Hawaii June 2022: Episode 3

Kilohana Plantation and Kauai Plantation Railway

A train tour of the historic Kilohana Plantation sounded like fun, so we headed to Lihue. The narrated 2.5-mile rail line circles around the property and passes through original sugarcane and taro fields; groves of mango, banana, papaya, and pineapple; and experimental plantings of various crops. Along the way, pigs, goats, sheep, a donkey, and a cow entertain the riders.

Great selfie, Bailey
On the train

Cook pine trees (Araucaria columnaris) are a common sight on Kauai. Johann Reinhold Forster, a botanist on Captain James Cook’s second voyage, classified the tree which is endemic to New Caledonia.

Cook’s Pines
Cattle resting in the pasture

About halfway, the train stopped and let everyone off to feed tortillas to the animals. It was a challenge to fling the tortillas to the smaller animals so they would beat their larger friends to the prize. Back on the train, it was a delight to watch the pigs run with the train (behind their fence, of course) as the guide flung more tortillas.

Donkey and piglets eating tortillas.
Hey, Dude. I can’t reach that.
Outta my way. Coming through.

The guide told us that the plantation treats all the animals as pets, assuring us there was no danger the critters would end up on a luau banquet table.

Our guide had a garden plot here.

Not interested in the train? Hop on a Safari truck for a two-hour guided tour of the property, where adventurers drop into the Kahuna Nui Valley, stroll across a boardwalk through a tropical rainforest, and enjoy a Mai Tai at the Jungle Bungalow while listening to the flowing river.

Koloa Rum Company offers tastings

The Kilohana Plantation was first developed in 1896 by Albert Spencer Wilcox as a working cattle ranch. Wilcox’s nephew, Gaylord Parke Wilcox, took over in 1936 and built Kauai’s first mansion.

Kilohana Plantation Mansion

After our train ride, we wandered around the 1930s restored 16,000-square-foot mansion, browsing through the specialty shops and art galleries. Some of our group waited patiently for the Kauai Sweet Shop to open so they could buy their sweet treats.

Chickens rule in Kauai
The colorful hibiscus is a common bush in Kauai
Farm equipment

Barefoot Bar at Duke’s Kauai

We thought about eating at Gaylord’s because their menu looked so good. But we opted to drive to the Barefoot Bar at Duke’s Kauai. Unfortunately, we had to wait about an hour in the tropical sun.

Let’s go swimming. Wait, no swimwear.

We found a few shady spots to cool our heels and stared out at the inviting bay water, wishing we had brought our swimwear.

Waiting, and waiting, and waiting

And then, the hostess called our name. Good thing because that hour wait in the heat and sun about conked us out.

Note for future reference: Always pack swimwear and towels even if you don’t plan on swimming. You never know when the opportunity might present itself.

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa Luau

When in Hawaii, one must attend a Luau. We all dressed in our best island attire and drove to the Grand Hyatt Luau, where they served as many Mai Tais as we wanted. The drinks weren’t the best I’ve ever had because the tropical weather melted the ice, diluting the alcohol, but I didn’t turn them down either.

Our family from left: Laura, Jackson, Chris, me, Jon, Maya, Bailey, and Kevin

The buffet had an abundance of food with beef, pork, fish, chicken, fresh salads and vegetables, an assortment of fruit, and rice and rolls. The pork and fish were my favorites, along with the yams. And the best dessert was the coconut lemon cake.

But the luau isn’t just about the food and drinks. It’s the music and singing and dancing. Below is a little video I captured at the end of the fire knife dance, the climax of the show. It’s a bit grainy but still fun to watch.

Luau Climax

After the show, the photographer gave each couple the Aloha photo above as a souvenir. What a delightful surprise. The luau included free drinks and a photo. Usually at events like this, the drinks are overpriced and photos are not included.

The adventure continues. Stay tuned.

Safe Travels

Hawaii June 2022: Episode 2

The fun continued in Kauai when we loaded up the cars and drove to Kōke‘e State Park for an easy to moderate hike. A hike our entire group could navigate and which held the promise of standing above the Waipoo Falls, and looking out over the Waimea Canyon.

Let’s take a hike

We enjoyed our walk along the well-marked trail through the forest. The flowers, of course, caught my photographic eye while the rest of the gang picked and tasted blackberries.

Lots of shrubs and shade to keep us cool
A tree stump nourishes fungi

Much of the trail was flat, with an occasional elevation gain or loss. At the fork, we took the Canyon Trail to the left. A few yards later, we encountered at least a 3-foot drop-off, requiring a jump or slide on our backsides. Sliding seemed the better choice for me.

A snack along the trail

A few people ahead of us struggled to navigate the drop but made it unscathed. Most of our group managed it without too much difficulty. Unfortunately, Jon’s trekking poles were of no use. Somehow, his foot and ankle got stuck in a tree root, and he couldn’t pull free. Our son, Kevin, and another hiker helped him get loose and on his feet. Whew! Disaster averted.

The falls were not too far ahead, so we continued until we encountered another drop. While we contemplated this new obstacle, someone coming toward us said there were three more drops—some worse than the last—so we turned back, not wanting to chance an injury.

Back at the fork, we took the trail on the right, which led to the Cliff Trail Lookout. This was more our speed, and the view of Waimea Canyon made it clear why it is called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.

Bringing up the rear
The Grand Canyon of the Pacific

While gawking at the view and taking photos, we heard goats bleating. We scanned the cliff on the other side of the canyon but weren’t sure the white specks we saw were actually goats. Jon zoomed in with his 300 mm camera lens and captured a few on the cliffs.

Did you hear that? It sounded like a goat.
Hang loose

These goats are the descendants of goats introduced by English sea captain George Vancouver in 1792. Since their arrival, they have sped up the erosion of the canyon walls. Not a good thing.

Goat across the canyon
I wonder what kind of tree this is

The ‘Ōhi’a tree is one of the most populous trees in the state. Whether grown as a small bush or trimmed into a tree, their gnarly growth pattern and colorful flowers are distinct and easy to spot. As a native of Hawaii, the tree has the honor of taking root first in fresh lava, even before the volcanic gasses dissipate nearby. They break down the rock and provide a more hospitable spot for other plants to grow.

When hiking around, be aware that the ‘Ōhi’a tree is under attack by two species of fungi. If you see leaves on limbs or the crown of the tree turn yellow or brown, notify the Kaua’i Invasive Species Committee at saveohia@hawaii.edu, or 808-821-1490. For more information and to learn how to prevent spreading the fungi, go to https://cms.ctahr.hawaii.edu/rod.

Lehua blossoms of the ‘Ōhi’a

So how did this tree come to be in the hostile volcanic rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? In one account, Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, plays the villain in the myth of the lovers ‘Ōhi’a and Lehua. Pele desired ‘Ōhi’a and offered her love to him. ‘Ōhi’a’s love for Lehua was so strong he rejected Pele’s advances.

In revenge, Pele turned ‘Ōhi’a into a tree. A distraught Lehua pleaded with Pele to return ‘Ōhi’a as he was. Understanding Lehua’s loss, Pele turned Lehua into a beautiful flower in the tree so that the lovers shall remain forever together. In another account, it was a group of gods, not Pele, that made Lehua into a flower.

Exploring Red Sand Falls

On the way up to Waimea Canyon, we had spotted the Red Sand Falls, or Red Dirt Waterfalls, so we stopped on our way back down to see this interesting scenery. Created by Mother Nature, the dirt is composed of oxidized iron-rich basalt rock that surrounds Waimea Canyon, and the falls carry it downstream.

Farmers love the rich red dirt

A few precautions when visiting this area:

  1. Don’t drink the water because it contains high levels of insoluble iron and aluminum oxides that may make a person sick.
  2. Be sure to wear proper shoes when walking on the rock because it can become slippery during wet conditions.
  3. Don’t jump into the water because it is too shallow and can cause an injury.
Grippy shoes are recommended especially after a recent rain

There’s a prettier spot below where we stopped, but we were all craving poke, so we didn’t bother to stop again. Ishikara Market in Waimea was the place to go for poke. Add on rice, seaweed salad, or other deli items for a satisfying lunch.

More Kauai adventure continues in our next post.

Safe Travels

Hawaii June 2022: Episode 1

June 6, 2022, had arrived. After two years and two months of waiting and wondering, we were on our way. After two years and two months of pandemic isolations, masks, vaccinations, tests, and restrictions, we boarded a plane. Destination: Kauai with a quick stop in Honolulu.

Honolulu Airport Garden

The house was perfect for our family of eight. It included a fully equipped kitchen overlooking the great room. The sliding window wall opened into a screened-in lanai containing outdoor seating and a dining table. Green grass in the backyard and a stone pathway led to a sparkling pool and spa.

Our Kauai Home for 11 Nights
Lanai and Backyard

The three adult couples each had their own bedroom and bath. I was concerned our teen granddaughter and grandson might bicker about sharing a room with twin beds and a bath. They showed me wrong and got along just fine. And the laundry facilities and outdoor shower came in handy.

Kitchen and Living Area
Friendly Geckos Kept us Entertained
Refreshing Pool and Spa Available
Morning Sunrise

But we didn’t fly seven hours across the Pacific Ocean cooped up in an airplane to sit around a house all day. We were in Kauai to explore. Time to go to the beach.

Bailey, Jackson, and Kevin walk to a better boogie board spot.

Poipu Beach was a short drive from the house, so we loaded up the cars and set out. I dreamed of taking off my wrist brace and soaking my arm in salt water for a while. The splints and casts I had worn for eight weeks had rubbed sores around my wrist and the brace wasn’t helping much, either.

Although other people ventured into the water, when I heard the waves had knocked a few people over, I decided it wasn’t a good idea for me to dip my toes or arm in the water for fear I’d fall and cause more damage.

Chris, Laura, and Maya espy something interesting

Watching the seal and sea turtle sunning on the island, taking a few photos, and a walk to the Marriot kept me busy. When we returned to the house, I shed my brace and let my arm be free in the pool. I don’t think chlorine has the healing powers of salt water, but I was grateful to escape the brace and let my hand and arm float atop the water for a while.

A lifeguard repeatedly told people to stay off the island to protect the Monk Seal and Green Sea Turtle basking in the sun.

Sadly, I was stuck at the house nursing my wrist while everyone else had a grand time on the third day’s activity: Kauai Mountain Tubing Adventure.

The Tubing Crew prepping for their float. From left: Bailey, Maya, Laura, Chris, Jackson, Kevin, and Jon.

The Lihue Plantation lands are the setting for tubers to float through open canals and hand-dug tunnels and flumes, which were engineered and constructed around 1870.

Headlamps are required for the dark tunnels, and gloves and water shoes protect hands and feet from the rough sides. The 3-hour adventure includes lunch and cold water. Book reservations early, especially for large groups.

Tubing was the one thing I wanted to do while in Kauai. Since I missed out, I now have a good excuse to return to the island.

Stay tuned for more Kauai fun to come.

Safe Travels

Where Have the Traveling Todds Gone? Or, A Bad Break on April 8

Our plan to visit more of the East Bay Regional Parks fizzled the day it began. On April 8, 2022, we selected the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve for our first visit. Since the green hills near us had already begun their fade to gold, we knew the wildflowers wouldn’t last much longer in the eastern part of Contra Costa County.

View of hills from Black Diamond Mines parking lot. The last clump of trees in the background surrounds the Rose Hill Cemetery.
Plaque commemorates the Mount Diablo Coal Field where twelve major mines supported five communities during 1860 to 1906.

We started out on the Atlas Mine trail until we encountered a closed sign, then transitioned to the Chaparral Trail. A few days earlier, I had watched a video about the wildflowers on the Chaparral Trail and anticipated all the wildflowers I’d be able to capture with the camera.

Up two short inclines and a walk through an overgrown area, until we hit a clearing where I stopped to take photos. Then Jon realized he had dropped the map. I offered to navigate the inclines again to retrieve said map. Sandstone isn’t my favorite medium to hike on, so I was proud I made it down and back up the steep inclines, not just once, but twice without sliding.

Hazel Atlas Portal trail ended at a closed sign.

With the map retrieved, we continued on a maintenance and fire road, also graded from sandstone. I found another patch of flowers to capture with the camera and squatted to get a closer view. With the picture taken and the camera turned off, I stood, then landed on my butt.

Pain gripped my right hand and wrist. My Lamaze breathing techniques kicked in. Between breaths, I prayed for a sprain and not a break. I didn’t want to look, I couldn’t look, I had to look.

Rough Cat’s-ear

A quick look revealed my right hand misaligned with the arm. Not a sprain. Dizziness and shaking left me sitting in place for several minutes until I could recover and stand. My camera and strap served as a handy sling and kept the pain at bay.

Luckily, we hadn’t gone more than a 1/3 mile from our car. Off we drove to urgent care where X-rays confirmed the damage and need for surgery. Our plans to visit the East Bay Parks or traveling in our RV ended that day, a disappointment we are only recently getting over.

Yellow Trumpet

I’m sure it’s easy to guess that having my dominant arm immobilized limited what I can do. Jon has been the perfect caregiver helping me whenever I couldn’t do something on my own, carting me to doctor appointments and other outings, and taking over all the household chores.

On Thursday, July 7, three months later and two months after surgery, the doctor released me from any splint, cast, or brace. Now I’m looking at several months, if not a year, of slow incremental progress until my mobility returns to what it was before.

Ithuriel’s Spear

So, there you have it. A bad break sidelined the Traveling Todds and kept us from enjoying our passion for poking around this great nation of ours. We are so looking forward to packing up and hitting the road in a few weeks, after a few PT appointments and assuming no other obstacles crop up.

Thank goodness I could trade my cast for a brace, and we didn’t have to cancel our trip to Kauai with the family. It was a trip we had originally booked for April 2020 and rescheduled for early June 2022.

Stay tuned for a post or two, or more, about our Hawaii trip.

Safe Travels

Updated July 14, 2022: corrected date from June 7 to July 7