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
I list the airports by code rather
than city because they
are their own places apart from their locations. LAX and JFK are cities
their own right and the latter isn’t even in
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.
My cousin Mike and his wife Lilli
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
Of the major
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
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
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
cars, on beaches, etc.
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
‘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
wanting what you wind. Anyway…she took the car and agreed to
pick me up the
next morning for our paddle at
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
times she envisioned the trip as spending hours on the beach with a fat
I was keeping her too busy for that. But (as a compromise?) we agreed
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
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
the region felt like post-apocalyptic
On the way back to
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:
The only scheduled event in
O’ahu was a kayak trip from
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
that he’d hiked the
That evening I had dinner with Mike
and Lilli; uneventful so
I guess we were comfortable together. It is strange that the Ginsbergs
driven to flee one another to different parts of the world:
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.
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
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
I delivered the rental car and M. and
I got on the
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
constantly pointed either a little to the right (clockwise) or the left
(counterclockwise). If the island were circumnavigable and you lived
on opposite coasts you could pretty much keep the wheel at the same
day. I was headed counterclockwise from Lihue to Hanalei, roughly
About halfway to my destination I passed a middle-aged woman lugging a
in the same direction with her thumb idly stuck out, so I stopped to
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
want to leave the clubs in the car while it was in the shop, and she
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
chance picking up hitchhikers. I said the only possible thing: that it
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
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
agency. It seemed at cross purposes to me, or perhaps just a clever
she went to
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…
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
dwellings in the area. After arranging the room to my satisfaction I
blocks to the Hanalei shopping area for breakfast and to rent a bike
pleasant but taciturn fellow from
I had a day to explore the area
decided to introduce
myself to the kayak outfitters and maybe take a paddle around. I met
of the outfitters (and of the elusive cottage) and we chatted for
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
Pro sit-on-top and went about 4 km upriver on the
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
brave few run the risk of drowning among the tangled mangrove roots in
waters of the
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.
The paddlers (7 customers, 2 guides, and the girlfriend of a guide) gathered at 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
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:
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
give names to locations and when these are placed on maps they acquire
concreteness and precision that would have been known to the Hawaiians
own way but was indeed not essential to us on the day. Up ahead is a
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.
the name – let alone the geographic position of a point at an
angle west of
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 to .
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?
I began the day with my only call to
Freya, a strained
conversation in which we exchanged a few words about our mutual
had just returned from
After a hearty breakfast (but I
forget what and where) I
planned three activities for the day: snorkeling at
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 ‘
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 wanted to get in another paddle so
went to Kayak Kaua’i
and rented a boat from Micco that I took out on
I was up early the next morning to
Although I could never (not in a
anyway) tire of the
sea, I felt it necessary to at least visit the
I studied an Asian fellow who held
his video camera in front
of himself as he carefully walked down the steps to one overlook,
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
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
enjoying the moment, to be sure, but also amassing a stock of memories.
thought about a graph representing anticipation-experience-recollection
we do all the time but especially ‘on vacation.’
Let it be ‘visiting
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
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
up for the day from the resorts who are long-gone by dinner time. Hence
the conditions of the cabins, suitable for birders and hikers but not
and beach-seeking families. Eyeing the ubiquitous feral chickens
around the parking lot I wondered how hard it would be to catch and
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
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
the books. Basically as in many primitive cultures (including I suppose
class US) homosexual socialization is the rule. Yet everywhere I looked
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
The hike was kind of frustrating:
again up and down, often
through human-eroded gullies, and frankly the vegetation seemed to me
to what you might see on the
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
that flowed along the mountainside, part of which appeared to be held
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
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
With us, stuff is never quite where we want it to be; as a traveler,
usually going from somewhere to somewhere else. After a half-hour of
sat on a rock looking out at the Pacific and meditated on the
The highway ends at the town of
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?)
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
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
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
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
followed by clouds over the ocean and the approach over Half Moon Bay.
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
the whole flight with her shade down, though I asked her a couple of
she was enjoying her view; she mumbled an answer. And the same thing
with a fellow on the DEN-IAD flight, which began in daylight, so I
seeing 2/3 of the
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.
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.”
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
Here’s a brief history of an Hawaiian island
(most appropriate for the
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
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
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
unhappiness that one part of ‘us’ feels with
another part. And as we cover the globe a kind of ecological
principle applies: the only way to
experience and study systems is to visit them and therefore disrupt
somewhat: it was true of Polynesians in
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.