I had five days off and no plans, so clearly it was time to go to Kaua'i. I'd never been to Hawaii before. I'd never been farther south than Florida nor farther west than Oregon. People were shocked that anyone would go for such a short visit (only three days due to flight schedules), but I had a fabulous time.
My first day there was Christmas, so the only thing open was the great outdoors, which suited me just fine. There's no better way to spend Christmas than far away from the works (and music, dead trees, tinsel, colored lights, and marketing) of man.
The hike I really wanted to do was a loop of the Nu'alolo, Nu'alolo Cliff, and Awa-'awapuhi trails. The guide book said it was a fantastic full-day hike, but recommended against going there when it was wet, because it would be too muddy and slippery ("bring a bobsled"). While I'm not opposed to ignoring good advice, I'm fairly cautious when hiking alone. As a certified wilderness search and rescue worker, I'd feel especially silly if I needed rescuing myself.
The Waimea Canyon area has many other hikes though, and the canyon is itself a sight to see, so I left a note in my hotel room describing my plans (so they know where to look for me when I fail to check out of the hotel on time), drove up there, gawked at a few lookouts, and continued up toward Alakai Swamp.
My foiled plans were unfoiled by picking up a hitchhiker. My friends Sarah and Augusto had recently gone to Kaua'i and had even done the very same hike I'd hoped to do. They talked about how the trail loop included a fairly long walk on the road to get back to one's car, and that they'd both given someone a lift and been given one themselves. With that in mind, I figured it was the thing to do in this area.
The karma express delivery service was in fine form. Paul, my passenger, had driven to one end of the trail and was hitching back to where he'd left his wife and 13 month daughter. From there they'd hike the trail I had decided was too dangerous to hike alone, and I was welcome to join them.
The guidebook suggests going down the steep trail (Nu'alolo) and back up the other (Awa-'awapuhi), but Paul, clever guy that he is, thought that with the slippery mud it might be easier to do the opposite. We grabbed some walking sticks (left by hikers who'd ended here), and headed out into the mud. Squish squish, down the Awa-'awapuhi trail.
It was a wonderful hike, and it was the highlight of my trip. Maybe I'll write more about it eventually. All told, it was 18.0km, and it took me 9 hours and 20 minutes, which includes about four hours of stopping to take in the amazing views.
One note for people considering helicopter tours: I did both, and the hike was much better.
This was the "Kipu Falls Zipline Safari" tour by Outfitters Kauai, somewhat adjusted for the unusually high and fast water caused by recent heavy rainfall. Note how brown the water is, and how everything is swamped and flooded at Kamapua'a Falls.
I like to travel light, so I have a small camera with a small lens that fits nicely in my pocket. It's not the best thing for taking pictures of landscapes, but I don't want to lug around a really nice camera. Instead, I used the fabulous demo version of autostitch (running under Wine) to automagically piece together panoramic composites out of up to 20 photographs. A nice side effect is that since they're made up of many photographs, they end up having pretty good resolution. For maximum effect, you should really go to Kaua'i and see it all for yourself, but failing that, these huge composites on a large display are pretty nice.