Prologue

As is often the case, the timing of this trip was partly driven by the conjunction of a number of activities occurring within a short period of time after which I wanted a break. May was occupied with the ending of my Spring semester GMU class, a Reston field trip, a party for an organization of which I was co-president, a concert at a local assisted living facility, and a 3-day workshop. As my wife Freya said, I had taken on too much. But why tackle the logistics of a self-organized 2-week trip to Hawai’i?  I figured once I got there I could relax. Although this was false reasoning, the benefit of the trip was of another nature. My daughter Melanie was also in need of a break, having finished a hectic year at the Academy of Art University of San Francisco and a new job at Dwell magazine. She also thought she’d be able to relax.

As usual, I kept a journal/sketchbook during the trip. This account of events, thoughts, and feelings is written to:

  • refresh my memory and enjoy recollections,
  • create a record for my reference in the future,
  • not bore others with interminable accounts of little interest to them,
  • complete or at least quiet somewhat the interior monologs began on the Islands.
  • Our travel to Hawai’i is partly facilitated and excused by the fact that I have two relatives on the windward (northeastern) side of O’ahu: a cousin (the eldest son of my father’s older brother) lives in Kaneohe with his Hawaiian wife, and my sister-in-law (my wife’s younger sister) lives in Waimanalo. As neither of them has a lot of space and as my daughter and I wanted to spend time with the two families, a trip to the Islands seemed an ideal vacation--and we could stay at separate addressses. But M. has a relatively new job so she couldn’t afford more than a week, while I had over two weeks of vacation time, and I wanted to kayak so I decided to stay another few days on Kaua’i.

    Friday, June 1 – IAD-LAX-HNL

    I list the airports by code rather than city because they are their own places apart from their locations. LAX and JFK are cities in their own right and the latter isn’t even in New York City.

    The trip was uneventful. I didn’t have enough time in LA to go anywhere except the Tom Bradley International Terminal (sketch), where I wandered among the throngs going to/coming from overseas, but this is where one of the themes of this trip occurred to me: I = T x A x P. Our Impact on the planet is the product of the Technology that enables us to travel, the Affluence that affords it, and the many People who do it. So like a global flood we slosh around the planet to exotic places, and whatever the effects, the flow is vast. Every year billions of people take off from somewhere, and all of them land somewhere else (a very few crash). The numbers keep increasing, through boom and bust, peacetime and terrortime. We want to be somewhere else and none of us dislikes the experience enough, or feels guilty enough about the carbon footprint of travel, to curtail our restlessness. It’s what we do—for business, for pleasure, for family—part of our modern humanness.

    Saturday, June 2 – Waimanalo Beach

    My cousin Mike and his wife Lilli were in Maui for a wedding anniversary so Melanie and I had the Kaneohe place to ourselves. We both fell asleep immediately and I woke up around 6AM to see the sun rising over Kailua town and the full moon setting over the Ko’olau Range. The perfect morning: no one to talk to or greet and the mountains with their clouds to examine. I understood why Mike and Lilli like their house: large by Hawaiian standards and well-situated between the mountains and the sea…and the view is superb. I began trying to capture the feeling of the Ko’olau and especially its southeastern end in my sketches, but was never very successful.

    We then went to the Vinzants to get Melanie installed. They are too old and settled to have changed much (and by ‘old’ I guess I mean over 30, which they passed decades ago) so there weren’t many surprises. Ken works among his plants on and off during the day and Lisa does the same although she spends quite a bit of time on the computer (as does her sister!). Though facing a serious illness, Ken seems one of the lightest-hearted people I’ve ever met. He doesn’t laugh much but he almost always smiles and seems on the verge of making some kind of joke. This of course makes me wonder if it’s possible to know how someone else ‘feels’. After all, if we can both see the same face in the mirror and examine our hands together as though they belong to a 3rd party, why can’t we share descriptions of emotions? But I suspect that without a lot of mutual work, Ken and I would find it difficult to decide on a meaningful language of emotion, let alone examine our mutual feelings about our lives and the world. So you guess: Ken’s a happy guy. And if he were me and cared he might guess I too was a happy guy, but I’m often not.

    After catching up on some of the news M. and I were off to Waimanalo Beach. We really knew we had arrived at the first splash.

    Sunday, June 3 – Ka’ena Point

    Of the major Hawaiian islands only Maui can be circumnavigated by car. Today Melanie and I drove counterclockwise around O’ahu intending to hike out to Ka’ena Point. She drove and I both underestimated the size of the island and became so involved in a discussion with her (no doubt about a personal problem) that I became completely turned around, convincing myself that we were still headed out, whereas we were actually returning to Honolulu. As someone with a strong sense of direction I find it difficult to reset it, so it wasn’t until we turned around and I saw the ocean again that I was sure we were going where we wanted to.

    We drove to the end of the coast past Dillingham field where soar planes take off and then walked over a rutted Nigerian-quality 4WD trail to the Point. It was hot, windy, and dry, and you think that the end of the road is just around the next  bend but it was five kilometers. There’s an automated light at the end of the dunes next to what looks like the pushed-over base of an earlier light (but not a lighthouse). It’s a fairly desolate place but no place on O'ahu is empty: a few people were watching what turned out to be a Monk seal lying at the water’s edge. We also saw albatross, looking quite ratty in their juvenile down. The walk back was hot and dusty, tiring for two mainlanders still recovering from chilly springs.

    Serendipity: I again got turned around in Waialua (where the north shore of O’ahu heads west) and stopped to ask a father carrying a little boy (it was a girl) the way: Actually I just pulled up next to the family and looked perplexed.

     HE: Are you lost? ME: I guess so. HE: Where are you trying to go? ME: To the ocean. HE: It’s everywhere. ME: Well, a beach. HE: Take this road further on over about 20 speed bumps ‘till you come to a parking area with beach access. ME: Great! HE: But take all your valuables because stuff has been getting taken from cars…but if you’d rather go somewhere more public… ME: No, it sounds fine, we’ll be careful.

    We followed his directions, and sure enough, there was a sign at the parking: ‘Eh-some buggas like rip you off. Car-stuffs inside-anyting. Mo betta watch youself.’ We left the car unlocked and the window open a bit. Nothing was taken; in fact I lost nothing in 2 weeks of daily leaving stuff in cars, on beaches, etc. Mokulea Beach was nice: I snorkled (saw my first fish as well as a sea turtle) and Melanie sat on the beach.

    I was glad I had asked Melanie to join me on this trip. I’m not an easy person to live with, and a day—let alone a week—of travel can often degenerate into some kind of power struggle about what to do, but we seemed to move generally in the same direction and I was mostly willing to let her decide the day’s events except for the planned kayak trip scheduled for Monday. We both are loners, happy to be off by ourselves for extended periods, so I/she would let her/me wander away and sit watching some phenomenon for up to an hour before checking in. We may not meditate per se but we clearly like to absorb a scene with no interaction whatsoever.

    However, on the drive back I wanted to stop at a bar & grill near the Schofield Barracks but they weren’t serving and anyway she refused even to stay for a beer, going on about how the place was for right-wing bikers and soldiers and she didn’t like it. I got angry about her prejudices and things degenerated from there. No one in the world can make me so angry…I returned her to the Vinzants and we had no dinner that night. (Sorry I don't have pictures of me in a Coast Guard uniform from 1965!)

    Melanie is much like me: often discontented, craving ‘something else’ but not knowing what it is or, finding it, feeling it wasn’t what she wanted or isn’t now what she wants or won’t be as fulfilling as the next hoped-for or the last enjoyed thing. But—she almost certainly more deeply enjoys what she does find, and perhaps that’s the problem: if you’re going to take life so seriously then you worry about not finding what you want or wanting what you wind. Anyway…she took the car and agreed to pick me up the next morning for our paddle at Kailua.

    Monday, June 4 – Waikiki

    Jet lag turns me into a morning person, and the Egan's house was delightful at the start of the day. I’d look forward to sitting at the picnic table, studying and perhaps drawing the mountains after chatting with Mike and/or Lilli before they hurried off to work They fascinate me, individually and collectively. Ever the interrogator, this morning I asked Lilli how she was and she said “I’m happy,” which wasn’t the answer I expected (or maybe even the one I wanted, because I (thoughtlessly) said I was sorry to hear that, as I suffer from gluckschmertz. But she seemed not to mind, but it seemed a strange answer, nevertheless.

    About the time M. was to pick me up she called and begged off on the kayak expedition saying she’d gotten too much sun and was tired. I called the kayak place and rescheduled for Wednesday. She had said several times she envisioned the trip as spending hours on the beach with a fat book, but I was keeping her too busy for that. But (as a compromise?) we agreed to visit Waikiki. We did have a pleasant time at the Tower eating lunch (pork and fat) and looking at the fantastic fish they’ve either placed or attracted with food in the harbor. Makes snorkeling seem like too much work! But there are places in Honolulu that remind me a bit of Lagos: a mixture of boat works, im/export, hash houses along rutted roads, in a humid, low-lying setting.

    But naturally I had to complicate plans with a subtask: to see if I could find ocean passage from O’ahu, perhaps on a returning yacht or fishing boat. So we wandered around the Aloha Tower area looking for the harbormaster and the coast guard and anyone with knowledge of small boats. M. of course got impatient with all this, and I got angry at her impatience, then she took a nap in the car while I investigated prospects (had a beer) at the Waikiki Yacht Club (not too friendly and nothing doing). In the end I only learned if I appeared Friday night at the Ala Wai harbor races I might find someone willing to take me (but didn’t follow up on the idea as it seemed to chancy). We ended up on Waikiki beach after negotiating the noise and heavy equipment of yet a new megahotel (if you visited the google link introducing this section, Kahanamoku Lagoon was being filled the day we visited it) as well as the beautiful and so artificial lobby/pool of the Hilton. But when you are on the beach and if the water isn’t completely full of people and beach toys it’s always satisfying. In fact, a turtle bobbed its head up several times, so I guess it was tolerant of sunscreen. Finally, we ended up having a tasty dinner with Ken&Lisa: more catching up, over more pork, which fulfilled my quota for the month—pleasant end to a mildly hot and stressful day. 

    Tuesday, June 5 – Leeward O’ahu

    Melanie was going to spend the day with Lisa, so I was on my own and I began it with a heated discussion with cousin Mike about his 4-volume campaign to establish that Richard II Part 1 was written by Shakespeare. I maintained that this is a scientific problem (reject the null hypothesis that this work was not written by Shakespeare) but he argued that it’s far more complicated: none of the plays can be ascribed to him with certainty, there’s no proof that there even was a person named Shakespeare (though I suppose the existence of the plays isn't doubted) and so forth. I enjoyed the minor battle of wits, although I’m not sure he did (it matters to him what the answer is) and I don’t know what Lilli thought of the pissing contest. He’s put years of effort into writing the books, so it’s no casual matter, and in fact he calls the magnum opus his ‘bid for immortality’ as well as the justification for the earthly resources he’s consumed, and so forth. I argued that we need to transcend the need for works and seek serenity by just being, but of course I wrestle with exactly the same ‘bitch-goddess success’ (William James) and have no business preaching to my cousin. Anyway, we have our kids (he 4 times as many as I) so that’s a bid for immortality right there, but what’s the value of immortality if you can’t enjoy it forever? 

    He had to go teach and I wanted to explore the leeward side of the island so I drove westward to Makua. It was cloudless and desert hot, and the region felt like post-apocalyptic Malibu: seedy, dusty, tents on the beach. I sat at the end of the road and tried to draw the rocks and the sea, but not very successfully. I admire artists who capture the sea; although my first attempt at waves wasn’t completely a failure, and the photo turned out OK. Drawing does teach you to see more, and I note that I do gain in technical skill—over the nearly total lack thereof with which I began. But I find it hard to understand how someone—and especially Thomas Moran who painted before fast photography—could paint the sea. Oh well, my sketch of a breaking wave begins to suggest reality…

    On the way back to Honolulu I checked out the ancient Hawaiian site Kani Aki Heiau at the end of a road in a ‘gated community’ which is actually a ‘walled compound’ such as I used to visit in Nigeria. I guess there’s enough crime in Hawai’i to justify this level of security, but it seems a shame to have to enjoy paradise under such conditions. Of course I’m snobbish about other people’s lives as I breeze through without a care in the world while these people have to contend with god knows what kinds of threats, but I wouldn’t enjoy the thought of being stuck up in an air conditioned house behind a wall up a canyon so far from the ocean—although it's doubtless an improvement from the suburbs of Indianapolis. And the situation certainly protects the Hawaiian site, as it seemed very orderly and untroubled by vandalism. I hung around until the time the guard told me the place was officially closed and left with the help of the mosquitoes. As Culliney says, the islands must really have been a kind of paradise until the mosquitoes arrived. I next drove down to Makaha Beach for some snorkeling; saw a Reef Triggerfish and a Christmas Wrasse, but I really can’t keep track of the species and enjoy watching them in our mutual anonymity. 

    But I did think about how you should observe if you’re going to draw what you saw, in order of difficulty, these are what you should grasp:

    1. Location--where is it within its setting?
    2. Shape--what is it's basic outline?
    3. Size--how big is it in relationship to its setting?
    4. Behavior--how does it move (and if it's too fast, forget it)?
    5. Pattern--what patterns does it display?
    6. Colors--this is the last thing to try to capture.

    Wednesday, June 6 – Kayak to Mokulua Islands

    The only scheduled event in O’ahu was a kayak trip from Kailua to the Mokulua Islands, and it certainly was a high point of the vacation. Melanie and I paddled sit-on-tops across the reefs of Lanikai to Moku Nui and Moku Niki in the company of John, a sturdy and clearly powerful fellow was a skilled kayaker. We began with a 4-km paddle out to the islands, cruising over reefs and sand, enjoying the hot sun (worrying a bit about burning, etc); exactly what I’d come for. When we got to Moku Niki John pointed out the nest burrows of the wedge-tailed shearwaters and then grabbed one of the birds and removed it from the nest as we watched it hobble around in an alarmed state. He said that he was part of the group that was protecting the island, but I’m sure that bird didn’t think so. Yet the island does seem to afford space for what must be thousands of nests, so here’s one small example of how the onslaught of humanity is being fended off by the efforts of a few kind folks. Of course the birds make the islands more attractive for kayakers, improving business, etc.

    We scrambled around the far side of Moku Niki to a deep crack in the rocks where we jumped into the water from a rock, swam in the surging current, and John and I dove to the bottom (20 feet he said). We could easily have spent the day on the island, but he had to get back ashore for a class. Having a guide is reassuring and allows you to see the special stuff, but means that you’re on someone else’s schedule. Lesson: take a guide for the first visit and then come back yourself! If I do return, a nice day would be to take a kayak with an anchor, snorkel on the reef, swim on the island, surf the channel, jump off the rocks at the cove.

    Next, he and surfed the channel between the islands, which illustrated a scaling property of fluids that seems obvious once I think about it. The water and the wind funnels through a 300-meter valley and channel between the islands, so you get not only a lot of blowing but fairly large waves even though the bottom is too deep to see. (The same thing happens in the channels between the islands—see my summary of Micco’s adventure next week). I learned two things. First, John said that if we were going to surf we needed to ‘clear the decks’ which is exactly what is meant by this ancient command. You don’t want to have to worry about losing anything or having it fly in your face when you capsize. I should have learned this lesson 2 years ago in SF Bay, but I keep forgetting it because I want the GPS receiver and the binoculars in easy reach. And I wear glasses which is something else to keep track of when the seas/rivers get rough. Think about sports glasses?

    John the guide told us that the Ko’olau range was the remnant of a huge caldera that fell into the sea and whose fragments are strewn hundreds of kilometers to the east. Maybe…this certainly revises my sense of the islands as being slowly formed of oozing lava and even more slowly eroded by the sea and the rain. The whole region seems so calm: gentle rain (though there are hurricanes) and oozing lava (though the local events can be explosive); certainly the Hawaiian myth is gentleness: light winds, light rain, sweet fruit, pleasant music, fragrant flowers—not really quite edgy enough for me, but tension does lurk in the background. I guess M. enjoyed herself, because when I asked what she wanted to do the next day her reply was ‘kayak,’ but it didn’t turn out that way.

    John the guide said he’d been a Navy rescue diver and also said he was a kayak racer, rock climber, ex-cop, could free dive20 meters and that he’d hiked the Appalachian Trail nude. Whether or not all of this was true—and I have no reason to doubt him—he was a fascinating character whose facts appeared to be correct and who said he enjoyed spending the day with us, especially as I was full of responses and questions to his observations. One tough bastard.

    That evening I had dinner with Mike and Lilli; uneventful so I guess we were comfortable together. It is strange that the Ginsbergs seem driven to flee one another to different parts of the world: Africa, England, Canada, Hawai’i—separate coasts, islands, countries, continents…

    Thursday, June 7 – Maunawilli Ditch

    I find it odd that neither of our host families seem very interested in the ocean. During my stay on the islands I was in the water at least once a day, yet they say they don’t go to ‘the beach,’ and I wonder if I lived there I too would tire of trips to the sea. I was born and raised to visit the ocean dozens of times a year, and everyone is fascinated by the sea and almost everyone wants to live near it, yet I recognize this is an artificial pleasure, we’re all tourists who don’t belong in the ocean, I’m a tourist who is driving to the beach, maybe harming the coral, and certainly joining the throngs of other tourists; but I really love it and always shall.

    In looking at the various maps I was struck by the number of watercourses that followed the contour lines, which is impossible for natural streamflow. The islands are covered with ‘ditches’ or aqueducts that bring water from streams to dryer parts for agriculture and settlements. Everyone wants to be somewhere else or wants the water to be somewhere else. Melanie, Lisa and I walked along a trail that was cleared for one ditch that apparently was not—or has not yet been—finished.

    Finally, when we got our shit together Lisa, M. and I went out for a little walk along the Maunawili Ditch, a narrow road, precursor to an aqueduct intended to extend several kilometers in the hills north of her ‘farm.’ It seemed odd to me that in 20 years of living and working in the neighborhood she hadn’t walked this trail, but this seems to be in keeping with a certain parochialism that may be endemic to Hawai’i: we live here, we don’t have to schlep all over the islands. Whatever…but what now strikes me as notable about the trail was that it was virtually level, and this was because it was probably to be the future course of yet another ‘ditch’ or aqueduct that lace the islands and are used to move water from one valley to another (see next Thursday). I had actually hoped to hike in the other direction, but this was a nice little walk that introduced Lisa to a neighborhood feature.

    Friday, June 8 – Makapu’u Head

    This was M. and my last day on O’ahu and we intended to spend it taking a hike up Makapu’u Head at the far eastern end of the island. M. said her idea is that you hike in the morning and go to the beach in the afternoon: something to do with staying out of the sun at its fiercest, but the hike was pretty hot and pretty sunny, yet afforded a magnificent view of the coast stretching away to the northwest. That’s another thing about islands. Not only can you get to the coastline easily (giving a 180° view), you can almost always find a point from which you can see 270°, so it’s like being on a ship (windy, too!). A ship, moving a cm per year to the northwest.

    In keeping with M.’s theory, we waited until about 4PM to go kayaking, but by that time the rental place was preparing to shut down. I considered getting a boat overnight, but we had planes to catch in the morning, so we settled for another visit to Waimanalo Beach, this time to the slightly more restricted stretch at Bellows AFB, which I was able to get to by flashing my USGS ID. The water was rather cloudy and there’s no reef there, so not much to see in the way of fish. A low-key end to M’s Hawaiian vacation.

    Saturday, June 9 – HNL-LIH

    I delivered the rental car and M. and I got on the Alamo bus and the last I sew of her is when she gets off at the mainland terminal and I go off to the inter-island terminal. We showed one another a pleasant time with (for us) a relative minimum of stress. Someday we’ll meet as 2 adults and hopefully be able to enjoy one another absolutely rather than relatively, but that hasn’t happened yet. Well, we don’t fall all over one another with affection, but we do share a lot of favorite things, and we do have much to offer one another. Other than myself alone I can think of few people I’d rather spend a week with. She’ll go with most programs, quietly enjoy most of what’s happening, and contribute the odd insight along they way. Perhaps like me she knows that there’s almost too much to see and feel and think about to allow much time for talk, so neither of us gets much in the way of the other’s private theater of life. On to Kaua’i…

    My journal says: ‘Kaua’i—I like it already!’ because within a few minutes of leaving the airport you’re not in a sprawling city but the small slightly seedy capital of a little island. Somehow I missed the cruise ship/resort/harbor/gift shop part of the town on my way out of town and ended up in front of the museum, which had a fascinating collection of artifacts, photographs, and other exhibits. But I was hungry, so I asked the lady at the desk about food nearby. She said the Oki Diner across the street had an unsavory reputation but I decided to check it out. It was a very casual affair and it looked as though I was the only customer, but seemed OK(i) so I ordered lunch from a very friendly waitress from Syracuse: it seems Ms Oki had been in business for a decade at various addresses and before she took this place over it had a rough reputation because of staff that had since been fired. It seems their main business was now the cruise ship staff so they remained open until 3 AM some nights, but the place can’t get too rowdy because the staff must report aboard sober (do they breathalyze them on the gangplank?). The food seemed OK to me.

    With a diameter of about 40 km, Kaua’i is the most nearly circular of the islands so almost any trip of any length means that you’re constantly pointed either a little to the right (clockwise) or the left (counterclockwise). If the island were circumnavigable and you lived and worked on opposite coasts you could pretty much keep the wheel at the same angle all day. I was headed counterclockwise from Lihue to Hanalei, roughly 180° away. About halfway to my destination I passed a middle-aged woman lugging a golf bag in the same direction with her thumb idly stuck out, so I stopped to pick her up. Her car had broken down, it was the family’s only transportation, and she was waiting to see if her husband could find a way to fetch her. She didn’t want to leave the clubs in the car while it was in the shop, and she seemed too flustered to try to figure out how to put them in the trunk, so they sat on her lap. She was very friendly and quite grateful, saying that I might be taking a chance picking up hitchhikers. I said the only possible thing: that it seemed unlikely that she’d beat me to death with a golf club. I drove her to a ‘farm’ where she and her husband—both of them retired—grew limes, which hobby farming arrangement allows haoles to occupy land on the islands? But they said that for three years they’d been trying to sell the place, so maybe they did actually own it… They were both retired from the Federal government: he worked for the Navy in atomic weapons (I think) and she for the Arms Control and Disarmament agency. It seemed at cross purposes to me, or perhaps just a clever hedge; and she went to Washington several times a year, so they weren’t struggling fruit farmers by any means. The place had a coolly cinematographic view of the ocean from a bluff below which was the estate of a rich movie mogul who restricted access to the beach. You could see the ocean but not much surf and not a particularly wide view: almost like the view from the picture window of a cruise ship except we weren’t moving or even rocking. I say cinematographic because except for the almost constant wind it was though there was a high-res loop endlessly being played at the end of the yard. Why come all that way (from DC?) and not be on or have access to the beach? We chatted for an hour and I left them and their 2 cats, glad to be enjoying the almost total freedom of a traveler between lodgings.

    I drove through Hanalei and on to the end of the road at Ke’e Beach to check out the Na Pali Coast and the sunset, which is in all the travel articles and impressive nevertheless.. My second adventure arose because I arrived at my ‘cottage’ in the dark. I knew that I could get the key from a combination box, but the combo didn’t seem to work in the place I ended up in. I was tired and sweaty and the mosquitoes were having dinner on my calves, so I began to get impatient. First I called up to the open windows of the ‘rainbow house’ but no one answered, although the lights were on and the fan was spinning. I was convinced the residents were a couple making gay mad love and couldn’t be bothered with me. I fussed with this for awhile then drove down the road because I thought I’d seen a sign saying ‘Gomez’ so that I could ask the owner about how to get into my cottage. I couldn’t find the sign and in any case his name wasn’t that, so I stopped at the Hanalei Inn to see if I might get a room, but no one was there either. I went back to the Rainbow House and fussed with the lock some more, and finally was able to lift the screen from a window and climb in to wait for whoever showed up. It was a nice place: big living room with a kitchen, screened porch and 4 bedrooms, all of which appeared to be occupied, so it was clear that this wasn’t where I was staying. About an hour later a couple and their teenage son showed up at the door and I called to them to alert them that a harmless co-renter had broken in and all I wanted was help in getting in my cottage. The man said that the lodging was at the back but as it was completely dark by now I never could have seen the place. I took a flashlight (yes—how obvious!) and wandered to the back and found my place, opened the lock box, and let myself in, quickly brought my stuff through the door being careful not to admit the mosquitoes, had a shower and fell asleep. Strange how the judgment of such a smart person can be dulled by fatigue and mild panic. What if I faced a real crisis?

    And on the subject of sleep: I was almost always in bed by 10, up by 6 and never took naps. No doubt this is the effect of fresh tropical air, vigorous exercise, and the absence of a computer…

    Sunday, June 10 – Hanalei River

    I again woke up early to find myself in a very pleasant but strangely laid out cottage that its owner told me it was one of the first dwellings in the area. After arranging the room to my satisfaction I walked two blocks to the Hanalei shopping area for breakfast and to rent a bike from a pleasant but taciturn fellow from Minnesota who was leaving the next day to run a marathon back home. It was nice to have a bike and although I really didn’t need it - everything I was interested in for the moment was within walking distance - it kept me from driving for a couple of days.

    I had a day to explore the area so I decided to introduce myself to the kayak outfitters and maybe take a paddle around. I met the owner of the outfitters (and of the elusive cottage) and we chatted for awhile. Born in Cuba and raised in Puerto Rico and LA, Micco Godinez is a wiry guy who clearly likes selling adventure to people but who must occasionally weary of the constant stream of pink haoles. Among his exploits was a 1970s tandem kayak trip with his brother from the Big Island to Kaua’i—a straight-line distance of 500 kilometers. The biggest challenge was 120-km between O’ahu and Kaua’i, which they partly did at night. Like the channel between Moku-Nui and -Nikki but on a vastly larger scale the ocean can make trouble –in less than 100 km the sea depth rises from 5 km, which doesn’t sound like much of a funnel, but all that water has to go somewhere and it makes waves. I asked him if he’d kept a log, but he said no. Hell, if I laboriously document a measly 25 km paddle he should surely record his adventure for posterity…

    I asked Micco for paddling suggestions for the day and he said any direction would be ‘sweet’ (he liked that word), but that I should be careful not to tire myself for the big voyage the next day. I rented a Scupper Pro sit-on-top and went about 4 km upriver on the Hanalei River, which is quite placid even when I got to some shallow riffles that required walking (shades of the Shenandoah). Part of the time I was accompanied by a local net fisher in his own kayak, but he was intent on his own work and probably not happy to have the company of a tourist. On the way back I snorkled a bit among the ‘mangrove’ roots. The water was cool and murky though I could see fish a couple of meters down.  The experience was rather spooky and I thought about what might happen if…but let’s list some of the anxieties that preoccupied me that week - what if I:

    Yet none of these (except for the unknown last) came to pass, and I began to think that my sense of mild dread was part of the adventuresome game I play with myself. Anyone can lie by the Hyatt, but only a brave few run the risk of drowning among the tangled mangrove roots in the murky waters of the Hanalei River!

    After getting a bit lost returning to Kayak Kauai—Micco may revel a bit in ‘crypicisms’ such as the hidden cottage, the invisible slough to his dock—I hauled the boat up and was met by the man himself, who like a mother hen jokingly told me he hoped I hadn’t exhausted myself as I had a heavy day of paddling tomorrow. Like me, he knows that we middle-class, urban, desk jockeys find the taste of risk a key spice in an excellent adventure.

    I got to bed early and set both alarm clocks in the cottage and then proceeded to sleep poorly. For 10 days I had been sleeping regularly and waking up refreshed, but on this night-of-all-nights I was restless.

    Monday, June 11 (King Kamehameha Day) – Na Pali Coast


    The paddlers (7 customers, 2 guides, and the girlfriend of a guide) gathered at 6AM and were swept up in preparations for the expedition. I still wasn’t completely clear about what the trip entailed except a lot of paddling, but the consensus among Micco and his guides was that the weather was excellent: a gentle following sea, calm light tailwinds, perhaps some light rain. I had actually been looking forward to adventure on the high seas, but I was willing to go along with any program the clearly very experience staff provided. The weather meant that we could hug the shore and investigate any of the smaller features the topography offered: rocks, arches, caves, lava tubes. And my guide/fellow paddler Patrick was up for any adventure, so he was the perfect companion: full of information (most of it probably true) eager to show be some fun, and a powerful main engine to our tandem boat. Plus he took lots of pictures with his waterproof camera (although I never saw them).

    When I first thought about this trip I was vaguely aware that visiting the roadless Na Pali coast of Kaua’i is the high point of a visit, but I had not given much attention to the place or our plans. In fact, in discussing the trip with Micco I revealed my ignorance in the following:

    HE (showing me a map): So here’s the route, from Ha’ena to Polihale, about 17 miles. ME: A long trip, what about winds and currents? HE: Not much current, and this time of year the trade winds are usually behind you so the only concern is surf, which can make things rough. ME: But if the wind is behind us on the way out, won’t it be in our faces on the return? HE: No—you only go one way, we pick you and the boats up on the other end and drive you around the island back here.

    That’s so like me: keen attention to detail at some times, ignoring the big picture at others. Still, it seemed like a lot of work for one day, and I thought about getting worn out, etc.

    It’s great to have someone else worry about so much: the boats, the routes, lunch, calling in the Coast Guard if we get blown to New Guinea, etc—but the downside is that you are really under someone else’s control: they have to keep to a schedule that’s is dictated not only by the fact that this is, after all, their job and (after all!) they probably have another trip to make the next day AFTER the boats are cleaned and the van gassed and the PFDs and paddles put away and the shop locked up, and…and…and. The way to do it is to take this trip and then if you dig the place come back and hire a guide for 4 days week and do whatever you damned well please within the constraints of time, winds, currents, and tides. In fact, part of our trip on this day was accompanied by a honeymooning couple with their own guide. I imagined all sorts of exciting erotic exploits among these 3 handsome specimens.

    I could give a detailed account of the experience, but even I might be bored by the story, so let me summarize at multiple scales.

    At the largest scale I had a sense that we were voyaging, as with the 2004 Baja trip we were really moving from one place to another, unseen, even over the curve of the earth (in fact, a perfectly straight line to our destination does enter the earth to a depth of about 5 meters!). This was what travel by kayak actually was: you put in at dawn (actually a few hours after) and you take out at dusk (or a few hours before) and between times you paddle (actually we stopped to swim, have lunch, investigate caves, etc.). You get somewhere: not hundreds of kilometers, but dozens anyway. Almost all my other paddling endeavors have been either round trips or one-day shuttles, or even trips down a river in stages, but this was a journey from one point to another, perhaps just as the ancient Hawaiians might have done centuries earlier.

    Then at a smaller scale we were all aware of the magnificent coastline defined by cliffs and narrow beaches that proceeded like an Hawaiian poem:

    Ha’ena Pohakuao Nualolokai
    Ka’ilio Ka’a’alahina Makuaiki
    Ke’e Kalalau Miloli’i
    Hanakapi’ai Kalepa Keawanui
    Ho’olulu Honopu Makaha
    Waiahuakua Awa’awapuhi Kauhao
    Hanakoa Puanaiea Makole
    Pohakukumano Alapi’i Ka’aweiki
    Manono Polihale

    These are the names of the valleys and ridges, points and beaches I find on the maps and that our guides rattled off during the day. We give names to locations and when these are placed on maps they acquire a concreteness and precision that would have been known to the Hawaiians in their own way but was indeed not essential to us on the day. Up ahead is a ridge rising directly out of the sea; the guide calls it Alapi’i point (or maybe not) and I find it on the USGS Geographic Names Information System exactly at W 159° 41' 55" N 22° 09' 55" to the nearest second (about 30 meters) or about 4 boat lengths. Does the name – let alone the geographic position of a point at an angle west of Greenwich and north of the equator – add to the experience? On the day, to us, it was a concrete sight but also an abstraction: a place to be reached sometime later. It was clearly accessible: too close if you wanted the journey to last, too far if you worried about holding out. Thinking about it as I write this it was many things, but on the day it warranted the occasional glance as we made our way around the curve of the island. (It turned out to be 17 km from our starting point—does that help?)

    The next scale were our experiences of the points, ridges, and beaches we passed. The beaches are easy to recall. We began our travel at Ha’ena, a deep strip of sand that from the evidence of a dozen concrete pads had once been occupied by a large structure, although the guides seemed not to know of it. Our only stop was at Miloli’i, where we had lunch, I had a nap, and snorkeled. We were hot and sweat/sea salty, so it was pleasant to rest. I still had a headache and so laid my wrapper on the ground and slept on the pine needle-like leaves of what might have been an ironwood tree. Next time I’ll camp there…for 2 days. Finally, we look the boats out at Polihale, which announced itself with the sound of trucks driving up and down the beach from one of which a radio was blaring.

    Most of the action was at the next smallest scale. In a kayak you can interact with the sea/land interface in a way that only swimmers have more access to (and you can always jump out of the boat for a closer look) so we were able to investigate many of the things that the guides took us to:

    Some of these features can be viewed at The Natural Arch and Bridge Society in pictures that I couldn’t have taken.

    At the next scale down we were always surrounded by the ocean and its endlessly self-similarity at multiple periods: half-day tides of the world ocean, kilometer-wide swells rising and falling every minute, meter-wide waves bobbing us every few seconds, little whitecaps coming and going, down to millimeter sized ripples that we didn’t feel at all. As we drove to the put-in site from Hanalei at one point I studied the glassy undulating surface of the water from the road and thought of it as the skin of a living thing, which in a way it is. I remarked on this to Patrick and he said “it sometimes looks like worms to me,” which I though was a perfect image. I know that if left to itself the ocean would be the surface of a perfect sphere, but that the sun/moon and the winds and the shore give it an infinite complexity a small mega-to-millimeter part of which we paddlers experience. That is enough to give a sensitive person the sense of living on the skin of a large animal oblivious to our stabs and thoughts. It’s addictive and one of my very favorite states of being.

    At the smallest scale, my GPS receiver ran the whole day, literally keeping track of us to the meter and second as we circumnavigated the island, first by kayak then by van. When I returned I loaded the track and waypoints into a GIS and calculated that we did about 25km paddling from 8AM to 5PM.

    But of course at a still smaller scale I was (as usual) preoccupied with my own little body, the container of this experience: headache, pains in rotating arms and twisting back. Although my physical self was not giving the experience much problem, awareness of it would instantly bring me back to the present and my own thoughts: am I enjoying this, am I aware of my enjoyment, am I aware of my awareness… Awareness, awareness of awareness, awareness of awareness of awareness, and so recursively down to experience itself. My personal silly route to serenity! Enough said about the day; next time this journal will prepare me for even deeper experiences?

    Tuesday, June 12 – Kilauea Point

    I began the day with my only call to Freya, a strained conversation in which we exchanged a few words about our mutual exploits; she had just returned from Oregon and Alaska. This is a challenge. I want to tell my stories, have the listener hear me and ask a few questions—the way my mother did in last the years of her life: she really seemed curious about my adventures so she felt a kind of extension of myself (aren’t we that to our moms?) through which I could relive my experiences with yet another watcher. She seemed genuinely curious, or knew that acting so would gain my affection, and my enthusiasm for recounting made me want to talk to her. Freya and I spoke for a dozen minutes and at least let one another know we were alive, thought of one another, were enjoying some things…mission accomplished. Later when we rejoined odd details of our trips were exchanged.

    After a hearty breakfast (but I forget what and where) I planned three activities for the day: snorkeling at Kenomene Bay at Princeville, a visit to Kilauea point, and a sunset paddle at Hanalei.

    I’d read about the ‘hidden beach’ below the Princeville Hotel and found the tiny parking lot unusable because the slots were too small for some of the cars that were parked over the lines, so I parked in one of the condo lots and hoped I wouldn’t get towed. Ironically in this sterile environment of fancy hotels and condos was the only place on the trip that I actually smelled human shit. They must have been having problems with their septic systems.

    The snorkeling was superb, best of the trip. Using the detailed instructions of a guidebook I scrambled down to ‘Hidden Beach’ to find a little strip of sand populated by a kayak pod and various tourists. A fellow about my age wearing pants and a shirt but no shoes was studying the ocean with what I imagined to be the wary thoughts of a landlubber. He had just arrived from Alabama and was acclimating, wisely staying out of the sun. It was fun to put on my gear and head into the ocean knowing he was keeping an eye on the seasoned traveler. I headed out over the xxx reef and soon encountered lots of fish, but this time I decided not to worry about their names and just swim among them. The area seemed a bit like Looe Key Florida that I visited in February 2004 with Sunny Pitcher: a field of small 10-meter or less rocky blocks separated by sandy bottom, so you could study the fish among the rocks and fin kick down to the bottom to investigate—though I usually startled the fish into crevices. I spent an hour wandering around the point just idly observing the action. A highlight was two intermingled schools of fish (the smaller with yellow stripes) who appeared to be moving  together but in no particular direction. The yellows would occasionally stop and feed on the rocks while the larger ones hovered above them. This little drama was being played out for no one and was/is happening all over the planet, but it was my own panorama for a few minutes.

    One trick that can be fun is to snorkel upside down; not only are waves self-similar, they appear much the same from below, and you can imaging the air disturbed and making turbulence instead of the water. (I recall doing this at the Turks & Caicos in a rainstorm; the noise was fascinating, and the patterns on the water equally so.) When I returned to the beach the Alabaman was still there and told me ‘you went pretty far out,’ but I really wasn’t aware of the distance I’d covered.

    I next drove to Kilauea Point to check out the lighthouse, which I sketched but was dreadfully out of proportion. Measure! I did see more birds, however, and watched as a huge mysterious container ship moved slowly across the horizon from west to east, probably carrying empty containers to be filled with more Chinese toys, clothes, appliances, US flags.

    I studied Mokuaeae Island that used to be part of the point and thought how sedimentary the eroded lava layers look. The lava must have been extruded in cycles of fairly regular duration because the thicknesses appear to be very similar. And the lava would have to have stopped each time for sufficient time to pass for them to cool. My own amateur analysis of the Kilauea eruption data from USGS suggests that the typical layers will be around 3 meters but there’s too much variation to explain the regularity I see all around, and the data show vast differences in the areas of the flows, so I must be missing something.

    I wanted to get in another paddle so went to Kayak Kaua’i and rented a boat from Micco that I took out on Hanalei Bay. I headed around Pu’u Poa point and noticed that there was a bit of surf on the reef so I decided to practice some of the skills I had learned from John the week before. It doesn’t take much to get moving and is certainly a fun way to use the power of the waves; I can sense a little of what surfboarders feel. In a kayak you can do so many things: travel, swim/snorkel, surf, and just bob, which is what I like doing most. The sun was going down and I watched the various activities on the water, including something I’d seen various places on the islands but didn’t understand: people using long sticks to walk across the water. They stand on their surfboards, paddle out to the waves then surf by ruddering with the paddles. Seems like just one more thing to worry about (clear the decks!) but what do I know?

    Wednesday, June 13 – Nualolo Point

    I was up early the next morning to drive to Waimea Canyon. I had asked Guide Patrick about suggestions for places to stay there and he suggested Koke’e Lodge, where I called and reserved a cabin. I dropped in on Micco to tell him I was leaving before my last night and that I had fed the cats and had all kinds of smart(-ass) suggestions for him about his business, etc. He told me “You’ll enjoy Koke’e—it’s sweet.”  I’d not heard the work used quite that way before, but felt that my choice had been given his stamp of approval.

    Although I could never (not in a week anyway) tire of the sea, I felt it necessary to at least visit the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, so I left my paid-up cottage and headed clockwise around the island. Like the leeward side of O’ahu that of Kaua’i is also dusty, dry, and even a bit seedier—I thought of post-apocalypse Malibu, complete with people camping on the beaches, but because of the pure sea still lovely. I ascended Highway 550, noticing that it was getting cooler as I moved from sea level to about 1000 meters, dutifully stopped at many of the overlooks joining the tourists taking pictures of one another.

    I studied an Asian fellow who held his video camera in front of himself as he carefully walked down the steps to one overlook, slowly panning the scene. And why the hell not? You can spend 10 minutes—or an hour—at the overlook and trust your memory, or have the 10 minutes on tape to enjoy forever. But then why not buy some professional’s movie? Well, you weren’t there, it’s not your video. And yet I found myself asking why was I doing this: enjoying the moment, to be sure, but also amassing a stock of memories. I thought about a graph representing anticipation-experience-recollection as what we do all the time but especially ‘on vacation.’ Let it  be ‘visiting Waimea Canyon

    1. I just heard about it.
    2. I think I’ll do it.
    3. I’m looking forward to it.
    4. I’m experiencing it!
    5. I enjoyed it.
    6. I remember it.
    7. Did I ever do it?

    So the video can be substituted for (making a video of it) and watching the video, and so long as the film or tape or DVD or You Tube website remains you’ll be able to experience the experience until you die. But for me there’s nothing like the experience itself, whatever that is.

    But remember you do #1 and #3 on top of everyday life, so in addition to the experience itself being more fun/exciting/educational than whatever you’d be doing at work/school/home, the anticipation/recollection are like little gifts you give yourself, taking you out of the ordinary even when you’re immersed in it.

    I arrived at Koke’e in the afternoon and checked into my large but rather gloomy cabin: it could have slept 6, so I had a lot of room yet it was also dilapidated, probably testifying to the poverty of the Hawai’i State Parks—but I guess cockroaches are preferable to centipedes. I felt like a hike so I enquired at the ‘Museum,’ which seemed to be more a gift shop with a few exhibits, but I didn’t stay long, so there was probably more than I realized. The woman at the desk brought out a scale-less map showing various trails, as well as roads, jeep tracks, etc that I couldn’t make much sense of. She obligingly marked up a few suggestions and though I headed out looking for any one of the trailheads I didn’t have much luck until I finally spotted the start of the Nualolo trail not far from my cabin (!). I had the USGS 1:24,000 topo maps for the area, so the LOLO2 benchmark seemed a worthy destination.

    I set out for LOLO2 at the end of the south ridge of the Nu’alolo Valley, but didn’t realize even looking at the map what an up-and-down trip it would be (I’m a geographer, not a hiker!). I thought of the slipping of the downs and the huffing of the ups that would be huffing and the slipping downs on the way back, but the hike was through all kinds of lovely settings: dry and wet, vegetated and dusty, closed and very open, especially at the end. And it was really fine to arrive at the end of the south ridge of the Nu’alolo Canyon and to look down on the coastline where I had been kayaking just 2 days earlier. I had come so far and yet was so close to my earlier track.

    I can see why people take 2 week vacations instead of one, and for the same reasons you should hike/kayak for at least 3 days instead one because you’re trying to get used to the strain that’s in the way of the other things you can sense. Of course this raises the question of what is the experience (let alone the anticipation and recollection), but I think I’d rather overcome my stiffness and uncertainty over a day and then go on to enjoy a few further-out-of-body days of purer experience.

    Here’s the text from the database of  NOAA National Geodetic Survey with a position precise. I love these descriptions: so vague (‘…near the coast in a plot of grass…’) yet so precise (long/lat to about 1/3 mm).

    TU2012  DESIGNATION - LOLO 2 RESET
    DESCRIBED BY COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY 1927 NEAR NORTHWESTERN COAST OF KAUAI,
    ON RIDGE JUST WEST OF THE NUALOLO CANYON, 5 MILES FROM THE PALI. . .
    IN SMALL PLOT OF GRASS. . .REACHED BY THE NUALOLO TRAIL OVER THE KAUNUOHUA RIDGE
    PID - TU2012
    STATE/COUNTY - HI/KAUAI
    USGS QUAD - MAKAHA POINT (1983)
    CURRENT SURVEY CONTROL
    NAD 83(1993)- 22 09 01.43755(N) 159 41 48.52232(W) ADJUSTED
    LOCAL TIDAL - 681.0 (meters) 2234. (feet) VERT ANG
    EPOCH DATE - 1993.62
    LAPLACE CORR- 8.57 (seconds) DEFLEC99
    GEOID HEIGHT- 16.14 (meters) GEOID03

    I arrived back at the Koke’e Lodge to find that the dining room closed. Apparently they cater to the car-loads and bus-loads of tourists up for the day from the resorts who are long-gone by dinner time. Hence as well the conditions of the cabins, suitable for birders and hikers but not for honeymooners and beach-seeking families. Eyeing the ubiquitous feral chickens clucking around the parking lot I wondered how hard it would be to catch and prepare one for dinner. A couple walked up also looking for dinner and I said ‘If we could grab one of these chickens we could eat it!’ and they invited me to share food in their cabin. I accepted and we had a pleasant meal sharing observations of Hawai’i and other small talk. They’re an academic pair from Waltham Massachusetts artists, bird lovers, pondering impending retirement, and generally skilled in the arts of chatter and semi-profound observation. I was happy for the company, happy to get back to my isolation realizing that the threads of our lives had no doubt crossed only once as I soon forgot their names. We take a fancy to others and fancy that we are even more interesting, but we part with no regrets.

    Here are 2 images from the hike, both of the ground. The latter made me consider that even compared to rain and wind humans are the most powerful geomorphologic force around.

    Probably because I was traveling alone I was struck by the ‘xenosexuality’ of the groups I met. Traditional Hawaiians (and maybe modern ones, to) practiced rigid separation among the sexes that can be read about in the books. Basically as in many primitive cultures (including I suppose working class US) homosexual socialization is the rule. Yet everywhere I looked in Hawai’i I saw young couples, almost every car was driven by a man with a woman in the passenger seat and no one else. Manic xenosexuality…do we really find the company of the other sex so much more congenial? Or does the advantage of ready xenosex at night outweigh the disadvantages of being stuck with another kind of person? As someone who enjoys solo travel I’m not in a position to say, and perhaps there’s something unique about the islands that stimulates this kind of romanticism; certainly the ads don’t show homosexual groups enjoying themselves, à la Daytona Beach.

    Thursday, June 14 – Kumuwela Ridge

    My last day on Kaua’i and in Hawai’i, a bit sad to be winding up and the mood clouded by the need to get luggage packed, car gassed, airport by 6 PM, on that jet by 8. What to do? A hike then check out Lihue for the rest of the day.

    As usual I was up early, so I packed a few snacks and headed off in search of another trail, hopefully to Waimea Canyon. Again I didn’t have much luck following the maps, but I did end up wandering around a few trails to the east of Koke’e. If I’d had a decent map (i.e. USGS topo sheet) I could have seen that I turned back just a few km from the ridge of the canyon. In fact the map I bought at the museum would have shown me the way, but I had ruined that section of it the previous day when my sweaty back soaked through my backpack and the movement rubbed through the paper. Another obvious lesson: protect your maps.

    The hike was kind of frustrating: again up and down, often through human-eroded gullies, and frankly the vegetation seemed to me similar to what you might see on the Appalachian trail: the same green, broadleaved trees, ferns, etc. No doubt a few endemics and indigenous plants were scattered here and there, but I wasn’t much aware of them. And I never caught a glimpse of the canyon, even though it wasn’t too far from me much of the time. I did notice a few unusual bird sounds that I imagine came from Hawaiian species, but they were unknown to me. In those places where the mist and vegetation were particularly thick I found myself calling “Where are the dinosaurs?”

    On my little hike I thought of the words of Beletsky (2000, p. 106) who I edit:

    “Most of the vertebrate animals one sees on a visit to just about anywhere at or above the water’s surface are birds. They will be seen frequently and in large numbers because they are 1) most active during the day, 2) visually conspicuous and, to put it nicely, 3) usually far from quiet as they pursue their daily activities. But they are so much more conspicuous than other vertebrates because they fly, which is, so far, nature’s premier anti-predator escape mechanism.”

    I like this language: it’s completely unromantic and gives us an exact picture of a fundamental fact that I hadn’t really thought of in those terms.

    Speaking of things that fly, one of the ironies of Kaua’i (and many other exotic but accessible places) is that the further you get from the crowds the more likely you are to see and hear helicopters. The are symbolic of so much of the negatives our modern world: war, surveillance, cops, medical evacuations—we didn’t get Dick Tracy’s rocket packs, so choppers will have to do. Why should someone too old, lame, or lazy to hike the ridges or kayak the coast be denied an view of the landscape, and if they’re rich enough (I am) and the technology is there, why not? These questions have no answers. The helicopters are exciting for the passengers but a distraction for those seeking solitude. Perhaps a few will crash or the Sierra Club—or even some spiritually inclined Hawaiian group that doesn’t own a tour company—will get them to stop. Until then, they test our mindfulness. And they keep away the dinosaurs.

    Still, it was a pleasant enough walk, and, as the day before, I apparently had the trail to myself. I got back to my cabin in time to check out but not to the dining room in time for breakfast, which had stopped serving 15 minutes earlier (so much for Hawaiian timing!). I asked the waitress what was fresh and she said the cocoanut cream pie was homemade from real cocoanuts, so that was breakfast. The Koke’e food may be great – but be careful of your timing!

    On the drive back to Waimea I stopped by the side of Route 552 thinking I’d take a walk into the dry slopes, but I discovered at the guardrail 3 perhaps related items: a rearview mirror, 2 cheap bead earrings, and a rain-warped but still readable steno pad filled with the account of someone’s illness. I glanced through it, thought about returning it to the roadside but the idea of it being obliterated in a couple of rainstorms caused me to toss it in the back seat of my car.

    Turning to the ditch, the water came by pipe over the Poki’i Ridge to the east and under the highway then into a fast running meter-wide channel that flowed along the mountainside, part of which appeared to be held together by narrow-gauge rails. There’s a trail on one side (presumably made by the earth that was dug up) that I followed for a kilometer or so until it rounded a bend. I thought about what it might be like to kayak—or even swim—the ditch as it rapidly made its way to a pumping station, reservoir, agricultural field, etc. With us, stuff is never quite where we want it to be; as a traveler, I’m usually going from somewhere to somewhere else. After a half-hour of walking I sat on a rock looking out at the Pacific and meditated on the Kekaha Beach. On this and other occasions I idly thought that given that what I was doing was a kind of amateur meditation and that it seemed to help my moods, why not try it for real.

    The highway ends at the town of Waimea near an empty factory: like a gravestone the words above its office building say: ‘1889 KEKAHA SUGAR COMPANY 2001.’ I like the way the pixel-over-corrugation moiré pattern makes the walls look even less substantial than they are…

    Obviously you could do a lot of research on just the role of sugar in the arc of Hawaiian prosperity. The ditch and the factory reminded me that for all my eco-correctness, I seem most to enjoy the human/natural interfaces: old factories turning to dust, water channels and dams as sculptures in the earth, lighthouses, and especially benchmarks hidden in the land.

    Instead of going into Lihue via the main road I turned off and went along the Huleia Valley and into Nauwiliwili Bay (had to get that in!), passing a strange even creepy cave in the side of the Kamaulele ridge. The estuary of the Bay would be a nice place to kayak.

    All of this was taking me closer to the airport, so as time would down I looked for things to see and ended up at the Kaua’i Marriott resort golf course which I read had a lighthouse, which I saw but didn’t visit. But what was interesting about the area was that here I was at the edge of a manicured greens complete with PsuedoGrecoRomanesque pavilions and bridges standing next to some of the most fascinating lava formations I’d yet seen, including 2 connected blowholes through which I could look down on the surging water. I’m sure the spot was known to a few locals but rarely visited by Marriotteers let alone the golfers. I walked around the point and found a dozen pigeons fussing among the rocks; two invasives crossing paths.

    After that there was time for a brief visit to the poolside bar at the Marriott (no food but some fruit). As in the sterile Princeville golf/condo I was struck by how expensive it is to isolate yourself from whatever’s left of the ‘real’ Hawai’i I had experienced by foot, bike, and kayak (and admittedly by car!) What’s the point of having money if you use it to isolate yourself from the glories of a spectacular place—as well as the spicy dangers and the smells and the risks of some ‘bugga rip U off’? But then I thought: if they’re going to visit here, I’d rather they remained cooped up behind the walls than on my trails!

    And so to the airport and injection into the mainland.

    (As to the mysterious steno pad… A few days after returning home I called a few numbers in the steno pad and got a hospital, doctor’s office, ICU station, etc. but no one who knew of the patient. I left my number with a nurse and eventually got a call from the doctor who attended the young man. She remembered the case, checked the computer, and came up with a phone and PO Box. The number was inoperative and the address was not far from where I found the book, but I wasn’t going to send it there. I ended up talking to someone at the hospital’s medical records office and asked if I sent it to them if they’d see if they could get it to the owner.

    (Now just why did I spend so much energy on this little project? First, the book was found under slightly strange circumstances—had it blown out the window, had their been an accident at the site, did the earrings signify some kind of little shrine…and what about the broken rear-view mirror? So there was an element of mystery involved. Second, I too keep a journal, and would be distressed to lose my words and delighted if someone returned a notebook. Third, it was the account of a loved one’s serious illness and recovery (I read enough to figure that out) much like the journal I kept in 2003 when my mother had a stroke, wasted away, and died. I’d be sorry to lose those words and indeed have returned to them a couple of times. And fourth was the sheer challenge of returning the book to its author; to do so would be a minor success. So it seemed worth my effort. No doubt medical records at the hospital looked in the files, found little, and tossed it in the dead letter pile, but who knows?)

    Friday, June 15 – LIH-HNL-DEN-IAD

    We all know that flying is becoming more disagreeable, but it’s also becoming more stupid. I want to see outside so I always seek a window seat away from the wing, far forward or backward but not too far back because on some planes there are no windows at the back or the view is blocked by the engines. For example, on the outbound LAX-HNL flight I saw far below and even further away the obvious shape of a huge ship on the Pacific, and on the LIH-NHL trip I caught a glimpse of the harbor lights of Honolulu, both sights worth the cramped window seat. But on the way to DEN I was in a side isle seat next to a woman with whom I offered to switch: ‘Some people prefer the aisle and I like to look out, so I’d be willing to switch with you’ but she said no, she wanted to look out. Then the flight attendant suggested we close the window shades because the sun would soon be coming up (we were flying against the rotation of the earth) and even one open window would fill the cabin with light, disturbing sleepers and making the movie screens hard to see.

    For the sake of a cabin dark enough to watch ‘Wild Hogs’ we were supposed to sacrifice Jupiter in the southeast sky, then a Pacific sunrise, followed by clouds over the ocean and the approach over Half Moon Bay. (I’ve even held my jacket over my head à la Dracula so that I could look out the window of a cabin darkened for some dumb flick.) In any case, the woman dozed the whole flight with her shade down, though I asked her a couple of times how she was enjoying her view; she mumbled an answer. And the same thing happened with a fellow on the DEN-IAD flight, which began in daylight, so I missed seeing 2/3 of the US because he dozed with the shades down. Flying is becoming more unpleasant the more it denies we’re flying. The answer may come when they give the sleepers beds, provide dark media pods for others – and provide picture windows for those of us who want to study the landscape.

    But however unpleasant flying is—and it’s inherently fun if you think about it—these petty annoyances couldn’t diminish very much my joy in the many rich experiences recounted here.

    Epilog -  two ruminations...Success

    During the last decade I’ve been wresting with the ideas and feelings of success and failure. My preoccupation with these poles was heightened by my perception of Hawai’i’s ever-increasing numbers of visitors and immigrants. So very many want to visit, many want to stay, almost no one leaves, so the place grows inexorably: from 150,000 in 1900 to 500,000 in 1950 to 1,300,000 in 2000. Nothing fails like success.

    I also thought of Micco’s success: he clearly had more business than he must have had when he started the operation decades ago, yet there were many new pressures as well: bookkeeping, staff to supervise, longer hours, etc. I’m sure there are times when he looks back with longing on the earlier days when he had more time for his OWN kayaking.

    And then there’s my own struggle with the costs of being regarded as successful by others. They make demands that set your schedule, deadlines, projects. You travel at the invitation of others, collaborate with them on projects, give them advice…the list is endless. On the one hand are the rewards: extrinsic (money, travel, deference) and intrinsic (the knowledge that others value your works). BUT: there’s the obligation, the loss of control, and—if you’re as cynical as I—the doubt that most people know enough about value or your values to provide cues worthy of responding to. If most people—and particularly those in a position to reward—themselves got where they did through expediency or by themselves producing things that you don’t value, then why follow that path? Of course this sounds like a rationalization, but the accusation isn’t necessarily true. Looking at my career, even in the past 2 decades at the USGS, I’ve been accorded recognition and proved my ability to follow the path of success, but I seem to have wandered off the path because I question the values that point the way, suffer from diminished energy and talent, and seem to fear being controlled by others.

    So it looks like it’s time to get off the bus. I do have a consistent relatively harmless value system, so why not spend the rest of my life following my own desires guided by my own conscience, confused as it may often appear to be. And as my notes say: “Ah well, the patterns of behavior are set…not much I can do to change…except meditation seems worth a try.”

    ...history past and future

    So what were the lessons of this trip?

    I kept thinking about these little islands sinking under the weight of development and wondering if there is any alternative to the critical perspective of those of us who mourn the loss of species, forests, streams. The islands have experienced birth and death for hundreds of millions of years and will go on doing so, and then their bio-techno-socio diversity has increased in the past few hundred years. So how to reconcile these facts into an ethical perspective? I can’t do it, but I think I can begin to understand how one might develop the necessarily serenity. It wouldn’t mean total acquiescence, but

    I mean, those of us who are critical got to the islands on CO2-belching jets and travel over roads that invade the forests. Until you swim to Hawai’i and travel it by foot, you participate in its destruction. Culliney quote about insects island-hopping the tectonic treadmill

    Here’s a brief history of an Hawaiian island

    (most appropriate for the Big Island, but applies to all):

    1. Sea (which fluctuates)
    2. Lava (upside-down drainage: Culliney)
    3. Fluctuating sea and rain eroding lava
    4. Plants making soil
    5. Animals (arriving, evolving, extincting) living among the plants
    6. Polynesians introducing new life, burning plants (communities dia/appearing)
    7. Westerners pushing everything around
    8. Homo vehicularis

    Each of these major forces completely transforms the ‘island’ whatever that is, and each stage probably does or could resent the next. The point (if there is one) is that one system of morality resents the stage after it.

    And here’s a synopsis of Culliney’s (2006) account of human depredations on the reefs:

    everything is a resource for progress, and it didn’t start with the EuroAmericans.

    But I couldn’t help feeling some resentment and going through my head was the phrase “a tropical paradise complete with surly natives.” The Hawaiians I occasionally saw didn’t seem particularly friendly, nor did I expect them to be, nor should they be. The mainlanders/Europeans/Asians/Americans continue to overrun their islands. And even many of the tourist-serving immigrants running little shops (beach gear, trinkets, health foods) seem not much friendlier. THEY resent everyone who arrives after they do AND they’re dependent to survive upon money that may be stingily doled out by  clueless ‘foreigners’ who likely know little of the place they are visiting and may care less about the lives of the people there…Is this ‘resentment’ I see in so many places my problem and/or does it describe much of the world?

    Perhaps resentment has become a part of the local culture. Consider a native Hawaiian sitting in a park watching the mainland tourists. Assume he’s resentful (let’s not worry about the object of his resentment), and thinking he’d wish they would go away. But imagine a Hawai’i without any non-Polynesians (whoever they are). Such a fantastically complicated network of 400-year old contingencies would have resulted in a completely transformed archipelago and certainly not included him, so who would have enjoyed this more ‘natural’ let alone known how degraded it could have become? No tourists, no park, no native.

    I fancy myself an existentialist, but perhaps more by default: I find myself rejecting most other philosophies I’ve investigated and I don’t quite understand existentialism, so that must be what I am. But the problem with this outlook is that it seems rooted in the here and now, but a lot of the time I’m not in the here&now.

     Is this a philosophy I’m evolving for myself to make sense of and eventually diminish my regrets, resentments, fears?

    In ‘our’ long and laborious evolution from rock & sea through plant & animal to global network of techno-organisms ‘we’ are on a path with no end in sight, but certainly what marks the modern state is the unhappiness that one part of ‘us’ feels with another part. And as we cover the globe a kind of ecological uncertainty principle applies: the only way to experience and study systems is to visit them and therefore disrupt them somewhat: it was true of Polynesians in Hawai’i, Europeans in Africa, Americans on the Moon. So with every meter I drove, every step I took, every stroke I paddled I added to the overwhelming weight modern tourism, even in its current ‘eco-’ incarnation Would it be preferable for me to seek personal restoration on the Potomac River rather than on the Hanalei? On the shores of the Chesapeake rather than the Napali? On the Appalachian Trail rather than the Nualolo?

    References

    Technical notes

    Pictures taken with Canon PowerShot A550

    Sketches drawn with various pencils (especially Sanford design ebony jet black extra smooth #14420) and pens (especially Uniball vision black fine) on a Cachet 7”x9” 75lb sketch book #1023; then scanned on an Epson Perfection 2480 Photo scanner at 150 dpi and reduced, generally to 25%.

    Garmin LegendC GPS receiver data downloaded to ESRI ArcGIS.

    Maps made by ArcGIS, base maps from USGS.

    Composed in MS Word then formatted using Nvu.

    2012/12/22