Ultralight Flying on Kauai

Went Thursday. It was cool. Sometimes I get the impression that the whole point of Kauai is to see how many different ways you can look at the Na Pali coast. Me this trip: 3. Ultralight flying on Thursday, drive/viewpoint/hike today, boat on Monday. Do I win? No. I could’ve done helicopter, kayak, and hike-in. Maybe next time.

But the ultralight thing was, as stated, cool. Pics, then pros and cons.

Na Pali Cliffs

Hard bank left and, yes, these are cliffs at Na Pali (Kalalau Valley).

 Powered Hang Glider on Kauai

This is me flapping my arms to maintain airspeed. BTW, the instructor (because this was a lesson rather than a tour) is the one who took the photos. His name was “Jim”, which I assume was a cover name.

 Ultralight Near Barking Sands

 Kickin’ up spray and scaring the turtles.

Me Flying

My turn at the tiller.

So, pros:

  • Pretty dang exhilerating.
  • Best way to view Na Pali I’ve experienced *so far*.
  • Somewhat bird-like.
  • Perfect weather for it — it was raining everywhere on the island except where our little wing+engine was at.
  • That tight left turn around the Kalalau Valley — I should have requested we do that part again.
  • I sort of learned how to fly one of these to a very, very small extent.

Cons:

  • Cost $215 for a one-hour ride.
  • Jim was a swell guy and all, but it’s kind of a snug fit.
  • I was pretty much terrified for the first 20 minutes and I don’t like having to face up to being as big a wuss as I am for anything more than 7-8 minutes at any given stretch.

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Day 2: Wailua River Kayaking to Secret Falls

One of the cooler vacation activities I’ve done. Rented a one-man kayak to take onto the Wailua river (Wailua Kayak Adventures is one of the two or three companies “allowed” to rent kayaks for the Wailua — everyone else has to give guided tours). Paddled for a little bit, then came to the trail to get to “Secret Falls”. There are plenty of people there, of course. It’s all in the marketing.

Seriously great, though. I don’t know that there’s a kayak+hike experience ending in a waterfall with a swimming hole that I *wouldn’t* classify as great. But probably there is. But I like kayak+hike experiences that end in waterfalls and swimming holes regardless.

 Wailua River Kayaks Parked at Secret Falls Trailhead

The paddle in to the landing was 2.5 miles long and, due to “strong” current, the last 100 yards were the hardest. This seems pertinent. Upstream you have the wind to your back. Downstream it’s in your face. Evens things out.

 Secret Falls, North Fork of the Wailua River

The focus is fine. There’s just that much spray here. The waterfall fell harder than did the water at Hanakapiai Falls (yes, > 9.8m/s/s, exactly). Not as deep, but the water was warmer for swimming.

 Secret Falls

It *almost* looks secret from this perspective. IMHO.

I also went to Kilauea Lighthouse yesterday. Got some photos. Maybe I’ll post them some time. More likely, I’ll never post about this vacation again. But on the plus side, at least I didn’t use the word “vay-cay”. Man. I need out of Marketing myself.

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Day 1: Nu’alolo Trail, Nu‘alolo Cliffs, A-something Trail

I’m not really kidding anyone, myself included. Very good odds that Day 2 never gets posted, even better that Day 3 never does, and so forth. Regardless:

Nu’alolo Valley and Cliffs of Na Pali

I’m starting with the payoff. Or one of the payoffs. Of the trail. That I went on. Where I nearly died of dehydration. Again. But, for you, payoff with no work. Inasmuch as this photo constitutes “payoff”. Now I wait with baited breath to find out whether DDF feels this is a photo that anyone could have taken. I can never tell myself. I think these are mostly Na Pali cliffs, though, fwiw. Taken from the trail heading out to the Nu’alolo Lookout. I like the colors. Think it sort of looks like something the happy trees guy would’ve painted. Wish he were still around. And that I remembered his name. Rather than just his hair.

Trail to the Nu’alolo Lookout

 This photo looks better on my laptop screen at full-size. It’s the trail that goes out to the lookout. At this stage in the ordeal, I was not yet aware that it was to be an ordeal. That came later. I may or may not talk about it further down in the post. Mal sehen, nizh wahr?

Nu’alolo Trees Pattern

 Sometimes I think I’m clever for taking “pattern” pictures. Anyone could’ve taken this photo. Looks way better at larger resolution. Sorry.

Signs at the trailhead and later on the trail indicate that the trail is watched out and potentially lethal. The washed-out lethal parts weren’t that washed out or lethal, although there were probably three steps that I took that seemed like they could’ve resulted in immediate and unrevocable death. But it hardly seemed dangerous. FWIW.

Seriously, the payoff here was fantastic. Unfortunately the lighting was way beyond anything I knew how to deal with. Plus all the shots I got look so darn pedestrian. And I’d never sweated so much in my life:

Sweat on the Trail

 Ah, sweet onset of dehydration!

On the plus side, once I got to the other trailhead (too lazy to go look at the name of the trail I took back to Koke’e Road — something with an A at the beginning), I figured I was good as dead if I didn’t get a ride for the 1.5 miles back to my car at the lodge. So: first time ever hitchhiked (in the United States). And successfully. Nice adverb.

When I’m on vacation, I’m constantly worried that I’m doing it wrong. And it doesn’t help when everyone assumes there are two in my party. Bah.

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One-Week Kauai Itinerary (Because I’m Going There Tomorrow)

10/27 (Monday)

  • 1630 Depart LAX
  • 1915 Arrive LIH
  • Go to Wal-Mart, Drive to Koloa, Go to grocery store, Go to condo (Prince Kuhio #320, stop by if you’re in the area).

10/28 (Tuesday)

  • Nu’alolo/Awa’awapuhi Hike (Waimea Canyon)
  • West Shore?
  • Menehune Ditch
  • Walk around the general area of the condo.

10/29 (Wednesday)

  • Wailua River Kayaking
  • Drive to Anahola
  • Kialuea — Pools of Mokolea Trail
  • Kalihiwai Bay, Secret Beach & Lava Pools
  • Unnamed Falls
  • 4WD road past Spalding Monument
  • Snorkeling at Kuhio

10/30 (Thursday)

  • 0830 Ultralite flying lesson.
  • Kipu Falls
  • Kau’ai Museum
  • Ahukini Pier
  • Ninini Point
  • Menehune Fishpond

10/31 (Friday)

  • Water Pipe Hike
  • Evening Snorkel at Kuhio

11/1 (Saturday)

  • Kayaking on the Hanalei River
  • Hanalei Town
  • Limahuli Garden
  • Ha’ena State Park, Dry Cave, Tunnels Beach
  • Hideaways Beach/Princeville

11/2 (Sunday)

  • Wailua Headwaters Hike (or Sleeping Giant maybe)
  • Wailua Heiaus
  • Snorkeling at Kuhio

11/3 (Monday)

  • 0600 Ni’ihau/Na Pali Boat and Snorkeling Tour
  • McBryde Garden Tour
  • Koloa Heritage Trail
  • Mahalepu Beach
  • Dinner at Duke’s Canoe Club
  • Depart LIH 2205

11/4 (Tuesday)

  • Arrive LAX 0520

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One Final Kauai Vacation Bring-Down and Advance Planning for Future Bring-Downs

Just FYI, there were a couple days of my Kauai vacation that looked (and felt) like this:

kauai_walmart.jpg

Even better: it’s at Wal-Mart. Saw this pic again looking through my photos today. Made me feel slightly better about being, you know, not there. Similarly, any time I think about my Utah house, I try to remind myself of the sound of the 2 AM air conditioners on top of the [fetch]ing Cabela’s in my backyard.

And when I leave my current place and later start feeling those twinges of regret for having done so, I’ll want to remember:

  • The tiles.
  • Those stupid, belligerent giant birds sitting on my deck railing.
  • Cleaning up after those stupid, belligerent birds.
  • My kayak disappearing.
  • The sprinklers coming on at 1:30 AM.
  • No overhead lighting.
  • The sound of fire engines carrying across the lake.
  • The non-stop, all-day jazz festival, the sound of which also carrying across the lake.
  • The gate guards’ unwillingness to let my guests in ever.
  • Parking lot speed bumps.

Okay, I’m ready.

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Notes to Self: A Vacation Post-Mortem

Me at Beach w/ Snorkel

  • Given a choice, never take the red-eye again. Changing planes in HNL probably isn’t that bad a thing.
  • Look at the directions for how to get to the hotel/condo you’re staying in before getting into the rental car.
  • And check to see whether the rental car has a dome light before driving off.
  • Because if it doesn’t, it might be worthwhile to get your flashlight or headlamp out of your suitcase before heading into the darkness. Because there might not be street lights.
  • Better yet: don’t arrive in a strange place at night.
  • No matter how many times you assure yourself there is, there truly is not any place worth eating in the American terminal at LAX.
  • On the first day in a new place, you should walk around the place you’re staying so you know where you are. A mile in at least two directions is probably good.
  • If there’s a locked gate on the sliding glass door in the master bedroom of the condo, it’s a good idea to leave it alone.
  • Take at least two iPods and make sure that at least one of them is not on the night stand.
  • Hawaii is good — it forces you to relax. This process takes 5-6 days, apparently. Plan accordingly.
  • You’re not going to read much while you’re on vacation.
  • Or write.
  • Don’t check email. No matter how much it needs checking. Yeah, you could get totally screwed up at work by not checking, but: it’s only work.
  • If you ever need to go job-hunting again, edit this post first.
  • (OTOH, yes, take the laptop.)
  • Don’t expect you’re going to get a lot of fun activities done on the day you fly out. Wake up, get dressed, and head to the airport for your non-red-eye flight.
  • If you’re staying in a place that has a washer and dryer, you really don’t need more than three shirts and a couple of pairs of pants/shorts.
  • On the other hand, if you’re going to be hiking in rivers and wet country, two sets of hiking boots was a good idea.
  • Get a medium-sized suitcase.
  • You’re going to eat out more than you think.
  • 19 lbs. is a lot of turkey.
  • Vacation condo renting is probably the way to go. So is staying in one place the entire vacation long.
  • Inasmuch as you’re able to deceive yourself into thinking that vacation is “real life” and never-ending, let it happen probably.
  • Heck, any time you’re able to pull off an act of self-deceit, let it happen. You could use the experience (and practice).
  • Go ahead and be someone else if you want to. No one cares and you’re on vacation anyway.
  • Leaving a couple things undone in a place is probably a good idea. Gives you a reason to think about going back.
  • There’s no such thing as a free smoothie. Especially when you’ve already agreed to pay $28 for the buffet.
  • The week after vacation, when you’re back at work and readily able to compare the two experiences (vacation vs. work), is going to suck. No matter what.
  • Rent the Jeep.
  • Good luck.

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Renting the Jeep Wrangler on Kauai

Kauai Jeep

Pros:

  • Strikes impressive pose against red-clay graveyard backdrops.
  • Complete inability to effectively lock vehicle (you can’t lock the zippers and velcro that keep the top on) enforces devil-may-care attitude regarding stuff.
  • Has an AUX jack for your iPod.
  • “When you’re driving behind a Kia and the Kia makes it through the flooded road all right, then you’re probably okay with the Jeep.”
  • Constant wind in your face keeps reminding you you’re alive.
  • Getting into the back seat is best performed Dukes of Hazzard-style.
  • Going off-road seems like a good idea, no matter the circumstances.
  • Short wheel base means you can fit just about anywhere.

Cons:

  • The line between “efficiently simple” and “outright cheap” gets a little blurry around this vehicle.
  • It’s kind of weird that you can never really lock the car.
  • It’s not that easy to put the top back up. And when you get stuck in a sudden downpour while heading up a slick 4×4 trail along a ridge in Waimea Canyon, it becomes less easy.
  • You’re not the only one who thought it’d be fun to rent a Jeep while on Kauai.

Bottom line, though, is that I kind of want to get me one of these for home. I live in one of, like, three geographies in the US where it makes sense to own one — aren’t I kind of screwing up by not having one??

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Update from Suffer-Zone Kauai

Endured another couple days here on Kauai.

Went up to the North Shore today and hiked up to Hanakapi’ai Falls. It’s sort of like you’re going on the big Na Pali hike, except that after two miles you chicken out and turn left (instead of doing the 11-in, 11-out of the full two-dayer). One of the best hikes I’ve ever been on, though and an 8-mile round-trip.

Na Pali Coast

Above is a view of the Na Pali shoreline. It’s neat. The trail is sort of like the Rubicon Trail at Lake Tahoe, except with the Pacific Ocean instead of Lake Tahoe and with a whole lot of tropical vegetation instead of a bunch of scrubby, dried-out pines. (I liked Tahoe.)

ocean-thru-plants

The ground here is mostly red clay and pretty slick. The part that isn’t clay is generally rock and pretty slick. When hiking, you get to make a lot of small decisions and contingency plans, e.g., “if it turns out that rock’s slicker’n a four-term senator, which direction should I lean in order to ensure that I don’t fall 300 feet to my death?” Stuff like that.

I don’t have any interesting pictures of the trail being slick.

Here are the falls (*is* the falls?):

hanakapiai falls

Hard thing to get a good photo of. Especially when you forget to bring your waterproof case. There’s a cold, large pool of water at the base of the falls, though, that we swam across to get underneath the falling water. Floating on your back and looking up at the curve of the canyon wall with the icy waterfall dropping onto your face is a recommendable sensation. Seriously.

If you’re in the area, this one’s highly recommended. Only issue with the hike was the number of other tourists who were also on it. There were 8-10 other people up at the base of the falls the entire time we were there and the trail was crowded with folks all the way up and down it. What I want is an 8-mile hike to a 400-foot waterfall made exclusively for me. With good traction on the entire trail and warm water at the base of it.

Maybe next year, but with my vacation luck, probably not then either.

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PS, here were some dolphins we saw (lower-left is one jumping, upper right is a nearly-invisible-at-this-photo-size pod of them). Do they get offended if you call them “dolphins” rather than “porpoises”?

Porpoises

I Suck at Vacation

But am trying to make due. Been on Kauai since Wednesday. It’s different from Orange County. Hard to find POG for some reason. Haven’t found a plate lunch place yet. Still haven’t figured out how to relax. I should be *doing* something.

Bought two Hawaiian shirts and a shell necklace yesterday, which I’m hoping will be the turning point.

powerline.jpg

Powerline trail pictured above. There are a lot of neat views here, none of which photograph well (when photographed by me).
bird.jpg

Here’s a bird I saw. Obviously. He was startled by the tension on my face as I attempted to derive meaning and productivity out of witnessing him.

d-l-b.jpg

Dayna, Layton, me. Dayna and Layton flew in on Thursday. They’ve been here before. We were at the beach yesterday in the shade of a palm tree. I asked them when we were going to, you know, *do* something. They insisted we *were* doing something.

I’m not very good at this.

Regardless, here’s a turtle — keep your chin up, buddy!

turtle.jpg

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