The East Side of the Big Island – Part 2

Today’s adventure included exploring The Kapoho Kalapana Road, also known as the Red Road, which travels 15 miles along the coastline of the lower Puna district on the Big Island. Located in a remote and sparsely populated area (southeast of Pahoa village), this road takes you through some of the most spectacular scenery reminiscent of the old Hawaii of yesteryear. It used to be paved with red cinder gravels, now black asphalt, but local residents still affectionately call it the Red Road. Arguably, this is one of the most scenic roads in the state of Hawaii. Yet it seems that not many visitors have discovered it and we were lucky to be following the advice of the Aloha Hola Guesthouse owner, Michelle. She laid out a great itinerary for us which included a visit to the Kapoho Tide Pools, some local dining options and grand finale, which would be the 8 mile round trip bike ride out to the end of the Chain of Craters Road to see the lava flowing into the ocean.

We started our day at the Lava Tree State Monument which is a public park located southeast of Pāhoa. The park has a 0.7 mile walking trail which showcases the lava molds of the tree trunks that were formed when a lava flow swept through a forested area in 1790. The park is situated in a lush rainforest and the plant life was beautiful. Wild orchids climbed the albizia trees which were surrounded by red and yellow hibiscus.

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From there we headed down Pohoiki Road which wound through lush rainforest and mango orchards. The drive down Pohoiki Road is almost as beautiful as the Red Road and eventually intersects with the Red Road near Pohoiki Beach Park.

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The park was mostly deserted and the surf was incredibly high so we wandered the park taking photographs and found ourselves mesmerized by the powerful, wild surf. Wally noticed a gal at the park who seemed just as enthralled and asked her if this crazy surf was normal. She said, NO, that the surf had not been this high since the 2014 hurricane and her house shook all night as the ocean pounded into the cliff near where her house was built.

Our next destination was the Kapoho Tide Pools, which are considered to be the best snorkeling on the Hilo side. While it is a marine life preserve, you are still able to swim and observe the wildlife in the naturally warmed pools. To be honest, after seeing the surf I couldn’t imagine snorkeling anywhere along this coast so we made our way there with some trepidation. Thanks to Michelle’s directions we found the “locals” favorite entry spot into the tide pools, which was at the end of the long cove in the picture below. The surf was indeed crashing in the distance but the tide pools were surprisingly serene. This location is unique for many reasons, one of them is the fact that, it is fed by naturally heated fresh spring water. This unusually large collection of tide pools and spring fed pools stretches almost a mile down the coast and extends up to 200 yards out into the ocean.

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The snorkeling was indeed amazing and we stayed in the inner pools as the current further out was really ripping. In addition to the fascinating underwater relief, there was a wide variety of fish to be seen. Schools of Tang were abundant and often times followed us like we were the Pied Piper! After a good swim and an hour of snorkeling we had worked up an appetite, so we packed up and hiked back to the car. There are no facilities at the tide pools so we were a but salty and disheveled. We back tracked to Pahoa, the Tin Shed Bakery was our destination. Funky, local and delicious plus the people watching was as good as the food. We blended right into the scene, salty is not a problem at this local eatery. This place really is a tin shed so if you aren’t okay with a local vibe this might not be your place. Personally, I have a major crush on Pahoa!


Fully satiated, we headed back to the Red Road . The drive followed the rugged coastline, sometime curving so close to the edge of the cliff that we could see the crashing waves up from below, sometime burrowing through a dense tree tunnel where dangling jungle vines would touch the roof of the car! We wound through rocky lava fields, lush coconut groves, tropical rainforests, old plantations, black sand beaches (one is a very popular surfing spot), peaceful oceanside parks, and a few quaint residential neighborhoods. This winding one-lane road is barely wide enough for cars to pass each other.

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Our final destination for the day was the emergency access road that follows the path of the former Chain of Craters Road, which once linked Hawaii’s Volcano National Park to Hwy 130. Lava flows from Kilauea’s East Rift Zone began pouring down on this 8 mile stretch of Chain of Craters Road in the 1980’s, and by 1990, when the village of Kalapana was covered, most of that road was beneath many feet of new lava. The gravel road we rode on actually owes its existence to lava. The road was hastily constructed as an emergency route when another lava flow came within just a quarter mile of crossing Hwy 130 back in 2014.

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From this access point we would be able to rent bikes and ride in 4 miles to see the current lava flow at the edge of the ocean. It was hot, dusty and somewhat busy when we arrived at 4:30 but we quickly rented nice “lava” bikes, flashlights, head lamps and off we went. The road is packed lava gravel and undulates with the flow of lava that is now underneath it. Believe it or not, some folks still live out here, it is truly off the grid, unworldly and a bit like a scene from the movie Mad Max.

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The lava steam plume was visible for our entire ride which added to the excitement. After stopping for several water breaks, maneuvering pass access barriers, dodging cars, three wheel vehicles and hikers, we made it to the end of the bike access, where we locked up the bikes. From there, it was a 15 minute hike over rough, twisted lava to the waters edge where the lava was flowing into the ocean. The meeting of molten lava and crashing sea surf created a tumultuous steam plume rising hundreds of feet into the air. We could see chunks of lava being tossed into the surf. Our photographs just can’t capture the raw beauty and power of the meeting of the earth and sea.

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The sun had set and darkness was descending when we started the 4 mile ride back to our car. I greatly appreciated the coolness of the evening on the ride back and the flashlights that were attached to the handle bars of our bikes. Thankfully, we did not need any help from the emergency services folks that were stationed along the road but we did see a few people that did!

Having become adept at cleaning up and changing in the car, we made our way back to Pahoa for dinner at Keleo’s Bar and Grill. A mango passion fruit martini set things right, the seafood curry and the ahi tempura roll was the best meal I had eaten on the entire trip. Quite a day, to say the least.

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Exploring the East Side of the Island – Part 1

We are taking a break from the sunny beaches on the Kona side of the island and headed over to the Hilo area on Saturday.. Found a great place to stay on Air B&B for two nights – more on that later.

Our drive took us over Route 200, known locally as Saddle Road, traverses the width of the Island of Hawaii, from downtown Hilo to its junction with Hawaii Route 190 near Waimea. The road was considered one of the most dangerous paved roads in the state, with many one-lane bridges and areas of marginally maintained pavement. Most of the road has now been repaved, and major parts have new re-alignments to modern standards. The highway reaches a maximum elevation of 6,632 feet (2,021 m) and is subject to fog and low visibility. Many rental car companies used to prohibit use of their cars on Saddle Road, but now allow use of the road.

The drive over is just gorgeous as you crest the saddle between the two mountains of Mauna Loa and the Mauna Kea. We were lucky to have clear blue skies for the entire drive until we started descending into the Hilo area where the misty rain began.

Hawaii is one of the most ecological diverse places of the world, and you can find many extreme climates on the Big Island. You can experience 8 of the world 13 climate zones on the The Big Island, perhaps in one day if you tried really hard.

Our destination on Saturday was the Volcano National Park where we expected to experience several of the a few of those climate zones. We stated our day by driving down the Chain of Craters Road to the very end, about 19 miles where we could see the lava flowing into the ocean in the far distance. Dry, barren and lava covered. We had lunch over looking the lava cliffs with the surf crashing up onto the cliff walls, dramatic, very warm and really windy.

 

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After a couple short hikes across the hot, dry lava to see petroglyphs, we worked our way back up to about 4,000 ft elevation where we did a 2 mile hike to the east side of the Kīlauea Crater where the barren landscape gave way to steaming lava vents. So prehistoric and wet…we were soaked by the time we got back to the car but the hike was worth being wet, as we were the only ones at the overlook and had a spectacular rainbow to welcome us.

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After touring the visitors center and the art gallery we made our way to the Jaggar Museum to view the lava activity in the Kilauea Crater at sunset. We managed to dry out in the car while we waited for sunset and OMG was it worth the wait. I can’t even begin to describe how mesmerizing the bubbling caldron of lava was that we saw when dark descended over the park. So glad we brought binoculars as that gave us the detail of how explosive the lava was in the crater vents. The other magical thing was seeing the lava light up in all fissures across the top of the crater, it was lighting up a neon sign. We simply stood there gaping in amazement with a couple hundred other people who were strangely quiet.

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The park is simply amazing and one could spend days there with all there is to see and do. There are over 150 miles of hiking trails of which we maybe did 5% of them on this trip. We finished our day with a incredible meal at Ohelo Café which is just outside the park.

Holualoa: The Perfect Antidote for Black Friday

Black Friday is my idea of shopping hell and a sad testament to the out of control consumerism that Christmas has become. Though many people spend Thanksgiving day cooking, eating, and generally being grateful for the blessings in their lives, for some, it’s a day to fuel up for what’s coming next: Black Friday. Every year, thousands flock to retail stores to get their hands on a fantastic deal. The lines between need and want blur away as the shopping lists are checked off, check-out lines grow longer and longer, people get angrier, and retail staff try to stay out of the fray. Okay, rant done…Looking for a different experience, we decided to take a drive to Holualoa.

Nestled among the cool slopes of Hualalai Volcano, just south of Kailua-Kona, is the quaint artist community of Holualoa. This charming village is as picturesque as a community can get, with a windy two-lane road lined with art galleries, coffee shops – the perfect antidote for Black Friday.

This isn’t the mega mall experience where people are lined up at 3am with the masses to participate in a gluttonous shopping frenzy. Instead, Holualoa galleries and shops offer a quiet pace with the opportunity to chat with local artists who are passionate about their art.

Although Holualoa Village is a trendy hub for artists in the Kona Districts, it’s maintained a small-town charm that’s rare to find in today’s contemporary, hustle and bustle world. Visitors can stroll through the shops to discover local art like handcrafted woodwork, paintings, sculptures and photography. The charm of Holuloa is also the old buildings that ooze character from a decade gone by.

If you want to indulge in a gourmet meal, check out Holuakoa Gardens and Cafe. One of the best-kept secrets on the Big Island, this slow food establishment offers high quality cuisine in an ethereal setting of twinkle lights that feels like you’re dining as a character in a fairy tale. Bring a sweater in the evening as is is always much cooler up in Holualoa.

We were a bit to early for the the annual Holualoa Music and Light Festival which is usually held the first Saturday in December. Visitors and town folk gather for the lighting of the town Christmas tree, listen to live Christmas music and sample treats from the charming galleries and shops. Word is that you may even get a surprise visit from Santa himself. It doesn’t get much better than that!

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Thankful in Hawaii

I woke up this morning feeling thankful for the opportunity to share some intimate time with our good friends Mike and Martha on the beautiful island of Hawaii. We have had a wonderful week together so far, shared some great meals and beautiful sunsets on the lanai. Our conversation has ranged from family, politics, wine, travel, old movies, sports, favorite childhood memories, art, science, hobbies, cooking…we have certainly run the gamut!

Being on the road will certainly change the parameters of our friendships and will make spontaneous events with old friends less possible. This is one of the things I have been concerned about but can see the benefits of spending longer, more intimate time with friends and family.

As we get older, and life gets faster – the time we once had for our friends, seems to diminish. You might not notice it at first, but soon your coffee dates are being replaced by meetings. Your carefree mornings are busy and rushed, and the phone calls you used to make daily to chat with your best friend are slowly turning into every other week (or month!) catch up calls. Fitting in time for friends is sadly one of the first things to go when life gets busy, and before you know it – you hardly know the person you used to call your best friend.

Having more time to spend with friends and family is one of the things I look most forward to in retirement and feel deeply thankful to have so many wonderful people in my life.

Aloha …Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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Kona Coffee, mystery solved…

I love a good cup of coffee and thanks to a short stent as a coffee roaster when I lived in Southern California, I am a bit of a coffee snob. Over the years, I have done some exploration of the kona coffee growing area and quite frankly my initial impressions from when I was roasting “what’s all the hype” were still unanswered.

Not one to give up, Wally and I did another trip up the slopes of the south side of Kona in search of a great cup of coffee. What did we find…Heavenly Hawaiian Farm. Yep, that’s the name of the farm and the cup of fresh brewed kona coffee lived up to the name.

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We had the pleasure of meeting the farm owners, Dave and Trudy Bateman. Dave gives a heck of a tour, his farm is stunningly beautiful, meticulously cultivated and the pickers were happily picking ripe red coffee cherries by hand while they sang. What I learned after spending a few hours with him is that kona coffee, like wine can be complex in flavor and is truly a labor intensive commodity to produce.

Most farms are hand picking the beans from late August to late January and since the cherries do not ripen at the same time, each tree will be picked several times throughout the season. Hand-picking is a meticulous process than insures that only cherries at peak maturity are harvested.

Because the cherries must be processed within 24 hours of harvest, at Heavenly Hawaiian Farm, they are were singularly focused on bringing in the ripe red coffee cherry and starting the the wet milling process which strips the pulp off the bean. We toured the covered, open air drying floors where the beans were being dried to parchment and saw the huge mechanical dryers that help speed up the drying process at Heavenly Hawaiian Farms.

Next, the parchment is sent to a local dry mill where the parchment and inner silver skin are removed from the green bean. The beans are then sorted by size and defects (graded) and bagged for final evaluation and certification by the State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture. Ag representatives take samples to their lab where they closely scrutinize the beans to look for defects such as discoloration,cleanliness, mildew, moisture content, CBB damage, nicks and broken beans. They also cup the coffee to test for aroma and flavor. The Ag inspectors then certify each bag of green bean as to grade. The state certification is not required by law, but strongly recommended, for the farmer or processor to sell the green beans outside the Kona District. Only beans grown in the Kona District can be sold as Kona coffee. State certification guarantees you are getting legitimate Kona coffee.

Kona region contains approximately 600 independent coffee farms. Most are small, usually three to seven acres in size. Traditionally, as with most farms, they are a family concern. In 1997 the total Kona coffee acreage was 2290 acres and green coffee production just over two million pounds. Kona Coffee production represents less than 1% of the worldwide production of coffee and is arguably one of the most expensive coffees in the world.

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After touring the farm with Dave, I can understand and appreciate why that is. Not only did I finally get my question about kona coffee answered, Trudy sent me home with a bag of ripe guava’s and avocado’s, which we picked right off the trees.

If your looking for a great cup of kona coffee or a unique place to stay on your next trip to the Big Island, check out the Heavenly Hawaiian Farm website at http://heavenlyhawaiian.com. Tell Dave and Trudy hello for me too!!

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Helping the feral cats of Hawaii

Everything I visit the islands I check in on the feral cat situation that haunts the islands.

It really began with my very first trip to the Big Island of Hawaii in 2006.  Naturally many aspects of the island impressed me, but what I remember most of all, as if it was yesterday, were the dozens of cats scattered among the palm trees on the edge of the golf course at the resort where we were staying, scavenging for food and begging at the outdoor BBQ areas every night. Who did they belong to? How did they get there? Who took care of them? I had so many questions.

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I did some research, found the AdvoCat website and felt some relief knowing someone cared and was doing something for these poor animals. The frightening fact is that  a pair of unaltered cats can grow the population into hundreds of thousands in 7 years. I don’t really know how the homeless cats situation got so bad or how it all got started on the Big Island, but these statistics are daunting.

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Thanks to the good work being done by AdvoCats, through TNR the population seems to be more under control and I saw only a few older kittens on this trip and the adults I did see look more robust.

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AdvoCATS identifies feral cat colonies with the help and information provided by members and other concerned individuals and uses a Trap-Neuter-Return Program to control over-population as well as to maintain good health among the colonies. Once trapped, the cat is transported to a local veterinary hospital or a spay/neuter clinic event. He/she is neutered, ear tipped (R-female/L-male), vaccinated against FVRCP, and treated with Revolution. After recuperation from surgery, the cats are returned to their colonies where the advoCATS volunteer monitors their recovery.

AdvoCATS has been around since March 17, 1999 and as of May 2016, they have spayed and neutered 18,106 cats!! TNR is by far the most effective way to control the population but it takes resources and people dedicated to the cause. I applaud the work this group is doing and if you are a cat lover, please help support the work they do. Below is a link where you can learn more and this amazing group and make a donation to help the kitties.

http://www.advocatshawaii.org/home.html

http://www.advocatshawaii.org/advocats-cat-news-1.html

Snorkeling at Mahukona Beach

Mahukona Beach is unusual in more ways than one. For one, it is not a real beach, but an abandoned commercial harbor run by the Kohala Sugar Company (the harbor was closed in 1956). Remnants of the area’s enterprising past can still be found under water and are in fact one of its main attractions. The beach is not your typical Hawaiian paradise, but it’s definitely got charm.

The calm, clear waters make Mahukona a popular snorkeling spot. The underwater scene here is unique, featuring old mill equipment and machinery and even a shipwreck nestled inbetween beautiful coral reefs. Together, they make a most peculiar playground for the local marine life. Be sure to bring an underwater camera as this is one scene you certainly wouldn’t want to miss!

We like this site for many reasons, one being the easy accessible into the water from the harbor, but the shore is very rocky and can be hard to navigate. There is a great old iron ladder on the side of the wharf that you can climb back up from the water. The underwater visibility is usually excellent, except during times of rough ocean conditions (mainly during the winter months). During times of heavy surf, it is best to stay out of the water.

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On our recent visit the water was normal surgy and visibility was really good. We saw a number of large schools of parrot fish and yellow tang along with several raccoon butterfly fish, black durgon, needle fish, orange-band surgeon fish, convict tang, brassy chub and the occasional moorish idol.

On our way back we couldn’t resist stopping at the Ultimate Hawaiian Donut truck which was parked at the turn off the beach park..with a name like that you gotta try one – right! These tasty morsels are actually “Malasadas” which are a Portuguese confection, made of egg-sized balls of yeast dough that are deep-fried in oil and coated with granulated sugar. Ridiculously good as they were just made and were warm and surgery…it’s possible I might have erased the calories I burned snorkeling!!!

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Hangin in Hawaii

You might not believe this but we really did need a vacation – seriously this year has been stressful and Hawaii is the right place to decompress. Back in July, our dear friends Mike and Martha invited us to spend another Thanksgiving with them on the big island at their condo in Keauhou. Believe it or not, we hemmed and hawed because we thought it was just to close to our big departure date in December. Then a moment of clarity descended… we will both be retired by then and time will be our biggest commodity so why would we worry about missing a self-imposed departure date.

Okay, friends, here is when I get a bit philosophical…If you’re not careful, you can find yourself stuck in life without even realizing it due to imaginary, self-imposed boundaries. The older we get, the easier it is to get set in our ways and subtly convince ourselves that we “can’t” do it. Life can become more scary as we age and hesitate to take on new challenges due to the perceived risks involved.

For Wally and I, this new phase of our life we are gearing up for is our way of breaking out of the self-imposed life style that we created. Don’t get me wrong, we worked really hard to create a lifestyle that we truly enjoyed but it become clear to us once we stepped back, that we were ready to do something different. It makes me a little crazy when people say…aren’t you lucky, because I truly believe luck is not what shapes your fate – it’s the choices you make and for us a large dose of hard work too.

I think at this point you have realized this post is not all glorious pictures of Hawaii so I will throw you a few bones!

The Mai-Tai was great, I won’t lie to you but here some advice I think is worth considering “If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You, It Isn’t Big Enough”.

Breaking through self-imposed limits begins with defining what scares you the most, and deliberately choosing a challenge that addresses your fears. Remember, there is no one and nothing holding you back but yourself!

Without choosing and accomplishing new challenges, there can be no personal or professional growth.

What will your next challenge be?

What a week!

It’s hard to believe that it has only been a week since I gave up my badge and email address at the Oregon Humane Society. To be truthful, I am sleeping so much better but perhaps that is because we have just been petal to the metal in closing the house down.

We are down to 2 borrowed chairs, two beds on box spring, a chair, a dresser and a teak outdoor bistro table and chairs in the house.

We made a trip up north to Anacortes to put what’s left of our possession into storage and close up the Beach House for the winter. There was just not much that went into our 5×10 storage space and it will be fascinating to see what else might go in there after our six month trip in the Road House.

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There is still a laundry list of things to do before we leave for our post retirement/closing the house decompression trip to Hawaii next week. The Road House took a trip today to Peterson Caterpillar for pre-trip engine diagnostic and preventive maintenance. More furniture went to consignment and the chest freezer was defrosted and cleaned out so it can be sold this weekend. The garage still looks like a bomb went off in it but I am feeling like it will all just come together.

In between all that today, we managed to have lunch at an old favorite haunt – The Buffalo Gap and I got in a three mile walk with Mr. Bentley. All in all, a great day and a productive week.