A couple years back, I read a fascinating book called Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (thank you for the recommendation Bogdan). It tells the story of Ernest Shackleton and his crew’s attempt to explore Antarctica. During this expedition, their ship – The Endurance – got stuck in the ice and ultimately sank, never to be seen again… or so we thought…
I highly recommend this book as it describes the extreme hardships that humans are able to endure. Every one of his crew members survived after months of fighting through cold, boredom, shelter and food issues, and just dealing with other human beings.
My wife teaches several different types of fitness classes every week. Her favorite discipline is the spin class (cycling in place to music). Occasionally, she is able to convince me to join her as she drags me out of the house to go exercise.
A while back, she and I took a class from a different instructor. As I’m pedaling away, pretending like I am totally fine while trying to hide the fact that I’m crying on the inside because my legs are burning and I can’t breathe, the instructor said something that stuck with me.
She told all of us riders to focus our minds on taking a bigger-picture view of what was going on right then, in that moment, as our bodies were fighting our minds. She told us to acknowledge the trials we’ve had in our life, and recognize that we have overcome every single one of them.
100%! A perfect record!
There is not a single obstacle, hurdle, tragedy, or hardship that you have not scratched, clawed, and fought your way through, making it out to the other side each and every time.
Of course, we have bumps, bruises, and scars – some of them deep. But you, me, and whoever else is reading this have overcome 100% of what life has thrown at us so far. And that’s pretty cool!
So, whether you are stranded in the middle of Antarctica and your only means of getting home just sunk, never to be seen again for 107 years… or your body is turning against you and can’t do what it used to… or you’ve lost a loved one… remember, you are strong, you are tough, and you not only can, but you will get through this.
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I know, I know… it is November, so why is this titled “February Words of Wisdom?!”
As part of my job, I get the opportunity to put together a monthly newsletter.
I work in the Medicare world where our company helps those approaching 65 navigate the Medicare Maze that exists for them. Once someone becomes a client, they can sign up to receive our monthly newsletter that has ongoing Medicare tips, helpful videos, and other Medicare-related updates.
To make it more interesting, I added two sections each month: 1. A book recommendation 2. My attempts at words of wisdom
So, the next few posts will be taken from those newsletters and include the book recommendations and the words of wisdom. This site is a way for me to keep a journal of sorts for my kids and I hope they find something useful at some point in their lives from this.
This was last February’s (the first newsletter) message. It did not include a book recommendation, but stay tuned… they are coming!
February’s Words of Wisdom
My dad was my basketball coach for most of my childhood. During particularly close, intense games, as we moved into the 4th quarter, he would ask, “Erik, are you a 1st-quarter player or a 4th-quarter player?”
“A 4th-quarter player.” I would answer.
This question would come often if I had a particularly poor first quarter, 2nd quarter, or entire game up to that point – in an attempt to help me understand that the past is over, what am I going to do now?
Or… if I was having a good game, it was again a reminder that the past is gone. Going into the 4th quarter, the other team would know that they needed to, among other things, slow me down to win the game, and a lot more attention would get directed at me.
This only makes the 4th quarter more challenging. His point was that while the beginning of the game was important, how you finished the game was what so often separated a victory from a defeat.
Would I play free and aggressive at the beginning of the game, where my mistakes could be fixed later, but hide and freeze under the pressure and responsibility of the 4th quarter? When the game was on the line, would I sit back and be content with a good 1st quarter, but disappear during the 4th? Or, would I be a 4th-quarter player, step up, and make the plays we needed to win at the end of the game?
At lunch this past week, he shared with me that he has been reflecting on his life and, given his family’s life expectancies, that he found himself in the 4th quarter of his life.
He and I went on a conversational journey through his life as I asked him, “In your first quarter, what was your best year? What was going on in your life? What were your successes and failures?”
We continued this review through his 1st quarter, 2nd quarter, 3rd quarter, and present day. I asked him to compare the best year of his 2nd quarter with his best year of his 1st quarter. I continued this line of questioning and comparison through all four of his quarters. What I found interesting was that in his situation, he always rated his later “best year” better than his earlier “best year.”
Meaning, that the best year during his 2nd quarter of life was rated better, in his perspective, than the best year of his 1st quarter. However, the best year of his 3rd quarter of life was rated even better than his 2nd quarter best year. And now, he has come to the conclusion that this past year, despite all the challenges and hardships, has been as good or better than any of his previous “best years.”
You already know the question I asked him: “So dad, are you a 1st quarter player, or a 4th quarter player?”
I guess the point is, whatever quarter you find yourself in, perspective and mindset are powerful things. Every quarter is important, so don’t be afraid to make this moment, this day, this week, this month, or this year, better than the one before.
Hey, if while reading this you thought, “you know what… this isn’t half bad” maybe you could subscribe?
I think I can officially say that this past week has earned its place as the saddest week of my life.
Once you learn why, you’ll quickly see that I have lived a sheltered and easy life up to this point *knocking on wood* however, for me, it has left a hole in my heart that’ll take some time to shrink.
Today, my wife and I made the decision to put our beloved dog – Petie – to sleep.
It was a moment we have been trying to postpone for months, but he was in too much pain for too long.
Petie joined our family as a puppy 5 months after my wife and I got married. We figured that we would want kids one day and what better training than the most perfect little animal ever created? If we can keep him alive for a few years, surely we can handle baby humans.
I’ve had several dogs throughout my life and, given that my mom shows dogs professionally, I’ve been around a lot of dogs. Like… a lot. Petie was special.
Petie was born into a show-dog litter. His parents were like… Sheltie dog royalty with pure lines and champions and all of this razzle dazzle stuff that, to be honest, I couldn’t care less about. We got Petie because he was born with a defect. His upper left canine tooth had developed abnormally. It grew inward toward the center of his mouth rather than down like normal teeth. By every measure, Petie was the “perfect Sheltie” except for his tooth. And that alone disqualified him from becoming a show dog.
The breeder had actually taken him to a human orthodontist to see if there was any way to put braces on him to straighten his tooth. It was worth it to her because Petie’s fur, bone structure, height, everything was perfect in the Sheltie world… except that snaggle tooth. The orthodontist advised that it may not be the best look for his human patients to see him working on a dog and he politely declined. And that meant we could have Petie as our boy.
Petie was debarked before we got him. This is a procedure where a vet will make a small incision in the vocal cords to make a dog’s bark sound like more of a whisper than a bark. Since he was meant to be a show dog, living with lots of other dogs, his breeder debarked him and all her other dogs to keep the noise down.
Having done more research on it, the procedure itself isn’t scary. It is less invasive and the recovery time is quicker than spaying or neutering. The dogs still bark, it is just quieter. This post isn’t about whether or not debarking is okay, it’s just to say that he had a cute, quiet bark.
He would let us know when he wanted to go play or go potty based on his bark. We’d tell him, “Bark twice if you want to go potty.” *bark, bark…* “Bark 3 times if you want to go play *frustrated snort followed by, bark bark*
Now, did Petie actually understand the concept of human English, numbers, and complex algorithms? Absolutely. I have no doubt in my mind he knew astrophysics and no one can prove me wrong.
I’m sure many of you have had a pet like Petie. He was loyal. He was always looking to please us, our kids, strangers, basically everyone he met. He rolled with the punches of 3 little kids tackling him, pulling his ears, and snuggling him at all times.
With each of our 3 kids, whenever my wife would get up in the middle of the night to feed them, Petie would wake up, follow my wife and sit by her feet as she changed diapers, fed babies, and rocked them to sleep. Every. Single. Time.
Petie was my fetch buddy. As soon as he’d see me reach for my tennis racket, he knew the game was on. He would play fetch for as long as I was willing to hit a tennis ball, trotting back to me just happy as a clam and dropping the ball by my feet for another shot. When it snowed, he’d dive head first into the snow after the snowball we had just made and tossed across the yard. He’d come bouncing back with he mouth open and his tail wagging ready for the next snowball to replace the one he couldn’t find.
As Petie got older, he couldn’t play fetch for as long. He couldn’t jump on the bed and wrestle like he used to. A couple of years ago we got a 2nd dog – a golden retriever – who brought a new energy into the home. Unfortunately, the golden retriever got a lot bigger than Petie and didn’t realize how big she was. She beat up on Petie a bit, but they eventually became friends.
Petie’s snaggle-tooth began to affect the rest of his mouth. His teeth started to decay in a way that made it painful for him to eat. As we moved to smaller kibble and eventually wet foods, he started turning down meals more and more frequently. On top of that, for the past year and a half, he’s slowly gone deaf, and for the last 7 months, he hasn’t been able to hear us call his name, or that he’s a good boy, or that we love him.
We tried to prolong his life as best as we could, but over the past week, you could see the fight to live leave him, and he was in too much pain to stand, to walk, and to eat. He would lick some ice cubes but he refused to eat anything. Chicken, turkey, gravy… all of his favorite treats were repulsive to him at this point. If he did swallow anything, he would throw it up.
The last week has been miserable for him. He didn’t want to get up or move. He went 5 days without food and so, this morning, we took him to the vet.
The people at Brookside Animal Clinic were great. They were compassionate, they were kind, they gave us the space we needed and Petie the dignity he deserved. The first step was to sedate him. Within a minute or two, Petie was laying on the table sleeping. I think it was the first time in a long time that he hadn’t been in a lot of pain.
After about 10 minutes, the vet returned and put Petie to sleep for good. She mentioned that his heart would stop within a minute or two, but he wouldn’t feel anything. After a minute or two, she listened and his heart was still beating. He held on a couple more minutes and then we got confirmation that he was gone.
Petie just missed his 12th birthday. He will be missed greatly by me and my family.
I used to cry. A lot. I think I scared my parents because I would cry over just about anything. I’d remember pre-school friends and cry because I missed them. I’d cry during sporting events, movies, everything. Very sensitive soul.
But then my parents got divorced in high school and I didn’t want to cry anymore. I lived in Russia for a couple years after high school and I guess I learned how to suppress emotions rather effectively while there. I didn’t cry when my wife and I got married. I didn’t cry when we had our kids.
The first time my wife heard me cry was after 10 years of marriage. I had nightmares over two consecutive nights where I was forced to watch my kids die in the nightmare. I was crying in the nightmare, and woke up crying. So technically, she has never seen me cry… until today.
I tried hard, but just couldn’t hold it back – and it’s not a pretty site, but it is what it is.
The emotions come in waves. I went into work after I had calmed down and it was a good distraction. Held strong through most of the work day and then went home and started writing this and, well… let’s just say that I’m glad you are reading this and not watching me type it. I’m a mess. But, this blog is a journal of sorts for me and a way to memorialize Petie, so we must… keep… going.
I feel like dogs embody so much of what is good in the world.
However, for better or worse, all dogs seem to be terrible at one thing: Hiding their feelings.
If a dog is scared, or hurt, or tired, or they have to go potty… they just can’t hide it. If my childhood dream ever did come true, and dogs could magically talk, you’d never need a lie detector test because their bodies and eyes would tell you exactly what they were thinking.
Most importantly, any time their person pulls in the driveway, and walks through the door, a dog’s ears perk up, its eyes widen, its tail turns into a helicopter, and they spin around barking because they are so happy that their person is finally home to pet them, play with them, and snuggle with them.
And this is what I’d like to focus on.
I wouldn’t necessarily call this next feeling a fear, but it is something that I want to avoid at all costs.
There are people in my life that mean so much to me. The easy family answers are obvious, but there are several friends, coworkers, and neighbors that I care so deeply about that it almost hurts.
Just like Petie, if I know they are coming to my house, I stand by the window, look down the street trying to catch the first glimpse of their car, and then run back away from the door so I don’t look too crazy and desperate, yelling to my wife, “They’re here! They’re here!” while spinning in circles, waiting for them to come to the door.
Of course, when I answer the door, all of that changes. I’m cool. I’m calm. I’m collected. I answer the door like I just don’t care, “Oh hey, *head nod* I was busy doing stuff, didn’t hear the doorbell ring, you been there long?”
It’s happened… recently… I’m not ashamed to admit it now, but why am I ashamed to let them know how I feel?
My guy friends and I seem to share the love language of taunting each other and piles of sarcasm. We’d never break down and say, “I love you, man.” And I don’t care how sentimental I get, I’m not going to resort to licking peoples’ hands. Dogs are kinda nuts there.
However, the last thing I want is for the people, about whom I feel so much love and respect, to never know how I really feel about them.
Whether it’s manly bravado or youthful ignorance or fear of opening myself up to someone who doesn’t reciprocate the same feelings (funny story there with my wife), I find myself hesitant to express how much I love, respect, and admire people in my life. I hold back words I want to say like, “Hey, I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate our friendship and I get so happy when I see you succeed. I always look forward to spending time with you and I feel safe sharing my thoughts around you. Thank you for being in my life and making it better.”
So here’s my attempt at words of wisdom for this month. Whether it’s a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a friend, a coworker, or a neighbor – will you join with me in taking the time over this next week, maybe even today, to let the people you truly care about know how you feel. It’ll make their day. It’ll make yours.
We lost our buddy – our boy Petie today, and our house feels empty, missing something that should be there, but I have no doubt that he knew beyond question that he was loved and adored by me, my kids, and his favorite person in the whole world, who I believe he has stayed alive for longer than he maybe should have – my wife. He was and always will be her dog.
After a great night’s sleep, we are ready for the final day. We packed up our stuff into our car and prepared to execute a genius plan.
The master plan
We had to be out of our hotel room by 11. However, we had an ATV tour scheduled at 2 with our flight at around 9. The ATV tour warns you that you will get dirty. So, how would we shower off between our ATV tour and our flight?
We figured we would have small bottles of bio-safe soap and shampoo ready and shower at the outdoor showers at our hotel. It was a perfect plan.
Killing time before the tour
We had some time to kill, so of course we went back to Deja Vu to see if there were any clothes I had missed since the last 5 times we had been there. I got me a nice, large sun hat that my friend Brandon still makes fun of me for.
We spent most of our time around the southern part of the island since that is where our tour would start. After perusing several stores, we headed to the tour company’s building.
We checked in and they gave us a bandana thing to keep the mud off our face (see later pictures) as well as the directions to the real start of the tour, so we drove another 5 minutes there.
We got to the facilities where all the ATVs slept. It was pretty groovy. One couple in a rented Camaro somehow high-centered on a rock. It wasn’t even in the parking lot. It was behind one of the garages. I’m not entirely sure what they were even doing over there, but the lady who high centered it (hold your sexist female driver jokes people…) refused to drive an ATV. She and her husband made an uncomfortable amount of jokes about it throughout the tour. I get it. They were embarrassed.
There was another family next to us speaking in an accent I recognized. I asked them (in Russian) if they were Russian. They said they were and we had a nice little chat (back in English). I rarely get to use my Russian anymore, and when I do, it’s usually asking people I think are Russian if they are Russian, and then we switch back to English because they speak better English than I do Russian at this point of my life.
Let the tour begin!
This ATV tour was wicked fun. It felt like a mix between the Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones rides at Disneyland. You’re sliding around on these muddy, deeply rutted roads and seeing all kinds of cool stuff.
We drove down the road that is the motorcycle scene in the more recent Jurassic Parks with Chris Pratt. They have a little dinosaur skeleton and Jeep to mark the spot.
We drove through a 1/2 mile long tunnel with a cool backstory on how it was made. At this point, you all get out of your ATV and the guide tells you the story. You also introduce yourself to all the other riders. The usual… where you’re from, what you’re doing there… etc.
Met a cool guy from Detroit who works on the Corvette. My family has always been big into Corvettes so he and I spent some time talking cars.
Don’t go chasing waterfalls
The tour is called the “waterfall tour.” It is a bit of a stretch because there is only one stop with a waterfall. At about the halfway point, the group jumps out and there is a set of 3 waterfalls, each falling into the other, that you can frolic around. One was deep enough to jump into (see video). Not a big jump, but you do have to jump out over rocks to get to the deep part.
We had a little snack of granola bars and some pineapple juice drink that is fantastic.
We stopped by an old World War II bunker in the middle of a mountain. It was super cool to me. I love history stuff, especially WWII. You’ll have to check it out and see the petrified crackers.
Moving along, we stopped at a big open space where several movies have been shot. Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, King Kong, and several others.
The last stop on the tour was the serene Waita Reservoir. This was a peaceful place with a bike zip line (sold separately). You jump on a bike and ride it across a zip line. Pretty nuts.
If you notice… there is a lot of mud. Luckily, you already know about the master plan.
They had some showers to rinse the mud off your clothes and shoes, so we blasted ourselves off in that. We grabbed a quick ice cream bowl and then we headed back to our hotel.
You might be expecting a big plot twist, something like, “Oh no! We couldn’t get back in the hotel!
But everything went exactly as planned. We showered off at the outdoor showers in our swim suits. We changed clothes in the public restroom, and enjoyed one last meal at the Lava Lava restaurant with our friends, the chickens.
We still had a little time to kill, so we drove around to a part of the island we’d never been, just west of the airport. We drove through some neighborhoods trying to imagine what it would be like to live here, then, we had to return our car and head to the airport.
The airport and flight home were fine.
That’s a lie. The flight was miserable. It is a red-eye flight. I am 6’4″. Me and airplanes don’t get along well. I couldn’t sleep at all so I am grumpy as can be for the 6 hour flight and subsequent day, but all in all, everything went nice and smooth. We were happy to be home, but planning our next trip to Hawaii as soon as we can.
I hope you enjoyed the recap our our little trip to Kauai!
After the 40-ish miles of hiking over the past 5 days, my feet and legs were sore. It was time to skip leg day.
We slept in because we were both exhausted and the only thing we had planned for the day was a boat tour of the Na Pali coast.
Now, when you do this, you have a few options. The two most common are on a large 55′ catamaran yacht. We did this one the last time we visited Kauai and it is great. They are much more comfortable and typically stay further away form the shore. The last time we did this, we saw whales and had dolphins swimming right next to the boat.
Your other option is a raft.
This is a much more adventurous option as you and 9ish other people jump in a raft that has a massive motor attached do it and experience every wave, wind, and rain that crash into you.
To skip the reading part, scroll down for the pictures.
The tour started later in the day so we had some time to kill. Naturally, we had to stop back into Deja Vu and pickup some clothes. I got a waterproof jacket and a hat. Caitlin got some cute pants.
We wandered around a shopping center and shared a Jamba Juice together. From there, we drove over to west side of the island where our tour would kick off and spent some time in the town of Waimea. There was a cute little cookie shop where we grabbed a few chocolate chip cookies. They were good, but not as good as Caitlin’s world famous cookies.
We went to the dock where our boat tour would begin. We watched as a few other crews were coming back and there was this local lady who would welcome the crews returning by dancing around and shake shake shakin’ her booty (that was the song that was playing as well as an accurate description of her dancing).
All of the boat captains seemed to know who she was. I wasn’t sure if she was just genuinely into tourists returning from a boat tour, was paid by the boat tour companies to hype them upon return, or (the most likely scenario) was a little cray cray.
She was nice and at least gave us a story to write about.
We were all sitting around a picnic table waiting for instructions on what to do on this tour. While we are all waiting there awkwardly, my mind wanders into the dangers of what we’re about to do. I mean, I would say I’m an okay swimmer, but out in the ocean with huge waves… I’m a dead man. Plus the rocks and sharks and who knows what else could kill me, I’m preparing myself for survival scenarios.
Which is why I’m assessing these strangers that I’m about to spend the next 6 hours with and wondering to myself, “would this person help my survival or hurt it?”
“Oh, she’d definitely be the first to go.”
Turns out, there was another family from Utah on our boat of 10 people. What a small world.
Waves and sores
We chose to go with Captain Andy’s tours. Our captain gave us a long lecture about how this was a vigorous tour and not for the physically weak. If you have any heart issues or physical impairments, you’re going to want to choose the larger yacht, not the raft.
After we agree that we are all okay, we jump in the raft. The captain lets us know that the front of the raft is more extreme and bouncy, while the back of the raft… aaaaand Caitlin immediately runs to the front. She is in the very front. Like, there is a line on the boat where it tells you not to cross and she repeatedly crossed it.
So, we head out and we fly over waves. It feels like we are getting air off of these things and we’re right at the front experiencing it. To help you get an idea of what is keeping us safe and secure in this raft careening over 10 foot waves, don’t worry. We are sitting on the very edge, about to topple over. But we have one foot (bare foot) under a rope in the foot of the boat, and are holding onto another rope along the side of the raft. Not helping my whole death-anxiety.
Our captain is great and tells us all about the island as we cruise around. It takes us a good 2 hours to get around to the other-wordly awesomeness of the Na Pali mountain fingers. By this time, my sore legs have been replaced by sore hands and forearms from holding onto these ropes for dear life for 2 hours straight.
The unique part about the raft experience is that you can go right up to the coast. In fact, they took us inside several different sea caves that were super cool. This one had a waterfall going into it. Check out the swells and how much the water level changes.
There were a couple others they took us into that were super cool. One that stood out went into this clearing that resembled a donut. Well, the donut would be the water. The donut hole was rock. And outside the donut was 50 foot rock cliffs and then the clear blue sky. I wish I had taken pictures or a video, but alas, I didn’t. There was a turtle swimming in there with us. He or she (I don’t know how to tell) seemed like a nice turtle. Not one of those stuck-up turtles we all hear about in the news.
Here are a few more pictures to make you go ooooh and aaaaah.
The further up the coast you go, the more dramatic it seems to get.
We saw kayakers making their way down the coast, which seems crazy to me considering how big the waves were in certain parts. We also ran into a pretty strong rain storm. Good think I had that waterproof jacket from Deja Vu and my nice hat. I’ll admit, it doesn’t make me more attractive. All function here.
We worked our way back down the coast and stopped at this beach/reef/ancient ruins. We snorkeled for a bit and ate lunch. One of our guides ate with us and we were asking him about the impact of covid. He said that it hit the island hard. His observations were that a lot of people got their covid checks and either blew them on new cars and useless stuff, or they figured they didn’t have to work for a while. He tried to save his and find work, and he’s glad he did. He thinks this is why it is so hard to find restaurants open and stores because they can’t staff them.
I asked him his genuine thoughts about all us tourists who come. He said he loves us, especially the respectful ones. The vast majority of tourists are nice and don’t do stupid things. You get some who are idiots and mess with the wildlife and, if they are caught, have pretty serious punishments.
He was a nice guy and gave all of us a nice tour of these ancient ruins with lots of cool stories.
After a good hour or so here, it was time to head back. We hopped back into the boat and got ready for the long ride back.
The edge of the boat is rough, so all that holding-on-for-dear-life business had worn a couple sores on my hand that were burning from the salt water. I complain a lot, and with this being my biggest grievance, you should get an idea as to how awesome this really was.
We got a pretty sunset picture. You can see why they always have you staring into the sun for pictures because with the sun behind you, you can’t see our faces. If we had used a Samsung camera, it probably would’ve looked great. But, we used an iPhone.
The ride in was uneventful other than the large waves and rollercoaster feel of the raft. We made it back safe and sound and thanked our captains.
A common thread throughout all of these entries is that I like to eat, and I get hungry often.
Since we only had a small meal on the boat tour, it was time to eat a lot. I asked our captain where the best burgers on the island would be. She said Street Burger. Turns out, it was within walking distance of our hotel! But, we still drove because my body is screaming incessantly at me at this point from my overall lack of physical conditioning.
The burger was fantastic. I got the Bacon and BBQ burger. They have these garlic and Parmesan fries. Not sure why, but I just wasn’t feeling them that night. I still ate them all. But weren’t my favorite. Still, a super cool restaurant with a rad vibe to it.
We went home and packed up most of our stuff as our trip was nearing its end. We still had a fun day planned for tomorrow since our flight wasn’t until the evening, but our checkout time was 11 am so we made sure everything that we could pack away, was packed away.
Watched 3rd Rock from the Sun, and faded off to sleep.
Well, I TOTALLY lost momentum on this. What has it been, four months since Day 4?
My bad, y’all.
But, this is site is as close to a journal as I’ll get, so I still need to get this out there.
Just when I thought Kaua’i couldn’t get any better… Day 5 had to come along and TOTALLY blow my mind.
Today is hike day. More specifically, the Kalalau Trail – one of the most famous (and dangerous) trails on planet earth. Also, probably more importantly, the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in my relatively short life.
A little background
Three years ago, Kaua’i experienced severe flooding on the north shore and up around where the Kalalau Trail begins (Ke’e beach) as a result of record rainfall. The water washed away quite a bit and gave the island an opportunity to re-think how they wanted to approach this popular spot that, pre-flooding, was being hammered by tourists.
The state decided to require a permit to get to this beach and hike the trail. The permit to hike really comes in the form of a parking pass, and you have two options here.
Option 1 – You purchase a parking passes for your vehicle. You drive all the way to a parking lot near the trailhead and verify with a park ranger that you have your parking pass. Then, you can enjoy the beach and the trail.
Option 2 – You purchase a shuttle ticket. There are a parking lots that span a couple miles away from the trailhead where shuttles are… well… shuttling people. If you purchase a shuttle ticket, that acts as your hiking trail permit.
We went with Option 2.
There are a limited number of passes, whether for your own car or the shuttle. We got the 2nd earliest shuttle (7:00 AM) so we could get enough time to hike.
There is a short hike from the parking lot to the trailhead/Ke’e beach, which is pretty interesting in and of itself, and then, you’re ready to start the journey.
Here’s a map at the trailhead that guided us along our hike.
Back in the day, my family used to do a lot of road trips. When my mom got cancer, she, my dad, and I visited every county in Utah to complete a passport. Separate from that, we went to countless car shows all throughout the state and into other states.
With these hundreds of hours on the road, it always seemed like my dad was racing everyone else on the road. I think it was subconscious, because I find myself falling into the same patterns at times. It doesn’t matter how fast the person in front of you is going, you want to pass them. Where am I going with this?
Here is where I’m going with this. This is Caitlin. She is a reckless hiker and has no concept of a speed limit.
If they handed out tickets for tailgating while hiking, my entire salary each year would go to paying for Caitlin’s tickets.
She hikes fast. And if someone is ahead of her, she needs to pass them. Unfortunately, much like driving in the fast lane in Utah, people who think they hike at a brisk pace will go an uncomfortable amount of time before moving to the side to let Caitlin pass. I just try to keep up and apologize to those left in her wake as I slip by.
Our entire shuttle took off on the hike at about the same time, and we weren’t the first ones out, so we had to pass quite a few people. Once we were in first place amongst our shuttle-mates, we quickly caught up to the group who had been on the earlier shuttle.
We were haulin’.
Here is a glimpse of the scenery while we were between shuttle groups and had a little space between us and everyone else.
At the 2 mile mark, you come to the Hanakapi’ai stream that leads right into Hanakapi’ai beach and the ocean. You cross the stream in what was just below knee-height water for me – around neck high for Caitlin
(I joke, I joke. I’m tall and she is short, but not that short).
This is cool spot to walk in the sand and watch the waves crash in, not the mention the view of the Na’Pali range looking back.
Once you reach this point, you have a decision to make.
Apparently (we learned this later), your regular pass only allows you to come to this point and then hike up to Hanakapi’ai Falls – another 2 miles following the stream up into the mountains. This is a 300 foot waterfall that is supposed to be pretty awesome. We didn’t go here and instead, continued along the Kalalau Trail.
To continue further along the Kalalau Trail, you need a separate pass. We knew about a separate pass, but thought it was only if you wanted to camp at the end of the trail. We didn’t plan on camping and wanted to go deeper in to a different water fall.
So, we split off from the regular group, 90% of whom were headed to the Hanakapi’ai waterfall, and headed further along the trail.
One other notable feature of this spot is the toilet. This is an elevated structure that smells like… well… you can imagine. It was one of the most foul smelling things I’ve experienced and I don’t know if I’d go in there to avoid an accident myself.
Everything was so lush and green. The contrast between the greens of the vegetation and the blues of the sky and ocean gave me what I like to call eyegasms. It’s incredible how beautiful everything is.
It was also very humid. The temperature wasn’t too warm. Right around 72 degrees, but the humidity cause a lot of perspiration and sweat running into the eyes.
Even being there in person, it all just didn’t seem real. Check out this cool picture.
Here’s a little stream crossing. Hear the helicopters? You’ll see why.
So, at just past the 6-mile mark, we find ourselves in the Hanakoa Valley. A friend had told us that this is the waterfall we should try to see. We split off the Kalalau Trail and onto the Hanakoa Falls Trail. We are on this trail for about a half a mile until we reach Hanakoa Falls – the climax of our hiking experience.
When we arrived at this waterfall, there was a couple who had camped back where the trail split and they were just leaving this unbelievable spot.
Once they left, Caitlin and I were the only ones at this waterfall for an entire hour! It was so cool having our own little private waterfall. Well, except for all those helicopters I mentioned.
Remember that Hanakapi’ai Falls were 300 feet? Well, Hanakoa Falls is a 1,000 foot waterfall. Now, you can’t see all the way up to the top from the pool in the video, but there are sections along the hike where you can spot the massive waterfall, and helicopter tours are flying in here all the time to show the tourists this incredible spot.
We both jumped into the pool, which was very cold. Looking up, you could see how fast the clouds were flying past and, when there was cloud cover, it was cool (temperature). When the sun came out, it was nice and warm.
So, we swam, laid out on the rocks when the sun was out, admired the scenery, and enjoyed this little piece of heaven.
The way back
As we headed back, it was at this point the we had the discussion of whether or not we should do the entire trail in one day. That would be 22 total miles in a day (11 each way), and we had another 5 miles to go before the end of the 1-way trail. It was also at this point that I was reminded of 2 other things:
My knees aren’t great.
I should’ve packed more food and water.
So, if you ever venture out on this hike, bring more than just a Gatorade bottle of water for each person and more than a cup of grapes.
As we started back, my knees were feeling it. We had been hiking up and down mountains and it was catching up to me. Not to mention all the fluids we’d lost to sweat and only having a 32 oz water bottle. I told Caitlin that I had no doubt she could make the hike in a day, but I wouldn’t be able to, and like most things in her life, I held her back from accomplishing something pretty nuts.
In the post covering Day 3, I mention the shoes that I had for this trip. These shoes were perfect for all the hikes we had done up to this point. And to be candid, they were great for this hike as well. I think the problem is, that by the end of this hike, we did 14 miles in a day. Add to that the 9 or so miles we had done on the other days, and my feet were not feeling great.
I felt like I could feel every rock and pebble hitting my feet on the way down. This wasn’t the case on the way up, but maybe as you’re hoping to get back to safety, everything starts to feel uncomfortable. These shoes held up well and it was nice knowing I could cross streams without having to change shoes.
We work our way back, drinking what water we had left and taking pictures alone the way.
Does Caitlin meet her match?
As we got back to the Hanakapi’ai stream, we encountered this family of parents and two early-teenage kids. There was a girl, probably around 13 who was like a mini-Caitlin. She saw this hike as a race, and she was trying to pass as many people as possible.
You can imagine what this did to Caitlin.
Caitlin didn’t say anything, but our pace went from fast, to stupid fast.
So, as my knees are wobbling and my feet are sore and raw, Caitlin takes off on this high-speed chase to track down and pass this 13 year old who is hell-bent on proving to whoever is near that she is the fastest hiker of all time.
I think we all know how this ends.
We catch up to this girl and Caitlin is quite literally breathing down her neck. The girl finally concedes that she’s been beat and lets us pass. We get to the end of the trail about 2 minutes before her and congratulate her on 3rd place.
You can see it in her eyes that she has met the GOAT when it comes to speed hiking – Caitlin. With a few more years of training, she could become great herself.
5 1/2 years before, when we first visited Kauai, we took a picture on Ke’e beach together and we tried our best to recreate it.
Look how young we look in the 2015 one… And the water levels were much different. There was a lot more exposed rock this time.
I did a good job of hiding it, but I was pretty miserable physically at this point in the 2021 picture. My body was sore. I was dehydrated and crazy-mad hungry. Which is unfortunate, because this is my favorite beach on Kauai. The sand is soft and the water is warm. There is a little cove that is calm and doesn’t have waves crashing down on you. This place is amazing.
Caitlin laid out on the beach while I hobbled back to the shuttle area to find some water. I ended up resorting to the shower water because there weren’t vending machines or other forms of water.
We had a nice chat with the shuttle driver who drives shuttles all over the country. His contract brought him here for a couple months and then he’ll head back to the mainland for other work.
These shuttle drivers are amazing. The roads are super tight and these shuttles are wide. They are inches away from hitting the mountainside or other cars, but they cruise around with impressive calm.
We get back to our car and Erik needs food.
Searching for a restaurant
In previous posts, I mentioned how the road had been destroyed by a landslide a few months before our visit. This meant that we were stuck on the Hanalei side until they opened that road up during certain times of the day.
We parked our car in Hanalei and went looking for food. It was one of those moments where I am so hungry that nothing sounds good. Plus, everywhere was packed with long waits.
With the pandemic, restaurants were hit hard and they are all short staffed. This meant longer wait times. We walked around for a good half hour before we settled on the Hanalei Gourmet.
This is a cute restaurant with a bar. They sat us at the bar next to this older gentlemen who has led quite the interesting life. He is house-sitting for a friend of his and has been off and on for years.
The food tasted amazing. I wasn’t sure if it was because it was genuinely great, or I was just so hungry that anything would’ve tasted like the best meal I’d ever had. The view out of this restaurant is so beautiful, too.
This whole island is just absurdly gorgeous.
Once the road opened up, we headed back to our hotel, jumped in the pool and hot tub, showered, and crashed. It was an epic day.
If you ever visit Kauai, getting a glimpse of the Na’Pali coast is a must. The Kalalau Trail hike was both Caitlin’s and my favorite parts of this vacation. There are several other great things we did mentioned in other posts, but this hike was THE highlight of highlights on this round.
2021 brought with it other passion projects that involved more video tutorials and hands-on learning, but we still got quite a few books in (and the year isn’t over yet).
I’ll add up the total pages read when the year ends and I’ll update this list as more are finished.
*Note* My ranking system is personal. 5’s usually mean that it got me to see the world in a new way, it entertained me in an unexpected way, or it offered what I needed to hear at this point in my life.
Many of these were recommended to me as life-changing books.
If the book you recommended wasn’t rated highly by me, can we still be friends?
I’ve found that when you read books – meaning the timing and circumstances of your life – impacts your feelings about that book.
If your recommendation is lower than it should be, it was just the wrong timing for me.
We last left each other in this series as Caitlin and I were going down for a quick nap at 5:30 PM that led to us sleeping through the night, waking up the next morning, dazed, a little confused, but pumped to get an early start on the day.
The plan was to head out to the opposite side of the island and hike the Grand Canyon of the Pacific – Waimea Canyon.
The Southwest part of the island seems to have more shipyards and docks. A lot of boat tours are launched from this area. As you move to the West side of the island, you’ll drive through the town of Waimea. Captain Cook landed here and “discovered” Kauai in 1778. The town has a sign and, going from memory, said something around “Kauai’s most historic town.”
Partway through the town of Waimea, you head east towards Waimea Canyon State Park.
I don’t know how to adequately prepare you for what you will see here. I have some pictures, but again, they don’t fully capture what is there.
As you drive through the State Park, there are several scenic overlooks that are literally breathtaking. This canyon is enormous with massive cliffs that fall away at severe angles. If you’re scared of heights as I am, you will get a severe form of butterflies in your stomach, and you’ll be death-gripping any rail nearby to keep you safe.
As mentioned earlier in the series, rain was a part of the previous day so the picture below doesn’t adequately portray this place with the clouds hiding the incredible beauty of this canyon.
We were the first car in the parking lot of the Waipoo Falls trailhead. You do need to pay per car and per person to park/hike here, and you do so at a pay station in the parking lot. I think it was $20 for the car and us two, plus tax, so about $23 and change. The machine prints out a receipt that you put on your dashboard to avoid a ticket or getting towed or something.
This hike is gorgeous. We did it last time we came here and were relatively familiar with where to go. The hike has some pretty slippery spots as it is usually wet and a little muddy. Remember those shoes I had from the last post? They were awesome here.
As you hike through some thick rainforest area, you pop out on a cliff.
Here’s a video of us on said cliff and a full rainbow.
Keep walking a bit further, and you come to a cute little waterfall.
This waterfall goes into a little pond, which leads to a small stream, which leads to this…
It is the nightmare of someone afraid of heights. I mean, you are standing inches away from a slip, slide, fall, die. It’s beautiful. It’s terrifying.
There is a trail visible on the other side of the falls. We later learned that it has been washed out and is no longer “active” due to its dangerous risk, the trail falling away down hundreds of feet cliffs, and flash floods. Not knowing this, we continued on.
We weaved in and out of this jungle-terrain and wandered onto incredible views.
As we were hiking along, it got pretty windy and rainclouds started barreling down on us like a freight train. On the outside, I was cool, calm, and collected… leading Caitlin through this jungle paradise with courage and charisma.
On the inside…
Screaming. I was screaming so loud people. I can barely keep my wits about me and I’m thinking, “I’m gonna die! I’m gonna die! I’m gonna die!”
Luckily, I gather composure and we finally duck into the safety of the mountain. We start wandering away from cliffs and through some super thick plant life. As I mentioned, this isn’t a trail people hike frequently, so my face, and arms, and legs, and hands are getting plastered by all kinds of freaky-deaky spider webs. I can’t see where I’m stepping. Flies and other bugs are welcoming us with open arms. And, I’m pretty sure wild boars and jaguars are stalking us to eat us.
They say jaguars aren’t on Kaua’i, but who are ‘they’?!
The jaguars are ‘they’ and ‘they’ told people that ‘they’ aren’t on Kaua’i so ‘they’ could sneak up on ME and eat ME.
Wandering this trail was actually reasonably pleasant, but pretty long. We happened upon a YMCA camp with some cool cabins that looked like a fun place to stay. There was an odd growth I noticed on a tree. I examined it in further detail after Caitlin had passed it.
It was a gutted pig. Yep. Pig guts all over a tree. I didn’t tell Caitlin because she had expressed her fear of wild hogs about 35 seconds earlier.
We ended up hiking somewhere in area of 7 miles total before we popped out on the main road that winds through Waimea State Park. It also happened to be right where the Kokee Lodge is nestled neatly in a little slice of paradise.
This place had a delicious diner with amazing food and smoothies. They had souvenirs and other knick knacks designed to pull at your sentimental side and take your money.
We were beat, so this place was like a miracle to us.
Here’s the view inside the diner:
There were a gazillion chickens that Caitlin tried to herd. It didn’t work out so well, but it made for some fun memories.
See how the chickens just completely ignore her? Poor Caitlin. Now she knows exactly how I felt in high school as I tried to get girls (including her) to notice me.
We hiked about a mile or so back up the main road. There isn’t a lot of room on the shoulder of the roads so Caitlin would judge drivers and the future of their eternal soul by how considerate they were of us – evidenced by their willingness to move over a bit so as to not kill us with their car.
If they didn’t move: No wave, and eternal damnation If they moved a little: Head nod, but still eternal damnation If they gave us enough room so we didn’t feel the wind against our cheek: Wave, but you’re going to hell. If they were good people and went into oncoming traffic to avoid us: They are headed straight to heaven and, probably more importantly, Caitlin would throw the Shaka sign – the ultimate gift 🤙.
More breathtaking views
We made it back to our car and continued up the road, deeper into Waimea State Park (and back past the Kokee Lodge). At this point, you find yourself coming to the ends of the road.
The first is the Kalalau lookout. Kalalau is where one of the most famous hiking trails in the world, ends. See the Day 5 post for more there.
This Kalalau coast is 4,000 feet below your cute little toesies at this lookout, where you are in the clouds looking down on one of the most magnificent scenes the eye can behold.
Well… 2nd most beautiful…
Here are some more pictures:
The second end of the road is the Pu’u lookout, which makes immature people like myself giggle every time we say it out loud.
Go ahead… Try it. Say Pu’u out loud right now. If you’re human, at minimum you chuckled. Most likely, you snorted out whatever you were drinking while saying Pu’u and reading. If you’re like me, you said it again and laughed again.
Pu’u… is further up the road and I guess it’s technically the only end of the road.
Here is a video from that lookout.
After I picked my jaw up from off the dirt, we headed back to our car.
I think now is as good a time as ever to mention parking. Parking spots on this island are comically small. If you center your car in your stall, and the car next to you does the same, neither one of you can open your doors enough to get out of your car. Trust me. I tried one night. I had to climb through the window to get out, which is stupid, yet impressive that I still have the nimble athleticism to pull off such an advanced maneuver.
Maybe… MAYBE a Smart car would fit in one of these stalls, but the stall would make the Smart car appear like a Hummer.
Speaking of… I saw a few Hummers here and they must’ve taken over 5 spots rather than their usual 3. Not because they are that wide, but because anyone who drives a Hummer is probably a d-bag.
We, not being d-bags, had a Chevy Impala and look at this:
This is an empty parking lot, and these were the widest stalls on the island! The grocery store stalls… nope. Uh uh… don’t park next to someone if you plan on leaving your car at any time, because neither one of y’all are getting out.
Back to it
We drove back and revisited a beach we stopped at some 5 1/2 years ago. It was our first Hawaii beach ever, and it was the place where, an hour into our first trip to Hawaii, with Caitlin’s brand new phone, she got too close to the waves, got smacked with water, and her phone was trashed.
We had a much better experience this time. We wandered around until we got bored and headed back through the area with Da Crack where I could Da Shop for Da Clothes.
A local shop settled a decade-long debate between Caitlin and I on the pronunciation of Teva. You know, the hiking sandals. Let’s just say that the shop owner said he feels both ways are right. Teva like Evan and Teva like Teeva. But the Teva rep says Teeva, which is absurd and I think it is still wrong, and I’m right.
We came across a store called Deja Vu, and this is probably the most dangerous store I’ve ever entered. I felt like I needed, not just wanted, but NEEDED to have every single item they sold in this store.
The shirts were amazing. The hats, the shoes, the belts, the towels… I wanted everything. And then, I look over to Caitlin, and they have the most adorable, comfortable looking girls clothes on the planet! For Caitlin… not me. For some reason, I feel it’s important to clarify that.
We spent too much money buying clothes that were too amazing to leave on the shelves of Deja Vu and not on our bodies. We returned to Deja Vu on Days 6 and 7 as well…
We went back to our hotel and swam for a bit, sat in the hot tub for a bit, laid out for a bit, and then ate a bit at the Lava Lava Club. Caitlin ordered the pineapple chicken, which is chicken, rice, and pineapple… in a freakin’ pineapple! Yes, that’s right, the pineapple carcass is the bowl that holds your meal. Pretty sweet.
We watched the sun set and went back to our room to watch 3rd Rock from the Sun and drift off to sleep.
We needed our rest after hiking more than 9 miles today with the Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali coast waiting for us tomorrow…
Day 3 promised a lot of rain in the forecast, so that made it rather difficult to plan specific activities. As I mentioned in Part 2, shuttle services had canceled their routes for today because of the severe weather headed our way.
We woke up early and Caitlin got in a quick workout on our hotel room porch while I vigorously watched TV.
Caitlin came bouncing into the room, full of excitement as she beckoned me to check out some interesting characters hanging out there with her.
As you can see, these snails are humongous.
If you look closely, you’ll notice two little rascals frolicking there in the background. Caitlin thought they were fighting or wrestling.
She is the cutest person alive, but I had to have the awkward conversation about the birds and bees with my wife of nearly 11 years and mother of our three children. So that was… interesting. And a little unsettling.
Fun fact: these Giant African Land Snails are hermaphrodites so the two in the back getting freaky probably both got pregnant on this magical day. It’s nice to know Caitlin and I got to be a part of such a splendid occasion. Although, homeboy/girl there by Caitlin’s hand wasn’t part of that snail porn we captured in the photo and he/she/they probably felt left out. He/she/they sped over to the sultry affair, knocked one of the snails off the other, and got to enjoy its own impregnation/new pregnancy.
After Caitlin’s workout, she and I decided to go on a morning jog. We took much the same route as our bike ride yesterday and ran along the beach, dodging chickens and sweating buckets in the humidity. We ran about 3.5 miles with occasional walks for me to catch my breath… er… ahem… I mean… admire the beautiful waves.
After the jog, we walked north along the beach to checked out some different hotels, you know, to compare our situation to others to feel better or worse about ourselves.
Actually, Caitlin loves swimming pools so we were scoping out our options. We walked past the Kauai Coast Resort, which looked groovy. Pool wasn’t anything to write a blog post about. We went past the Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach resort, and this one looked amazing. They had a super cool looking pool with waterfalls, a lazy river, and a gate keeping us out of all the fun.
Quick side note here
The hotel we chose was perfect for what we needed. As we walked by all these resorts, we thought that they kind of defeat the purpose of visiting Kauai. We wanted a place to dump our luggage and have a comfortable night sleep. Not a resort with cool amenities that would keep us at a hotel rather than exploring the beautiful scenery of Kauai.
Just keep that in mind as you book places to stay. If you’re wanting a posh resort that’ll encourage you to lay around and sip drinks by a pool or ocean, there are lots of places not in Hawaii to find that.
There are very few places on earth like Kauai.
Side note complete
As we were checking out the Sheraton resort, it started raining. Like… a lot.
We hid under a balcony and Caitlin called the ATV tour company to see if they had any openings later in the week. We were able to book the last two seats on an ATV tour taking place on Friday (the day we leave) so you’ll hear about that in another post.
The rain settled down and we headed back to our hotel to change out of our sweaty/rain-drenched clothes, shower off, and head out on a new adventure.
We stumbled upon Wailua Falls the last time we were in Kauai, and we just had to go back to see it again. It’s along the east side of the island and not far from our hotel. It’s a short drive through some beautiful country to get to the falls and, much like the Queen’s bath, parking is limited. We had to wait in our car for a couple minutes as people left and a parking spot opened up.
The parking lot sits on top of, and just to the south of the falls. As you walk to the ledge, you are welcomed with this incredible view.
Here is a video of the surrounding area to give you an idea of just how beautiful this place is.
If you notice the birds flying in this video, you’ll realize how truly magnificent and huge this area, the falls, and the surrounding trees really are. My phone camera doesn’t do this place justice.
Most people sit atop these falls where I took the picture and video and, well… take pictures and videos. Caitlin and I, however, wanted to be a bit more adventurous.
If you walk back towards the road you came in on, there is a fence lining the road that tells people how dangerous it is to attempt a climb down, and that you shouldn’t do it. If you read day 1 of this trip, you already know I have a bit of a problem following rules. So, we started the hike down.
The hike is steep, wet, and very slippery. There are certain areas that have ropes to help you down. I highly recommend using these ropes and I found it easiest to walk down the hill backwards, holding onto the ropes in an almost rappelling-esqe manner. Just make sure you’re going down a trail that has ropes at the steep parts and you should be going the right direction.
Now is probably as good a time as ever to bring up the footwear that really saved my trip. Prior to the trip, I spent WAY too much time researching the best types of shoes to take to Hawaii, more specifically, Kauai. The last time we visited, I wore flip flops or running shoes. The first few hikes in flip flops had me fearful of losing my life. My running shoes got destroyed by sand and mud. I don’t know how I did the Wailua Falls trek in flip flops last time and made it out alive. In fact, there was a flip flop graveyard towards the bottom of the hill you climb/fall/slide down to get to the bottom of the falls.
I do not get anything by mentioning these. I bought them with my own money. They were about $40 on Amazon.
They are a mix between the barefoot running shoes, trail running shoes, and water shoes. They were light, grippy, protected my feet from rocks, sticks, coral, you name it, and did a great job in water as we crossed rivers, jumped into waterfalls, and swam in the ocean.
I absolutely loved these puppies. I put about 40-45 miles on these in the week and they held up wonderfully and were easy to wash off.
Seriously, bring these and flip flops and you’re set. Flip flops for the beach and walking around town. These for everything else.
Caitlin wore Tevas that didn’t have closed toes, which ended up with her blurting out four letter words on multiple occasions. The Tevas didn’t have great grip and resulted in several slips while also rubbing a sore on her ankle where the strap touched her ankle ball. She also had some trail running shoes that ended up muddy and sandy, and had a tough time drying off after getting wet. Remember, the humidity here is 80-100% so drying off clothes or shoes is nearly impossible.
I 100% recommend these shoes or shoes like them. I have the version with the strap.
The bottom of the falls
“Finally, Erik. Just tell us about the bottom of the falls!”
Okay, okay. So, after we rappel/slide/fall down this hill, we end up at the base of these glorious waterfalls. Strangely, there are massive pieces of twisted metal, I’m assuming from large boats or something that have fallen over the falls and settled against the banks of the river. Someone said that the metal used to be in the deeper water at the base of the falls and people cleaned these metal shards out because swimmers were hitting them.
Either way, there are huge metal shards that got there by toppling over the falls. So just be careful doing what we did because a thousand pound metal beam could get pushed over the ledge and land on your noggin. More commonly, rocks of various sizes topple off the waterfall and, if they hit you, you will probably die. I tried to avoid being out in front of the water fall.
Fair warning: I am pasty white and not in good shape, but we snagged a picture and video of us at the base of the water fall.
We swam along the left side of the waterfall (if you’re looking at the waterfall), climbed up some very slippery, moss-covered rocks, saw a beautiful view under the waterfalls and the illusive, backside of water (Jungle Cruise anyone?).
Wailua Falls will always have a special place in our heart and we highly recommend it to anyone visiting Kauai. That hike down is very treacherous and the hike back up is steep and tricky, so if you’re nervous about your health or body or life, enjoy the view from up top.
After Wailua Falls, Caitlin wanted some beach time. Caitlin loves her beach time. Jumping around in waves, laying out in the sand, getting tan… you know, all the things I don’t do (as you can tell from my super-white skin).
We drive down along the south side of the island that leads to Poipu Beach. To get to Poipu, you turn off the highway or state road or just road labelled 50 and onto the one labeled 520. Well, as soon as you turn on the 520, you are greeted with the tree tunnel.
It’s a pretty cool road and after the tree tunnel, you pop out into Jurassic Park territory with sprawling fields of green grass and massive trees.
After about 5-10 minutes, you end up at Poipu Beach.
Poipu Beach is my sister’s favorite. It sits in a little cove and has a reef where a lot of people float and snorkel. In the evenings, you can find sea turtles crawling up the beach. I initially typed that you can see sea turtles, and that made me giggle. Then, I tried to find a way to write see “C” sea turtles just to get ridiculous. But then I deleted those and wrote the above, only to argue with myself and type out this glorious explanation.
Welcome to the inner workings of my brain. You’re welcome.
We got out of our car, hauled our beach gear onto, well… the beach, and the second we spread out our towels, it started pouring rain. A ton. It was windy, and the rain drops were cold, and everything was getting soaked. Caitlin and I ran to our car and after about 2 minutes, it stopped raining and there were blue skies as if it had never rained here since the dawn of man.
We scuttled back out to the beach, I lathered up with sunscreen, and we jumped in the water. This beach has some reef and rocks as you walk out, so it would’ve been a perfect place for my sweet shoes I mentioned earlier, but alas, I was in flip flops, and walking along the the coral was tricky and slightly painful. Once you get out far enough, you throw those goggles on, plunge that snorkel in your mouth, and watch the fish swim around you while you look like a fool.
You know, we all like to look at pictures of the blob fish and laugh at how ugly there are, myself included, but I’m sorry, there is nothing attractive about anyone in snorkel gear.
Your eyes are bugged out from tightening the goggles into your frontal lobe so salt water won’t get in. your nose is squished into this piece of plastic that is as permeable to water as air, meaning it leaks like a siv and is seemingly whatever the opposite of a waterproof is. Your front lip is pulled up by the nose slot. You throw your mouth around the plastic mouthpiece that tastes like a mixture of a biohazard and salt water.
It’s just not pleasant.
Caitlin’s wonderful parents let us borrow their water hammocks, which were pretty cool. Be sure to get the fabric type. We played around with the plastic versions and the colors bleed off into your skin so you have blue or pink strips on your back and neck.
We could throw the floaties under our arms and snorkel to see the fish and then flip over and put our neck on one floaty with our legs over the other and just ride the little waves and soak up the sun.
After a good hour or so of floating around and laying out, the hunger bug hit me. I hadn’t eaten since before our run, meaning we’d done all of the above-mentioned activities without refueling little ol’ Erik. And anyone close to me knows, I tend to get hangry.
I ever-so-politely asked Caitlin if it was okay to go grab something to eat. She kindly obliged and we gathered up our stuff. As we were doing so, clouds magically appeared. We got in our car and another downpour started – good timing Erik. Thanks.
The classic husband-wife conversation began:
Erik: What would you like to eat. Caitlin: I could eat anywhere. Erik: *looks up restaurants in the area* How about this one? Caitlin: Nah, let’s find something else.
We drive around for another 5 minutes. Erik getting more and more hungry.
Erik: Okay, how about this one. Caitlin: Not really feeling that.
Drive around for another 5 minutes.
Caitlin: Let’s go to this one. Hangry Erik: *boiling with rage* Great!
We speed off in the direction Google Maps tells us.
Google says the restaurant opened a half hour ago, and as we pull in the parking lot, there’s a line out the door. This means more waiting. I drop Caitlin off to investigate as I find a parking spot. She isn’t up there long before she is walking away from the line, so I do the gentlemanly thing and pick her up – meaning I drove the car near her general area and made her open the door and get in.
The restaurant isn’t open yet. No one is in there so everyone is just sitting outside.
We drove to another restaurant in a fitness club. Nope.
We drive to a shopping district with several restaurants around. It’s now about 30 minutes since I hit code-red hanger level so Erik is not happy right now. We go to Bubba’s Burgers, which Google also says is open. The building porch is roped off at the end we approach and it says use the other entrance. We walk to the other side of the building. Still roped off. Try the third side. No door.
Interestingly enough, this is one of those four-sided buildings, leaving us with one more option: the fourth side. Also roped off.
Bubba’s Burgers is closed.
In fact, all of the restaurants in this shopping center say they are open, but are really closed.
So, guess where we ended up?
If you guessed the original place that Erik had suggested 45 minutes ago, you’d be correct.
Now, granted, the name of the place was Da Crack, however, Da Crack was da bomb and had very yummy food. I need to take a step back and understand that I was having the meltdown of a 3-year-old, so anything probably would’ve tasted amazing, but we both seemed happy with our meal from Da Crack. It has the highest reviews of any restaurant in the city, by the way.
Ladies: Please, please, please never say you will “eat anywhere,” or “are good with anything,” unless you truly mean that you are 100%, fully willing to eat at Del Taco, or Betos, or La Frontera. Hell, I’ll throw out fine dining establishments like Cafe Rio, Little Caesars, or Arby’s if it means you’ll stick to your word of “being good with whatever.”
Us guys really don’t care where we eat, as long as there is a substantial amount of food from animals that eat the food you choose to eat. If we are famished, suggesting a kale salad or a parfait probably won’t end well for anyone. But literally ANY other suggestion, and we are willing to whisk you away in our metal chariot as fast as the engine will allow to get you exactly the food you want, no matter what the cost.
A quick recap:
I was hangry. I am now full. It is raining rather aggressively.
We head back to our hotel, turn on 3rd Rock from the Sun, and lay down for a quick nap before we plan to experience the happening night life at our hotel pool and restaurant.
We lay down… is it lie down? We collapse onto the bed at 5:30 PM and close our eyes. We wake up and it’s 5:00 AM. Now THAT is a nap!
It wasn’t what we planned, but it felt amazing and we definitely needed it given what was coming up the next day.
A really long PS:
Kauai in general has been hit hard by Covid. Restaurants and the tourism industries have been hit as severely as anywhere else in the world from an economic perspective.
The state of Hawaii kind of just turned on the faucets to tourists all at once, so restaurants are severely understaffed. This is why many of these restaurants are closed on days they would regularly be open. This is why wait times are longer.
Please turn back into a human when visiting restaurants and interacting with your waiter/waitress. They have been through a lot. They are overworked. They are doing the best they can to get you seated and fed as quickly as they can.
Thank you to all of you in the hospitality industries. I can’t imagine what you are going through. Many of my thoughts are satirical and I’ll express moments of frustration, but I always tried to give the people I interacted with the benefit of the doubt, tip them well, and be as polite and nice as my crusty self could muster.
Part 2 of this series is where the magic starts to happen. Waking up in a time zone four hours behind what you’re used to is the first magical part of day 2. After a long travel day (Part 1), a good 8 hours of sleep later and we’re still waking up at 5:00 AM, refreshed and ready to go.
The plan: no plans
We drove up to the North Shore to revisit some of our favorite places from last time. Since last time, there had been a landslide on Hanalei Hill. It happened on April 15th this year and there has been a lot of work to get the road opened up.
However, it is one way with each side taking turns so if you want travel past this point like we did, expect some delays. The road is open during certain hours of the day, closes during the middle of the day, and reopens later in the day.
Luckily for us on this day (Sunday), the road is open all day but still one direction at a time.
Our favorite beach is Ke’e beach, which is where the main road ends, the famous Kalalau trail begins, and you have an epic view of the Na Pali coast.
Well, since the last time we were there, the north part of the island experienced a massive storm that flooded the entire north end of the island and cut off those locals for three months. It washed out a large portion of Ke’e beach. The beach and trail had become so overrun with tourists before the flooding that the state of Hawaii decided to use the reset and rethink this incredible site.
They moved the end of the road away from the beach, set up some agricultural sites, and required a parking pass or shuttle pass to visit the spot, including hiking the Na Pali coast.
This meant that we were only able to drive to a certain point before some park officials turned us around and we headed back to explore other islands until our scheduled hike the next day.
Our first beach
On our way back, we hit up Lumaha’i Beach as our first official beach of the trip. It has the Lumaha’i River running into the ocean. There is a nifty rope swing on the northwest portion of the river’s entry into the ocean that is pretty cool. There are also some rocks you can walk on and see waves splashing against them. Be careful, don’t get too close, don’t die.
We walked along this beach for a while and played around in the sand. There was only one person that we could see on this beach so it felt like our own private area to goof off and watch the waves.
After a while, there was another spot we wanted to go see.
The Queen’s Bath
I didn’t really know what The Queen’s Bath was. All I knew was that several people had recommended it as a must-see.
It is located in Princeville, just north of the Makai Golf Club. There is limited parking at the trailhead and everywhere else you would think to try and park is monitored and will have your car towed if you don’t have a pass.
The good news is that people are coming and going from the trail pretty regularly so we just parked by the trailhead in the neighborhood, stayed in the car, and waited for someone to come out and leave so we could take their spot. We only waited about 5-7 minutes and got our parking spot.
It is a short hike through some beautiful scenery before you are on the rocky ledges of this area. There are lots of little crabs running around and we saw a couple turtle swimming around in the ocean near the ledges.
Turn left once you hit the rocks and you’ll wander into a sinkhole of sorts, filled with crystal clear water and waves splashing against it.
Here’s a video of Caitlin swimming around in The Queen’s Bath
There are a lot of fairly good-sized fish in this pool that you can see swimming around you. Bring some goggles for an even better view of the life that exists in this little area.
There is a ledge that we all jumped off and into the pool. It is salt water, so plug your nose unless you want salt water up in the area that only a Covid test can reach, and this burning lasts longer than the brain-tickle of the Covid test.
Here’s my not-so-epic jump:
Here’s Caitlin’s more-epic jump:
We spent quite a bit of time here, chatting with a cool couple from Florida and floating around. Afterwards, we went hiking further north around the rocky ledges. There are a few other decent-sized pools that you can jump in and play around in. One has some pretty big swells so be careful there.
We hiked around a corner and found a little cove where a sea turtle was swimming and trying to catch food. It was pretty cool and worth the tricky hike in there.
The ledges have areas that are pretty sharp. I got a very small cut on my left thumb and pointer finger. Really, about the size of a paper cut, but boy, when that cut gets into salt water… it stings… so heads up.
After The Queens Bath, we went and checked out Secret Beach, which… spoiler alert, isn’t really secret. It’s real name is Kauapea Beach and plenty of people know about it. You walk down a good-sized hill through the backyards of some homes with spectacular backyards to get down to the beach. It’s a pretty big beach with a nice view of the Kilauea Lighthouse and some cool caves within the ledges.
A storm was heading in so we headed back, but before we did, we saw a fallen coconut and took our shot at getting inside a coconut. It’s quite the challenge, but with the combined strength of Caitlin (super strong) and myself (the strength of an infant) we were able to crack that coconut open. We weren’t brave enough to eat any of it.
Time to eat
We headed back to an area near our hotel and ate at Chicken in a Barrel BBQ. If you like BBQ, this place was yummy with lots of different meat options and fries. Caitlin went with the sweet potato fries, I went with the Sample Plate that has BBQ chicken, steak, ribs, beef, and pork all on top of rice. Chicken in a Barrel has a spicy teriyaki sauce and a sweet sauce. I went with the sweet because that’s just the kind of person I am.
We snagged a massive snow cone from JoJo’s Shaved Ice. Caitlin went with the banana colada, strawberry colada, and pina colada mix. It was refreshing and delightful.
Next, we jumped in our hotel pool and splashed around a bit. I worked on my freestyle stroke and dolphin kick while Caitlin got more tan.
Quick bike ride
Our hotel offered free bike rentals to guests as long as you had the bikes back by 6 PM. We took off around 5:15 PM after signing a waiver stating that if we damaged the bike, we were responsible to replace it at a cost of something like $750 for the bike.
In the nicest way I can muster, those bikes weren’t worth $750. They weren’t worth $100… super old, super rusty… although, maybe I’m just not up with the bike trends. I guess if it is “in” to have an old, paint-chipped, rusty, falling apart bike, then yes, these are worth a ton. Or if you can recycle scrap metal at $25 per pound, then we’re getting closer.
We rode from our hotel, across the Kuhio Highway that spans the Wailua Beach, Wailua Beach Park, and the Wailua River. We saw decent sized waves crashing, some locals fishing, and some people surfing a bit further out.
Our ride took us to Hikinaakala Heiau, which are the foundation ruins of an ancient temple, so that’s pretty cool. We wound our way around Lydgate Beach Park and watched some families playing in the park and a graduation luau taking place in the park pavilion.
On our way out of Lydgate park, my bike chain popped off and I had to throw that back on there with fears that this rusty old thing was going to now cost me $750, we’d be late for the 6 PM bike curfew, and I’d get tetanus from the rust getting in the cuts in my hand. Luckily, it went back on fine and made it back to the hotel in time without further incident. To my knowledge, I don’t have tetanus.
Here’s a video of Caitlin dancing around on the bike and nearly lopping off her head via tree.
Doesn’t she look so happy?!
Pretty proud of my filming while riding talent so if any Hollywood directors need such skill, my price isn’t high.
After our bike ride, we went to the grocery store to get some water and snacks for our upcoming hike of the Na Pali coast the next day. After we got back to our hotel, we got the news that the shuttle service to take us to the hike was cancelled all shuttles for the next day because of severe weather in that area the next day, so we had to reschedule our hike to Wednesday, two days after our plan. Didn’t end up being a problem and everything worked out well.
Continued our 3rd Rock from the Sun episodes before bed and we were out.
Ready to read about the adventures of Part 3? Sexy snails. Wailua Falls. Hangry Erik…