Sunday, February 16, 2020

Hawaii - 3 of 4

Wednesday was ATV day. After sitting and listening to several pages worth of instructions (including do NOT swerve off the road if a chicken or a wild pig runs in front of you because there are many of them and only one of you), we were all suited up and ready to ride.

We rode right through the center of Kauai and, man, was it beautiful.

After traveling along for a while (and eating everyone else's dust because we somehow got in the back of the line), we came to a tunnel that was, in fact, blasted through the rim of the volcano that formed Kauai. I mean, I know volcanoes are a thing, and I know they're real, but there was something about physically going through the rim of one and ending up on the inside of it that felt completely awesome. I can only imagine what it would have felt like if the island was still sitting on the hot spot. Maybe that wouldn't feel so awesome, actually. That might just feel scary.

Our tour guides snapped lots of pictures along our tour and sent them all to us - which was wonderful because they knew the best spots. So you'll see their stamp in the corners of their pictures. 

And once we were inside the rim, in the center of the volcano, the view was so inspiring. (They took this next picture, too, and I tried to take the stamp out of the corner because it distracted from the beauty of it, but I wasn't invested enough to do it right, if you're wondering what's up with the funny shadows over there, ha). 

And here we are, coming around that corner!

We stopped here and had a little trivia moment when our tour guides asked 'how many movies and television shows can you name that were filmed in this spot?' Out of 72 (SEVENTY TWO!) we were able to get about 11 as a collective group. I was not helpful in this game after the obvious Jurassic Park was named.

Our tour guides were funny and pulled out a little toy dinosaur to stick in the frame as they took this picture. That dinosaur is probably about 5 inches tall in real life, but they held it up to the camera super close and told us to look to the right and act scared.

Later we toured a bunker built right into the mountain side that was used in World War II. It was humbling to walk around in the dark and think about the many men that had to live inside that thing while they fought for us.

Further along the trail we came across this beautiful waterfall where we stopped and had snacks.

One of our tour guides ran up the waterfall and cannon balled right off of it into the pool below. The day was not what I would call hot, and the water was definitely what I would call freezing, so there wasn't a chance that I was getting in there.

We took another picture by the side of the falls and, thankfully, captured the fact that I was unknowingly sporting an absolutely fantastic unibrow on my dusty face.

Brian jumped in next. And then the peer pressure started to mount. You guys, you know how much I hate cold water, right? But I JUMPED IN!!!

I totally did. Up onto the rock I climbed with my GoPro in hand (to document such a momentous occasion for my posterity, of course), and then down into the water. No pictures, sadly, but the video is awesome.

After we dried off a bit, we put our dusty clothes back on and headed back the way we came.

And, thankfully, we didn't run over any chickens.

When we got back to our Jeep we decided we wanted to drive to my favorite beach, Polihale. It is majestic and beautiful with rough waters and gorgeous beaches right up next to the west side of the Napali Coast. But getting there is no small task and it is the sole reason we rented a Jeep for the week. It takes 30 minutes to travel a 5 mile, poorly maintained dirt road that dumps you onto this beach (and then takes 30 minutes to get back out again). It feels like you're on an amusement park ride the whole 30 minutes as your seat belt locks you into position with every lurch and bump. Each car we passed along that road held laughing people, and we were laughing, too, at the sheer craziness of driving along such a road. And it's part of the reason why I love this beach so much.

It offers incredible views of the sunset and our plan was to sit on our towels, read our books, and wait for the sun to go down. We couldn't bring ourselves to sit for the first long while, though. It was to amazing to stand close to the water and see the rough, tall waves. It doesn't look that impressive in this next photo, but if you count, you can see 5 rows of waves all coming in at once.

There was also some kind of crazy rip current about 20 yards out from the surf that moved through the water almost parallel to the beach and was only really detectable when a seemingly random 'chosen' wave would break and start rolling towards the shore, cross its path, and then we'd see a spray of water shoot up from the rolling wave on our right and zip across the ocean until it disappeared on our left. I've never seen anything like it. It was amazing. Also a little bit scary and I stayed far away from the breaking waves. Mostly, I guess... they were big and fairly unpredictable so I could stand with my feet completely dry and then have my thighs wet when the next wave rolled in. I only made that mistake a couple of times.

Eventually we pulled our eyes away from the water and sat on our towels to soak up the last few rays of the setting sun. We made sure to sit right at the base of the sand dunes (you can see how far away they were from the surf in the picture above) to make sure we were in the clear and pulled out our books. I took my water shoes off, set them at my side, rested on my backpack, and got lost in my book. 20 minutes later Brian yelled, "it's coming!" and I looked up to see the giant wave rushing right at us. I jumped up just as the wave crashed into us, turned around in time to see Brian's phone for the split second before the wave covered it, plunged both of my hands into the water (book still in hand) and b.a.r.e.l.y grabbed his phone as it was being pulled with force back down the steep hill towards the ocean.

Phone saved. Book and towels and clothes all soaked. Water shoes all the way gone forever.

I was a little big grumpy after that (I liked those water shoes and I like being warm and dry), but it's still my favorite beach.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Hawaii - 2 of 4

Monday came along and Brian went to his conferences in the morning, which left me with a gorgeous beach, a great book, two strong legs, headphones, podcasts, scriptures, Marco Polos, a comfy sleep-in-till-9am bed and far too little time to do it all. Traveling along with Brian for his conferences is one of my very favorite things because I get the perfect balance of alone time and Brian time. And Hawaii does it right because they schedule all the meetings in the morning and then break right before lunch, leaving the whole rest of the day to play.

For lunch, we discovered Coconut's Fish Cafe which was so incredibly delicious and light that we ate there two more times through the week as well.

After Coconuts, we drove up to the Northern side of the island to hike down the the Queens Bath. This, I am not even exaggerating, is probably my very favorite place on the planet of all the places I've been. Everything from the muddy, root-filled, treacherous hike:

To the incredible power of the ocean waves smashing and engulfing and pulling at the rocks.

Honestly, to appreciate the picture above I really needed to get a reference picture that showed the other extreme when, seconds after this moment, the ocean level in between those rocks would drop 20 feet as all that water would be sucked out to join in the next crashing wave. Watching the ocean level rise and fall to that extreme was awe inspiring and made my stomach flip like I was riding a roller coaster every single time.

This sign at the base of the hike as we approached the ocean did not surprise me one bit. It shows 29 tally marks for Queens Bath drownings and is nailed to the rock to serve as a warning that the ocean in this area is not to be underestimated.

I stayed far away from any dangerous edges.

The little pool behind us in the picture up there is the Queens Bath itself, and last time we visited here two years ago we all jumped in and felt the occasional spray from the waves behind us. This time it looked far too dangerous. The wave spraying up over the rock behind Brian's head was just the beginning of that spray, and when the wave was finished hitting it would cover the entire area beneath us in a thick layer of foam.

It was incredible.

It was also rainy. But we didn't care and we sat on those lava rocks and watched the water for almost two hours with all sorts of exclamations of surprise and awe as wave after wave after wave astonished us with it's power.

Like I said before, it's my favorite place on the planet so far. I find it more beautiful and awe-inspiring than any other place I've ever seen.

And it's all so very natural. Which I love. Don't get me wrong, I have come to appreciate the art of landscaping and of creating my own beautiful spaces, but when a wild and untamed place is so beautiful that a human hand would only make it less so, well, that, in my opinion, is truly as beautiful as it gets.

That night as we were driving back to the resort, we stopped at this look out point to watch the sunset on top of our Jeep.

But the clouds blocked any real sunset or color. Still, I got to sit on top of a Jeep and that was fun.

The next day, Tuesday (after another morning of beautiful relaxation on my part), we rented bikes and biked all up and down the coastline.

Bikes are another one of my favorites. I wouldn't consider myself a fast or gifted cycler, but I do love it. I love the way the wind feels on my face, and I love how the muscles feel in my legs - they never feel stronger than they do when I'm on a bike. I've worn a bicycle necklace almost every day for more than two years - not because I consider myself a cyclist, but because my fingers just keep choosing it every morning, and often throughout a day I'll find myself holding that bicycle charm and sliding it back and forth on its chain, thinking of riding.

So riding along the beach? Yes please, please, please.

At the end of the paved bike path, we couldn't help but notice a narrow dirt trail that continued on through tall grasses. The urge to continue along that path was strong, even though it was pretty clear that the bikes we were on were not equipped for that kind of a trail. The trail itself was not more than 18 inches across (sometimes 12) and flanked on both sides by thick, dense grasses that rose 7 or 8 feet off the ground.

It was too tempting. We decided to do it, and we coaxed our bikes along the beaten path. We came across several rocks and even a small stream:

But we kept going... and going... and going... breaking through overgrown brush that scratched our legs and swatting away branches that brushed our faces and occasionally coming into a clearing that made us pause and wish to freeze time for a minute.

It was particularly challenging for me because I didn't have breaks that worked very well. The path was too narrow for me to walk alongside my bike, or to even put my feet down on either side of it (plus my seat was a little too tall for that). The back break was completely worthless, leaving the front brake as my only means of stopping or slowing down. I barely noticed the problem while we were on the flat, paved trail, but now that we were adventuring downhill into the forest it was a bit more challenging whenever I needed to stop suddenly (rock in the path! giant root in the path! wet leaves ahead!), and each time I was thrown from my seat I was sure I was sailing all the way over my handlebars. Luckily, I was never thrown quite that far, and I always managed to land on my feet. But I always knew I was one hard rock away from rolling down the rest of the mountain.

We had taken our books and a towel or two along with us on our journey and ended up finding a beautiful secluded beach with just enough sand, and lots and lots of lava rocks, and gentle waves, and after exploring for a few minutes we decided we'd like to rest and read and soak in some of the sunshine. But as we looked closer for a place to put down our towels we noticed that the beach was not quite as secluded as we thought it was... there were thousands and thousands of red ants swarming over the sand everywhere we looked. So we hopped back on our bikes and continued along our trail. Eventually the trail ended, so we stashed our bikes next to a big boulder and continued along on foot.

Right out to the ocean.

It was a tiny secluded patch of rock, also overrun by red ants (but they didn't seem to bite, so... *shrug*). We sat and talked all about favorite colors and pointed animatedly when they showed up in the breaking and crashing waves. It's amazing how many times the colors change in a wave as it progresses. We saw everything from the softest turquoise to the deepest navy and so many different levels of opacity.

Then we explored the oddest erosion patterns.

It was another great day!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Hawaii - 1 of 4

Brian had an ophthalmology conference in Kauai this year. Naturally, he needed a companion so I kindly volunteered to accompany him because... Kauai. And ocean. And the color green.

After landing in Honolulu we paced the airport (and napped (and ate (and talked (do you know how much conversational ground you can cover when you're uninterrupted?!)))) for a few hours, and then we boarded another small plane that would take us on over to Kauai. And just after we sat and just as the plane was slowly rolling away from its terminal, Brian turned to me with panic on his face, hands on top of his pockets and said, "Linds! Do you have my phone?!"

I did not. Neither did his shoulder bag or his sweater pockets or his pants pockets or the seat pocket in front of him. We crossed our fingers that it was in his carry-on stowed above our heads, but realistically knew that the chances of that were slim.

But there wasn't much we could do about it right then, so we said a couple of silent prayers and shrugged our shoulders and hoped that everything would work out with as little headache as possible.

Those are our worried faces. This picture did help me notice the Santa Clause seated right behind us though, so I decided to take that as a good omen. We landed an hour later, checked the carry on (no phone), and before we deplaned I had the distinct impression to call Brian's phone. This made me slightly nervous because I don't actually like making phone calls... even something as simple as setting up a doctor appointment or ordering pizza will elevate my heart rate. But, it felt like a push and I had said a prayer, sooooo......

The ring was answered.
"Hello. Hello. This is a lost phone," the woman on the other end answered.
"Hi, yes... it's our lost phone I'm afraid," I said. Turns out that Brian had left it on his seat in the airport and it had been handed in to one of the gate agents who was now using it to talk to me. Through a bit of confusion and several comments such as, "...well, this isn't the way we normally do things..." they agreed to send it with a flight attendant on the next plane, leaving in 20 minutes. We were instructed to stay within the secure area and to meet Jason the flight attendant at Gate 3 at 10:51am. We thanked her profusely, sat in the hallway and decided to believe that everything was going to go according to plans.

It did. And two hours later we were sliding into our rented Jeep with both of our phones in our pockets.

We had a few hours to kill before we could check into our hotel. Which wouldn't have been a problem except that Brian (unsurprisingly) had not slept on the red-eye flight at all and was in desperate need of a nap. Which wouldn't have been a problem except that it was cold and drizzly and windy... so napping on a pool chair didn't seem very ideal. We went to lunch at a beautiful beach side cafe and then tried huddling in our sweatshirts and lounging on the chairs by the poolside, but it was pretty uncomfortable and, even though I'd propped a t-shirt up as a little tent, my book was still getting wet.

Eventually our room was ready, even a little earlier than check-in, and we jumped at the chance to go get a couple of hours of decent sleep and a good shower.

When we were feeling a bit more refreshed, we took a long walk up and down the beach behind our resort. It was, of course, so very beautiful.

I do appreciate a nice sandy beach, but my heart belongs to the rocky ones. I think that's why I love Kauai so much.

It was still drizzling off and on and quite windy and I wouldn't call it 'warm', but we had the beach all to ourselves.

There's almost nothing I love more than sunset hours on the beach. Genuinely.

And we made it a point to be outside during the sunset every day that week, making the most of it.

The next day was Sunday, so we got all dressed up and drove to a cute little church house.

It was packed so full and I wondered how many visitors that ward sees in a given week. The atmosphere was relaxed and fun and it reminded me a little bit of our ward/branch in Miami. I absolutely love watching other people live the gospel of Jesus Christ in different ways than I do. It helps me remember that the Lord's love covers so many different kinds of people... he truly must celebrate our uniqueness.

After church we put on our swimming suits and drove to Ke'e beach, which is the beginning of the Napali coastline, and started hiking along the Kalalau trail. We also started experimenting with our new GoPro. (It's actually not new. It's a year old, but I've never used it because I couldn't figure it out without sitting down to really figure it out and I never felt like it was a priority. I'm so glad we figured it out for this trip!)

We talked and talked and talked and talked, over boulders and muddy streams, up to the point and down to the beach, pausing occasionally for a photo and a drink of water and little video to take back to the kids.

At the end of the short 2-mile hike we arrived at the beautiful Hanakapi'ai Beach with green covered mossy rocks and a cold(ish) river that dumped into the warm(ish) ocean. We played all along the riverside and waded through the thigh-deep waters and then sat on a towel we had brought and pulled out our lunches next to a small cave that was (obviously) begging for Brian to climb into.

We learned that we could keep going another two miles up the mountain and that if we did we'd end up at a waterfall... which is my love language... and wished we had reserved enough daylight to get there and back again. That's first on my list for Next Time. As it was, we arrived back at Ke'e Beach with the perfect amount of sunset light still left in the sky and then happened to stumble across a rope swing that entertained us for a while.

I know you were all wishing to see me up there on that swing, but sadly, no photographic evidence exists. We do have a video of it, though... and you can take my word for it that I look pretty awesome.

We sat on the beach and walked along the sand and waded in the surf and played on the rope swing until the sun went down and the temperature got cold enough for us to find our way back to the Jeep. A beautiful Sunday.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Sweet Sixteen

McKenzie radiates light. You can see it, can't you? Her moral compass is straight and strong and she is not afraid to be herself in any situation. That's a comforting thing to be able to say when you're the mom and she's your daughter. 

I hear the stories and feel the worries from some of my fellow raising a teenager moms, but when I stop to evaluate my own worries, I find that I have very few regarding McKenzie. Mostly I just feel excitement to see where she goes in life.

And now that she's sixteen, she's on her way to more and more freedom!

For her birthday, Eliza and I snuck her out of school and took her to her favorite lunch-place: Panda Express.

She drove to and from, trying to rack up more minutes towards the hours she still has left to get her permit - doesn't she look like a natural behind that wheel?!

But the most notable thing of the day, in my opinion AND hers (I'm guessing), is a pretty bouquet of flowers. Flowers from a boy. A boy that she likes.  That she likes, likes. Who likes her back. And his name is Jake.

It's a good thing I really like Jake, too.

We didn't get to see her much during the day... she went from early morning seminary to school to play practice, came home for half an hour for some quick hugs (and to rub in the fact that she's taller than I am)...

...and then disappeared into Vegas for volleyball practice.

She spends a lot of time in her extracurricular activities and we miss her while she's gone. She brings a sense of order and dependability into our home, along with a flash of fun. She laughs at herself with no problem and will often have tears streaking down her laughing face as she confesses to something embarrassing.

A few days after her birthday, she invited a whole big group of friends out to Cane's and bowling.

Brian and I set up a giant table for them at Canes and then sat by ourselves at a nearby one. Similarly, we got them all set up in four lanes of bowling before sliding into the background to watch. I know she would have been fine if we had joined in with the group, but there was something whispering inside me to stand back and let them be. It's the first time I've ever felt that way, and as we watched and laughed from the round table in the back, they were oblivious to our presence at all. And it was beautiful to be able to see these friends all interact with each other 'unsupervised'. They're a good group of kids.

Happy sixteenth birthday, my wonderful Kenz! You are so loved!