Destinations · US Travel · USTravel

Zion National Park

We set out for Zion, forty miles from our home, early in the morning when it was still dark. We’d heard about how busy the parks are, and it was a Saturday. This picture of the park and its sign were taken on the way out of the park, when we were going back home.

Dawn was just breaking over the rocks when we entered the park. Seeing the huge boulders looming above us as the sun climbed higher, we knew it was going to be a special day. Not far inside the East Gate we stopped for our first adventure at the Canyon Overlook trail. This is one of the oldest trails in the park. The trail was only a mile in, but the surface was rocky and we had to climb a bit. It was probably a good thing that we missed the sunrise because we might have tumbled down a cliff if we hadn’t been able to see! This was the only time in the day that we were looking down. For most of the visit to Zion, we were looking up while passing through the bottom of Zion Canyon.

View from under an overhang; is that a cave over there?
Walking the plank around a cliff

We were hiking above the narrows of Pine Creek, which forms a “T” with Zion Canyon at the end. There is a view of Zion at the top right of the above picture, and the road we would be taking into it. Looking back on this hike later, we were so glad we did it. It felt the most like our normal hiking in nature, had the fewest people, and was the only one that we went on all day that wasn’t either nicely paved or soft dirt. The morning was quiet, and the beauty was all around us.

Back on the road, we soon disappeared into this tunnel. Like the trail we had just hiked, it was completed in 1930 and is 1.1 miles long. There are a few great windows cut into the mountain, but otherwise there are no lights and no ventilation.

The road through Zion Canyon itself is closed, and the only way to experience it is to ride a shuttle from the visitors center. This we did, getting off at stops that we were interested in, which made for a relaxing day of exploration. The shuttle comes and goes every few minutes, is included with the cost of getting into the park (actually, our Lifetime Pass), and doesn’t need advance reservations. We were still early so there was no wait.

We got off to look at the Court of Patriarchs. From left to right, they are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, named by a Methodist minister.

We were always craning our necks to view the immense sandstone rocks overhead, beautiful in their various colors of tan, ochre, and white. The Virgin River carved this park millions of years ago.

The next shuttle stop was for Emerald Pools; we took the hike to Lower Emerald Pool.

Picture taken from a bridge on our way to Emerald Pools

The water dripping from the high cliffs glistened in the morning light. Emerald Pools is named for the color of the algae that grows here. At the top of the cliff are streaks in various colors; those are caused by water passing through the natural chemicals in the rocks. You can also see this effect in the photo at top of the blog.

Looking up at a wet, mossy cliffside

Back on the shuttle again, we rode to the end of the road and took the Riverside Walk. The crowds were growing. This is a very popular trail.

The two most popular trails at Zion are Angel’s Landing and the Narrows. Although strenuous because it is a high altitude climb up the rocks, Angel’s Landing now requires a permit because the trail has often been so crowded. Riverside Trail leads right into the Narrows, where the cliff walls rise high above the river on both sides. The hike is totally in the Virgin River, and it’s possible to follow it for several miles. That would have required us to rent equipment, something we did not want to do on this Zion exploration day.

This couple is unwittingly modeling the equipment that can be rented for the Narrows: waterproof coveralls and backpack, shoes, and thick wooden walking poles. The rocks are large in the Narrows and I’ve heard the walk can be compared to walking on slippery bowling balls. In April, the water is waist deep farther up the canyon. It looks like great adventure. That’s for next time – if we don’t wait too many years to return, that is!

The view above the river gives a hint of how beautiful it must be up in the Narrows

There was a steady stream of folks heading into the Narrows, and it picked up as we watched. Later, as we hiked back, Riverside Trail was even more packed with people on their way in than it was when we came. I would not like to be here in the middle of summer. Looking at the view up the river, though, it must be an incredible hike.

There was all kinds of merchandise for sale in the Visitors Center with the logo “I hiked the Narrows!” So Cal took my picture here in the river, so I can also say “I hiked the Narrows!”

Unbelievable for all the people around, but a couple of deer appeared for their morning walk. One of them wore a tracking collar. They looked like they were used to this scene, and were careful about where they were fording the river.

Back on the shuttle bus, Zion Lodge was a great place to stop for snacks and to supplement the lunch we had packed. As the day wore on, the shuttles became full, but never so bad that we had to wait in a long line for them. We agreed that the last day of April was a very good day for a visit.

The Watchman
The Great Arch – a blind arch, since it is recessed into the cliff

Zion is a very easy way to experience a National Park, if one doesn’t have a lot of hiking experience. With the shuttle and the paved paths, it’s possible to have a relaxing day at the park. With all the trails added up, we walked about 6.5 miles in the day. It was very easy walking except for Canyon Overlook trail. As with all National Parks, arriving early or later in the day is key. We recently spoke to someone who said Zion is his favorite park. The only thing he did in Zion was to hike Angel’s Landing, awesome in itself. His day was very different than ours!

Next time – exploring near Bryce National Park, Utah

Destinations · US Travel · USTravel

On the Road, Arizona To Utah

Saguaro in bloom, Phoenix

If you ever find yourself on the road between Flagstaff, Arizona and Kenab, Utah, please do not hesitate to take US State Route 89. The route has some of the most beautiful scenery we have enjoyed on a travel day. We might not have even been on the southern part of this drive, were it not for a last-minute change of plans.

Palo Verde trees in blossom, somewhere near Tucson

To back up just a bit, on the day we were to leave Ft. Huachuca, we received news of a Covid crisis with our family in Denver. The next day I was on a plane heading from Phoenix to Denver to provide some needed day care for our grandchildren. Cal stayed at Luke Air Force Base for a week, having a time watching the F-16 and F-35 training pilots continually take off on the runway. Life turns on a dime, doesn’t it?

A couple of planned stays were completely eliminated, and that is how we ended up taking 89 all the way from Flagstaff to Kenab. The scenery changes here from high mountain ponderosa pine to desert shrub, rolling hills, buttes and mesas, and odd piles of rocks. There are turnoffs for both the South and North Rims of the Grand Canyon. We drove through Navajo Nation, where there were wooden stands for selling Navajo crafts. Most were empty, some falling apart, but a few were occupied selling mostly jewelry from what I could see. I’m speculating that they will disappear one day in the future, when artisans have so many other ways to take their creations to market.

There was a scenic turnoff for a beautiful overlook and off in the distance were the Vermillion Cliffs. The whole vista was a feast for the eyes. Cal could not stop because we had Sam behind us and there was no room to park.

Near Page, we stopped at Horseshoe Bend. The park is run by the city of Page which charges for its huge parking lot; happily, there was room for us. We generally do not make stops on travel days, so I was surprised when Cal turned in. It was just over a half mile walk to the most amazing view:

Horseshoe Bend, on the Colorado River

In the view above, you can just barely see the Vermillion Cliffs rising in the background. Route 89-A is another scenic route for seeing them, and this road would go also to the North Rim.

Rocks are so interesting. I saw these on our hike to Horseshoe Bend. They look just like…well, I will leave it to your imagination. I was looking around for Paul Bunyan’s ox.

In the parking lot was this ensemble. We had crossed paths with them earlier in the day:

Someone has been doing a lot of boondocking in the desert

It looks like they have everything they need right there.

On the other side of Page, we came to Glen Canyon Dam:

We’ve been reading a lot in the news about Glen Canyon, and Lake Powell that the dam creates. The water levels are dangerously low due to a 25-year drought. If you look above the dam, the white cliffs will show you how much the water has dropped. On one side of Lake Powell, the water is completely gone. We drove for many miles past the dam and were pretty sure that we should have been seeing beautiful views of the lake. What will happen when the dam can no longer produce power or water for life downstream? These are difficult problems that are being encountered across the Southwest.

Looking downstream from the dam

We crossed over into Utah, which was our first new state in many months, except for Hawaii. We’d been in Arizona since December and were a little sad to leave the state. We will be back.

Our stay while in the Kenab area was at Dark Sky RV Park, our destination for the day. It is fairly new, family owned, and every site is designed for maximum enjoyment of the night sky. We visited a bit with Rick, “Dad” in the enterprise. He had a brief experience with towing a 5th wheel and decided that none of his sites were going to be back-ins. There is a “cocktail table” with two log seats, a regular size table with a cover, and even a propane fire pit. Lights must be off after dark. With our pull-through site, we were able to enjoy nothing but the desert.

View from our RV

We also had this view across the road! It was a fine stay in which to begin our Utah adventures.

Next time – Zion National Park

Destinations · US Travel · USTravel

Riding the Rails to Grand Canyon National Park

It didn’t seem right to leave Arizona without seeing the Grand Canyon. Cal and I have been there a few times in our lives, separately and together, so I looked around for a different way to see it. Riding a train seemed like a perfect idea.

The depot is in Williams and they have quite a set up: besides the train, there is a hotel with all the amenities plus the RV park where we stayed for just two nights. It was a packed park. We were right in front of some railroad tracks, separated only by a ditch and a fence. You either love the sound of the trains, or you hate them. I don’t mind if they are off in the distance, but the train horn blowing woke me up once each night.

Small price to pay for the convenience, though. We were able to walk to the depot in the morning of our excursion. Before we boarded the train, there was a shootout outside the depot. The sheriff was having a little trouble with the Cataract Creek Gang. This was a huge event; why did I not see it in the morning news?

Silliness aside, we enjoyed the two hour ride up to Grand Canyon. Our host in our car told us about the trains and the scenery we were passing, there was a little snack buffet, and a singer came by with guitar in hand to entertain us with a few songs. Before we knew it, we were at the Grand Canyon Depot.

The 64-mile Grand Canyon Railway was originally completed in 1901 and was instrumental in the development of Grand Canyon Village. It was built by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. With the decline of the railway, the last passengers rode the train in 1968. Developers purchased the line and restored operations again in 1989. Today the train runs 364 days a year. Our car was full and it looked like the others were too on the day we rode.

Of course, the Grand Canyon is the main attraction. We climbed up a lot of steps from the depot, and there it was. I had forgotten. Forgotten how it takes my breath away and almost brings me to tears every time I see it. I’m struck, every time, by its beauty. It truly is grand.

A National Park Service informational sign says much of what I was feeling:

Gazing upon this view, one is struck by the canyon’s vastness. The mind struggles to comprehend it. Try to describe the canyon’s size in words. Try to measure in your mind the canyon’s depth, width, and length. Measurements like 1 mile deep, 18 miles wide, and 277 river miles long leave us scratching our heads. Perhaps the best we can do is just feel the canyon’s enormity. Measure yourself up against it. We are miniscule in comparison…”

We rode the park shuttle to Hopi Point and hiked back along the Rim Trail. That was a good way to get some quiet trail time. We appreciated our host’s suggestion for this; our walk from Hopi Point was all down hill.

From Hopi Point, we could see the Colorado River far below.

The view of the canyon was dizzying in some spots, as there was no barrier rail in many places of this part of the trail:

Maricopa Point looked like a good viewing spot, although we did not hike over to it.

If one wants to hike down inside the canyon, Bright Angel Trail is the trail to take, and it will be four to six hours to the bottom. It is a long and strenuous hike, and hiking back up takes twice as long as venturing down. If one is overnighting, Phantom Ranch has basic accommodations at the bottom. I think it would be fun to hike down and stay at Phantom Ranch, if someone could come by and pick me up in the morning! Before we hopped on the shuttle, we passed the Bright Angel trailhead.

As we got closer to Grand Canyon Village on our hike, we could see the trail far below.

Looking down on Bright Angel Trail closer to the beginning of the trail head:

This little squirrel posed nicely for me. Or it was looking for a handout, I can’t be sure.

You wouldn’t think you’d see much wildlife so close to all the humanity around, but this bighorn sheep was oblivious.

I visited Grand Canyon with my parents when I was twelve, and again in my late teens with a friend on our way back to Texas from Las Vegas. Each time, I loved to see the Hopi House on the edge of the canyon. I wondered if this was a real Hopi house. Did Hopi Indians once live here? At the time, I received no answers, or I don’t remember that I did.

Fast forward to the Internet age. Our host on the train told us that the Hopi House was designed by Mary Coulter for the Fred Harvey Company which was instrumental in promoting tourism in the canyon. In the early 1900’s, she was revolutionary in the field of architecture. Her designs blended the natural landscape with whatever building materials were local. The Hopi House was finished in 1905.

The Hopi were a native canyon tribe and at the time were considered more civilized because they lived in permanent pueblos and created beautiful arts and crafts. The Hopi House was built as a place where Hopis could work and live, and visitors could observe and purchase their goods. It’s built like a true Hopi home, where several families could live, enjoy the rooftop terraces and vistas in the evening, and enjoy the company of fellow artisans. The exception to this is that there is a door in the front on ground level; the Hopi would not have had one. At one point, three generations of one family lived here. A dance platform was built in the 30’s but the evening Hopi dances ended in the early 1970’s with resentment by many Hopi for having their culture on display for tourists. Today, we know that several tribes once lived in the Canyon, not just the Hopi, and we celebrate their cultures as well.

I found much of this information on gracahistory.org and for further reading you can visit their site with a search on “Hopi House”.

The Hopi House has been refurbished. True to its original conception, it is a shop and art gallery that sells mostly native crafts. The items for sale are beautiful, and I also tried to look past them to see the original house as it was.

My parents were also here on their honeymoon in 1938, which was probably the heyday of the Hopi house. I faintly remember my mother saying that the Indians would be sitting along side of the road selling their wares as they traveled. I would love to see the Hopi house as she saw it then.

All too soon, it was time to board the train back to Williams. We had a different singer this time, who billed himself as “The Rock-n-Roll Cowboy.” And then we were held up by the Cataract Creek Gang! We saw them on their horses as we passed and soon the train stopped. The robbers actually got away with some of our cash, which was in reality tip money.

The sheriff just before the robbers boarded our car, certain that the passengers ahead of us knew of their whereabouts

The train was great fun and we liked not having a car at the Canyon, but I would not recommend it if it would be someone’s first visit there. I was surprised that, even as a repeat visitor, our time at the Canyon felt a little short. Or maybe I just got lost in the Hopi House. Some passengers had luggage and were staying at the Canyon with a return trip the next day. I wish I had thought of that earlier! The train ride would also be a whole bunch of fun for school-age kids.

The town of Williams is on the original Route 66 and was one of the last towns to be bypassed by the highway. We were able to walk over the tracks for a little visit.

Our time in Williams was brief but with much to look forward to on the road ahead, we were ready to go. I’ll leave you with one last view of the Grand Canyon.

Next time: on the road to Utah

Destinations · Uncategorized · US Travel · USTravel

Ft. Huachuca, Arizona

Morning snow cover on the Huachuca Mountains

We arrived at Ft. Huachuca early in February. After a week, we were off to Hawaii. Frodo and Sam (our truck and 5th wheel) went into storage for a month in a lot on post close to Apache Flats, our RV park. We were there another month after our trip to Hawaii. I was working on the Hawaii blogs the whole time, so none of the fun excursions we did were posted. Perhaps I will catch them up at a later date.

Ft. Huachuca is an old Army post that dates back to the 1800’s, when new trails were being explored across the West and the Indian wars were happening. Today, it is the home of Military Intelligence (MI). There is a training school for mostly new recruits fresh out of basic training and a handful of MI battalions, among other units. It’s tucked up into the foothills of the Huachuca mountains, and sprawls all the way down to the Sonoran desert. The whole post is quiet and relaxed, although maybe not for the students at the MI school.

Looking at the Huachucas from the historic side of post

The RV park on Ft. Huachuca is in the foothills on the edge of civilization before the road goes off into the brush. There was nothing but nature all around us, and we started to think of the mountain as “ours”, in all its moods.

We called Ft. Huachuca home for a couple of years back in the 80’s, and loved it here. It was the only military assignment Cal had, after we married, in which we lived in government family quarters. It was a quiet, laid-back place to live. We were at the end of a 6-plex row of homes, and became friends with several of the neighbors around us. There were game nights, dinners together, and plenty of chats on the driveways. I went to school on my GI Bill and was one semester short of an Associate’s Degree when Cal received a “can’t miss” chance for reassignment in Washington, D.C. I always thought we’d at least come back for a visit, but this was our first time here in all the years since.

The rows of 6-plexes are gone now, replaced by beautiful new housing, schools, and a daycare facility. There is a larger emphasis on taking care of soldiers’ families in the military today, and I’m happy to see that. Our quarters were old even when we lived in them. Two rows of the 6-plexes were saved from the bulldozer for use as maintenance offices.

Looking down the row of the 6-plex. The front yards would have been grassy with the occasional prickly pear cactus.

The “A” unit was ours, on the end. I checked the address on the side of the building and it was not the one we lived in. That would have been a huge coincidence. Since all units were identical, I stood on the front entryway of the “A” unit and felt just a touch nostalgic for what had been.

This was our view when we lived here, minus the new buildings. Our unit was on the edge of the desert.

Ft. Huachuca is home to a lot of wildlife. Deer are numerous, and we often saw javelinas. We had a sighting of a coyote one evening, and I stumbled on the huge flock of turkeys on one of my walks one day. I counted at least a couple dozen.

This deer and I had a stare-down contest. I lost the game.
Sort of reminds me of the Beatles walking across Abbey Road. But wait, there’s one missing!
Ah, there’s the little straggler.
They’re easy to miss because they blend in, but there is a whole row of turkeys behind the one in the front

The birds! There were so many of them. The mountains of southern Arizona are “sky islands” in the Sonoran desert. The birds migrate up from Mexico along the chain of mountains. Sierra Vista, the town outside of Ft. Huachuca, is known as the hummingbird capital of the U.S. for all the types of hummingbirds that come. For a while, a couple in an RV with three hummingbird feeders were parked across from us. They would be gone all day, and we could enjoy the hummingbirds from our lawn chairs when we were home. They told us they had seen 8 varieties while sitting at dinner one night. Even without the feeders there were plenty of them zipping around the park at any time. And this little red bird came to visit us often.

We took many hikes into both Huachuca and Garden canyons, right on the military post. I don’t remember this from when we lived here. We visited many beautiful places while we lived in Arizona; how did we not know this was in our own back yard? I guess it was a combination of the pre-computer era, and also the busyness of daily life, plus only having weekends for exploration. If we didn’t know anyone who hiked the canyons, we just wouldn’t have known about it.

Garden Canyon even had some petroglyphs.

Before getting deep into the canyons, we would pass multiple picnic areas which are no longer being maintained. I couldn’t understand why not, at first. I finally decided that they hearken back to an earlier era when government family quarters didn’t have air conditioning. Parents might’ve been happy to get up into the cooler canyons to let the kids play and have a picnic on a Sunday afternoon. I never saw anyone using the facilities.

We also attended a rodeo at the only rodeo arena in the world that is inside a military installation.

There was a competition in which four teams of military guys had to put panties on a bull. It was hilarious to watch their efforts!

Ft. Huachuca also has horse stables. Back in the day, you could go up to a window at the stables, show your ID card, give them a few bucks, and “check out” a horse. Cal and I did that several times, just riding the horses up into the hills by ourselves. We would always put a carrot or two in our pockets for them. Sadly, you can’t do that anymore. You have to go on a trail ride. We went on a sunset ride, and although it wasn’t the same, it was still enjoyable. We’ve heard that there used to be around 90 horses, and now there are only 16. They stopped individual check outs because too many people were getting bucked.

Back in the Midwest, spring was my favorite season. I loved the arrival of spring flowers and the budding and blooming of the trees. Here at Ft. Huachuca we have enjoyed a spring season also, but it’s just a little different. It started back in February when I saw a barrel cactus in bloom in Tucson:

The cholla cactus was in bloom throughout our entire stay at Ft. Huachuca. At Apache Flats, we enjoyed watching a bird building a nest in one of them on our evening walks.

This huge agave was sprouting inch by inch. I would’ve liked to have seen it when it reached full growth.

When March turned to April, the ocotillo went into bloom. Their flowers are only at the top. On a desert hillside full of ocotillo, they look like orange waving flags. Usually the rest of the ocotillo stems are black, but in spring they turn green.

Interestingly, I read on Wikipedia that ocotillo is more closely related to tea and blueberries, even though it is semi-succulent and a desert plant.

The trees by our site went into leaf a little more slowly than I would have liked. I think we need to stay an extra couple of weeks into spring the next time we are here, so we can finish watching everything come into full bloom. Yes, there will be a next time, but as always, we don’t know how many years down the road it will be. We’re on the road again!

Next time: Grand Canyon

Destinations · Hawaii

Hangin’ on the South Side of the Big Island

While we were staying at Volcano, we celebrated our one-year anniversary of being “location independent”. That’s a new term I’ve learned this past week, and I like it for what we are doing. I cannot say that this past year has not had its ups and downs, or a few doubts that we’re doing the right thing, although that was mostly earlier in the year. We jumped into this in the middle of Covid with hardly a look back or saying many goodbyes, because of the said pandemic. For our current situation in life, this fits. We’re enjoying it and feel blessed that we can travel as much as we can. Cheers to that!

We celebrated at Volcano’s only winery, Volcano Winery, with a guava grape wine. It is the southernmost winery in the United States. They grow their own grapes and also have tea trees, so they make their own tea. After our celebration, I had a little tea tasting, complete with a tea leaf.

Being at the winery made me wonder: is this really the southernmost part of the United States? We’ve been to Key West, Florida, and thought we were at the southernmost place there. A Google search answered the question: Key West is the southernmost point of the contiguous United States. Lava rock at the ocean on the Big Island is the southernmost point of the whole United States. Let’s go!

Well, we didn’t just jump up from our chairs and dive in the car, but we did go on another day. All we did was google “southernmost point” and let GPS take it from there. We passed a huge coffee farm. The couple of towns we went through got smaller. Then, windswept cattle and horse ranches. The trees were blown sideways, especially this monkeypod tree, with its trunk totally on the left side of it:

There is no sign saying “You are here!”. We questioned our GPS, but when I looked up pictures of the “Southernmost Point”, this view is what frequently comes up. The exact place is somewhere on the lava rocks. We wondered about all the cautionary signs. This spot is on a pretty substantial cliff; who would ever want to jump into the water here?

There was no fence around this hole in the ground. It was pretty fascinating to watch the water ebb and flow with the waves, and too deep to be a blowhole.

As Cal and I were peering down this hole, I started chatting with a girl nearby. I was still wondering if we were in the right place for the southernmost point. She didn’t really care about that, but she said she’d heard that there was cliff jumping here. She thought there would be more people jumping (there were none at that point). She and her friends were trying to decide whether or not to do it.

“Shall I jump?” This, despite the warnings and the memorial on the red sign!

He did jump!! I didn’t catch it on camera, but I did get a picture of the girl I had been talking to:

For many reasons, just “Wow”!

In case you are wondering, there are no rocks straight down in the ocean here, which I suppose explains its popularity for cliff jumping. These two were joined by a third young man, and his mother was right there cheering them all on. They were all wearing outer gear that made me think they were a swim team and she was their instructor but I can’t be sure of that. The group seemed to enjoy their swim in the water but the rope ladder for the climb back up looked very precarious.

Off to the other side: this is not the area anyone would want to jump down into!
A sea turtle we noticed while watching the swimmers

It was time for lunch at the southernmost bakery in the U.S. We had meat inside soft, fresh Hawaiian rolls with malasadas for dessert. I’ll get back to the malasadas in a bit. This place is very popular and we had quite a wait just to be able to place our lunch order.

On the way back to Volcano, we stopped at Punalu’u Beach, known for its black lava sand. It was our very last beach, and a great way to end the vacation.

Back to the malasadas. We were riding with our friends Kathy and John on a highway in Honolulu when I saw a sign with a food truck way up off the road advertising them. I asked Kathy what they were, and she didn’t know, so she googled it. Definition: a fried type of doughnut. In the melting pot that is Hawaii, malasadas were brought to the Islands by the Portuguese. In Lana’i, my niece Rachel told me that there were excellent malasadas in Lahaina, Maui, and told me where to go. But we had so much good food to eat in Lahaina in a short time that we never got there.

We were coming back to Volcano one day after an outing when I saw a sign for malasadas and shouted out for Cal to stop. He’s never one to question a food stop, so he pulled a great U-turn. And there they were, two guys under a canopy, deep frying malasadas, with…pigs and chickens running free nearby. They (the guys, that is) were very nice and even gave us free samples since we’d never had them before. This is why I’ve noted in an earlier post that sometimes it felt like we were in a foreign country in this part of Hawaii!

We purchased a paper bag of traditional malasadas, easily compared to donut holes. They were excellent, pigs and chickens notwithstanding. Our malasadas were especially good washed down with pog juice, which had also become a Hawaiian favorite. So far, we can’t find pog in the continental States.

Back to Punalu’u Bakery. They had traditional malasadas, but also the filled variety. My strawberry-filled malasada was good but the filling tasted a little to me like canned pie filling, not my favorite. I kept looking longingly at Cal’s chocolate-filled malasada but he didn’t offer a sample. He thought he liked the traditional ones best. I liked them both, very different from each other.

I enjoy figuring out the origins of words, and I study Spanish. Portuguese is very similar to Spanish. “Mal” in Spanish means “bad” and “asada” means “grilled”, or “roasted”. So I’m conjecturing that the very first malasada was a complete accident.

With a toast to malasadas and pog, I’m concluding this edition of The Hawaii Chronicles. I hope you enjoyed reading about our little romp through some of the Hawaiian islands. What would we like to see if we came back? We didn’t get to Kauai, and Molokai might be interesting. I would like a return to Maui to see Haleakala National Park. People we talked to on the Big Island were surprised that we didn’t see Kona, although we were pretty happy on the southeast side, so I suppose that might be a possibility. Cal really liked Lana’i and would like to return. But then, there are so many other places in the world to go, and the US to explore, especially with our RV.

Until next time, Aloha – and Mahalo – (thank you) for reading!

Next time – back to Frodo, Sam, and Arizona!

Destinations · Hawaii

A Hilo Kind of Day on the Big Island, and the Bird House

Our Bird House

When we first flew into Hilo, it was already dark, and raining. We had not seen rain since Christmas so that was surprising. We needed to rent a car. Easily done, because Hilo Airport is so small that all we had to do was step out of the airport door. There were groceries to purchase. Then, thirty miles to Volcano. As we rode, I started noticing elevation signs. By the time we arrived at our AirBnb, The Bird House, we were at 4,000 feet and solidly in the rainforest. The temperature was cooler.

In the morning, when we could see, we walked outside and got a good look at where we were. Pleasant surprise, looking at the Bird House from outside! After a few days, we noticed a pattern: mornings were generally sunny, although not the warmest, but by afternoon it would start clouding up. Usually it would be raining by late afternoon, or at least misting. It was OK. We’d had two weeks of fun in the sun in Hawaii, and we figured this week was just going to be different.

After a few days of this, and a lot of volcano activity on our part, we were ready to hop down out of our perch, warm up a bit, and see something of the island.

Preparing coconuts for sale at the Hilo Market

Our first stop was the Hilo Farmers Market. There was produce for sale which we were not used to seeing in a market.

Bright anthuriums for sale

Behind the fruits and vegetables tent was a crafter’s market. Everything was made in Hawaii. That was a good spot to finish up all of my gift shopping.

There was a tourist street near the water which looked similar to Front Street in Lahaina, Maui. We were done with all of that after Lahaina, so we skipped it and drove north of Hilo to the Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden. Compared to our elevation at the Bird House, here we were at 120 feet above sea level to start the garden visit.

Dan and Pauline Lutkenhouse purchased a little valley containing 17 acres on Onomea Bay. It was full of junk and overgrown jungle. They spent six years hacking and clearing and giving space for native plants to grow back. Dan designed a boardwalk down into the Garden over uneven terrain and large boulders, like a bridge. Dan and Pauline are gone, leaving a treasure in this non-profit preserve.

Our walk through this garden was one pleasant surprise after another. Orchids were growing on many trees, and there were other flowers such as I’ve not often seen:

Purple anthurium – I had only ever seen red before
Heliconia

We looked at Onomea Waterfalls, which goes into Onomea Stream, and right out to the bay:

A cute little gecko popped in to say hello:

I liked the effect of the sun on the picture I took of this monkeypod tree.

Finally, as always in Hawaii, ocean in view! Now we were at sea level.

Twin Rocks on Onomea Bay

Have you ever seen a cannonball tree? This was truly amazing.

We really appreciated the love and care that has gone into this garden. What a gift they have left us.

After most of the morning spent at the gardens, we headed even further north, past the village of Honumu. Japanese immigrants once harvested sugar cane here. Past Honumu, we visited Akaka Falls.

On our little hike to Akaka, there was the smaller Kahuna Falls.

Akaka Falls has a drop of 442 feet and was the most impressive of all the falls we’d seen so far on Hawaii.

We had had a huge delicious breakfast at Ken’s Pancake House in Hilo, so in the early afternoon we were still only hungry for a small snack. There were some tables for a picnic at Akaka Falls. We enjoyed our manju (soft cookies with red bean paste filling) and banana bread that we’d purchased at the Hilo market, and sweet easy-to-peel Hawaiian grown oranges. I didn’t say too much to Cal about what was inside his manju, and he thought it was pretty tasty.

This cute and furry cat came by as soon as we started eating. It didn’t want food or much attention, and promptly curled up near us for a nap. When we finished our lunch it woke up, stretched, and off it went. Pretty fine day for a cat, if you ask me.

Returning to Hilo, we drove to Rainbow Falls. The sun shines on the falls in such a way as to produce a rainbow effect. But there was no rainbow. Later I found out that the best time to see the effect is in the morning. Oh well, it was still pretty.

Back in Volcano, we loved our stay at the Bird House. It was a welcoming place. When the owners first saw it, they thought it looked like a bird house, and so all of the decor inside is bird related. There is even old-time newspaper design tile in the entry way, like you might put newspaper in the bottom of a bird cage. I thought that they must have had fun scouring the earth for every bird-design item possible, because the birds were in every nook and cranny.

This was advertised as a “tiny house”. In my mind before our arrival it kept shrinking; I had no idea how tiny it was going to feel. In actuality, I think it was slightly bigger than a typical tiny house. We had plenty of space on the first floor. The loft where we slept was spacious and we could fully stand up in it.

There were birds in a cage above us–

–and this parrot seemed to look askance at me for whatever I happened to be doing in the bathroom.

We were back at the Bird House one day for lunch, and it was warm enough to have a little picnic on the porch. There was a bird wind catcher above me and a big red bird in the yard.

But the piéce de résistance was this diorama, set into the landing on the stairs. YFlipping a switch to turned it on. It lit up, and one of the birds and the butterfly started flapping their wings. I couldn’t even dream of setting something like this inside a house, and there was so much artistry involved.

The bird theme continued outside with thanks to Mother Nature: a flock of Kalij pheasants visited our front lawn every morning and sometimes returned late afternoon.

We took some walks around our neighborhood. All the houses were different from each other, some expensive-looking, some weren’t much better than a shack. Some were right on the road, and you could hardly see some others. Most had some nice landscaping with local plants in the yard. But none were too close together, and in between, the rain forest was allowed to grow unchecked in a riot of many different trees and plants. We rated the Bird House as our favorite stay.

I would like to credit my niece Rachel for her travel suggestions. She had recently traveled to the Big Island, and most of the places that we visited and enjoyed in our Hilo day was thanks to her advice.

Next time: the south side of the Big Island

Destinations · Hawaii

Visiting Kilahuea Volcano on the Big Island

Steam rising from Kilahuea, Big Island

When I was doing some Hawaii trip planning, Cal looked over my shoulder and asked “Which is the last island we’re visiting?” To which I replied, “The Big Island.” “Oh,” he said, “and which one is that?” Well, it is a little confusing. The Big Island’s correct name is the Island of Hawai’i. But it is part of the State of Hawaii, equally confusing.

It rightly earns the nickname of Big Island. Our guide for the Road to Hana tour told us that all the other seven Hawaiian islands could fit into the Big Island.

Our AirBnb was located just outside of the tiny village of Volcano, just a stone’s throw from Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. We have a National Park pass, so we were in and out of the park several times during the week we were there. In Volcano and its surroundings, we almost had the feel of being in another country. It was a little strange to see the familiar US National Park sign when we arrived for the first time.

I’ve seen several volcanoes, but I hadn’t yet hiked on a volcano crater rim, so that’s where we started. The trail took us through the beautiful rainforest, and soon the volcano crater was in view:

The steam was also coming up from natural vents near the trail, and the smell of sulphur was in the air:

The active volcano is below this crater

The correct name for the tree below is the ‘Ohi’a Lehua, usually shortened to just Ohia. It is one of the first plants to grow in a new lava field after an eruption, reaching its roots way down into the cracks. At that point it looks like a small shrub. I saw the Ohia everywhere at Volcanoes. It is the official Big Island flower.

An Ohia flower

On Volcano’s scenic drive, we received views of craters left behind by older eruptions. The steam from the current eruption can be seen just behind this crater:

We could walk right in to Thurston Lava Tube.

We drove past sprawling lava fields from eruptions that happened years ago, where the forest is only beginning to reclaim the land:

Delicate moss, and a tiny Ohia

And finally, the ocean, with a sea arch carved from the lava flow:

No sandy beaches here!

Sometimes Nature carved intricate patterns into the cooling lava:

Do you remember, in the summer of 2018, when a subdivision called Leilani Estates was completely covered by Kilahuea’s lava flow? The slow destruction was in the news every day. The eruption was touched off by a 6.9 magnitude earthquake. 700 homes were destroyed and 2,000 people were displaced. On the plus side, the lava flow added 875 acres.

We drove over to Puna and saw what was left of Leilani Estates. In a testimony to man’s tenacity, new homes are being rebuilt, or at least structures to live in. I cannot begin to think how one would build a house over a lava bed.

There was once paved roads, trees, and a community of homes here

One evening we went out for a little night hike to see the current eruption. Kilahuea is temperamental, and no one can predict how much activity will happen each day. We were feeling a little grumbly about being out close to our bedtime, but were soon caught up in the wonder of our walk in the dark. It was just over a mile, and other people were out, so it felt like a party. The moon was bright and playing peek-a-boo with the clouds, and stars were in full view. The hike was mostly over a closed national park road.

It was not one of Kilahuea’s best nights for activity. But standing and watching for awhile, I could see how the eruption is constantly moving, ebbing and flowing. Pretty spectacular. My old phone did not do a great job of capturing the moment. I started chatting with a woman next to me, and she texted me her pictures, taken on her brand-new I-phone. What a difference!

Volcano eruption taken on my old Samsung
Volcano eruption from Lakita’s new I-Phone

So then, we had to hike back to see what it looked like by day. The first thing I was excited to see was a pair of nenes, the state bird of Hawaii.

Finally we see the whole Kilahuea Volcano – the deep black that you see in the middle is the lava lake

By day, we could see why the road was closed:

I’d suggest turning around if you’re ever driving on a road that starts cracking and splitting like this!

We had seen the volcano and its effects from every angle, except underground. You won’t find a glossy brochure about Kazamura Cave in any of the tourist information racks around Hawaii. It’s privately owned by Harry Shick; the cave sits on his land, and he gives the tours. He’s done extensive research in the cave and he’s written a book. We found out about the cave from our AirBnb host. I had to call to reserve a tour and then he e-mailed me directions. He only takes six people down at a time and once there, I had to pay in cash. It all seemed a little shady but later I found out that he just doesn’t want an excessive amount of people knowing where his property is.

Kazamura Cave is a lava tube cave with several different levels. It is the longest cave in Hawaii and at 42.5 miles surveyed, it is the longest known continuous lava cave in the world. This is not a tour cave with poured concrete floors, handrails, and lights. We had to climb up and down several ladders, wear hard hats and gloves, and strap flashlights on to belts. The tour size is small so Harry can keep an eye on everyone; he’s very protective of his cave, and rightly so.

Going up one of the many ladders in the cave
A lavafall

By Harry’s own definition, a lava tube is “a conduit which forms around flowing lava; it insulates the flow from the cooling effects of the air.” Many lava tubes and other formations make up a lava cave, left by an erupting volcano. This cave formed from an eruption that happened about 500 years ago. Everything above ground had grown back, of course. We walked through lush rainforest behind Harry’s house to get to the entrance.

Gypsum crystals

We were in the cave about two and a half hours. Harry’s knowledge and explanations, although technical, were informative. We learned about lava ropes and lava falls, the formation of the gypsum crystals, lavacicles, straws, and dribble spires.

Lavacicles

Harry documents every tiny creature that finds its way into the cave. A young man in our group, Wilson, was always falling behind and examining everything closely with fascination. Wilson had a great camera and gets the credit for some of the pictures I have posted here. He also found this plant hopper, which is no bigger than a grain of rice. Harry has a camera that takes microscopic pictures, and I took a picture of Harry’s picture.

This little plant hopper will only survive in the cave if it finds roots to feed on

We originally weren’t sure what we were getting into with this cave exploring venture, but it was a whole lot of fun! We learned a lot and this put a lot of the volcano activity that we had been seeing into perspective.

If the whole subject of lava caves truly interests you, you can find Harry’s book on Amazon.

Next time – a Hilo day on the Big Island

Destinations · Hawaii

The little island of Lana’i

Puu Pehe – Sweetheart Rock in Lanai

We were in the early stages of Hawaii trip planning last year when my niece Rachel’s husband, Ben, became the pastor of the United Church of Christ congregation in Lana’i City, Lana’i. Although Ben arrived ahead of the family, by early summer they and their two daughters Eliza and Emi were settled in, and Rachel started work for the Lanai school system. We didn’t want to miss seeing them, so we inserted a night’s stay in Lana’i into the middle of our Maui week.

Lana’i is the smallest inhabited island in the Hawaiian islands and is roughly shaped like an apostrophe. In the early 1920’s it was purchased by Dole Corporation and became the largest pineapple plantation in the United States. The pineapples are gone now. Business magnate Larry Ellison owns the whole island. He took over an existing Four Seasons hotel, and is now trying to transform it into a more health-and-wellness-focused enterprise.

You can get to Lana’i two ways: by airplane, or by ferry from Lahaina in Maui. We chose the latter option, and joined the day-trippers heading for the beach on Lana’i with their coolers and beach chairs. Several people were also headed to the Four Seasons with enormous suitcases. The ferry takes about an hour, and we enjoyed the ride.

A look back at Maui and Lahaina

On the ferry to and from Lana’i, we spotted many whales. On a whale watch tour, the boat stops when a whale is sighted so that everyone can watch it, ooh and aah, and take pictures. A ferry boat doesn’t stop or try to get close. When we first saw a whale on the ferry, I tried to angle for the best picture. For the most part, they were too far away. I gave up, and discovered that I really enjoyed seeing them a lot more without trying to get a picture when they appeared over the water. I just let the whales be, observed them, and scouted for others in the sea.

A puff of water on the glistening sea is all I captured of this whale before I put the phone down.

When we arrived in Lana’i, Ben and his youngest daughter Emi were there to greet us. It was about eight miles up from the harbor to the town of Lana’i City. “City” is really a misnomer for this little village without any stoplights!

The UCC church, with their home – the parsonage – on the right.
Dole Park, across from the parsonage, looking much like the Wisconsin that they left behind

The businesses of Lana’i City are the “houses” lining the park.

The court house!
One of the two grocery stores

The groceries on Lana’i come by barge. If the barge runs late the week that it is expected, the store shelves start to run thin.

Ben and Rachel drove us up further on the mountain for some great views.

Maybe you can just make out the “shipwreck” on Shipwreck Beach at the bottom of this picture. It’s an abandoned barge.
The “breezeway” between the islands of Molokai and Maui
Former pineapple fields
Ben, Rachel, Eliza, Emi, and…wait! What’s Cal doing in the family photo??

We visited Lana’i cemetery.

While we were there, Rachel and Ben did some great “tag teaming”. From the cemetery, we went off with Ben and the girls to hike a trail that Ben wanted to explore and hadn’t been on yet. Rachel met us at the bottom, when we finished, so that we didn’t need to make a round-trip hike back up the mountain.

Rainbow Bark Eucalyptus trees, the first that Ben had seen on the island
Looking down on Lana’i City

The picture above gives a closer view of the Cook pine trees. I’d seen them on the other islands, but not as much as I did on Lana’i. They are what gives the island that “Wisconsin” feel.

Remember that scene at the beginning of the “Sound of Music” where Maria twirled and burst out with “The hills are alive!”? That’s exactly what this little meadow full of wildflowers felt like. We had been hiking through the woods, and then came upon this. In actuality, it is the old golf course for the Four Seasons. We could see golf balls embedded in the path. Larry Ellison has already transformed part of it into two different ropes courses. I think this one looks like an absolute blast:

Has it happened that you saw something on Facebook, and years later, it still stuck in your mind? That happened for me when I saw the Lana’i Cat Sanctuary posted several years ago. The founder, Kathy Carroll, was dismayed about the number of feral cats running all over the island. Having the cats at the sanctuary not only cares for their health but also controls the numbers, and protects the bird population. There are over 600 cats at the sanctuary. Seeing it on Facebook was one of those “ohhh, I wish I could visit” moments and I was purely tickled that I could see all those cats, and the sanctuary, in person!

Joy!

You could adopt the cats, and I picked out a couple that I would have loved to take home, but Rachel and I agreed that any cat would be happier here. Lots of friends to play with, people that visit for affection and attention, trees and structures to climb on, hammocks and other warm places to nap, and food to eat…what’s not to love?

Two cats in a mango tree
A volunteer came into one of the enclosures we were in, and all the cats in there came running!

I could post a whole lot more cat pictures but I will spare you for now. I was delighted to meet Kathy in her husband Mike’s art gallery in Lana’i City, and we purchased one of his pictures to put in our our RV.

My roots are in the midwestern United States. I can’t imagine being able to enjoy every Sunday afternoon at the beach, but that’s what Ben, Rachel, and their girls do. What a great place for kids to grow up. They got into suits, packed up snorkeling and beach gear, food, and off we went to Hulopo’e Beach. Rachel walked us up onto the bluffs, where we were standing on ancient lava flows, for the view of Sweetheart Rock that you see at the top of this blog.

We had fun exploring the tide pools. The more I looked, the more I found: brightly colored fish in the deeper pools, sea cucumbers and anemones clinging to the rocks, crabs, and shells. There is more life in a tide pool than you can ever imagine.

The tide pools at Hulopo’e Beach

By the time we returned to the beach, there was not much time before we needed to catch the ferry, so we didn’t change into our suits. As I’ve said in earlier blogs, we have our suits, but we’re never in the sea!

A great photo taken by Eliza

A large part of Ben’s congregation is made up of families from the Micronesian island of Kosrae. They are mostly employed by the Four Seasons hotel. It happened that on the Sunday morning we worshipped with them, they were celebrating Ben’s one-year anniversary. This was followed by a potluck lunch. Because of Covid, several of the ladies prepared plates for everyone and delivered them out to the church lawn. Mixed in with some of the typical food on my plate were several Kosraean delicacies. It was another of those times when I had no idea what I was eating, but it was all delicious.

Of course, the pastor’s family received a lot of the extra food. Rachel packed a little box for each of us along with an American cupcake. When we arrived off the ferry and back in Lahaina, we dined sumptuously under the big banyan tree. It was a wonderful finish to our Lana’i weekend, and we are very grateful to our hosts for having us. It’s always special to share family time in unexpected places!

Next time – our last stop, the Big Island

Destinations · Hawaii

All Around Maui

Palm trees blowing in the wind near Paia, Maui

Trip planning for our stay in Maui sort of evolved. We ended up staying in two different places during our week in Maui. In Paia, on the eastern side, we were at the beginning of the Hana Highway. Paia tends to get a lot of high winds and is the wetter side of the island, although we didn’t see rain when we were there. Later in the week we moved to Lahaina, on the northwest side, which is where all the hotels and famous beaches are.

There were two small beaches on either side of our condo near Paia and, to our delight, both included sea turtles.

The sea turtles can look like large rocks if you’re not paying attention. We were enjoying some time on the other beach near us when we realized that we were sharing the beach with the turtles.

We discovered the Paia Fish Market restaurant in Waikiki and loved it for the delicious seafood at a reasonable (for Hawaii) price, as well as the Happy Hour mai tais. They have a handful of restaurants around the Hawaiian islands, and we were able to walk to another one in Paia. In Waikiki, I had a blackened mahi mahi over a salad, and it was the best. This shrimp dinner, however, ran a close second.

In Lahaina, we stayed at a Bed and Breakfast, and could walk into town. The first thing that caught my eye in Lahaina was this ancient banyan tree.

It is just one tree, spread over the courthouse lawn by way of aerial roots, and is over a century old. It is the largest banyan tree in the U.S.

I would have loved to delve into the history of Lahaina a little more, but there wasn’t time. The historical buildings we passed on our walk into town were all closed on the day we were there. This was the Seaman’s House, built in 1833, on the commission of King Kamehameha III. A little later it became a hospital for sailors. In the early 1800’s, Lahaina was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii. The main road, Front Street, dates back to that time. The street now is typically packed by tourists for shopping and dining.

North of Lahaina, we hiked the Kapalua Coastal Trail. The beach at Kapalua Bay has been rated as one of the world’s best.

We walked on lava beds left by ancient volcanoes, and looked across the water to the island of Molokai.

The boardwalk on this part of the trail was built to protect sensitive dunes. It overlooked beautiful Oneloa Bay.

The trail ended at D.T. Fleming State Park. The beach here has also been rated one of the world’s best, and here we were treated to another view of Molokai.

We took a drive up the northwest side of Maui.

We turned around after seeing Nakalele Blowhole.

Although the drive around Maui’s north shore was nowhere near as challenging as the road to Hana, it did involve some curves and twists and we had been adventuring for a good part of the day. Cal pulled over at a trailhead for a break. The trail at our stop was too inviting, though, so I went off to explore. Thanks to a guidebook I looked at later, I found out I had been in the Honolua Valley, on the trail to Honolua Beach

The forest was hushed, with no sounds except bird songs and rooster calls breaking through the stillness. There was just a little bit of creepiness. Would you keep going if you saw these signs? My curiosity won the day. I’m happy it did, because this walk was one of my best memories of Maui. The light filtering through the majestic trees made it a place of indescribable beauty, and I had to stop and take in the awe of that moment in that place.

I did finally find the beach. It was almost entirely enclosed by the bay, and very rocky.

Back in Lahaina, we attended a luau. Old Lahaina Luau was highly recommended by our bed and breakfast owners. That was maybe because it was within a short walk from there, but still, we enjoyed the evening.

There were several courses to the meal and more food than I could eat. I tried to pace myself and not eat everything in each course, but the deliciousness kept coming. This is not an inclusive list, but the meal included: taro chips with taro hummus, poke, guava rolls with honey butter, roasted pumpkin, a “luau pork” plate which included laulau – pork wrapped in a lu’au leaf and other pork meat, and that came with bland poi to soak up the saltiness, an “entree” plate of chicken, steak, and fish, and a dessert plate which included a mango coconut bombe. Whew! I was feeling bad about all the food I was returning uneaten. Our server reassured me that the luau company has a farm where they grow all their own food. The uneaten food returns to the pigs on the farm. Those must be some fat pigs!

The luau dancers were very entertaining. I can’t imagine knowing how to hula, and then doing it well enough to perform it every night as they do. They were a fine finish to our week in Maui.

Next time – We visit the tiny island of Lanai

Destinations · Hawaii

The Road to Hana, Maui

The Hana Highway, or “the road to Hana”, runs for 52 miles down the eastern side of Maui from the city of Kahului to the little village of Hana. The scenery contains lush and tropical rainforest with breathtaking ocean views. But here’s the kicker: the road is winding and narrow, with 59 mostly one-lane bridges and 620 curves. That’s just one way. Once you get to Hana you have to turn around and do it all over again unless you have a high-clearance vehicle. The road deteriorates into dirt after Hana.

The road to Hana captured my imagination long ago. It was the main thing I wanted to do on Maui. Other people might come to Maui for its world-famous beaches or sunrise on Haleakala, but for me it was that road. We rented a car on Maui but I was not about to subject Cal to the wicked drive; we both wanted to just enjoy it. I found an Airbnb in Paia, on the road to Hana, nine miles from the Kahului airport where we flew in, thinking that would be a handy place for a tour to pick us up.

I booked the tour through Valley Isle Tours and found out that there was no pick up in Paia. Tours do not generally just pick people up off the street, they pick up at hotels. I realized when we arrived that there are no big resort hotels in Paia and, anyway, our tour started out with breakfast at the Maui Tropical Plantation. We had to drive there, on the other side of Kahului, to meet our group. Almost everyone else had already been picked up at the tourist hotels on the east side of Maui. No matter to us, Paia was a beautiful stay in and of itself.

We had a delicious continental breakfast at the Maui Tropical Plantation.

This is called “The Gear Pond” and contains equipment salvaged from two sugar mills. Back in the day, sugar cane production was an important source of income for Maui.

There were twelve of us in a van with huge windows for our tour. Nothing much bigger than a van would fit on the road. We set off, back past Kahului, past Paia, and we waved hello to our condo.

We made a first quick stop to view some beautiful rainbow bark eucalyptus trees. They were brought to Maui as a wood burning source for the sugar industry, and are now considered invasive. The bark of the tree sheds annually to expose the green inner bark. As it matures, it changes into different colors.

We drove on, with rainforest on one side, ocean on the other.

Our next stop was Aunt Sandy’s for banana bread. Munching on banana bread while enjoying the sights is a don’t-miss thing on the Hana Highway. Our little loaf was still warm from the oven.

Ke’anae Park is just down from Aunt Sandy’s.

Back on the road, we went through a switchback with a beautiful waterfall.

We had some time to wander around more waterfalls at Puaa Koa State Park. On our way back, later in the day, this was a swim stop. People were in the water here and we watched a couple brave souls jump from the top of the falls.

I stopped to admire a red ti leaf, and put myself in the picture to show how tall it was. Residents use the red ti leaf for landscaping.

I guess looking at waterfalls makes you hungry again, because next up was a stop at Coconut Glen’s for ice cream. Of course we had to sample some because they make their own. I had one scoop each of the coconut and pineapple banana. Lots of coconuts were laying around to make more ice cream for the tourists.

Cal is always happy when he has a dish of ice cream in his hands!

There are only a handful of red sand beaches in the world, and we went to one of them. The cinder cone hill above Kaihalulu Beach has iron in it and is constantly eroding.

Crabby but cute!

After our lunch stop we headed to Waianapanapa State Park for its black sand beach. This park was my favorite in the day for its stunning beauty.

The lava rock here was huge and in interesting formations.

We had changed into swim suits because this was supposed to be a beach stop. Upon getting down to the beach, we discovered that the waves were too rough and only the bravest were willing to negotiate them. As usual, we are always ready for a swim but we never end up in the water.

No matter, there was a lava tube here which I wanted to explore.

It was a little scary at first only because I didn’t know where it was going to come out. I was on my own with this one because Cal was more interested in watching the wave action. It was high and wide enough for several people to be in there at once. At first there was only a shaft of light from the entrance, but then the tube curved around and ended at the water. Wow! That was pretty amazing.

The guide had kept up a running patter of conversation all day about what we had been seeing. He was an incredible font of information about every mile on the road that we covered, including names of all the plants and trees, native Hawaiian culture, and family members that lived on the road and that he had spent time with as a child. We drove through Hana, a picturesque little town. It would be fun to stay in a Bed and Breakfast in Hana, but I wouldn’t want to have to drive the road to get there. We passed a taro farm. After all the taro I had seen or eaten to that point, it was interesting to see.

On the ride back, however, our guide largely fell silent and made us listen to his crooning along with the music he played over the loudspeakers. I suppose you have to do what you need to do when you drive the road to Hana every day. We did have one more stop and, ironically, it was not far from our condo. We were able to see sea turtles here.

There were cars and people everywhere, but these turtles had found a quiet and secluded spot. The beach here was popular for windsurfing.

What a spectacular day we had on the road to Hana. Cal was very happy he didn’t have to drive!

Next time – more Maui adventures!