Thursday, December 22, 2016

KoKo (Oh-My-God-That's-a-lot-of-Stairs) Head Trail

Koko Head is a sort of rite of passage here on Oahu. Everyone hikes Diamondhead, Manoa Falls, Lanikai Pillbox, and others. All of that is fine, but if you want mad respect, you absolutely must hike Koko Head and you must act like it's all NBD.

Koko Head isn't long, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in elevation. One thousand fifty railway ties lead you to the top of this mountain. Some of them are so far apart that it's like doing 1050 lunges. And if you're out of shape like me, it's 1050 tiny little tortures, one right after the other.

First Son recently got into some trouble. Actually he got into trouble on top of trouble on top of trouble. First Son was in deep. There was nothing more to take away from him, except for his life (trust me, I thought about it) so Mama had to get a little creative with punishment.

The kids aren't so crazy about hiking. We force them to do it from time to time, but it's so exhausting listening to the complaining that it's not always worth it. So First Son's punishment was to hike Koko Head with me and act like he was having the time of his life. I know. Diabolical.

I got him up before first light on a Saturday just because I am truly that mean, we had a bite to eat, filled our Camelbacks and headed east as the sun was coming up. Koko Head is supposed to be fabulous to see the sunrise from, but I have enough issues with balance, so I needed full light to pick my way to the top.

This is one of the few hikes I've done on Oahu where parking is plentiful. What a nice surprise to actually pull into a spot and not fear my windows getting smashed to pieces while I'm away.

First Son and I started up the hill and I, no lie, was tired almost immediately. I freaked out a bit, because...1050 stairs, ya know. First Son was in better shape and ran up a few dozen stairs and then waited for me. When I finally reached him, expecting we would take a break, he took off again, like the stairs were a fun little playground for him. By the time I reached him about 100 stairs in I forced him to let me rest. He looked at me funny and said, "You're tired already? When was the last time you ran anyway?" I admitted it had been a while. "Maybe that's what's wrong with you," he concluded in his teenage brilliance as he trotted up a few dozen more steps like it was the easiest thing in the world.

He proclaimed that I could take a legitimate break when we reached a level spot, about halfway up. I heaved and wheezed my achy body to that spot. Occasionally someone would run past me and I would have to stop and shoot them the bird, but mostly it was just one foot in front of the other. One step at a time.

After my break, we came to the Bridge of Dread. The Bridge of Dread is fine if you're a train on your way to the top of Koko Head to resupply the pillbox during WWII. The Bridge of Dread is also fine if you have balance of any sort. The Bridge of Dread is not fine if you're me. The railway ties have nothing between them across the bridge. Nothing but a fifteen foot fall that would most certainly break some bones. You can go around this, but First Son insisted we go across it. He frolicked across it with the excellent balance he's acquired from years of skateboarding and I crawled across it, leaving my pride on the wayside, all the while declaring that I was not ashamed. I think First Son might have been a little ashamed of me though.

We made it in one piece and then the elevation got steep really quick. I don't really want to talk about the second half of the climb. It was brutal to say the least. I tried to do ten stairs and take a break, but could barely make five before I ran out of oxygen. First Son made it to the top ages before me and was resting enjoying the view while I struggled on. Finally I made it and was greeted with a stunning view that made the whole thing worth it.

We explored all the neat buildings and pillbox on the summit and took a few selfies until First Son declared that I had reached my selfie limit. Then we started down.

I was actually dreading going down the entire time I was going up. My left leg is shorter than my right leg so it's really awkward to lead with that foot. I had to go down the entire 1050 steps leading almost exclusively with my right foot. And it is scary, folks. It looks like it's just straight down from on high. I eventually hobbled my way to the bottom where I met up with First Son who was quite bored with waiting for me. I high-fived him and he said oh-so-wisely, "You know, thinking about doing it is actually worse than doing it." I think he's right. Hopefully he'll get into trouble more often...

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

10 Commandments for Driving on Oahu

1. Never go west between 2:00-8:00. Unless you enjoy long swaths of time staring at the break lights of the car in front of you. Or if you have an especially long book on tape you’ve been wanting to listen to. Or if you have a fresh box of malasadas that need to be eaten and relished in solitude. Remember: If no one sees you eat a malasada, it never happened….

2. Never go west before 2:00. They like to close 4 of the 5 lanes just to see the traffic back up at a non-rush hour time of day. Trust me, just don’t go west. Really. It’s not worth it. There’s nothing there for you. Unless you live there of course, in which case…why, just why?

3. If you come to a 4-way stop sign, take turns going based on who got to the stop sign first. Unless you’re in a hurry, or you just feel like going, in which case, by all means, go whenever you like.

4. Don’t concern yourself with your turn signal. It’s better to keep people on their toes, always guessing which way you’ll go. Driving’s more fun that way.

5. Don’t try to be smart and take a shortcut around a traffic jam. Trust me, 3,000 other drivers have the exact same idea.

6. Learn to balance selfish driving with aloha driving. If everyone drives selfishly and lets no cars out, no one will ever get anywhere. If everyone drives with aloha and lets every car out, no one will ever get anywhere.

7. Forget speed limits. If you’re not impeded by traffic or rain, go, just go. Fly like the wind.

8. Forget road names. Kahakahai or Kahakuhi? Who the heck can remember which one it is? Better to remember to turn by the Jack in the Box and Food Land.

9. Never assume. Roads like to peel off to unknown destinations with no notice. Lanes like to suddenly become parking lots. Streets like to change names for absolutely no reason. Always be prepared for the road you’re on to dive into the Pacific at any moment.

10. Always take the scenic route. Life’s too short to not engulf yourself in beauty at every opportunity. You’re one of the few, blessed people who get to drive on this island. Remind yourself that it is, indeed, a blessing.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Surf's Up

The surf was up this week at North Shore. And by up, I mean UP. Forty foot waves in some places. It was a Wednesday, Husband had work, kids had homework, First Son had soccer practice, but we blew it all off because life is short but the waves were not.

I love the North Shore anyway. It's such a unique place, so rugged and natural. When I go there, I just sit and breathe. You can't get in the water in the winter because the surf is so rough. In some places the lifeguards won't even let children get close to getting their feet wet, which is a huge bummer for my boys who like to let the surf bowl them over and drag them out for a bit before they scramble back to shore. Scares the crap out of me, but Husband always tells me it's okay and sometimes I try to believe him.

Traffic out there wasn't bad initially and we drove through the fields of pineapple and coffee with excitement coursing through our veins. But before we even got to Hale'iwa, the small surfer town in the North Shore, the traffic came to a screeching stop. Apparently we weren't the only people on Oahu who wanted to get a look at forty foot waves.

Husband was low on patience, kids were high on energy. It was a deadly combination. We moved a few inches every minute or so, but were going nowhere fast. The playfulness in the backseat quickly turned to violence. Husband kept threatening to turn around and go back home, but once you've waited in traffic with restless children for an hour to see big waves, you might as well wait a little longer.

There was a fine mist of seawater in the air, like a light rain of ocean. The air smelled dangerous, like it does right before a hurricane. Finally, after many lifetimes expired and were born again, we were treated to a nice slow drive-by of Laniakea or Turtle Beach and we immediately agreed it was worth the pain of the wait.

Waimea Bay was closed, but there were cars and people lined up along the side of the road to see the surfers out there, catching these enormous waves. We parked up the road about a half mile and walked back to watch the amazing feats. I turned to First and Second Son who have recently taken up surfing and said, "You are never allowed to do this. Ever. For your entire life. Never." It was pretty cool, though, and made me wonder if you could be a surfer and not be spiritual. Doesn't seem possible.

After Waimea, we went to Pipeline where we usually go to see the surfers in the pipe. The beach at Pipeline is usually huge, with a big tidal pool in the middle where the kids play. That beach was closed too, but we stood next to the Volcom house which is featured on one of this boys' favorite surfing documentaries, True to This. The water covered the entire beach and lapped up to the stairs we were standing on. You could see the waves breaking one set on top of another out in the ocean. It was so big and constant, amazing. Breathtaking.

We went to Sunset Beach and checked out the waves there for a while before turning back to make our way home. The sun was setting and we decided to pull in at Shark's Cove which is a great snorkeling spot in the summer. We gazed at the waves crashing against the rocks, humpback whales spouting water against the horizon, and the sun setting behind the Waianae Mountain range. I'm not sure I'll ever see anything that beautiful again for the rest of my life.

I'm okay with that.

Lucky I live Hawaii.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Maunawili [Try Not to] Falls

This post is brought to you by Gain detergent and Ivory soap.

I've been wanting to hike to Maunawili Falls since before I moved to Oahu. It just sounded like so much fun: trekking through a rain forest to get to the waterfall where you could jump into a pool of water. Doesn't get any more aloha than that.

I debated doing the hike alone for several weeks and decided against it. It just seemed like one of those things that would be more fun if shared with people you love.

Then I tried to get the people I love motivated about it, but I was really the only enthusiastic one. Fortunately, there's a super-cool skate park down the road from the hike that the kids wanted to try out. I suggested a quick roll around the park, followed by a hike to Maunawili Falls.

The skate park turned out to be too good and it was after 3:00 before I could get them off the ramps. We headed straight over, but I had a nervous feeling in my gut that we wouldn't be done with the 3.5 mile hike before nightfall. We all changed into hiking shoes and set off, only to be stopped by a man walking his dog, who pointed at the sky and said all Yoda-like: Rain is coming.

Right at the trailhead, lay a warning of what lay ahead for us: a pile of cast-off shoes and clothing thick with mud piled below the sign. As soon as we entered the canopy, the rain started. I told everyone that by the time it filtered through all the trees above us, it would be no more than an annoying trickle.

And they believed me.

We kept on.

Muddy is not what I would call this trail. Muddy would be nice. I would take muddy. This was like mud squared. This was like mud bitten by a radioactive spider. Groups of people who had completed the hike were coming the other way looking like sci-fi creatures, frightening us all about what lay beyond the next bend. Then we would take the next bend to find steps and roots coated in slick mud. We were all sliding around in it as rain ran down our faces. Husband, with his impeccable balance, even took a spill, hurting his old-man shoulder.

After about fifteen minutes of sheer terror, slipping around the muddy path, over muddy rocks, down muddy embankments, we finally came to a stream. I wiped water from my eyes, left a trail of mud on my cheeks and said: This is nice. I'm happy we're doing this. Husband looked at me with raised eyebrows. Daughter began to cry. Two men came around the bend and said: Be careful up ahead, it's really slippery, dot--dot--dot.

Husband called it off and turned the family around to slide our way back to the car.

Maunawili Falls:1
Sessoms: 0

Better luck next time.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Have Paddle, Will Travel

Stars aligned recently and Husband got a day off work while kids were in school. If this sort of thing were to happen on the mainland, it would be one exciting day of shopping at Target and then eating lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings. Whoo doggy! Here on Hawaii, though, we like to spend these gifted moments on our SUPs, this time to visit one of the Mokes.

There are two of these islands off the coast of Lanikai and they are collectively called Moku-something-or-other, I could look it up, but it's a whole thing and you people will forgive me if I don't, right? You can explore the big Moke, but the little one is kapu or forbidden.

The Mokes are beautiful to gaze at from land and probably one of the big reasons why Lanikai is frequently cited as the most beautiful beach in America/the World/the Milky Way/the known universe/the unknown universe and I've been dying to see them up close.

Parking is a beast at Lanikai, so we took off right after the kids left for school to beat all the lazy tourists who wanted a little sleep-in on their vacations. Ha! Suckers! There's only street parking and it's really awkward parking in what feels like someone's yard and then trekking through the beach access right next to their kitchen window, especially when you have two large SUPs with you, but it's so calm and serene there, with no shore break to fight, and is the perfect place to launch.

Lanikai really is beautiful with it's clear aqua water and the softest sand you will ever feel in your life, but I'm not a huge fan. Smells a little too much like money for my taste, somehow lacking in authenticity. Authenticity of what? I have no clue. Just some sort of authenticity is missing. By the way, my kids HATE Lanikai and if anyone even mentions it, they go off on a tirade of how boring it is. So if you have older kids, you're probably better off at Kailua Beach which has more boogie board action.

We launched with no problems and I was immediately in this idyllic state, almost giddy with disbelief that I was so blessed to be able to do such a thing. The sea was calm as a lake near shore, there was no wind to fight, and I had improved my ability to go straight. The good thing about SUP is that it's no big deal if you fall. It's not like riding a bike. It won't hurt a bit if you fall, you just climb back on. The only problem with riding SUPs in Lanikai is the coral that lines the bottom of the ocean floor. It can make it really shallow in some spots and every time I came to a shallow spot, I would panic for a minute, because I absolutely could not fall there right on top of a bed of coral. I never did, but had a few close calls.

The closer we got to the Mokes, the heavier the surf got and I dropped to my knees to paddle through the waves. When we neared the beach, two surfs came together from opposite directions and crashed in the middle. Of course, beginner that I am, I found myself right where they crashed. The first two times they crashed on me, I held on and stayed on the board, but third time was not a charm and sent me head over heels into the waves. I was shallow enough, so I tried to push the board in, while also holding my paddle, but the coral was too slippery. and I kept losing my grip while the waves continued to pound me from both sides. Luckily, there was a couple hanging out on the beach who got to see the whole, clumsy affair, so I was happy to bring some laughter into their day. The man (a very nice British gent) finally came to my rescue and got my paddle for me so I could concentrate on holding up my bikini bottoms that kept threatening to run away.

We were treated to a nice surprise at once, a large monk seal was sunning itself on the island. Just enjoying a lazy day. Husband and I gave him a wide berth and walked around the island, as far as we could get with bare feet, appreciating the danger around every corner. Something about Hawaii no one ever tells you: you get the sense of how easy it would be to die. We gazed out over a rocky cliff, I looked at Husband and said: "Now, this is Hawaii."

We paddled back and headed to The Shack in Kailua to replenish all those spent calories with a pitcher of IPA, a philly cheese steak, and some onion rings. Sigh. Lucky I live Hawaii.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sea [Not Such a Great] Life Park

We got a blessed Saturday recently that had nary a soccer game in sight. This is a rare thing in Hawaii where the weather is nice enough to play soccer year-round. And they do. We had planned on an epic beach day, but heard that Sea Life Park was celebrating their 50th anniversary and rolled back admission prices to what they were 50 years ago, $2.64. This is an O-K discount from the normal $35 a person, so we decided to hop on it.

Sea Life Park is like a mini Sea World, only set in the most beautiful piece of earth known to man. I had no desire to go, but it was practically free. Unfortunately, every single other person on Oahu had the same idea. We had to park on the side of the highway and play chicken with traffic, our three kids in tow, to make it to the entrance, but it was only $2.64.

The weird thing about Sea Life Park is that you can see most of the animals out in the wild just steps away for nothing and it's way cooler. I mean, I was completely underwhelmed by the sea turtles swimming around in their tiny pool. I see those all the time on my SUP and it's magical to witness them in the sea where they belong. In a tiny pool, it's just sad. But it was only $2.64.

The kids liked the sea lions, but I just saw a "for real" monk seal sunning on the shore of the Mokes and I just wanted to pull a Free Willy and get them out of the concrete prison they were in.

There was a dolphin show and I pushed past the throngs to try to get a seat 30 minutes before the show and it was already completely full. Not even standing room. No one even cared that I genuinely love dolphins and even have a dolphin tattoo. Come on people! I had a needle inserted into my skin to inject ink in the shape of a dolphin, I deserve to see the show!

No dice. And daughter took the best place on Husband's shoulders. Maybe if I had flowing locks of curly blond hair and a smattering of freckles across my pert nose I could have seen the show too.

I took off with the boys to look at the penguins.'s Hawaii, so...yeah....penguins. Whatever. And soon Husband and traitor Daughter joined us and we decided we were too hungry to stay and too poor to pay $15 for a burger.

We pushed our way through the massive crowds to the exit and I did happen to notice some beautiful murals on the way out. I wish I had seen them sooner because I really wanted to sit and appreciate them. Only a girl with an art history degree comes to a place like Sea Life Park and takes pictures of murals. They really were stunning, though.

Since the entire island was at Sea Life Park, we snuck off to our favorite SUPER-SECRET BEACH whose name I will not reveal here because it is perfect and majestic and I don't want anyone else to know about it. If you come visit me I'll take you, but you will have to be blindfolded first. We breathed in the salt air, swam in the sea, and appreciated the realness of the world around, feeling Hawaii for the first time that day.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Aloha and Other Things I'll Never Fully Understand

black, black and white, perspective, text, typography, word

There's this thing about living here, this thing about this place, this "'aina," that makes you feel something, makes you use words like 'aina instead of land. You realize how useless translation is. 'Aina doesn't just mean "land," it means land, this place, right here, the ground beneath your feet, come with me, run your fingers through the sand, taste the salt in the water, breathe the air, and you will know it. That's what 'aina means.

Then there's aloha--the most untranslatable word of them all. Not merely love, or hello, or goodbye, but breath and life and simply caring and feeling and 'aina and yes, love, and hello and see you later, but also understanding and acceptance and compassion and peace, but not in the I'm-a-hippie-who's-dropped-too much-acid-and-yeah-man-peace sort of way, but really peace.

It's almost too much for my mainlander brain to grasp. And I'm a sensitive chick.

When I first got word that we were coming here, I asked Husband, "Do you think I can lose 50 pounds before then?" He shook his weary head, rolled his weary eyes, sighed, and replied, "I'm sure you'll try." I gained 10, so...close enough. It's funny, though, to look back on that now and how silly that was, how silly that I let something like the size of my tummy take up so much of my brainpower.

This place will do that to you. Put things in perspective.

I have an inspiration board above the desk where First Son does homework. One of the pieces of inspiration is a simple card with the word perspective typed out inverted. He asked me about it and I got teary-eyed explaining how that upside-down perspective was the most important thing on the inspiration board. You have to learn to see things differently. Sometimes things aren't really that bad, just the way you're looking at them is bad. He nodded with that crease between his eyes and then went back to work on his engineering essay, but I hope he understood. I hope it got into some crack of his mind.

And I hope it gets into some crack of my mind as well. I hope the aloha and 'aina will seep into my bones, give me a new perspective, and when my time here is done (because it will be done, I don't belong to this place and it doesn't belong to me) I hope I can bring it back with me and eek it out in my life. Just a little bit, just a drop, a smudge of aloha, a thimble of 'aina, could change the world.