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Shannon A.
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3rd-May-2016 10:14 pm - The Gwin Canyon Adventure
We were supposed to be roleplaying on Saturday, but somehow it fell through. It was honestly a bit frustrating, because we'd planned the date a month and a half ahead, when people were constantly scheduled in the interim. Then we'd replanned it weeks ahead, when we choose between two weekends. But still the gaming weekend arrived and there was cub scouts and new jobs and extra hours.

And no gaming.

So it goes in adulthood gaming.

And that's how I ended up crawling through a jungle.

I've gotten pretty adept at climbing the hills behind our house. This Saturday I did some writing up on the Clark Kerr campus in the early afternoon, then went for my Saturday hike. I took the Stonewall Panoramic Trail up to the West-East Trail, then took an unnamed Fire Trail up to Grizzly Peak Blvd and the Scotts Peak Trailhead.

The Scotts Peak Trailhead always baffles me because it's clearly labeled, but there's just a locked gate there, despite that being the only easy way to access the Skyline Trail from the Strawberry Creek fire trails.

Anywho, gates with horizontal bars up and down them do not deter me.

The Skyline Trail from Scotts Peak Trailhead to Fish Ranch Road was the first bit of new trail for me for the day. It's part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, so I was excited to walk it. I don't expect I'll ever walk the whole thing, but I was nonetheless happy to fill in a gap.

I've definitely now walked it from Volmer Park in Tilden to the main entrance at Sibley. I've also biked it in Tilden from Inspiration Point to where it inexplicably leaves Nimitz Way to run down to San Pablo Dam, despite being a "ridgeline" trail. And, I may have walked some of it in Redwood Regional Park (though it appears to run along the west ridge, not the east ridge, so I haven't actually walked much of that). Oh, and I've seen trail markers while out in San Francisco. (I wish there were better maps of the whole thing, but the maps are all broken up into little sections, and they don't do a good job of showing the context of where they are.)

Anywho, the segment that I walked was very nice. A lot of it ran just east of the ridge, which meant I got great views of Orinda, Mount Diablo, and places in between (and often could pick out the path I walked to Orinda the other week). But there were also some sweeping views of the Bay. Much of it was across lands filled with high, dry grass. It's obviously heading toward fire season, but it was still attractive on Saturday (and a unique landscape).

Eventually I scrambled up a pseudo-path right next to Fish Ranch Road, to escape to my next destination.

The Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve is weird. The maps aren't consistent about what it contains, and neither Google nor Apple Maps shows any trails on the half of the Preserve south of Claremont Road, covering Telegraph Canyon and Gwin Canyon. But, when I hiked through Summit Pass (where Claremont, Fish Ranch, and Grizzly Peak meet) a few weeks ago, I discovered a big map and an entrance down into Telegraph Canyon.

So, I put that on my mental list of places to check out, and later when I got to a networked computer I discovered official Claremont maps showing some trails in that southern area ... though they weren't consistent either. Everyone agreed there was a north-south Gwin Canyon Trail running along the western side of the Preserve, but there was disagreement over whether there were trails running down the hillside.

But I was confident.

So on Saturday I walked by that map up at Summit Pass and started heading downward. And there were indeed trails — two of them, The Summit House Trail and the Willow Trail. They were a bit overgrown up by Summit Pass, but they got very cool as they entered the woods. There were trees looming all over, but also occasional clearings. I considered sitting down in one and writing on a tree log ... but decided it was getting late.

And these trails, they were beautifully curated. Whenever the path got too steep, wooden steps made the going easier. And as the trail cut back and forth across a creek there were simple wooden plank bridges.

I was totally loving it, considering it one of the best trails I'd found in the area.

There's a gate out to Claremont Road at the bottom of the Summit House Trail. I checked it out because I wanted to double-check I knew where I was. But my real goal was the Gwin Canyon Trail, which is the one that cuts across the bottom of the Preserve. I felt the need to check where I was because the Gwin Canyon Trail was unsigned ... which was a bit of a surprise, as the previous trails were extensively signed every time they met.

I grew more confident as I crossed another bridge over a creek. This one was even finished, showing that the people working in the Preserve were just upping the quality of their work.

But a bit past that the trail was suddenly covered in really fresh dirt. And a bit past that it was suddenly angling off the side of the hill, making walking along it tough and adventurous. I went out along that shaky dirt slope for a bit, but ultimately decided I must be doing something wrong.

Fortunately I remembered a path up off the side of the trail, just after the bridge, so I backtracked to that, and figured this must have been a side trail created after the avalanche or whatever.

So I took that for a while, and eventually it dropped back down to what I thought was the original trail, but if so it was pretty poorly upkept.

And soon after that I lost the trail.

And I backtracked and I lost the trail.

Again and again.

A few times I pushed through brush and bush that I figured must have overgrown the trail.

And after a bit of that, I was pretty much in the middle of forest with no trail to be seen.

Now I wasn't exactly lost in the wood. I could literally see Claremont Road much of the time, but it was across a creek, and going down and up its sides looked all but impossible.

I also had my cell phone. But the problem was that it didn't show the trails so even with GPS, I couldn't accurately figure out where I was in relationship to the supposed trail. I did have a PDF of the Claremont maps on my laptop, so a few times I cross-referenced the two, and I was staying close to where the trail should be (thanks to the creek and the hills making it easy to stay on course), but I couldn't find it.

Meanwhile I was crashed through the wilderness. There wasn't a lot of ground cover back in the woods, but it was a lot of work to crash through it because dead trees and branches kept getting in the way.

I was slowly making my way along where the path was supposed to be, but I do mean slow. I figured I'd eventually get back to the opposite side of the park where I could exit, but I really wasn't sure how long it would take.

(I called K. to let her know I'd be late for dinner because I was sorta' lost in the woods.)

Often when I'm out in the wilderness, I worry about (1) snakes; (2) poison oak; and (3) poison ivy in that order. But as I crashed further and further through foliage I got less and less worried about it all.

But there was still no trail to be found!

After about a quarter of a mile in about 45 minutes I came up with a new plan. I pulled up the altimeter app on my phone; since my maps of Claremont showed the height in 10 foot increments, I thought this might be a more accurate way to find the trail. It actually showed me within 10 feet or so height of the trail, but I finally decided it must be above me. So I crashed upward ...

And voila!

Slightly poorly upkept trail!

I walked the last half-mile or so much more quickly. I was surprised to find the last bit was considerably uphill, so I was quite tired when I exited the park. I'd expected that 1.11 mile traversal of the Gwin Canyon Trail to take about 20 minutes, but it had taken about an hour twenty.

I emerged in the rich hills far above the Claremont Hotel. On the way down I noticed a nice-looking Asian guy out getting his mail, and I asked him if he would be willing to get me some water. He immediately volunteered to get me a bottle, and I smiled and explained that I was just looking to get my water bottle refilled with tap water. He was happy to do so.

By the time I got home my Fitbit was reading over 30,000 steps and over 250 flights of stairs. Those were record highs for me, but beneath the next badge levels. The gamification systems won me over and I went for a walk after dinner to get me the 35,000 step badge and the 300 flight of stair badge.

I was then sore on Sunday.

I've since found some discussions of the Gwin Canyon Trail that claim it ends .6 miles from the far terminus that I was walking toward. This might explain what happened. I now suspect there's a .4 mile or so gap between that fresh dirt past the bridge and where the trail picks up.

If so, it'd be nice if they didn't mark the darned trail on the maps ... and maybe put up some warnings where it disappeared!

(But it looks like it's in process one way or another.)

And that was the Gwin Canyon Adventure.
As I hike down the path, I see someone far below me, on one of the Selby Trail's other twists and turns. She pauses in the path, stands a moment, then does a funny jump and run along the trail's edge.

A few minutes later, I descend to where she was and confirm my suspicions.


I look down at my shoes which still have traces of red mud from Kauai. And maybe even mud from the trails here in the East Bay, before my trip.

Yup, I'm back in the saddle again.

(Except the problem is of course that I'm not.)

Nine Days Earlier.

I'm back to work on Friday, about ten hours after we got home. I actually like having a Friday to work after I get back from vacation, because it gives me one day to catch up with email and phone calls.

Mostly I punt spam that the spam catchers didn't catch. I also start ads, respond to non-spammy email, and do other things that I opted out of dealing with while on vacation.

Then on Monday I start a regular work week without all that catch-up hanging over me.


The weekend and the week flit by.

I write at Clark Kerr. I see a play. I deal with emergencies at Skotos. I research. I write more.

I record the ongoing health symptoms I experience in the hope they will mean something to me or my specialist when I see her next month.

I board game for the first time in April. It's mostly old favorites.

I watch Eric's Dresden Files Kickstarter more than I should, but it's intoxicating seeing the numbers go up.

Day by day I feel the the rest and relaxation from vacation drift away. It's not the work. It's not the crises. I deal with it all well. I'm pleased with how the crises resolve. I'm pleased with the writing I do.

I just can't maintain the joyous relaxation that I gain in Hawaii. I can't stay light-hearted and unworried and unstressed because there are worries and stressors and issues that require a heavy heart. I have medical frustrations to deal with too. Thankfully, I haven't returned to the depths of frustration that I visited before the trip.

But I can't maintain that calm serenity.

I never can.

If I'm not gaming, Saturday is the day I like to take my laptop out for a walk. So that's what I do today, nine days after my return from the Garden Island.

I used to take my laptop out for a ride, but as I said I'm not back in the saddle again. Or on the saddle again or whatever. I'll talk with the specialist about that next month. There will need to be progress on my condition for me to feel this is worthwhile.

But for now, no biking.

I'm starting to feel like I've seen the hikes that our local hills have to offer. But I have a plan for today's walk. Well, mainly I have a desire: a sandwich from Andronico's on dutch crunch with a side of Kettle chips.

So I walk with Kimberly northside and after we diverge I gather my supplies.

Then I begin my ascent.

The goal on a Saturday hike is both walking and writing. I hope to begin the second after my ascent to Codornices Park. However following my lunch, I am forced to flee due to smoke from a nearby barbecue.

This is not the first time this has happened. I begin to suspect that my laptop computer has smoke-attracting circuitry.

I've been playing my route by ear, but I now figure out a new series of paths that will take me up to Tilden Park, which is my intended destination for the day.

I walk Redwood Terrace to El Mirador Path. I'm surprised by how rundown they are. The cement steps are often at weird angles or too shallow due to movements of the earth. Then I take Sterling Path to Keeler Path. The latter is the only one that I'm aware of walking before. It's a rare horizontal Berkeley path, running along the hillside (rather than up it). It goes through an area that's mysteriously empty of houses, and looks very jungly as a result. It's pretty cool.

At the end I emerge into Remilard Park. It has a large rock. I carefully investigate and am relieved to discover there are no barbecues.

I sit down to write.

I am interrupted once by a lady with a small dog named Lucy and once by a hippy dude trying to figure out how to climb the rock.

I scritch the dog and show the dude where to climb the rock.

When I pack up after writing two articles, I try the rock myself, and don't get off the ground. The rock is apparently harder than it looks.

The Berkeley paths have disappeared this high up the hill, so I mostly walk quiet roads to get up to Park Hills. It's at the top of the hill between Tilden and the East Bay. There is indeed a park in the middle. It's a neat little circle of greenery and play equipment surrounded entirely by houses.

There is a picnic table, so naturally I sit down to write another article.

I think the park unused at first, but soon after members of a family drift in: a mother, her child, her wife, an older woman, and their dog.

One of the women, who turns out to originally be from South Africa, is in charge of the dog and keeping her assiduously on her leash. I worry that I might be the cause of that, and I don't want to be when I'm just visiting. So I tell her I'm perfectly happy if she wants to let her dog run free.

She does, but the dog is quite old, so it mostly slowly walks free.

She takes this as an opportunity to talk with me. I don't mind because she is not only very enthusiastic about Bernie Sanders, but she also soon begins to praise my thoughtful political philosophy.

What I find most interesting is her description of this Park Hills area. When I walked in, it struck me as being reminiscent of Ferguson. It's mainly architectural. There's a touch of brick on some of the buildings, and many of them also have (fake) storm shutters. However some of the houses also have details that feel really homey, like the way they display their house numbers.

South African woman says that the area also has a real community feeling to it, where everyone knows everyone.

This is pretty rare for Berkeley.

It sounds nice.

After we talk for a while, she wanders back to her family and I finish the last few paragraphs of my third article and head out.

It's all downhill from there.

Dropping into Tilden I see mud on the paths. It's not as bad as it was in early April, but I do have to dodge it at times. Fortunately, I don't think I add much to the mud collection on my shoes.

Oh, and I lied: it wasn't all downhill from the Park Hills exit, but it was downhill for quite a time, until I hit Lake Anza. From there I head back upward to my favorite picnic area. It's got a barbecue, and I have indeed been forced to flee from its smoke before.

I actually have walked this part of the Selby Trail before, from Lake Anza, up to the Island Picnic area, then up to the top of the stutter ridge.

From there I head south along the edge of the golf course, and this is new trail.

Sadly it's not particularly nice trail. Mostly I can see the road next to the golf course and the chain fence around the golf course.

Ah, nature.

Eventually I exit Tilden and from there revisit many of my greatest hits.

The Space Science Labs. (Great views!)

Centennial Road. (Sucky walking.)

The Lower Jordan Fire Trail. (Nice creeks and trees.)

Panoramic Hill. (Not actually that panoramic because all the houses block views.)

Some trail down to the Clark Kerr Fire Trail. (Which is trickier going down than up.)

Then I'm back on the ground in Berkeley, and it's a short walk home.

25,000 steps for the day, 11 miles, 198 floors.

Apparently I need to run up our stairs twice to get another copy of Fitbit's Castle badge.

Doesn't 200 floors seem a lot for a castle?
17th-Apr-2016 03:12 pm - The Addams Family, by Andrew Lippa
We were back to the Berkeley Playhouse today to see The Addams Family, a broadway musical of very recent pedigree.

It was very enjoyable. I had fun the whole time, entranced by the Addams Family and their interactions with a "normal" family. However, I was also a bit surprised by the fact that the play was both unpolished and too-polished. I'm pretty surprised that the play was successful on Broadway. (Looking now after I drafted this, I see it was successful despite very bad reviews.)

The heart of the play seems to be the fun question of what's normal, and whether that's even desirable. It kicks off in Act I with "One Normal Night", where Wednesday begs her family to be normal when they meet her fiancé's family. But then the play rather delightfully undercuts our expectations by showing us her "normal" fiancé having the same conversation with his own family. Then in Act II we get a reprise of the theme with a new song called "Crazier than You" in which the aspirations toward normalcy are thrown off and everyone embraces their inner weirdo. It's nice messaging and a nice through-line for this play.

Except it's really not a through-line. The rest of the play is all over the place, talking about honesty, love, closeness, distance, and even the Moon. There are lots of good themes there, but it just feels like a mess when you jam them all together.

Meanwhile, the show also felt overworkshopped, like the creator had dutifully followed all the notes he was given to produce a soulless Broadway production. So you have numerous topical references, which are all really cheap laughs. And you have a bit of fourth wall breaking (which produces at least one well-earned laugh). And you have dances and songs in several styles, including a Tango (of course!), a ballet, and a chorus line. If you wrote a book about how to write a modern musical, I'm pretty sure that all these elements would be there.

And too often the show relies upon spectacle, going to the well of the Addams' family spookiness and kookiness to keep the audience entertained without thinking too much about it.

Still, as I said, I enjoyed the play. It was familiar and easy. It had great performances, with Wednesday being a real stand-out (and Pugsley too, but he got too little attention). The set design was also great.

I also loved once concept from the play: the chorus, which was made up of Addams ancestors. They looked great on the stage with costume design going back centuries, and this also allowed the Addams to make amusing references to their various exotic deaths.

But I suspect I'll remember very little about the play in a few weeks time.
Everyone is standing up in the airplane at once.

Then, abruptly, the power cuts out!

Seven Hours Earlier.

I love leaving Hawaii.

Perhaps that didn't come out right.

I find that the the departure from Hawaii beautifully aligns with my schedule. I'm up at a bit before 7am, just about the same time that I'm up every Hawaiian morning, as the sun streams in the window.

There's time for me to shower, then we have a casual breakfast with the folks. Just bagels and cream cheese for me today. I don't want anything to upset my unruly systems before we get down to a day of traveling.

At 8.15 or so we leave the house. We're bright and bushy-tailed, totally unlike our experience coming to Hawaii, when we have to survive on half-a-night's sleep.

We make it from Lihue to Honolulu without problem. The puddle-jump is the most casual flight you could ever take, so it's a damned shame that it's not priced cheaply enough to really allow it to be casual anymore. (Not that that matters as a single leg of our longer trip.)

We float through the entirely familiar terminal at Honolulu, with just a brief stop at the Agricultural check point. As always I wonder if they'll complain about trail mix (or other food) from Berkeley.

There's a minor disappointment when we dine. We always have lunch at a food court over in the international terminals that overlooks a pleasant Chinese garden. Except this year all the windows to the garden are covered by plywood walls. They're apparently doing heavy construction over half the garden. The result feels a bit claustrophobic and stuffy, like the entire airport at Kahului, where we briefly stopped in 2013 due to extremely cheap tickets. It's a disappointment for the generally nice Honolulu airport though.

An hour and a half later, we're boarding our plane to Oakland, and I say to Kimberly, "This time the trip is going to be entirely uneventful."

I sit in my seat flipping between Swamp Thing and Orb Sceptre Throne. I'm finally up to "Sceptre" after eight days of reading. I vaguely sense that time is going by and I try to remember when the plane is supposed to take off, but I only really pay attention to the boarding time nowadays.

Several times I convince myself the plane is backing away from the terminal, but each time it's an optical illusion.

I believe we're supposed to leave at 1.35, so at 1.37 or so I think I should pull out my boarding pass to check.

Then the captain comes on with an apologetic tone in his voice.

This is not a good sign.

The captain explains that there are mechanical problems, and we are being shunted to another plane. I have visions of the four-hour delay that awaited passengers when Hawaiian's last plane died the previous Wednesday, which cascaded into a 3.5 hour delay for us on Thursday morning. Fortunately, we're in Honolulu, which is filled with Hawaiian airplanes.

We prepare to deplane, and then the power abruptly cuts out. I expect screams, but they don't come. Multiple people comment that it's a good thing we weren't in the air!

We march down about four gates, which is a considerable distance at Honolulu, then wait. Waiting is the main economic activity of airports.

The new plane has to be cleaned and catered before we can reboard. I'm all for both.

We reboard. Then, we nervously watch the clock on the new plane. Finally we take off.

The main problem with the flight is that it seems to be full of collicky children. There is constant screaming the full flight back. The word "constantly" is not an exaggeration. The worst is a three-year-old (or so) across from us, who seems like a feral animal. At one point he starts writhing around, kicking and hitting his mom and sister. At another point he keeps kicking the seat in front of him again and again.

Mom is often more interested in her phone and delegates six-year-old (or so) sister to take care of the wild child.

At first I think there might be something wrong with the kid, but then another of mom's six children has a total breakdown later in the trip. Mom idly mentions that they're all home-schooled, and it all clicks into place.

On our way off the plane, the pre-school teacher unlucky enough to sit in front of mom and tot confides to us that she's never seen anything like it in her twenty years of teaching.

Hawaiian has one last trick to play: we recover our suitcase and find it covered in duct tape.

At first we think the've ruined it, but it turns out they've just covered the inset handle in the bottom of the suitcase because it offended them.

We decide to take a taxi home and arrive just a few minutes shy of midnight.

The cats hover around us, anxious and perturbed, but happy we're home.

I agree.
The first thing we spot are the red flags. One off to the right side of Kekaha Beach, then two off to the left, like they're saying they really mean it.

We don't bother grabbing our swimming gear, but we hop out of the car to look while we're here. It's the furthest west I've ever been on the island, by just a mile or so.

We advance past the picnic tables and move onto the sand. The beautiful blue water presents a marvelous vista from one horizon to the other.

Then the wind, which has been whipping around all day like a blender on high, catches the sand and starts buffeting us with it.

We turn to flee.

Seven Hours Earlier.

I've fallen into a morning routine. I breakfast. I walk with my dad in the golf course. I lunch.

Despite the walking, it's really no wonder that my clothes are feeling tight after seven days here.

In the afternoon my Dad and I plan an expedition west. Our main destination is JoJo's, where I get shave ice. As usual I get chocolate, cherry, and something else. Today the something else is vanilla, which isn't atypical. I decide I should have stuck with chocolate and cherry because the chocolate is just a minor equator between the red and blue.

It's a very delicious equator though.

While I eat, we walk around Waimea. It's perhaps the largest town-like area west of Lihue, but it's still pretty tiny. The urban center of the town seems to mainly consist of schools, churches, and restaurants.

The most exciting bit of the walk is the discovery of a secret path heading up a hill side. I bounce up it, but it just leads to a school that we then have to wearily walk around.

We eventually return to the main road and start walking back to the car on the sidewalk there.

Unfortunately, school has let out, so we have to be constantly wary of bicycle-riding kids coming up the sidewalk behind us.

I skipped swimming yesterday to have a day of mostly quiet on the trip, but I'm determined to swim on my last full day on the island. So that's our next stop, while out here on the west side of the island.

(It's really still the south side of the island, but it's just barely facing west.)

However, we've been having high winds all day, and we're not really sure if swimming will be easily possible. Our first stop is Kekaha Beach, a few miles past Waimea.

The red flags are out, which means that the lifeguards would really prefer no one be out in the water. We get sandblasted before we can even get near the waves, and so we accede to their demands.

We turn the car around and start heading south (and east). Then we hit the traffic.

Unfortunately, school has let out, so the going is very slow as students occasionally wander across the crosswalk in Waimea. Eventually we get past and can start speeding through the fields again.

Our next stop is Salt Pond Beach. Rafael's taco truck is there, and I think fondly of the tacos I've already had this trip. But I opt not to stalk them further.

Also, my clothes are tight.

I manage to cut my foot on a rock when diving into the water, which is impressive because I thought we were in pure sand.

But that's Hawaii: dig a foot, and there's rock.

It adds to my litany of wounds, typical for a trip to Hawaii. One bad mosquito bite (whose swelling has died down) and a blister between a couple of my toes. The cut is really the worse because cuts on rocks in the water can be nasty. It gets antibiotic cream when I get home, and will get even more attention when I return to Berkeley.

After that, the swimming is wonderful. Salt Pond Beach is surprisingly clear, and it offers a nice long swimming route. The end is particularly challenging because you're fighting against a current as water goes over the rocks that demarcate the south end of the beach.

While swimming, I see not one, but two Humuhumunukunukuāpua'a.

It's truly a sign that my vacation is at an end.
After a few minutes of pretending to read the book, I lay it on my chest. It's Orb Sceptre Throne, a book in search of punctuation marks. I haven't even gotten to the Sceptre yet.

I've resisted the urge so far, trying to soak in every minute of sunshine and tropical joy on this trip, but we've scheduled today as downtime, and I can't resist any more.

I nap.

Six Hours Earlier.

The early morning is the usual. We breakfast. We walk at the golf course.

I can tell how much the FitBit has changed my patterns from the way that I make a point of walking every day. By 9pm, I'll be just shy of 11,000 steps, which has been pretty standard for the trip.

For a while, we try and make plans to visit Waimea, but we fail mainly because of JoJo's late opening time of 11.30. There seems no way to run up there, then run back to eat lunch without everything smashing into each other.

So instead, we talk for a while then eat lunch.

As my dad has said a few times: vacation is all about figuring out our next meal as soon as we finish with the last one.

The afternoon disappears into the nap. But then at 3pm we're heading out for the main event of the day: the Kauai museum and then (as my dad predicted) another meal.

The Kauai Museum is horribly organized. I bounce from wall to wall learning about things in a random order. I see some interesting paintings of a chief's son returning to Kauai, and only later learn who he is. The sorting of things between rooms is equally chaotic, other than the fact that the Asian material is upstairs.

But I'm never exactly sure why there's a whole floor of Asian artifacts in a Kauai museum.

I am the most fascinated, unsurprisingly, by the history. I want to learn more about the civil wars that formed the Kingdom of Hawaii, and I'm hoping that James Michener's book covers that. I'm always reluctant to read books that ridiculously long. Hawaii is ~1100 pages, which is even longer than Orb Sceptre Throne. However, I might make an exception for this one.

For now I just enjoy my own visions of these ancient stories played out across these islands that I've visited so often.

I'm also fascinated by a topographic map of Hawaii that shows many of the settlements and pathways of the ancient Hawaii people. I'm shocked to see they settled in all the river valleys which are largely abandoned now, as modern people instead settle on the coast. I'd love to know why. I'm equally fascinated by pathways that go straight over the mountains in the middle of Kauai, but I'm sure they're sadly gone now too.

Some of the Asian stuff I complain about is actually pretty neat too, particularly some Filipino weaponry.

I'm less fascinated by the surfing room, which is oddly enough the first thing you see when you enter the "History of Kauai" building.

My eye-rolling at the surfing room is ironic because we're eating dinner at Duke's, named after Duke Kahanamoku, who popularized surfing. It's at the Marriott in Lihue, so of course I want to look around first.

The pool is particularly fascinating because it's large and magnificent, with lots of Roman pillars, beautiful balconies, and a menagerie of stone animals vomiting into the pool.

Which is a totally appetizing thing to see before dinner.

They're just vomiting water, fortunately.

We get a table looking out over Nawiliwili Bay. It's absolutely magnificent. The beach and bay spread out before us, and beyond them are some magnificent headlands. The only restaurant we've eaten at that compares is the St. Regis on Hanalei Bay.

It's hard for the food to match that view, but it does. I have Shrimp Scampi which is extremely tasty ... but I'm glad I'm not eating something that rich on the night before we leave.

We'll have more success with JoJo's tomorrow, and that'll largely complete the Kauai checklist.
The path downward isn't so much a path as a wall of stones that we're climbing down. Tree roots and branches clutter the way. I step over one, under another, then around a third.

I put my foot on a stone and it slides forward in the red mud until it reaches a branch on the other side. I'm afraid if I put my weight on it, physics will take over, and in the end I'll snap my ankle bone. So I pull my foot back, and try the step again. I get the same result.

The rain starts to patter down once more.

Five hours earlier.

The main topic of conversation this morning is the weather. We can all see that rain is coming down outside, but we're trying to assess whether that state of affairs will continue.

I finally offer up an analytical take on the subject: Wunderground says that each day from here until Thursday will have more rain than the last. So, irrespective of whether it's raining, today is clearly the best day to hike.

The folks are won over by my logic. We head out to the car after breakfast, minus Kimberly who will stay home and rest.

Then the rain starts to pour as we come abreast of Old Koloa Town.

It's quite illogical.

On the east shore, things have brightened up. We're much more confident about hiking once we reach the gate to the Ho'opi'i Falls hiking trail. I wait while the folks change from slippas to socks and hiking boots, then we're off.

Very quickly I make the joke, this if the forest primeval. I'm probably the only one who gets it. But it is. Ferns and fronds constantly loom over the path, creating a tunnel into a Jurassic park. It's one of my favorite places on the island.

The ground is the bright red that's typical in Kauai, but it's more troublesome than usual because it's red clay. Moreso, it's slick red clay because even if it's not raining this minute, it's clearly been raining recently. Not only do I not know my destination (because I've never walked this trail before), but I'm frequently slip-sliding away (because my sneakers just don't compare to the actual hiking boots that the folks have).

I enjoy the hike, but occasionally I let out a yelp as I suddenly slide along the slick path at a much faster speed than usual.

The first tricky spot on the hike comes when downed trees block the path here and there. I have to climb over and under them. It's particularly hard when there's really slick red clay right under a tree that I'm sliding under.

My dad suggests that someone purposefully downed the trees to block the path. This sounds crazy to me, but I give it credence on the way back when we spot several "Private Property" signs. It looks like there's some sort of struggle going on, with some private asshat trying to claim that he owns the county trail. After the fact, Googling suggests that there's some disagreement on what's private property and what's not.

I'm thankfully that we're in Kauai, not in Texas; the dispute is more likely to be solved by just ignoring the problem, not by shooting people.

The Upper Ho'opi'i Falls are nice. It's the Lower Ho'opi'i Falls that are the real treasure though — and of course these are the Falls that are now under ownership contention.

The final descent to the Lower Falls is quite treacherous. It's slick and steep. My dad opts to stay behind, but Mary and I brave it. There's now rain occasionally dropping down, and there's one part of the trek that is rocky and filled with tree branches. At the worst part, I'm not sure I can make it down without breaking an ankle. But Mary is able to offer a suggestion ... and with a hop, skip, and a jump I make it down.

When we reach the bottom of the Lower Falls there is an excess of picture taking. Me in front of the water fall. Mary in front of the waterfall. Me in front of the lagoon. Mary in front of the lagoon.

Finally we head back up to my father, who after this long pictorial lacuna no doubt suspects we've fallen to our death.

It's past noon as we trudge back up the slick red pathways. I suggest we call Kimberly to say that she should forage for herself for lunch.

Fortunately the refrigerator is full of easy foraging.

The three of instead decide to eat at the worst diner in Kauai.

I let out a louder-than-usual yelp not far from the end of our hike and manage to take a sideways slide to the ground. I catch myself on my bad shoulder, which has been mostly OK since we hit Hawaii, but it's not a smart reaction.

This adds to the mud on my jeans. The cuffs were already caked red. Now I've got red up the left side of my jeans from the cuff to the hip.

When we see the Ono Family Diner in Kapaa, I jokingly say "Oh no!" But we decide to eat there anyway.

It's a pretty standard American diner, except my salad comes with papaya seed dressing. I enjoy it, not realizing it's the only food I'm going to get for forty-five minutes.

My dad and Mary enjoy a meatloaf. We wait for their soup and more importantly my main course: a grilled chicken sandwich and french fries.

Forty five minutes later a waitress comes by to ask if we're ready for our bill.

We literally all talk at once. I say, "No, because we're still waiting for half of our meal". The waitress seems literally repelled by our vocal force. No one is yelling, but we're a bit loud.

Our waitress visits our table three times in the next several minutes. First she accusingly asks whether I've ever gotten my sandwich. (No.) Then she more contritely asks whether I've gotten my fries. (No.) Then she explains that another waitress gave my chicken sandwich to some other table, and asks if I would likely something faster to cook. (No.) She explains that it will take 10 minutes for a chicken sandwich, and I tell her to make it so.

But another waitress shows up just a minute later. She has what looks like the worst-looking chicken sandwich I've ever seen. It's brown and desiccated. "Is that a grilled chicken sandwich?" I ask in horror.

She stares intently at me for a moment, then stares at the sandwich.

She scoops it back into her hand and rushes away with the plate, like she's smuggling rum into prohibition-era Chicago. "No, it's a fish sandwich," she shouts out as she flees.

The chicken sandwich finally arrives. It's quite good.

"Worth the wait?" my dad asks. I have to say that the answer to that is no.

But the wait is a sunk cost. They would have had to serve a chocolate-covered chicken sandwich to make it worthwhile.

We swim at Lydgate afterward. Much of the water is dirty and brown, filled with tiny, tiny bits of debris from a storm two weeks ago.

It feels like there should be a metaphor here.

It feels like my knees are up at my throat, and I'm praying that the person in front of me doesn't lean his seat back, else he's likely to crack my kneecaps, break my MacBook Air, or both.

Meanwhile, the guy behind me is keeping up the monologue that he's been maintaining the whole trip from Oakland to Honolulu. Every once in a while his seating partner asks a question or makes a remark, and that's enough to send him off to the races again. He acts like he knows about everything, because he answers every question she asks for five long hours.

Meanwhile his wife is sitting across the aisle from him, even with me. Earlier in the flight she acknowledges that she never sits next to him on trips, and he laughingly says she might kill him if she did, then he launches off into some discussion of the relative prices of black tea and antiquities in the Pacific Rim.

I think the statement odd, but hours later I not only understand, but also agree.

The wife is coughing throughout the entire trip. Ahead of her another woman is full-out sneezing. Neither is very good about covering their mouths, though coughing-murder-wife remembers every once in a while.

I'm always befuddled by the huge amount of sickness on flights. I'd swear it's every third passenger (and they're all sitting next to me). It's like fliers are more likely to be sick than anyone else.

Then The Atlantic published an article on how toxoplasmosis bacteria can control your mind. So that's my new theory. Cold viruses control peoples' minds and encourage them to fly on planes.

And sit next to me.


We sit in church, and the seats are much more spacious and the company is less talkative and less sickly. Big improvements all around.

The service is all about the Lord's Supper, which is basically the Eucharist, which I had no idea it was a thing in non-Catholic churches. Except it's not communion because Pastor Larry is extremely clear that the whole body-and-blood-of-Christ thing is a metaphor. He uses the word metaphor several times, and he uses it correctly. And in the back of my mind I can here the criticism of churches that would claim it was transubstantiation instead.

Before he hands out the bread and wine, Pastor Larry has a big spiel about who should take the Eucharist, and it's obvious that I should not because I'm not a believer by his definition nor am I good with a church. I am simultaneously relieved that I don't need to partake in a ceremony that makes me uncomfortable, and uncomfortable because I now feel isolated from the rest of the congregation.

Because I'm ornery that way.

Afterward, I take communion of brownies instead.

On our way out, Pastor Larry massively impresses me by asking after Kimberly's eyes, which were an issue when we last saw him, two years ago.


I buy a Pohaku T, I view Spouting Horn, I look at orchids at the Kiahuna Plantation, I am menaced by a cactus there, I swim at Poipu, I eat chocolate-and-marshmellow ice cream at Lappert's.

All of this has happened before and will happen again.


My chronic problems are on the rise again today, particularly as I shift uncomfortably throughout the church service, but also late into the evening. A darned shame, but I do my best to ignore them.
When my dad wonders about whether the waves might have reached our towels, I tell him there's no way. We left them several feet above the water line.

But after that, as we swim back along Lawai Beach, my eyes are constantly drawn back to the shore. I finally pick out the bright orange and yellow of my towel, and it looks like the waves are nearly kissing it.

The water recedes, and there's a narrow strip of sand in front of the towels.

Then another wave thunders in.

Eight Hours Earlier.

I've been coveting those Safeway bagels since we picked them out yesterday. Finally at breakfast I get to have one. I choose the Sea Salt one.

It's delicious.

And we continue to eat our way through our vacation.

Following breakfast we get a rerun of yesterday: my dad and I go up to the golf course to hike. It's the same trail, but this time my dad points out a secret path down to the house that I hope we'll someday live in, here in Hawaii.

The path is actually quite well beaten, so perhaps it's not that secret.

But it emerges on the main street about 100 feet from the house of my dreams.

Later, when we walk out to the golf pavilion, I decide to examine the pavilion more closely. Last time I barely noticed it, because I was too entranced by the view to do so.

The construction of the pavilion isn't that attractive. It's mainly cinder blocks. But it's full of picnic tables to sit at, and it's open on three sides, with gorgeous views of the island and the sea.

I imagine leaving my house on Maka Road, walking up the secret path into the golf course, then hiking over to the pavilion. There, in my imagination, I take my laptop from my backpack and I start working on a new piece of writing. The Trade Winds are blowing through the pavilion. Every once in a while I look up at the view.

In my imagination.

As we hike back toward the car, I realize that I barely looked at the actual view, because I was too entranced by the pavilion (and my visions of tomorrow).

Our main destination for the day is a farmer's market. Kimberly and I have been convinced to attend by the promise of food trucks. So we walk with Mary a bit as she picks up this and that. And hands them to my dad to carry. But when we get to the food trucks, Kimberly and I speed off to check out the possibilities.

I settle on Rafael's Aloha Tacos, which is what I had at the Hanapepe Art Walk yesterday.

I kind of feel like I'm stalking the truck, so I pretend nonchalance when I order.

The market is at the community college, and I wanted to walk around it a bit afterward. We've seen it from the road every time we've visited, but we've never explored it before. So, we do.

It's actually not that impressive. I've seen a lot of beautiful universities, and this college instead has buildings that are utilitarian. I'm also feeling a bit out of sorts for perhaps the only time this trip thus far.

While we're there, we meet a groundkeeper. My dad and Mary seem to know every groundkeeper in Hawaii, because we also talked with one at the golf club yesterday. This one says we should check out the gazebo.

So we do, marching out across endless swards of green to do so.

It's not a gazebo at all, it's a pagoda instead.

I bet most people don't tour the community college on their vacation to Hawaii.

But more community colleges should have pagodas.

We go straight from the community college to Kilohana, which is right next door. It's an old plantation, the heart of which is a 16,000 square-foot mansion that looks like it was built the same year as our house, based on the hardware on the windows and doors. It turns out it's from about 30 years later, but maybe they get old hardware in Kauai.

It takes a while to ship things here.

Even Amazon Prime.

Today the mansion is turned into a restaurant on the ground floor, and a bunch of touristy shops in rooms throughout.

It's entirely bizarre walking into what was a bedroom and seeing them selling jewelry. But it's even more bizarre walking into the bathroom, with a toilet off to the side, and seeing more jewelry piled in the sink.

Mary is looking at the various jewelries and paintings as we walk through the house, but I get bored of those pretty quickly and am checking out the architecture instead.

It turns shopping into a spy expedition.

My dad and I finally arrive at Lawai Beach at about 3.30. I've dragged my feet about going because the whole trip through the college and the shopping mall mansion has exhausted me. I hope I'm not fighting off a cold from the plane, but I figure one more day and I'm home free.

However, I ultimately decide I'm not going to waste a scant day of tropical swimming.

We ensconce our towels safely, well above the water line, and then wade out into the water.

After my dad and I both comment on the coldness of the water, I decide that Lawai really is chillier than the other beaches on the south shore, something that I've suspected for years.

But once we get out there the cold fades away and the fish are plentiful, as always. It's the best fish beach I know of on the island.

And I see my first humuhumunukunukuāpua'a, truly marking the start of the vacation.

Our towels survive the experience.
The picnic table is surrounded by chains. Signs on them read "Private Property". No one can sit at that table on penalty of trespassing.

Attendees of the Hanapepe Art Walk wander up and down the street with food in their hands, looking for somewhere to sit.

But the picnic table sits alone.

Eleven Hours Earlier.

I'm somewhat surprised to find light absolutely flooding our bedroom when I wake up. I can't believe I slept through that. Later I look at my FitBit records and learn that I got about seven and three-quarters of an hour of sleep while in bed for eight hours.

Back in the Bay Area, that would be nothing short of a miracle.

I've got ants in my pants, or at least a FitBit on my wrist that's spent the last ten months or so brainwashing me into moving.

So, I've already decided that I'm going to go out for a walk after breakfast, while Kimberly is getting a complementary house massage. Happily, my dad joins me.

We drive up to the golf course, because here in the real-world, as opposed to our protected little enclave in Berkeley, that's how life works: you drive to walk.

I've walked around the golf course one other time that I can remember, but we take some different routes this time. We start out going up some wooded paths that are just beautiful. I love paths that are wide, yet crowded in by trees, and this one qualifies.

Eventually we emerge out on the open green and walk out to the pavilion. We circle around it, but I'm still not particularly sure what the pavilion is. Wikipedia says it's a free-standing structure, which really isn't that helpful, because that sounds like another word for building.

However, the pavilion really isn't the point. Instead, the point is the gorgeous views you get near the pavilion, where you can look across Kalaheo Gulch toward the southern coast of the Island.

It's gorgeous.

We continue to dodge golf balls on the way back to the car.

Next up is Costco.

I discover that the increasing number of things I'm not eating — which now includes caffeine, spice, tomatoes, and alcohol — is a big pain in the butt.

We get lunch meat for the week and enough meat for dinners to last a month. Because it's Costco.

Included is a pack of five pounds or so of bacon. The folks are apparently now eating bacon and eggs every morning instead of fruit, as part of a healthier diet.

We stop by Safeway afterward to pick up some bagels as a breakfast alternative.

You can't have a vacation in Hawaii without swimming. So in the afternoon my dad and I do.

Poipu is one of my favorite beaches, ever since our first trip here in 2001.

When my dad and I swim, it always involves a lot of talking. This can be tough when waves are constantly splashing over you.

When we're at Poipu we usually end up talking about the two different sharks that my dad has seen at the beach.

Fun times.

The jailed picnic table is at our fourth and final event for the day: the evening's Hanapepe Art Walk. We go every year: Kimberly looks at jewelry, we sometimes gawk at art, then we all get food to eat.

The table was our savior last year, because it was the only dry place on yet another rainy night in Hanapepe. Apparently its owners were offended by that, because now it's fenced off. It's a mocking rebuttal to the Aloha Spirit that folks with handfuls of food walk by every single Friday.

For once it's not raining though.

We eat on a bench atop a pedestal.

I glare across the street at the table the whole time.
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