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Thoughts on ordinary and not so ordinary adventures in the life of one Mom

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Vacation Pictures

         Ever since Steve and I returned from our trip to Kauai 3 years ago, I had been wanting to show the kids this island, the most beautiful place on Earth.  I would picture my favorite beach, Tunnels, on the north shore.  While I was snorkeling in the water there last time, I couldn't decide what to look at: the plentiful fish, the beautiful mountains, or the expansive ocean.   I wanted to take them on a catamaran ride along the Na Pali coast to see the verdant cliffs and sea caves.  And I wanted to try some new things that I'd seen in tour books and brochures, like hiking in Waimea Canyon, going to Ke'e beach, kayaking, visiting a botanical garden, horseback riding or mountain tubing.  I got the chance to show my family all Kauai had to offer this week as we took a little "vacation" to the Garden Isle.

         I planned a picture-perfect vacation.  This time, I really wanted to stay on the north shore, before October when the winter swells render many north shore beaches almost unswimmable.   This trip was also the first time in a long while that we took a vacation that was not part of a work-related trip.  Since most of our vacations are trips of opportunity, piggybacked on one of Steve's many conferences, we are not usually responsible for the destination or even the hotel (but, fortunately, not all the cost, either).  This vacation to Kauai, however, was completely my vision.

Kalalau Valley
         We encountered many disappointments as we embarked on this trip.  Our boat tour had been postponed due to weather and cancellation was a possibility.  The kids were especially annoying and cranky.  And it was raining when we arrived.

        As planned, we drove straight to Koke'e State Park and Waimea Canyon after we landed.  Rain is not a big deterrent on Kauai.  After all, Kauai is home to the world's rainiest spot, Mt. Wai'ale'ale, but it did make it difficult to get a good view from the Na Pali coast overlooks.  The mist and rain were sporadic, so while sometimes you could see to the ocean, most often visibility was limited to a few feet.  Luckily, for a few minutes, the fog dissipated and we saw a beautiful rainbow deep in the Kalalau Valley below.

       The rain also put a damper on our plans to do a rim hike in the Waimea Canyon, which would have been slippery and dangerous. Waimea Canyon is one of the gems on this small (550 square miles) island.   Although it's not as grand as the Grand Canyon, its beauty rivals our Arizona treasure.   As we headed out of the park and down to a lower elevation, the rain subsided.  We happened upon a great little hike, the Iliau Nature Loop and the start of the Kukui trail, which had terrific views of the canyon, nice examples of Kauai vegetation (with labeled signs), and nice rocks to climb.  Most importantly, it gave us the opportunity to stretch our legs and goof around for more than a few minutes. It was a much needed break for all of us after a couple of hours in a compact car.

That night, even after settling into the beautiful Hanalei Colony Resort, taking a solitary (recall the compact car and three children) sunset stroll, and enjoying the pool and hot tub, I couldn't help but feel disappointed in our vacation.  Things were not going according to plan. 

        Since our catamaran tour had been postponed, we woke up the next morning with no plans.  This is a new concept for me.  The weather was beautiful, but the surf was dangerous.  Snorkeling on the north shore, including my favorite spot, Tunnels, was out of the question; and none of us wanted to get back in the car for a road trip to the south shore of the island where the surf was calm.  After a semi-slow morning, we decided to go to Ke'e beach, the trailhead for the 11 mile Kalalau (Na Pali) trail.  We hiked the first half mile, which was rocky but not difficult, and which quickly rewarded us with surprising views for our effort.

View of Na Pali coast from the Kalalau trail

Alex and Nicki with their prized walking sticks
         The rest of the day brought more unexpected fun as we decided to take an afternoon kayaking trip.  Kauai is the only Hawaiian island with navigable rivers.  With at least 3 major rivers and so many companies offering tours specifically designed for novices (like us),  the choices for kayaking were overwhelming.  I finally had just given up trying to plan this activity.   It's a good thing I did, because we ended up renting kayaks right on the beautiful Hanalei river and taking a 

Hanalei river from kayak
self-guided five mile round-trip paddle up the river and down to the bay.   Nicki was "captain" of the kayak she shared with Steve and Joseph, barking orders and demanding "full speed ahead!".  We stopped to swim in the river, a highlight for

Steve, Joseph, and Captain Nicki
the kids.  This strenuous activity had earned us a treat, Lappert's Ice Cream (yum yum), back in town.   A sunset stroll along the beach and dip in the pool and the hot tub topped off a most fun, mostly relaxing, and totally unplanned day!

        The next day brought another surprisingly fun day.  A trip to the Kilauea Point Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge brought us spectacular views of the windward coast

View from Kilauea Point Lighthouse
and numerous bird sightings, including the Nene (Hawaiian Goose), Red-Footed Booby, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Albatrosses.  We took the opportunity for some "vacation" learning, as the kids became Junior Rangers once again.

Since the weather was good (and hot), we stopped at Anini beach where the surf was manageable but the snorkeling was sub-par, due to the previous days' swells.  We had fun on the beach, though, while Joseph watched chickens at a safe distance from the sand.

          That afternoon, although we considered going to a botanical garden, we decided to stay at the condo and play games instead (oh, did I mention, there was no TV at the resort?).  As if the weather were waiting for us to make plans, it started raining the minute we took out Connect Four.

          The last time I was in Kauai, I took a boat ride along the Na Pali coast that was so beautiful that I desperately wanted to show Steve (who was busy at his conference) and the kids (who were back in Phoenix).  I got my chance the last day of our trip.  The catamaran ride was rescheduled for the last morning of our trip.  It was fantastic!

just some of Na Pali
The scenery was fabulous, and the small size of the boat made it possible to explore some sea caves.   Alex's favorite part was the bumpy ride, which I handled just fine with the help of dramamine. 

Sea Cave

        As our vacation came to a close, Steve and I were overcome with exhaustion.  For our last hours on Kauai, we took the kids to Lydgate Park's Kamalani playground and while they played, we rested.  This was a good time for me to review our vacation.  I pulled out my camera, as I often do, not to take pictures, but to look at pictures.  This is one of my favorite activities: looking at pictures I've recently taken (sometimes only minutes before), cropping them sometimes, and going through them over and over.

          Pictures are like the edited version of a trip.  When I look at them, I forget the stress of planning the family vacation, of rescheduling activities and events, and driving with children in small cars.  What I remember are the moments of joy and of beauty that we've been fortunate enough to experience.  The images on my cameras also replace the preconceived notions and visions I may have had for a trip.  Instead of scenes I replayed in my mind from the last trip, or pictures from so many Kauai brochures, I have images of a happy family on a beautiful island.  This vacation didn't meet all of my expectations... but it was fabulous!  And I have the pictures to prove it. 

For more pictures,  go to www.aidaspics.phanfare.com


1 comment:

  1. good points and the details are more precise than somewhere else, thanks.

    - Joe