Olomana

Day 30

Destination: Olomana is a three peaked monolithic land mass separated from the Koolau range rising up above Kailua. Most people hike to the first peak, take in the 360° view and head back down the mountain. A crazy few descend into the saddle and climb to the second peak called Paku’i. And then there are the stupids who descend 300 feet down the precipitous backside of Paku’i into the next saddle so they can ascend the third incredibly narrow peak, Ahiki.

Today I’m being stupid.

Focus: Hiking, Nature, Bouldering, Facing fear head on and something called YDS class 3 scrambling that involves lots of ropes

Songs in my head for the climb: U2, Beautiful Day and Breathe

Quote of the Day: There’s nothing you have that I need, I can breathe ~ Bono

Here’s a first – I’m texting my Honolulu friends to let them know what I’m up to today because a few months back a local man lost his footing up here and fell to his death. Lots of people have fallen actually. This peak is nicknamed Hawaii’s Matterhorn actually. And the reality may be that it’s 1,600 feet high instead of 14,000 but still, I’m doing this alone and I have no clue what I’m actually in for. ‘Cuz the thing is, I’m not a rock climber. But whatever, right?

My plan for the day is a simple one – Stay low and go slow.

The hike starts out normal enough. There’s red dirt and those spindly needle pine trees I’ve grown accustomed to for the first twenty minutes or so. I can see the first peak towering in the distance. It’s all up hill. Not far into the ascent the first set of boulders appear and things quickly change. This is no longer hiking. This is bouldering. At first I avoid using the ropes and stick to thick tree branches. The climbing isn’t difficult and the roots and rocks make for enough of a natural staircase. I’m surrounded by foliage and feeling great.

As I get closer to the top of the first peak the trail gets narrow. It’s a steep drop on each side and now I’m happening upon higher, steeper rock faces.

This is starting to feel less like bouldering and more like rock climbing. Some of these faces are twelve feet high and others are more like thirty and, like an idiot, I keep on climbing.

I’m working really hard to gain access to the recesses of my brain. There’s information back there, gathered from that one time I went to a rock gym with my ex and our friend Matty who knew what he was doing. All I can remember is to use my legs more than my upper body and to keep my weight forward, close to the rocks. It’s enough to get me up each face and I reach the first peak of Olomana. From here I can see the second and third.

Descending into the saddle and climbing the second peak, Paku’i, is very similar to the first experience, most of it spent in a deep squat or lunge, low and close to the rocks. I keep wondering why I’m succeeding without too much difficulty. This trail is incredibly hard and I’m not in great shape. Pulling and lowering my entire weight on the boulders (without gloves of course because why would I have thought of that?) is no easy task but I keep doing it over and over. No matter the obstacle in front of me I just keep moving forward.

I make it to the top of Paku’i which means the next thing is the big descent. 300 feet straight down, smooth rocks and loose gravel, nothing to do but rely on the ropes.

I know I’m not supposed to put my full weight on them but there are quite a few spots where I have no other choice. About halfway down I start to wonder how the hell I’m going to get back up. But that’s a question for later, isn’t it?

I stick to my plan – stay low and go slow – and it works. At the bottom I look back up and shake my head. For now that’s behind me and it’s time to deal with what’s in front of me. There’s a lot of What the fuck am I doing? going on in my head.

For a short while I’m amongst trees and enjoying a flat spot.

It doesn’t last long and soon the real climb begins. It is relentless.  Within minutes I’m back above the trees and completely relying on my own sense of balance. Just as I pass the keyhole,

I reach a point that trips me up. It seems impassable. I can’t find a place to put my feet or my hands and my focus is waning. The drop, the vertigo, the possible death if I slip and fall. Here then comes the fear. Washing over me, the thoughts in my head that ring louder than the songs, louder than the chirping birds, disguised as perfectly acceptable reasons for giving up. You’ve gone far enough, you don’t have to finish. No one will think less of you if you quit now.

I think back to day 15 of my juice fast, day 20, day 30, day 38. All the times I wanted desperately to give up and start eating again, Travis telling me it might be a long time before I fully understood what that experience taught me. And I realize it’s time to take a break and just breathe. So I sit down and take out my fruit and my Gatorade. I down my strawberries, my grapes and my kiwi all the while letting the fear have its moment. I invite it in, let it swish around, knowing full well I’m gonna spit it back out.

Fear doesn’t scare me so much anymore. I know all I have to do in the scary moments is move forward at a slower pace. And these are the lessons of life, aren’t they? Thoughts are not reality, they are thoughts. When you’re climbing, don’t look up. When you’re descending, don’t look down. Just focus on where you are. Stay in the moment. Let your worries go. Be alive.

I finish my Gatorade. I stand up. I put all my faith in a rope placed here long ago and swing myself dangerously out over the edge and up to the next level. I climb rock face after rock face after rock face,

and then there I am, standing on the peak. No one would think less of me except me and I’m the one who has to really believe in me.

There are empty water bottles tied to a tree with paper and pens inside. People have signed their names and dated their summits. I rip out a page from the bird journal Amber gave me before I left Portland and add mine to the mix.

Coming down is no easier than going up, but my accomplishment allows for a few chuckles and sincere wonderment as to how in the world I got up here in the first place, especially once I have a chance to see the 300 ft descent from the perspective gained on top of Ahiki.

Later I’ll google information to add to this post and learn that what I did is called Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) Class 3 scrambling.

According to Wikipedia, during a Class 3 scramble “falls are not always fatal.” And it’s true. I slipped plenty of times (do not tell my mother!) and yet my day resulted in absolutely no death, just challenge and adrenalin and heart pounding joy. A few of my favorite things!

What you don’t have you don’t need it now

What you don’t know you can feel it somehow

It was a beautiful day

(In fact it’s been a beautiful month.)

Hanaiakamalama (Queen Emma’s Summer Palace) & The Royal Mausoleum

Day 29

Destination: Queen Emma was the spouse of Kamehameha IV and had a habit of retreating from her formal downtown home to this laid back hillside retreat. The exterior has a southern plantation feel and the interior is filled with royal memorabilia and period furniture. After her death it was sold to the Hawaiian government and has since been maintained by the Daughters of Hawaii. The Royal Mausoleum was completed in 1865 as a final resting place for the kings and high chiefs of Hawaii.

Focus: History

Soundtrack for the drive: Sheryl Crow, Wildflower

Quote of the Day: You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut ~ Dr. Seuss

I’m back in the Nu’uanu Valley this morning to visit Queen Emma’s Summer Palace, which was called Hanaiakamalama.

It’s more of a country house than a palace and is quite modest. There’s no indoor photography allowed. I’m instantly reminded of my great aunt’s house in Connecticut when I walk inside. The smell, the dark stain of the wood, the creek in the floor, the perfectly made beds that no one has slept on in decades, they all bring me back to a place I wiled away many hours as a child.

Just like my aunt’s house it’s an interesting mix of homey and museum-like. Also like my aunt’s property, the house is surrounded by acres of meticulously kept lawns and gardens.

Oh the grounds! Lush, right? You guessed it. How many times can I use that word in one blog?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out this tree!

I am miraculously still finding new kinds of flowers to photograph. The guidebook says Queen Emma spent most of her later years here tending to her garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not far down the road from the palace is the Royal Mausoleum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tombs here hold the remains of many of the important people I’ve learned about this month including Kamehameha II through V, Kalakaua, Queens Emma and Lili’uokalani, and Charles Reed Bishop.

 

I’m really looking forward to returning to the Bishop Museum to learn more about the history of this land. I have the opportunity to take Hawaiian Culture classes at school as well.

What an incredible journey this has been so far! But it’s not over yet… I hope to go out with a bang tomorrow afternoon, so stay tuned for one more day!

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

Day 28

Destination: Five alive! Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is the last of the Honolulu Gardens to be visited and the biggest. It sits on 400 acres on the windward side next to the Kaneohe Forest Reserve. In fact it’s right across the Kam Highway from my house so I like to consider it my backyard.

Focus: Botanical Garden, Nature, Camping

Soundtrack for the drive: Snatam Kauer, Ra Ma Da Sa on repeat

Quote of the Day: When one tugs at a single thing in nature, one finds it attached to the rest of the world ~ John Muir

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden is a combination garden walk, fishing pond and campground with facilities. There aren’t a lot of flowers here but the trees are fantastic and the setting quite lovely with the mountains rising up on the back side.

Seriously, who wouldn’t want to camp here?

And how is this not the best spot for a picnic table ever?

There is a paved drive that is lovely when driven down very slowly and somehow even lovelier with Snatam Kauer lulling me into peaceful bliss. It feels like I’m on a nature ride in a far away land which I guess, come to think of it, is exactly what this is. The only thing that would make it better is if I was in a slow moving open air tram car like the one I could have paid a gazillion dollars to ride at the Dole Plantation instead of in the Outback. But then I couldn’t have these two goobers with me.

Today I’m enjoying telling myself this is the road I’ll jog on next year when I give running a real go.

 

Lesson remembered: Spend more time in the backyard.

Sunrise over Makapu’u and Sweet Home Waimanalo

Day 27

Destination: Since I watched the sun set at the far western tip of the island it seems only fitting to watch it rise on the far eastern tip. This is why I’m up before six, packing the dogs into the Subaru and making my way south to Makapu’u Point. After the hike I plan to eat breakfast at Sweet Home Waimanalo.

Focus: Nature, Food – Local, Organic

Soundtrack for the drive: Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More

Quote of the Day: Love, it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you. It will set you free, make you more like the man you were made to be ~ Marcus Mumford

We climb the hill against the wind in the pre-dawn light. Rounding the corner at the top, this is what greets us.

All I can say is sunset schmunset. Sun rise is where it’s at.

The landscape is dry, a mini high desert at the edge of the ocean, with straw-like grasses and cacti dotting the hill.

I love the color of the light in the morning.

The gold and the grey remind me of Cape Cod and Long Island.

At the top you can look down and see the U.S. Coast Guard lighthouse which is still in use and off limits to the public. The winds are intense. My hair is blowing every which way and I’m afraid if I turn my head too far to the side my glasses will go flying off my face.

Humpback whales frequent this area all winter. They come to Hawaii to mate then travel back up to the northern Pacific to give birth. I don’t see any today but I’ll be back.

The second part of the morning is spent devouring the most delicious breakfast I’ve ever had at Sweet Home Waimanalo, also known as my new favorite restaurant. This place is amazing and this breakfast is to die for. Coconut french toast, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit and a perfect blend of pineapple, mango and papaya.

Should I eat every last bite of this masterful indulgence? Of course not. But will I? Hell’s yeah! And I will be back for more very soon.

This restaurant is striving to be all local and waste free. All of their plates, cups and plasticware are compostable. They’ve built an organic garden on their roof and have potted herbs all around the front seating area.

It’s windy here too but I’m enjoying the sun and the view from the picnic table in front of the cafe.

If you live here definitely check this place out (and be sure to invite me). The owners live on a farm in the back of the valley and also hold events and teach classes on permaculture. The cafe has a little shop inside too.

Lesson learned: Next time bring a hair tie. Yeesh.

Lili’uokalani Botanic Garden and the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

Day 26

Destination: I thought Foster Garden was the only urban garden but it turns out Lili’uokalani is located right downtown as well. The property once belonged to Queen Lili`uokalani, the last reigning monarch of Hawaii. Not far from the garden is Punchbowl Crater and the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Punchbowl used to be used as a site for human sacrifices. Construction began on the cemetery in February 1948 and it was opened to the public in July 1949.

Focus: Urban garden, Memorial, History

Soundtrack for the drive: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Greatest Hits

Quote of the Day: The solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom ~ Abraham Lincoln, Letter to Mrs. Bixby

Botanically speaking this was the least impressive of the bunch. There were a couple cool plants like this one that looks to me like a dragonfly,

and this one with some sort of seed pods dangling from it.

 

The garden has regal Albizias,

and some adorable birds. I think the yellow ones are called Laysan finches.

This one is a Java sparrow. They can be seen all over the place here.

What sets Lili’uokalani apart from the others is the Nu’uanu Stream and its mini waterfalls.

It was pretty rad to see this in the middle of the city.

After a stroll along the stream I drove up the hill into Punchbowl Crater where the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is located.

Solemn and peaceful as one might imagine, there are 34,000 graves here, each with a flat granite marker.

 

The names of soldiers whose bodies were never recovered are etched into the walls of the memorial alongside maps and descriptions of the battles fought throughout the Pacific. The statue of Lady Columbia is meant to represent grieving mothers.

I’m glad I thought to come here and I’m thankful I’ve become much less anti-military than I was in my youth. I used to be flippant in my opinions about armies and wars. It’s taken me a lot of years to understand how disrespectful I was being to the people who lost their lives for my benefit. I refrain from talking about politics as much as possible because everything about them makes me uncomfortable. I guess I just want to say Thank You to everyone who has bravely stepped forward to fight for my rights over the entire history of time. I don’t always think it’s the best way, but I appreciate all of you who follow your hearts and your call to duty and work towards what you truly believe is right and good.

Makiki Valley

Day 25

Destination: The Tantalus Mountains in the Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve are home to an extensive web of hiking trails and one of the coolest roads I’ve ever driven – Round Top Drive. Today I’m hiking the Moleka Trail to Makiki Ridge and down into ‘Ualaka’a Park, but first an unexpected and totally awesome stop for lunch at The Loving Hut on South King Street.

Focus: Hiking, Nature, Food – Vegan

Soundtrack for the drive: Yesterday sucked, as in worst Thanksgiving ever. Up until yesterday I had never actually had a bad one. At no point in the day was I capable of turning my mood around or finding a happy place to retreat to. So I’m starting today off right with big laughs from the comedy stylings of Flight of the Conchords.

Quote of the Day: There ain’t no party like my nana’s tea party, hey, ho ~ Bret McKenzie

You may be starting to wonder, My god how many times is this girl going to take a walk in the woods with her dogs and tell us about it? The answer, my friend, is I could do this every day for the rest of my life and it would NEVER GET OLD. Lucky for you there’s only six more days in the month of November and I’ve got some non-woodsy adventures planned, but trust if you stay subscribed to my blog you will see more of this in the future.

As I already mentioned, yesterday blew a big fat dog turd which means today calls for two very important things: laughter and time spent amongst the trees to flush out the bad and inhale the good.

A few things are interfering with my mood these days. First, my job is not cracking up to be all I hoped it would be, especially the part about the jerky boss. I have trouble with authority. This is not news to anyone. The difference this time is that more than thinking my boss is an idiot and I could do his job ten times better than he does, I also think he’s kind of a jackass. Second, being in the tropics for the holiday season is weird. I miss my friends and family, but it’s the weather and the general lack of enthusiasm from the people around me that’s causing the synapses of my brain to misfire. It’s just tropical vacationville here with very few signs of holiday spirit and it does not compute.

But today is a new day and it’s starting off with a bang. I got a late start and felt hungry when I arrived in Makiki (Obama’s neighborhood). I took Punahou down to King hoping to find a café or convenience store to grab a snack and stumbled upon The Loving Hut. Happiness! It’s an absolutely delicious all vegan restaurant that makes a killer lunch combo with potato curry, eggplant tofu and brown rice. I got one to go with some summer rolls and a Hansen’s root beer and made my way back to Makiki and up Round Top Drive.

Round Top Drive is incredible. Miles of non-stop switchbacks, lush tropical greenery and views to die for.

I stopped at a view point to eat lunch and looked out onto Pearl Harbor.

And before I knew it I was deep in the woods.

In here all my frustrations evaporate and I can breathe.

This is my bliss, my peace, my serenity.

This is time spent in a fashion that feels right and good.

And this image of my dogs’ backsides as they sprint off to discover the way through the bamboo and the mud and the sun is the epitome of joy to me.

I am happy here and I will continue to come back for as long as I am able.

Lesson learned: How dumb am I? I just realized today that the main memory card I use for my digital camera only holds 48 pictures while the back up one I hardly ever pull out holds 650! I’ve been deleting half my pictures because I keep running out of space and forgetting about my back up. It’s time to stop shooting automatic and actually learn how to use my camera.

Waikiki

Day 24

Destination: Kalakaua Avenue, Waikiki

Focus: Walking tour, Tourist area, Beach

Soundtrack for the walk: Whatever suits your fancy

Quote of the Day: We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures ~ Thornton Wilder

It’s business as  usual in Waikiki today. You’d never know it was Thanksgiving from the looks of things.

Working a ten hour shift at a hotel full of international tourists who do not celebrate Thanksgiving is not what I’m thankful for today. This is the first time I’ve ever worked on this holiday and it’s bumming me out. Honestly just being in Hawaii feels wrong today.

In the spirit of not wallowing in self pity I shall take you on a walking tour of Kalakaua Avenue and Waikiki to highlight some of the loveliness I get to experience on a daily basis. Starting at my hotel which is at the far end close to the zoo and walking west, first up is what’s right across the street.

On most days I get frozen yogurt from YogurtLand (they say it’s fat free!) and sit on a bench facing the ocean for my lunch hour. It’s relaxing to watch the waves come in and see everyone playing around. Every time I sit out here with the sun shining down on my face I remember to be thankful that I’m not on vacation like everyone else. I get to stay.

I like the architecture on this street. It’s very modern and clean. The streets are incredibly clean here too. I actually sat down on a sidewalk to eat once.

Ukulele is very popular.

As is shave ice.

The boulevard is wide, freshly paved and lined with palm trees on both sides.

It’s a shopper’s paradise with every major outlet you can think of.

Down a ways is the International Market Place full of tchotchkes and tacky trinkets. There is a store dedicated entirely to magnets and another for flip flops.

The saving grace of this place is that it exists under this completely awesome tree:

And it is home to this completely awesome fruit smoothie counter:

A mango pineapple helps wash away my desire to strangle my boss today. He is officially not the nice guy he made himself out to be, but instead a big dumb jerk. But I digress…

Outside the market there’s a steel drum player and this guy:

And at the far end is the famous pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel with its gorgeous tropical landscaping.

This concludes our walking tour. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Aloha and Happy Thanksgiving!

Dang that’s a lot of surfboards!