Monthly Archives: July 2016

The Legend of Akaka Falls

Legend has it the Hawaiian god, Akaka, lived next to a waterfall with his wife while his girlfriends, Lehua and Maile, lived nearby. When his wife returned early one day nearly catching him with one of the girlfriends, Akaka ran away and fell into the falls. (Some versions say he jumped but I find that hard to believe.) Lehua and Maile cried so hard when they heard about Akaka’s death, they turned into small waterfalls. The waterfall that Akaka fell into was named Akaka Falls and two nearby small cascading falls are called Lehua and Maile Falls.

Today, Akaka Falls State Park is a very popular and iconic attraction near Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. To reach the falls, we walked a short paved trail through stunning tropical vegetation. While the entire trail is less than half a mile, there are stairs involved so the trail is not wheelchair accessible. The park is a tropical paradise that defies description and the photos hardly capture such incredible beauty. When I say tropical, I mean it was hot, humid, misty, or rainy the entire time but thankfully, I never saw a single mosquito.

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Red Firespike

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Red Firespike

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Ti plant

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Ti plant (Hawaiian Good Luck Plant)

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Lori under the aerial roots of a large Banyan tree with Jim in the background

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Red Ginger

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Yellow Ginger

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Heliconia Mariae

The walk through this lush tropical jungle would have been quite enough to satisfy us but our first view of the Akaka Falls took the experience to another level.

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First view of Akaka Falls

The falls drops 442 feet into a gorge so we knew that we had only seen the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. The full view was truly sublime.

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Akaka Falls

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Akaka Falls and trail

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Jim and Laura on the stairs to the viewing area of Akaka Falls

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Lori and Laura at Akaka Falls

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Full view of Akaka Falls

If the photos don’t fully convey the beauty of the falls, click on this video to see Akaka Falls in motion.

Continuing along the trail, we also spotted the small Lehua and Maile Falls crying copious tears together.

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Lehua and Maile Falls

Our visit to Akaka Falls was part of the Pride of America excursion to Volcanoes National Park. The third component of this excursion was a stop at the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center. Although I’m not a huge fan of these commercial stops that all cruise lines include in their excursions, we actually appreciated this shopping opportunity to pick up some macadamia nuts to take home. Unfortunately, the factory was closed or we’d have enjoyed a look about there, too.

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We spent only a day in the port of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii but felt we’d gotten a good introduction to the windward side of the island. That night the Pride of America sailed on to Kona where, the next morning, we would explore the leeward side.

Based on events from November 2015.

 

Categories: cruise, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Hiking Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Mauna Loa and Kilauea, on the island of Hawaii, are two of the most active volcanoes in the world. Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984 and is due to erupt again. Kilauea has been continuously erupting since 1983. In addition, Mauna Loa is actually the tallest mountain in the world standing 56,000 feet (17,000 meters) when measured from the ocean floor rather than sea level. These two volcanoes comprise Volcanoes National Park and a UNESCO  World Heritage site. In my opinion, this was the single most important “not to be missed” sight on our Hawaiian cruise and for this reason, we booked an excursion to Volcanoes National Park through the cruise line. For $139 per person, we were transported to the national park, we hiked the crater of Kilauea Iki with a guide, and visited Akaka Falls, too.

The Pride of America docked in Hilo where our excursion began. Our bus stopped first at the Kilauea Visitor Center which interestingly, was built in 1941 as a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) project. The CCC was a New Deal program established during the Great Depression in 1933 that taught young unemployed men many valuable skills while improving the infrastructure of the United States.

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Kilauea Visitor Center, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

We began our 4-mile hike at the Kilauea Iki (Little Kilauea) Trailhead. The trail followed the rim of the crater through a lush tropical rainforest, then descended 400 feet (122 m) by switchbacks and stairs to the floor of the crater, crossed the crater, and ascended again.  Our guide led us through the hot, wet, humid, tropical rain forest telling us about the vegetation as we hiked. Periodically, we had stunning views into the crater.

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Our guide telling us about the rain forest on the Kilauea Iki Trail

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Kilauea Iki Trail

 

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View from Kilauea Iki Trail

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Tropical rain forest vegetation

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Fern fiddleheads in the tropical rain forest

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Kilauea Iki Overlook

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Looking into the crater of Kilauea Iki

Kilauea Iki last erupted in 1959. Prior to the eruption, the floor of the crater was 800 feet deep and covered with forest.  When a lava lake of 86 million tons flooded the crater, the floor raised 400 feet. Today the lava lake is solid but steam vents indicate it’s still hot inside.

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Reaching the floor of the crater with rain to welcome us

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Hiking into the crater at Kilauea Iki

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We made it to the bottom but still had to hike across the crater and back up the other side

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Lori and our group hiking the crater

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The trail is marked by ahu (stacks of rock)

One of the advantages of an organized tour is the interesting facts the guide shares that you may otherwise never discover. One of those tidbits was Pele’s hair. Pele is the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes and Pele’s hair is the thin volcanic glass threads produced when molten lava blows through the air.

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Pele’s hair

Our guide also showed us a steam vent which honestly, I would have told my husband to stay away from if we didn’t have a professional with us.

The incredible resiliency of our earth amazed me with the amount of impressive vegetation that sprouted in cracks and crevices of lava rock.

 

When we ascended back to the rim of the crater, we visited nearby Thurston Lava Tube, named after the discoverer in 1913, Lorrin Thurston. A lava tube is formed when molten lava flows through walls hardening around it. The Thurston Lava Tube is about 600 feet long.

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Thurston Lava Tube

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Thurston Lava Tube

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Inside Thurston Lava Tube

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Thurston Lava Tube

Our final stop in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to eat a sack lunch at the Jagger Museum offered views of the active Kilauea caldera from a safe distance. Active lava flows were only visible from the air during our visit. You can check the park website to find out whether views are safely available during your visit.

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Steam rising from Kilauea Caldera

Next time I’ll show and tell about Akaka Falls. But let me just offer a spoiler alert right now. Our excursion to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Akaka Falls was the highlight of our visit to the Big Island and indeed, a top highlight of our entire trip.

 

Based on events from November 2015.

Categories: cruise, History, National Parks, natural history, Travel, Uncategorized, UNESCO, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Iao Valley State Park, Maui

Iao (EE-ow) Valley State Park, with walking trails through the lush and verdant tropical vegetation, was a short drive from the cruise port, took just a couple hours to visit, and admission was free. The lushness is due to plentiful rainfall but luckily, we had a perfect day.

In addition to abundant natural beauty, this area possesses great historical significance. In 1790, Kamehameha the Great won a decisive and bloody battle here that eventually resulted in the unification of the islands into one kingdom for the first time under King Kamehameha I.

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Iao Needle (Kukaemoku in Hawaiian)

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View from the trail at Iao Valley State Park

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Ian Valley State Park

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Iao Valley

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Iao Needle

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Iao Stream

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Iao Valley

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Iao Stream

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Vegetation at Iao Valley

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Iao Stream

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Iao Valley

Adjacent to Iao Valley State Park we discovered a free county park, Kepaniwai Park and Heritage Gardens, which is a tribute to the various ethnic groups of Hawaii. We enjoyed the Chinese pagoda, tranquil Japanese gardens, native thatched hut, Filipino nipa hut, and a New England saltbox, among others. This would be an ideal spot for a picnic with the facilities provided on-site.

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Chinese Pagoda at Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens

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Japanese Garden at Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens

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Banyan tree at Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens

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Filipino Nipa Hut at Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens

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New England Saltbox at Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens

Post Script: Tribute to a Good Man

Jim and I visited my former boss, Allen Grooters, at Hospice prior to our departure for Hawaii in November. Allen had recently been diagnosed with ALS and the terminal disease  progressed quickly. I was hesitant to drop by Hospice but I texted him and he responded that he’d enjoy a visit. I knew Allen and his wife stayed on Maui each year so we asked him his recommendations for the island. He told us that Iao State Park was one of his favorite sites in Maui so we went there on his advice. Sadly, Allen died soon after our return from Hawaii. I will always appreciate the great advice and wise counsel he provided me over the 20+ years we worked together. His final recommendation was as much a winner as his earlier guidance.

 

Based on events from November 2015.

Categories: cruise, History, natural history, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Upcountry Maui

The slopes of Mt. Haleakala, or upcountry Maui as the locals call it, is considered the most laid-back area of the island. But honestly, the entire island seemed pretty laid-back to me.

We rented a car ($50) for Day 2 of our stay in Maui and drove upcountry to Haleakala National Park first thing in the morning. Although it’s one of the top recommended sights, we decided against getting there for sunrise for two reasons. First of all, the clouds often obscure the sun and secondly, driving hairpin turns in the dark on unfamiliar roads to 10,000 feet didn’t appeal to any of us.

The soaring views on the drive to the summit were every bit as impressive as we saw on the Road to Hana. Fortunately for us, we were driving up as the bikers were headed down so we missed most of the traffic, too.

It was especially poignant to spy sugar cane growing in the fields because, after 140 years, the Hawaiian sugar industry which began in Maui, is shutting down. By the end of 2016, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar will close operations.

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Sugar cane growing in upcountry Maui

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Driving upcountry Maui

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View nearing the top of Haleakala

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Driving upcountry Maui

Tourists are advised to wear warm clothes because it’s really cold at the top of the volcano but I was unprepared for just how cold and windy it was. A down coat would have been welcome.

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Laura and Lori at Haleakala National Park

The terrain on the summit is other-worldly. I’d love to have hiked one of the over 30 miles of trails, especially the one to see Waimoku Falls, but the conditions there are dangerous and I was still fighting a virus with chills and fever. I was content with these views then got back in the car to warm up while the others did a short trail on the summit.

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Haleakala National Park view of the crater

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Haleakala National Park

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Haleakala National Park

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Haleakala National Park

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Haleakala National Park

We spent the entire morning on the drive up to Haleakala National Park and back. Afterward, we explored Iao Valley State Park but that’s the subject of my next post so check back next week. If you have to choose between Haleakala and the Road to Hana, I would choose Haleakala but if you have the time, by all means, do both.

 

Based on events from November 2015.

 

 

Categories: cruise, National Parks, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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