August 22, 2013

Hiking the Wa'ahila Ridge

I am very blessed to have come from a family that loves traveling.  My brother was even named after the patron saint of travelers (Christopher, to save you the googling), and was born in Germany so he's literally been traveling his entire life.  He's got a passport from when he was an infant that would make nearly anyone jealous.  My dad traveled a lot for business when we were little, and his stories, post cards, and foreign dolls and trinkets always filled me with a passionate curiosity about how large and strange the world is.  My parents often say that traveling is one of the best investments you can make because you will always have those memories.  

When we travel, my dad diligently plans how we get there and where we stay, but beyond that it's almost always left in the air.  Perhaps one or two specific events we want to attend, or a couple of things we would like to cross off the list during our stay, but nothing is ever set in stone.  It's a process of waking up, getting some breakfast, and saying, "so what do we want to do today?".  It changes based on the weather, our energy level, or planning around meals so there's little point to planning ahead.  And the vast majority of the time the things we've loved the most have been a spur of the moment decision.

While some people travel with plans for guided tours, activities, and schedules down to the minute, that is not a way that I have ever traveled.  When we were on a Mediterranean cruise we opted only once to do a planned excursion.  This special case was because this trip would take us to the isle of Capri, the site of my parents' honeymoon.  And we were celebrating their 20th anniversary so it was a necessary pit stop.  I would venture to say we lasted maybe 40 minutes on the tour before asking our guide where we could meet them to get the boat back at the end of the day.  We roamed tiny cobbled streets looking at beautiful gardens and the ocean beyond before our very hungry selves stumbled upon a restaurant on a hill.   As I've mentioned before, I was an extremely picky child.  I basically at nothing but noodles and bread until I was in college.  And at this restaurant I found a lemon and cream linguine that was the best thing I had ever tasted.  My mom still brings up how enamored I was with it.  And it was delicious- light and creamy and citrusy.  Plus eating in an Italian restaurant that opens right up to the street on a tiny hill on an island in the Mediterranean is about as perfect as it gets in my book.  And I can tell you right now, there's no way you can plan that kind of day.

So it's probably because of the way I grew up, but I love to travel by the seat of my pants.  I will most definitely pack water, snacks, sunscreen, and a hammock in my bag (I mean, I was a girl scout once upon a time) but from when we leave that hotel room we could do anything.  

When we left for Hawaii I had three items on my list of things to do:

1.  Swim in the ocean.

2.  Drink a daiquiri on the beach.

3.  Take a hike in the mountains.

Preferably more than once.

After some diligent Internet research in the hotel lobby, we found a hike that wouldn't take long, was nearby, and was easily accessible by public transportation.  In other words, perfect.

We set out to walk to the bus stop that would take us up to the hike.  We had about 40 extra minutes before the bus would come, which we figured was plenty of time to find a place to eat on the way.

 a canal along our walk

If I haven't mentioned before, Joe also studied biology in undergrad and is a total science nerd with me. He had me stop to look at and take pictures of many a cool looking tree on our trip, and this is just the first.

 our view of Diamond Head from our walk

So in a very lucky turn of events we came across this establishment not too far from our bus stop.  Rainbow Drive-In specializes in plate lunches.  That's basically a dream come true for a Rochester, NY girl like myself.

For those not from Rochester, one of our famous foods is a Garbage Plate- mac salad, home fries, two meats (I go with cheeseburgers), all smothered in your condiments and covered with meat sauce if you know what's good for you.  If I'm lucky I'll get one next time I'm home and share it with all you supportive fans.

In any case, Rainbow Drive-In offers a more Hawaiian variety, obviously.  From what I gathered it's usually rice and mac salad for your base, and then whatever your entree of choice is.  They offer food and sandwiches, but I always feel like I should go for what they do best or accept the consequences.

Joe and I opted to split a Loco Moco Plate.  That's a burger patty, gravy, and three scrambled eggs on top.  And given my love for gravy, I was pretty pleased with my choice.

Unfortunately for us, by the time we ordered a half hour had already passed, and I was convinced we should try to make the bus if we could.  This one only came once an hour, so if we missed it we'd have some serious time to kill.   So we ran our butts to the bus stop and scarfed down our delicious lunch as we anxiously awaited our ride.

Thankfully, it came a few minutes after we finished our delicious lunch, and we were on our way!  This bus ride was insane.  It wove its way up a small residential neighborhood stationed what I thought was rather precariously on the side of a mountain ridge.  Kind of like riding a donkey up the side of Santorini, except your in a big public bus.  So strange and a little frightening.  I mean not to our fellow riders who were running errands for dog food and coming home from work, but to us at least.  But check out these views!

 nbd, that's just Honolulu and the ocean way below us.

We took the bus all the way to the top of the neighborhood and got out to see THIS.

Just the inside of Diamond Head, is all.  And gosh, do I love the ocean.  Plus we even made it to the right place.  Underneath that cute li'l man sign it just says park on a plank of wood.  So we're not even lost!

But we were just totally in the middle of a neighborhood.  I particularly liked this overgrown little lot:

Joe started sun burning basically everywhere (he's more Irish than me) so I got him this hat for his birthday.  Neither of us wanted anything reminiscent of a fedora, but this seemed sufficiently Amish to match the beard.

And we're there!

seriously breathtaking. 

And as if I'm training to be an annoying mom with a camera, I couldn't help but take some photo-ops with the sign.

Joe and I can't pick which is funniest, so I suppose it can't hurt to post them all.

 So we started the trek down the road into the park a little concerned that the hike was  a road.  Even if it had been, take a look at those trees!  So amazingly tall.

 cool trees #2

Some of the trees had leaves that were these little wispies that covered everything.

 cool trees #3

And then there's weird fern trees that grow in layers?

 cool trees #4

Plus the regular looking evergreen trees have rounds of bumps.  And again, they are SO TALL.

 cool trees #5

About this time after marveling at trees all the way in, we hit the parking area with some covered picnic tables and benches and a building.  And then I saw this.  A FERAL CHICKEN!

And then I realized it was not just one loose chicken but a whole flock of chickens!

I will admit it, I chased the chickens.   Seriously, how often do you come across a flock of wild chickens?!  I couldn't help it.  They're fine, don't worry.  But I still have no idea why the park has chickens to begin with.

Before we even hiked anywhere, this place has beautiful views.

Even my cool-as-a-cucumber was totally geeking out already.  Check out that cheesin' grin!

So we started up!

 Joe really likes when a tree gets cut down and then grows out of it's own stump.  Something like the nature version of sticking it to the man.

I like the views with a peek of ocean best.

The hike itself was not particularly challenging at this point, just a long, wide, walk up.

Plus, the trees changed and we got these skinny trees that reminded me of itty bitty birches.  For the record, I have no training in trees.  But they're pretty!

cool trees #6 

And this is so I can show I was actually here in a photo album I'll never actually put together.

As we went on our walk got skinnier and skinnier.

And the fact that it's called a ridge for a reason clicks in your head.  It doesn't help that the ground is covered in those pine tree wispies from earlier.

Meanwhile, Joe thought this moss was really cool too.

And then because it's a ridge and not just a mountain you get to the top of you get to descend these wispies.

Joe's still excited by nature, so he distracted me with how cool this is.  I really have no idea why something that looks like this is formed in a tree, but it is really neat to look at.

 cool trees #7

The benefit of hiking all along the ridge is that you just keep having amazing views.

And more down.

So we got up to the top of the ridge at one point to see these crazy views.  The slightly faster guy ahead of us had stopped to take pictures, so I politely offered to take his picture if he wanted.  Looking thoroughly disgusted at me he said no and briskly descended the next path.  Still not sure what was going on there, but it is pretty!

And then the sun shone through, making a lovely pitstop even better.

Joe and I also took turns telling each other how much it looked like Jurassic Park.

And then was one of my least favorite parts- the very thin path between two complete drop-offs.  But hey, at least you'd get caught on one of those bushes, right?

Somewhere around this point we ran into two girls covered in mud asking us if we had started recently.  They had apparently started at another end of this trail at 9am.  It was probably 3 or 4 by the time we saw them.  We figured we'd just walk until we didn't feel like it and turn around since god knows where they came from.

Joe found this awesome little log ecosystem:

 cool trees #8

And then we ran into some more unbelievable views.  And a real steep decline, of course.

 And we were still quite pleased with our life choices that led us to this point.

We headed back soon after once we hit a steep thin path I deemed not worth it.

And it's time to inch my way way down the parts I bear crawled up the first time.

Man, I love ocean.  While I look at the far off waves, Joe found some more cool plants, obviously.  According to him those bubbles are seeds- but that's what he remembers from 7th grade science so it may or may not be real.

cool plant #9

And it's time to make it back along that skinny ridge.  At least it's better the second time over.

Joe also pointed out that he really liked these tree canopies for a reason I don't recall...

cool trees #10 

 the view of where we hiked

And we're back to the beginning!

But don't think the tree pictures stop there- check out this weird sap!

 cool trees #11

 cool trees # 12

Having come to the end of our hike, I pulled the hammock out of our back pack to kill the 40 minutes of time until the next bus in the best possible way.

Heaven on Earth, baby.

p.s. if anyone has any info on the plants that we thought were awesome but knew nothing about, please share!  I'd love to have some more factual information to pass along :)
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