiet today (other than the sound of the washing machine).
  • Watching: I’ve been watching American Crime Story Season I: The People vs. O.J. Simpson for the past few nights. It’s excellent. Brett and I have squeezed in a few more episodes of Lark Rise to Candleford as well.
  • Cooking/baking: Brett and I just got home from breakfast at the Tip Top Cafe in Lihue. The food was delicious and affordable. I had sweet bread french toast, and Brett had pancakes (we’re pretty sure the girls will love this place – there are fried noodles on the menu!). I’ve got chicken soup going in the slow cooker right now for dinner tonight. We have half of a pan of leftover cornbread in the freezer, so will defrost and reheat that to go with the soup tonight (lentil soup for me), but otherwise I’m not turning on the stove or oven today.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Brett and I had a great trip down to the west side of the island yesterday, including a visit to Waimea Canyon. We hadn’t been there since we went right after our arrival in 2014, and it was spectacular, although we were racing rainstorms the whole time. We also finally got all the Hawaiian Airlines miles moved into one account (sounds easier than it actually was) and are ready to ‘purchase’ Meiling’s and WenYu’s tickets to come home for Christmas.
  • Looking forward to next week: YaYu will be volunteering at the Kaua’i PowWow next Saturday, and both Brett and I are thinking of going to check it out. He and I are planning on another trip or two to the beach this week, and will probably go to Costco later in the week to do our “big shop” (which isn’t actually going to be very big this month).
  • Thinking of good things that happened this week: We had very tasty fish tacos at Island Taco in Waimea and pie at The Right Slice in Kalaheo yesterday, and breakfast this morning at the Tip Top Cafe in Lihue. The Tip Top is very old school, very local, and very affordable. We don’t go out to eat very often or so much unless we’re on the road, so this was a treat. We had no food waste this past week, and put $10.10 in the change/$1 bill jar.
  • Grateful for: Once again I am feeling very thankful for and awed by the spectacular beauty to be found on the island where we live. Although it was either raining or threatening to rain all day yesterday, Brett and I decided to go for it and made it all the way out to the end of the highway at Kokee State Park and the Kalalau Viewpoint, and were rewarded for our perseverance with an amazing view when we got to the lookout. The rain and clouds arrived a short while after we did, but before they did we got to experience this:

    Kalalau Viewpoint, overlooking the Napali Coast of Kaua'i
    The breathtaking view from the Kalalau Viewpoint, overlooking the Napali Coast of Kaua’i
  • Bonus Question: Did you follow the O.J. Simpson trial in 1995? I’m a fan of true crime stories and trials, and got totally wrapped up in this trial when it was going on, and watched whenever I could during the day and followed the cable shows about it in the evening. I believed then and still do that O.J. Simpson was guilty of murdering his former wife and Ron Goldman, and although the verdict at the time didn’t surprise me it was disappointing. I think today’s crime scene procedures, DNA testing, etc. would link him to the murders beyond a shadow of a doubt and the defense would have a difficult time disputing the findings. During the civil trial, it was discovered that O.J. did in fact own a pair of the Bruno Magli shoes that made the footprint at the murder scene – he had been photographed in them and then lied about owning them. They would have been damning evidence at the murder trial. The prosecution did a terrible job though over all (especially with the gloves! You never do something like that unless you’ve checked beforehand that it will come out how you expect), and the whole thing turned into a 3-ring circus. Johnny Cochran and the defense team did a masterful job of defending O.J. even though their egos kept them from getting along. I had heard that O.J.’s best friend, Robert Kardashian (dad to Kim, etc.), distanced himself from O.J. following the trial and have always wondered why. Apparently he was very conflicted over whether O.J. did it or not because he found the blood evidence against O.J. overwhelming, and also didn’t buy the whole police conspiracy story woven by the defense. He also didn’t like the way Nicole was portrayed during the trial.

And that’s a wrap from Casa Aloha! How is your Sunday going? What have you been doing this past week? What good things happened for you?

Hiking the Wai Koa Loop Trail

The Wai Koa Loop Trail, located on the north shore of Kaua’i, is an easy five-mile (or less) hike where lush scenery abounds, and the only hazard is mud, and even that is seasonably variable. Generally, all trails on Kaua’i are wetter this year than they were in 2014 and 2015, and flash flooding has closed a few trails more frequently.

The Loop trail begins on the back lot of Kauai Mini Golf & Botanical Gardens, on the west side of Kuhio Highway (HI56) at Kilauea. You are required to sign a release and acknowledgement form before hiking this trail the first time because you will be walking on private property through a working mahogany plantation and several smaller family farms. You can sign online or at the gift shop & cafe when you arrive (where you can also rent bikes to ride the trail). Parking is located in the backlot beyond the gift shop using the sign on your right as a guide, or if you’re hiking on a Saturday, the farmers’ market on your left.

loop trail and ana'ina park sign
A Signpost Ahead

The trail will be evident from your parking spot, and the welcome (E Komo Mai!) sign by the fence at the trailhead. It isn’t really what I’d call an intermediate level trail, but otherwise heed the posted advice.

Welcome Sign at the trailhead.
Take nothing but photos; Leave only footprints.

Initially, the trail drops down into mixed deciduous and evergreen forest and the trail undulates from dry to wet to dry through cultivated and volunteer species.

Dry Pathway through Giants
Dry Pathway through towering Norfolk Island Pines

Around the Norfolk Island Pines grew the Kilauea Woods.

Kilauea Woods
Kilauea Woods

After a rising turn to the left, mahogany groves appear, first at left…

Uphill to the mahogany groves
Uphill to the mahogany groves

…then at right where another sign explains the significance of this plantation.

Wai Koa Plantation
Wai Koa Plantation

After the first mile, you will come to the loop junction. From here, you may go two miles around to the right through the community gardens, past Kauai Fresh Farms, and the Kalihiwai Lagoon to the Stone Dam Lookout, or take the shorter one mile path on your left past paddocks with grazing horses and the Guava Kai Orchard to the Stone Dam Lookout.

Although I previously enjoyed the long way around, being on a tight schedule, I chose the shorter path to the Old Stone Dam. After breaking out of the mahogany plantation, I was treated to this view of the West Makaleha (‘to look about as in wonder’) mountains.

Looking Southwest along Horse Lover's Lane
Looking Southwest along Horse Lovers Lane

Past the muddy ruts, the trail turns sharply left, and about halfway to the next bend you will see this lone tree and boulder. Beyond that, Mount Namahana (‘the twin branches’),  is nearly centered in your view of the West Makaleha Mountains.

Mount Namahana in the Distance
Mount Namahana in the Distance

Following this short jag, the trail bends sharply to the right near the Kahiliholo Stream, which you may hear as you turn the corner even though it is neither visible nor accessible from this junction.

Farther along this last leg, I noticed a well-groomed clearing that I had not seen before, and my curiosity was rewarded by the sight of two old footbridges over irrigation ditches and a glimpse of Kahiliholo Stream (which flows into Kilauea Stream).

bridge over an irrigation ditch
Bridge over an Irrigation Ditch

Since the water was carrying a heavy sediment load it was not spectacular, but still sounded sweet as it meandered down over rocks and rills.

stream between rills
Stream between the Rills

I suppose I should mention that this is not officially a feature of the loop trail, and most importantly, that I wish I had brought along mosquito repellant as it would have made it much easier to stand still and take better photographs.

up to the Wai Koa Loop Trail
Back to the Wai Koa Loop Trail

At last, the dam…

old stone dam
Old Stone Dam

However, there’s a great deal more than the dam to see here. Lush gardens and earthworks fill the drainage area below the dam.

historical marker at the lookout
Historical marker at the Lookout

The gardens, scattered around several footbridges, include ti (ki) plants, and the most fragrant ginger that I have ever found.

outflow from the gardens
Outflow from the gardens
Ti Plants and Footbridge
Ti Plants and Footbridge













fragrant ginger
Fragrant ginger

Drainage from the gardens enters Kahiliholo Stream immediately downstream from the old bridge piers that supported the crossing of the former Kilauea Sugar Plantation Railway, one of the first on Kauai.

Kahiliholo Stream and Railway Bridge Piers
Railway Bridge Piers across Kahiliholo Stream

Steps have been installed on the approach to the dam…

steps to the dam
Steps to the Dam

…and at the top of these steps, a warning. (Hiking stick at left is only there so I would not drop it below or above the dam.)

danger sign

Usually, you can find a picnic table or two above the dam, and the trail loops up and back toward the gardens from here. Picnic tables are also available at the lookout. A rope hanging over the reservoir looks tempting as well, but there is a stern “brown water” warning below the dam, so I heartily agree, “Don’t Even Try It!”

railing along the path to upper gardens
Pathway to the Upper Gardens

Two varieties of bamboo grow in the upper gardens.

passage through bamboo
Passing through Bamboo
lighter variety of bamboo
Lighter Variety of Bamboo

The upper garden is also home to a smiling Buddha.

smiling buddha
Smiling Buddha

Owing to the lateness of the hour, 10:39, I had to say ‘aloha’ to the dam and high-tail it back to the trailhead, where my charges were awaiting a ride home.

goodbye to the dam
Aloha, Dam

I made the two-mile return stroll in 57 minutes (only 6 minutes late), and guidebooks say allow two hours for the entire five-mile hike. However, if you are out to see the sights, as I usually am, rather than trying to score distances, I would recommend allowing at least three hours for the full hike; more if you intend to stop and eat along the way. Actually you could make a day or more of it, visiting nearby Common Ground, Banana Joe’s for a frozen banana frosty, the Chocolate Tour, Kong Lung Market Center in Kilauea Town (including the Kilauea Bakery), the Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge, and three beaches: Anini, Kalihiwai Bay, and Secrets.

Kaua’i Shave Ice Review #4: Wailua Shave Ice

Wailua Shave Ice's little red trailer is located on the makai (ocean) side of Kuhio Highway in Kapaa, on a vacant lot between two storefronts.
Wailua Shave Ice’s little red trailer is located on the makai (ocean) side of Kuhio Highway in Kapaa, on a vacant lot between two storefronts.

Blink as you drive by, and you might miss the little red trailer tucked between two storefronts in Old Kapaa Town. If you do, you’ll be missing out on some very, very tasty and refreshing shave ice.

The staff at Wailua Shave Ice is super friendly!
The staff at Wailua Shave Ice is super friendly!

Wailua Shave Ice’s offerings are huge, all made with natural syrups, and come in some unique flavor combinations. Although WenYu and YaYu had sampled their offerings before, our visit last month before taking WenYu back to college was the first time for both Brett and I. We loved every bite and vowed to come back again.

The shave ice menu - all cost just $6.50
The shave ice menu – all cost just $6.50

On this visit I ordered a Lava Flow (pineapple, coconut & strawberry), Brett and WenYu each had a Kauai Orange Dream (orange & coconut milk topped with haupia foam), and YaYu tried a Wailua Sunrise (pineapple & orange). There’s a generous amount of seating in back, and although there were others waiting in line, it didn’t take long for our order to come up. Because Wailua Shave Ice does not come with ice cream, I was very surprised by how big the servings were. All shave ice at Wailua Shave Ice, no matter the flavor, costs just $6.50, a very reasonable price considering how much you get. Each shave ice is also topped with fresh fruit (or crushed Oreo on a Cookies & Cream shave ice, or chocolate sauce and toasted coconut on the Almond Joy shave ice). You can ask for a snow cap, but many of the recipes come topped with haupia (coconut milk gelatin) or coconut milk foam, so ordering a snow cap might be sort of redundant for those flavors.

Looking inside a Kauai Orange Dream - you can see how huge the serving is!
Inside a Kauai Orange Dream – you can see how huge the serving is, and how fluffy the ice is! All the serving cups are recyclable paper.
The Lava Flow. The cap on top is made with coconut milk
The Lava Flow. The cap on top is made with coconut milk.  The straw is so you don’t miss out on a single drop.
YaYu's Wailua xx. It looks plain, but was VERY tasty. Wailua Shave Ice natural syrups are DELICIOUS!
YaYu’s Wailua Sunrise. It looks plain, but the flavors were very rich and tasty. Wailua Shave Ice’s natural syrups are DELICIOUS!

WenYu and YaYu enjoyed their shave ice from Wailua so much they went back again the next day for another. Brett and I’ll be going again too – Wailua Shave Ice has earned a spot near the top of our favorite’s list.

YaYu ordered a Cookies & Cream shave ice when she went back.
YaYu ordered the Cookies & Cream flavor when she went back.

Wailua Shave Ice is located at 04-1306 Kuhio Highway in Kapaa. They’re open daily from noon until 5:30 p.m. and accept debit and credit cards. Parking is available on the street or in back.