Journal by Ray (slightly edited by Heber)
Sunday, June 16, 1996
We gathered at the Slusser's house at 6:00 am, seven girls and three adults of the hiking party and five other adults who will be staying at the condo while we hike, providing our ground transportation and shuttle service. I was amazed at how quickly and efficiently everything was loaded - we were on the road to the airport before 6:30 am.
This past week has been hectic with the last minute preparations. On Thursday evening, we put the girls through pack inspection, making sure that every item they would need (and no extra stuff) was in their packs. Following that, we wrapped each pack in a sort of industrial-grade saran plastic wrap to prevent zipper pulls, straps and such from being torn off in the baggage handling equipment. Heber and I quit at 10:00 pm, three and a half hours after pack inspection began -- we finished pack wrapping on Saturday.
Check-in at the airport was swift, despite the fact that the place was jammed with vacation travelers. I think they just wanted to get us out of their hair. We were at our gate before 7:30, and hour and a half before takeoff time. We fly to Honolulu where we change planes for the final hop to Kauai. At Kauai, we load kids, packs and adults into three vans for the trip to the condo, where we hikers will spend two nights (giving us all day Monday for final permits, shopping and another pack inspection). Everything (so far) has gone like clockwork, but the day isn't over yet.
Our 747 is packed -- in fact, it was overbooked and several folks chose to take the $200 bribe to move to a later flight. We are sitting in the last rows.
Sunday, June 16, 1996 evening
We arrived at the (new) airport, picked up three vans and piled the whole gang in for the short trip to the condo. Kauai seems to me to be Singapore with mountains -- the same humid air which is cool when there is a breeze and you're doing nothing physical, the red soil, coarse grass and tropical plants. Lihue, the city in which we are staying, is small and unpretentious. There really are no buildings taller than a palm tree, and it gives the place a restful, rural feel.
A quick shower hit as we were loading the vans at the airport, but it passed quickly. I suspect that we will have that happen a lot over the next two weeks. We arrived to a sky filled with broken clouds, but it has cleared since, with a very nice breeze blowing.
We are spread out in three two-bedroom condos, with adults in the bedrooms and girls bunking (probably on the floor) in the living room. For the short time we will be living under a roof, it is really quite satisfactory.
The drill for this evening is dinner, followed by a staff meeting (the three of us adults who will hike with the girls), and then a meeting with the girls to set down the rules. There will be few rules, but they will be very strictly enforced.
I am typing this as I sit outside, enjoying the breeze and listening to the birds (which are unfamiliar to my ear). The village of Lihue is ringed by dark, volcanic mountains which are impossibly green except where the underlying rock shows in a cliff. They rise very suddenly from the surrounding fields -- they seem more like a Disney mountain than anything I have seen in California. I am ready to hit the trail this evening...
Monday, June 17, 1996 Dawn
I was awake at 5:30 this morning, as is my usual habit. I stepped over the bodies of the girls sleeping in the living room, made myself some Kona coffee and shaved. I am now sitting on the little balcony which is part of my room, watching dark, moisture-laden clouds roll in from the east, their tops set afire by the rising sun. Some sort of bird is cooing in the banyan tree off to my right. The air is cool, still and humid, hinting at the tropical day to come. What a way to begin a Monday morning!
Monday, June 17, 1996 afternoon
All our chores are done, and most have gone off to snorkel. I am waiting by the 'phone for a call from a reporter from the Kauai Times. She learned of Troop 253, the outdoors troop from California, from the local Girl Scout council person, and wants to do a story on our latest adventure. She will interview me by telephone and (perhaps) photograph us as we hit the trail. Should be an interesting experience for me. Meanwhile, I have some final preparations of my own to make, seam-sealing my tent against the rain I expect and doing a final repack of my backpack.
I am struck by the lack of bugs here. I have left the screens open on our condo, and have yet to see a fly or a mosquito. I had expected to be eaten alive, and am very pleasantly surprised.
I am restless to get out of this little burg and hit the trail. Girls are restless as well, and I hope it is for the same reason...
Tuesday, June 18, 1996 12:30 morning
I am sitting on the same balcony where I saw the day dawn on such a bright note -- it has turned into the day from hell. At 2:30 this afternoon, everyone was at the beach or in the water. I stayed behind to do some chores and await the call from the reporter when a message came in from troop leader Paul Sidenblad. The 18 year old brother of one of "our" girls had been killed in an auto accident Monday morning. At 3:00, four of the girls returned, including the girl who had to be told. I took her aside and gave her the news as best I could. There really is no good way to do it, I discovered. I comforted her as best I could while our Senior Patrol Leader took care of the other two returned girls. After a time, the other girls and leaders returned, and the business of making a plan and getting her back to California began. I could write a book about the afternoon and evening, but I am too weary of heart to even try.
By 10:00 pm, plans were in place, emotions had subdued to somber, we had all been fed and we three leaders were tidying up details when we discovered that Vern Tucker, a troop leader acting as part of our support staff, was suffering abdominal pain. By 10:30 pm, he had vomited six times and we had him (finally) talked into a trip to Lihue's hospital emergency room. We (Nancy, Heber and I) rolled him in on a wheelchair and he was quickly seen. The watch began. Their first diagnosis was a kidney stone, but by 11:30 pm, some doubt developed. They started an IV, gave him some Versed and Demoral and rolled him into x-ray. Nancy sent Heber and me home. When the dust has settled, she will have Heber bring her back. Meanwhile, I'll get up at 5:30 to help organize our poor little Scout's return trip to California.
The outing will go on. In the morning, when she has left and the girls have awakened, we will reorganize, adapt our plans to the new situation and carry on, most of us with heavy hearts.
I was able to retire from the troop after 15 years of making emergency preparations that were never needed. All that business of emergency 'phone numbers and such sometimes got to be tiresome. I am so glad that we were prepared this time.
Life and health are so fragile...
Vern was still pretty up in the air and therefore scary. Ray just called me on the phone to say the Vern is doing much better. They believe he must have had a kidney stone, but the pain has subsided and he is back to being his usual irritable impatient self.
Tuesday, June 18
We adults were up at 5:30 am to see our sad little Scout off on her long trip back to the mainland to bury her brother. One of the adults flew with her from Kauai to the Honolulu airport to see her safely onto the over water flight while the remaining nine of us tore into our packs. The reporter from the Island Times called to interview us, and sent a photographer to document our final preparations for the trail. He must have taken 70 photos of us at work, but he stayed our of our way. After a few posed shots under a nearby banyan tree, he left. We piled our gear into the vans and drove to the hospital to visit Vern, our stricken comrade. The diagnosis was a kidney stone, painful but not life-threatening. Back in the vans, we drove the long, lush coastal road north to the Haena County Park, our base camp for the night near the head of the Kalalau Trail. Rain clouds scuttled across the afternoon sky as we set up camp and the van drivers departed for the condos. My two adult partners took the girls on the two mile hike to Ke'e Beach (at the trail head) for a bit of snorkeling. I stayed behind to watch the camp (a lot of homeless live in that county park, taking advantage of the renewable two month permits) and to sort out my thoughts and feelings.
The manic pace of events during the previous 30 hours had left me no time to think, and I did a lot of catching up. The inevitable (for me) review and self-critical analysis took place - had I done the right thing, in the right way? Could I have done it better? The whole painful story (or two stories, when I included trip to the hospital) had to play out in my mind. I walked to the water's edge and looked out at a beach right out of South Pacific and saw no beauty whatsoever. Depression had set in.
The gang returned before sunset, we had dinner, and I was (gratefully)in my tent at 8:1 5 pm. Sleep mercifully came easily, only briefly interrupted by rain showers and gusts of wind.
Wednesday, June 19
I awoke at 5:30 am, feeling refreshed in body and spirit. The girls were rousted from their cocoons, and we had broken camp and were on the trail by 8:30 am. Each girl carried 30 to 35 pounds in her pack, with we two men carrying about 50. After two miles on the road, we hit the Kalalau Trail, the famous track along the steep and intensely green Na Pali Coast. The steep trail rose to 800 feet or so above the azure Pacific, and the hot and humid air soon had us sweating freely. We stopped for lunch at Hanakapiai Beach, after rock-hopping across the river. Two girls slipped and went in standing, with water swamping their boots. One went over backwards, getting the contents of her pack a bit wet. During lunch, a hard shower passed over us -we sat and ate without moving (we had no choice), quickly soaked to the skin. For the first time (but not the last), we were grateful for our nylon clothing. I was dry ten minutes after the rain stopped.
Fed and rested, we hit the trail for the second half of our eight miles for the day. The trail is described in the Aloha Airlines magazine as "11 inches wide, 1000 feet above the ocean on a nearly vertical cliff." The description is an accurate one in many places, but one is given a false sense of security by the grass and bushes which grow on the steep pali (cliffs). Occasional showers kept the trail greasy and slippery, and the rocks and roots made the footing treacherous. In places, we had deep steps or steep drops to negotiate. In 18 years of backpacking, I cannot remember a trail more arduous or difficult or risky. Three of us (including me) almost went over the side. In my case, my right foot went through the grass and over the edge - in an instant, I was on my face in the mud, with my pack pressing me down and my toes pointed towards the ocean far, far below. One of the girls, hiking behind me, helped me safely to my feet.
One of the girls went over, both feet, clinging to the trail with her outstretched arms. Her pal, our physically strongest girl, dropped her own pack, pulled her fallen buddy's pack off and allowed her to scramble back to the trail. Two other girls between me and the near-disaster blocked me from helping, but the girls themselves pulled off the rescue in seconds (saving me from a coronary attack).
That was an awful trail. We had broken into two hiking groups, with the other two adults staying behind with one girl who was hiking slowly. I felt like a lion that day, and agreed to stay with the five girls who were hiking strongly. Despite feeling good and hiking with the strong girls, it took us five hours to do those four miles, and we arrived in peaceful and verdant Hanakoa Valley (our destination for the night) wrung out physically and emotionally. But for one girl with good feet, we had all fallen in the mud at least once.
However, fatigue could not prevent us from appreciating the spectacular, breathtaking views of the Na Pali Coast - its rugged cliffs falling away from our feet and rising high above us, the clouds clinging to the black volcanic peaks silhouetted against the sky and misty waterfalls glimpsed back in the canyons. It was a painful hike, but one which I'll never forget.
We set up camp while waiting for the second group, and dragged ourselves to the river to clean up. By the time everyone was accounted for, camp was established in a thick grove of trees and dinner dishes were done, it was far past sunset and darkness was upon us. Everyone was asleep before 9:00 pm. It rained.
Thursday, June 20
We awoke to light rain and took our time breaking camp. We hit the trail at 9:30 am, returning the way we had come the day before. The heat and humidity were worse than the day before - an hour into the hike, I took off the bandanna I use for a headband and wrung several tablespoons of sweat from it - one of the girls was able to wring the perspiration from her socks. An hour later, I could do it again. It was the first time I have seen perspiration run off the noses and chins of girls.
Despite the conditions, spirits were high. Once again we hiked in two groups, myself and five girls in front with one girl and two adults keeping their own pace. We paused where a stream crossed the trail for lunch, and once again were soaked by a passing shower. The views from our perch high on the cliffs were enchanting - where the footing was secure I could hike in a dreamy, happy fog, distracted from the heat and weight of the pack and the mud by the views.
The last half mile of trail dropped very steeply to Hanakapiai Beach. In the slippery mud it was almost impossible to stay on your feet. For the first time, the mud began to wear on my spirits, but the girls just laughed - they were beyond being frustrated.
We set up camp by 2:00 pm, happy to be in camp at a reasonable hour. We did our laundry in the river, hanging our stuff to dry overnight in a lean-to shelter. While standing in the river with my clothing on a nearby rock, a sudden gust of wind blew my only pair of nylon shorts (expensive ones at that) into the water. In the swift current they were quickly washed out to sea. I was down to my swim trunks for trousers.
We ate our dinner overlooking our beach that evening. It is hard to imagine a lovelier setting for freeze-dried food. I would not have traded our fare and that location for the best restaurant in New York.
We were in bed early. The rains came during the night, three heavy showers producing a half-inch of rainfall.
Friday, June 21 (Emily's birthday)
We were up late this morning, and badly disorganized. Some of the girls wanted to hike out to the trail head immediately, and sulked when they were told that some of us were not to be denied our little side trip.
Only one of the girls joined Heber and me for a two mile hike up the canyon to see the waterfall where the river cascades down off the cliffs. For most of that trail, we simply slogged through mud in the dense rain forest, but towards the end we had some clambering over rocks that was almost fingernail and toenail work. Our efforts were rewarded - a misty waterfall cascaded over the lip of the cliff high above us, splashing into a broad pool which went back into a cave in the cliff. It was a scene from a movie, more beautiful than I can describe. Heber stripped to his shorts and swam out to the point where the water crashed into the pool - I felt envious, being a non-swimmer.
That four-mile side trip brought the three of us back to the beach late for lunch. The whole team hit the trail at 3:00 pm, and we found ourselves out in (what passes for) civilization by 4:30 pm. Two miles of road hiking remained before we were back in Haena County Park, but the girls decided that it was time for a snorkel break.
We had carried our snorkels and masks for the entire 12 miles of the Kalalau Trail, so everyone gladly dropped their packs, put on their swim suits (I was, of course, already in my trunks) and headed for the water. I have never been in the Pacific, so I was immediately struck by how warm the water was. When we got out about 100 yards from the beach, the water was nearly up to my chin. I put on my borrowed mask and snorkel and tried something (for me) which was new. A coral reef rose up before us, with the most beautiful tropical fish swimming through it. Trying to concentrate on breathing through a tube, maintaining something like a horizontal attitude in the water, watching the fish and everything else just about overloaded my brain, but I enjoyed myself. I bumped into the coral in several places, and when we finally came out of the water an hour after we went in, the blood on my legs reminded me that coral is sharp. My legs are all scabbed up, a week later, but I doubt if I will ever forget the thrill of discovery in my first-ever snorkel adventure. Perhaps I shall learn how to swim some day...
We showered, dressed, put on our packs and hit the trail for camp. After dinner (cooked by we three adults as a sort of treat), one of the homeless living in the park sat with our girls, weaving flowers, angel fish, grasshoppers and other whimsical creations out of palm fronds. It was wonderful to watch. His hands moved as if they had a life of their own while he explained what he was doing in a soft voice. Twelve eyes were riveted on his hands - it would have been wonderful to photograph.
One of our girls has a good heart. When we finished dinner, we had one freeze-dried dinner for two left over. She insisted that we give it to one of the homeless women there, the mother of two that we had spotted earlier.
That night, I received my first mosquito bite in Kauai, much to the delight of the girls. All of them had been badly bitten, one of them having 50 or more bites on her legs. For some reason, the mosquitoes of Kauai clearly prefer women and girls. Heber and I went two weeks with only a bite or two.
We hit our tents with light hearts. It rained.
Saturday, June 22
We were all up early, having breakfast and breaking camp. Everyone else took off to explore some local caves while I stood guard over our packs and watched for the arrival of the vans. At 9:00 am they arrived, and we piled in for the trip to the condo. The next half-day was pure chaos. The girls all had to shower and insisted that their muddy clothing had to be laundered before we set out on the second leg of our adventure. Several members of our support group took all the dirty clothing to a local Laundromat and processed it in bulk, to be sorted later. Meanwhile, we emptied our moist packs, put in fresh supplies of food and fuel. Five hours later, we were once again in the vans, heading south and west around the island before turning north again for the highlands. As the road rose we had brief glimpses of the Waimea Canyon, the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," with its barren and colorful walls mimicking its more famous (and larger) namesake in Arizona. As we arrived at Kokee State Park headquarters in the late afternoon (elevation under 4000 feet), we found the air to be cool and dry, completely different from the tropical environment below.
We drove down a bad dirt road as far as we dared and piled out to put on our packs. We hiked down through light rain to lovely Kauaikoi Camp, carefully picking our steps to avoid falling on the slippery and muddy road. Located in an abandoned (and largely level) plum orchard, the camp consisted of a broad meadow with two ramadas or shelters, covering one picnic table each. Between them was a new (and very modern) outhouse. We could hear the river rushing below us, separating us from Sugi Camp (favored by local boar hunters). We had the place to ourselves, an enchanted little meadow in on a hillside covered with Sugi pines and large, leafy trees. The place felt more like the mountains of California than Kauai.
It was dark by the time we set up our base camp, ate and cleaned up. This place was to be our home for three nights, a base from which we could explore using day hikes.
We had no rain that night, but the dew (our first in Kauai) was heavy. When I tried to sleep with the door to my tent opened, I could feel the dew lightly falling on my face, lighter and more delicate than any mist. It was our first cool night in Kauai, and most of us went into our sleeping bags for the first time since our arrival. Ah, what a relief!
Sunday, June 23
We arose in good spirits, ate and squared away the camp. We hiked the Ditch Trail, eating berries and winding through the lush rain forest enjoying glimpses of the awesome canyon below. While we paused for a break, Heber explored the trail ahead, and discovered a nest of bees. A sting to the scalp sent him scurrying back to us - Laura (whose eyes are better than mine when I don't wear my new trifocals) pulled the stinger. Needless to say we aborted the hike at that point and returned to base for lunch.
After lunch and cleanup, everyone but one girl and me took off for a day hike into the Alaka'i Swamp, a highland bog which has swallowed hikers without leaving a trace. She napped while I tacked some chores with the haste which is characteristic of Kauai. I took time to enjoy the dry air and the weather, sunshine mixed with light showers. At one point, having just cleaned up and rinsed out my nylon shirt, I enjoyed the sensation of being outdoors and working in the light rain wearing nothing but boots and swim trunks. The cool shower on my chest and back, with the breeze stirring the fur on both sides, gave me an almost animal pleasure. I was not created to live long in the tropics!
Late in the afternoon, the gang returned in heavy rain, soaked to the skin and in good humor. I set our two stoves roaring, heating water for coffee and hot cider. Normally, we cook in our teams of four, but having both stoves going at one end of the table gave us an idea for dinner. I ran the stoves while four assistants opened packages of freeze-dried food and stirred the contents after I added the water. We ate as a troop of nine, enjoying a sense of community unique in the 15 year history of summertime "Milers." The remaining four did the dishes and the merry evening concluded (in the rain) with all six girls piling into a three-man tent for cards and cackling.
Another half-inch of rain fell that night.
Monday, June 24
While the adults were up at the usual 5:30 am, the girls slept in, rising to greet the clear blue sky. We cooked breakfast as a troop (as we had done the night before). After cleanup, Heber, Laura, two girls and I hiked across the river and down Camp 10 Road to overlook the Poomau Canyon (one of the tributaries of the Waimea Canyon). It was a delightful and serene stroll, without structure or agenda, with opportunities to stop and explore whenever the mood struck us. The four girls who stayed in camp did whatever girls - they enjoyed mild boredom. One of our hikers is tiny and athletic, adventuresome of spirit. Twice, she decided she wanted to explore a "nose" of soil poking out of the rim of the canyon. We carried a 100 foot length of 10mm climbing line, so we had her tie a bowline around her chest under her arms, and I belayed her down the sharp ridge (just inches wide) out of sight. The second time, she called out that the view was fantastic, so when she promised me that she was securely perched on a large rock I had her untie the line and I retrieved it. We sent the second girl down and repeated the process for Laura (our adult woman). With all three safely planted, Heber and I tied off the line to a tree trunk and backed down the line to their perch. The view was breathtaking, sweeping around and behind us, a vista of air and space with the long vertical drop so close that you would not want to get dizzy and stagger. Ocher, brown and orange soil dropping away, with birds sailing far below.
Our private little adventure finished, Heber and I worked ourselves up the line and belayed the women up to the rim. Agreeing that this was no place for parents, we walked back to our base camp.
After lunch, everyone but me elected to spend the afternoon napping or cleaning up. I chose to follow the trail they had taken the day before through the Alaka'i Swamp, hiking the way I like best (alone). The trail wound up the river canyon as light rain began to fall. Soon, I had reached the highland plateau and encountered the boardwalk which the State has put in to save the fragile environment (and the hikers). At one point in the dismal bog, filled with dead trees and a ferment of low growth, I found an abandoned power pole. I grasped it and rocked it as hard as I could. The swamp behind me, and to the left and right, squelched as the pole swayed. By the time I had come out to the road at the ridge, the light rain had begun to turn into a torrent. The road was a stream in places as I pulled into camp, soaked (many times over) to the skin. My team-mates had a stove roaring, coffee was prepared, and teen girls mothered me into dry clothing, returning the favor I had given them the day before.
I enjoyed that afternoon. I hiked as I have learned to do, one with God's other creatures, having no past, no future - aware only of the moment and immersed in the simple sensation of the moment and of my surroundings. It is a treat far too rare...
We team-cooked once again and turned in to enjoy the sound of the ever-present rain.
Tuesday, June 25
Knowing that we had a full day planned, we had the girls up early (for them). Breakfast was simple (coffee and granola) and we had broken camp and were ready for the trail by 8:00 am. The road was wet and a bit slippery as we ground up the grade to the ridge and down the other side. Across the two streams, the road once again climbed. Before long, we had covered our two miles to the Kokee State Park headquarters. As several of us walked into the visitor's center, we were greeted with "You must be that Girl Scout troop I read about." It seems that the Island Times featured us (complete with color photo) on the front page. Mini-celebrities, as we could only be in a small community.
Most of the girls headed for the Lodge to stoke up on "real" food while the adults planned yet another day hike. All but one of the girls joined us three for a six mile round trip out to the tops of the pali or cliffs which form the Na Pali Coast. It was downhill nearly all the way, and the air grew increasingly hot as we lost altitude and broke out from tree-shaded trail into the sun-baked highland moors. We stopped for lunch at a lookout providing sweeping views of the Pacific far below, and the sheer green cliffs of the Na Pali. Even the helicopters which ply the coast for less-athletic (and wealthier) visitors were below us.
Satisfied, we began the long, hot climb back to the Lodge and the waiting vans. Like horses headed for the barn at the end of a day of carrying riders, they kept up a pace which we adults found difficult to match. We met our drivers and piled in packs, kids and adults to head down the mountain. Before getting into the vans, we all gulped down juice and soft drinks. I finished off three cans in less than ten minutes - we were all dehydrated.
Several miles from the Kokee Lodge, we parked and everyone (drivers included) hiked down a steep dirt side road for a view of Waimea Canyon itself. It was a long hike down, but we were rewarded by wonders large and small. The large wonder was the sweep of Waimea Canyon, its color, depth and breadth once again reminding us of its big brother in Arizona. The small wonder was the dust under our feet, the first actual dust we had seen since our arrival on Kauai. Snapshots taken, we hiked even further down to check out the top of a waterfall (not too much to see at the top) and then ground out the long hike back to the vans.
It was late in the afternoon as we drove home, tired and footsore from 12 miles on the trail that day. There was a stampede for the showers when we reached the condos, and I appreciated being bigger than most of the other hikers. Our core team went out for pizza while we cleaned up, and it was a quiet dinner.
Once the kids were safely parked, Heber, Laura and I decided on one last staff meeting. During the days on the trail, we had met almost daily (sometimes twice a day) to map strategy and hammer our a common front to present to "our" girls. Thus it was that we wanted one last get-together of the adult team to celebrate a good outing and do a post-mortem on the adventure.
Wednesday, June 26
The girls began the day by packing as much as they could (boots, equipment) into their backpacks for the trip home. The men then wrapped the packs as we had done in Sunnyvale two weeks before, using that heavy-duty Saran wrap stuff to protect zippers, belts, pins and other delicate items from the teeth of the baggage-handling equipment. The girls were taken shopping by our long-suffering core group, in a last minute bid to acquire souvenirs and a dress for the evening's luau.
We left for the luau at 3:00 pm, starting off the canned event with a boat ride up the river to Fern Grotto. After the sometimes-strenuous days on the trail, just sitting in a boat and watching the green banks slip by was a pleasure. The Grotto, a State arboretum, was a very pretty collection of tropical rain forest plants, and well worth the visit. Upon our return, we strolled the 30 acre arboretum in which the luau was to take place, looking at a wide variety of plants from all over the Pacific and Asia.
The luau itself was a very large commercial affair under a roofed shelter, served buffet style. The food was good and the girls (and adults) packed it away as only one can who is suffering from the rebound hunger and thirst which comes from a week or more of hiking on freeze-dried rations.
Following dinner, we strolled to the outdoor amphitheater for the multi-cultural show. It had more than a little of the Las Vegas review in it, and most of the dancing was more glitzy than authentic, particularly their insipid interpretation of a Mauri dance of New Zealand. Nevertheless, the girls are not sophisticated and they seemed to enjoy it very much.
It was ironic. It was our first day off the trail and (but for a very brief shower during the show) it did not rain all day, our first dry day in Kauai.
Thursday, June 27
In the vans bright and early, we headed for the airport. 10 backpacks and 23 other pieces of luggage were hauled and processed in a good display of teamwork. Once again, we were recognized (at the airport) as "the Girl Scouts." By 11:00 am, we had landed in Honolulu for a 11 hour layover. We piled into a city bus and headed for the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. The wait to take the boat out to the resting place of the battleship (and the 1100 sailors who still lie in her) was two hours - I was impressed by the popularity of the exhibit. We had lunch while waiting and then took the motor launch out to the memorial. To many of the girls, it was ancient history. For me, it was a moving experience. While I was a child during the war, I have vivid memories of that time and of the postwar period.
Having satisfied the old-timers, the girls demanded to see Waikiki, with its famous beach (and, more importantly) its shopping. A long and crowded trip on the bus finally delivered us to the place, and we celebrated our arrival with an ice cream sundae.
Walking down the streets with their shops, hawker's stalls and high rise hotels, I was disappointed. It is a tawdry and small-time imitation of Singapore - I wanted nothing more than to get on the next bus back to the airport. Here was the Hawaii I had no interest in, that I had never desired to visit. However, to the girls it was a lot more exciting than Sunnyvale and they went off in two teams of shoppers, Heber with one and Laura with the other, leaving me free to escape.
I am glad that I did it. I now have a shirt (a gift from Heber's wife Natalie) that states:
Na Pali Coast -- been there, done that!
That pretty accurately reflects my feelings. We went there well-prepared, right down to a pair of prescription sunglasses obtained just for trip, having no trifocal lens (which permitted me to see where my feet were going without dipping my chin to my chest). We were prepared for the frequent rain and managed to stay comfortable at all times. The hike along the Na Pali Coast was the highlight of the adventure, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that made all the work worthwhile. In addition to spectacular scenery, Kauai has a kind of rural charm or backwater atmosphere that I enjoyed. I learned about a place I had never visited (and may well never visit again), I learned some new backpacking tricks, I tested myself against a difficult trail and I spent two weeks in the company of adolescent Amazons (something I have always enjoyed). It was the backpack adventure of a lifetime.