A week on Kauai “the Garden Isle”

As a young adult I had heard many times that Hawaii (and surrounding islands) was an expensive place to vacation. If you are there on vacation it’s either because you are rich or retired (and rich at the same time). Well in my mind I thought, if you’ve see one beach, clearly you have probably seen them all.

I was DEAD WRONG. Trust me.

So when my hubby’s aunt moved there for work for one year it entered our minds that Kauai could be our spring break destination. Yes we were both in school and lived for spring break.

Well the winter came howling to Minnesota (have you been here? cause it gets real cold) and we did not need much more convincing to buy tickets for a week of paradise in March. When it came time for our trip we packed up the sunscreen, flip-flops and shorts and headed to the airport with our four month old munchkin. Here are my takeaways from our amazing experience.

  1. Get off the beaten path We were fortunate that my hubby’s aunt was renting a four bedroom house. Her house was located in Waimea, a small town on the western side of the island. Keep in mind that this island is small to begin with, I think about 60 miles to get from one end to the other. Anyway, this town was awesome because we got to watch kids get off the school bus, speak to their neighbor who lived there here entire life and it wasn’t overcrowded. When I travel I love to experience real life culture in the places I visit. dsc_0070dsc_0778

2. I hope you like chickens We landed late at night so didn’t get our bearings till we woke up in the morning. Our mornings started early as our son was not adjusted to the four hour time difference. We went out to the backyard and I was so amazed to see a chicken lurking about, and proud that my aunt had gotten one for herself. Later that day we saw them on our drive through towns. It wasn’t till somewhat later in our trip that we learned that the island has WILD CHICKENS! They were everywhere, ok fine they didn’t have their towels out next to us sunbathing but almost everywhere else you will see them. dsc_0872

3. Hike the Na Pali Coast We are not avid hikers, in fact we hike on flat ground, ground that remains flat, except for a few bigger clumps of dirt in our fields. I was hesitant on going on this hike because I did not know if I would make it. Also, my son loves to eat and he is healthy and hearty. So we decided that my hubby would carry him in the front-pack for the hike. We made it about two miles in (I think it is 11 miles to the end) and it WAS SO WORTH IT. The views, the sound, the smell, the height and sheer audacity of it will shock you and entice you to keep going. We were lucky enough to make it there on a clear day, so watch the weather or get up there bright and early, before the rain.dsc_0626dsc_0671dsc_0665dsc_0655

4. Save extra change jar for Jo-Jos So I like ice cream, but I’m not a major ice cream fan. About the second day we were there we were introduced to shave ice by Jo-Jos. Shave ice is flavored ice (with Jo-Jos homemade syrups) on-top of vanilla ice cream with Macadamia nuts. There is NOTHING more sweet and savory and just plain delicious than devouring shave ice sitting on the beach and then thinking about going for seconds. My favorite combo was Pineapple and Mango.

5. Visit Hanapepe for Art Night Friday Night Every friday night the cute town of Hanapepe has like a fair/festival. They open some of their galleries  shops in town and have food. We had amazing Pad Tai and it was amazing to see all the artists work. Make sure to arrive early so that you can get a decent parking spot!

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dsc_09646. Go Ziplining When I was younger I went bungee jumping and absolutely LOVED it. Now that I’m a mom I haven’t done these kinds of things. But, when a group of girls that were there the same time we were decided to go I hopped aboard. We went in Poipu at the Skyline Eco-Adventures and had a BLAST. I would definitely recommend them.

7. Take a bath in a laundry tub Ok, I’m kidding. Well sort of. We bathed my son in the laundry tub outside in the carport because they didn’t have a bath inside and it was bigger than the kitchen sink. He LOVED it and it was amazing to think that we could be giving him a bath, outside in the middle of march.dsc_0710-2

8. Eat Breakfast at the Grinds Cafe We usually don’t eat out for breakfast, because my hubby is an AMAZING breakfast maker. But, we did want to bring my aunt out and she suggested we got to Grinds. Let me tell you, there french toast is out of this world. Thick and warm and tasty and delicious. After finishing it with orange juice, I sat there in my french toast coma and wondered if somebody could magically transport me for a nap on the beach. It is a decent price for a really good bite to eat.

9. Find a secluded beach One day when my aunt was working we took her car and drove a little west from Waimea. We found a beach with very few people on it and spent most of the day there. It was extremely relaxing and our little munchkin took a long nap and got to dip his toes in the water.

10. Drive up Waimea Canyon I think the drive is around 19 miles, but it switchback curves with a low speed limit so it will take you a little while to get to the top. There are many amazing places to stop along the way to take photos and see the canyon. When we got to the top it was raining so we could not see the whole canyon, the advice we heard was to go early in the morning before the clouds roll in. We didn’t make it in the morning, but it was still amazing once we got the top and the drive is totally worth it.

11. Rent a boogie board Boogie board is so much fun because it doesn’t take skill (like surfing). You just have to watch the waves and ride them in on your belly. How fun is that? You get to be a kid again. My hubby did more than I did as I sat on the beach mostly with our son. I did go out a few times and it sure was fun.

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12. Plan to come again This is more like a fair warning. If you plan to make a trip to Kauai, make sure to PLAN TO RETURN. You will fall in love with the beauty, exoticness, local culture, food and atmosphere in Kauai. There is just no place like it, and trust me these beaches are definitely worth seeing.dsc_1073

Kauai definitely stole our hearts and we are hoping to get back there rather soon. Have you been to Kauai? Tell me about your experience.

Portage Pass: A must see

 

When I was a young girl my summers where spent with dirt stained feet, walking through the cornfields with my first summer job and running out through the grass during a family game of kickball. The Minnesota landscape is flat for as far as the eye can see in my hometown. Upon my recent trip to Alaska I was in awe with the height of the mountain peaks that were interrupted by the flimsy, seemingly transparent clouds.

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I stayed in the town of Wasilla during my time in Alaska. The mornings came early with my baby boy not used to the four hour difference from Central Minnesota to the far off land of Alaska. We awoke to a quiet house, playing hide and go seek in the covers until the girls awoke and left for work. We then went upstairs, to brew coffee and for him to start the day pulling oats, sugar and anything else he could find out of the cupboards.

On this Thursday the girls offered to take us down to Whittier, a town that is located two hours south of Anchorage, a drive that took you along the river and through a two and a half mile tunnel. We wanted to hike Portage Pass, a trail that started at sea level and approached 800 feet.

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Arriving at the trail head I filled my backpack with a diaper, wipes, water bottle and snacks. Baby G fought his way to stay on the ground, while I tried to buckle him into the backpack. The trail was 800 feet, seemed simple right? The three women I was hiking with were all experience hikers, something that reminded I was not, but also proved to be inspiring.

100 feet: Holy, we made it to 100 feet already that seemed short and easy. I loved the moody, foggy clouds that blanketed the hills and mountains ahead.

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200 feet: The Girls suggest that we should make a lot of noise to scare bears. Good luck with the Moose they will come find you anyways. After that tidbit of information I gabbed back and forth with Baby G, making sure to make plenty of noise.

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300 feet: Feeling the burn throughout my hips, calf muscles, arms and heart. Cousin Kristi is relaying the story of her Belize trip, I am doing my best to keep up and using all my energy to respond to her.

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400 feet: Is it to late to turn around?!

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500 feet: One. Step. At. A. Time.

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600 feet: Stopping for a breather and fresh water.

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700 feet: Almost there, turning around to see stunning views and I am in fear of falling of this cliff because my mouth is hanging wide open, in awe.

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800 feet: WE MADE IT. The first words out of my mouth “Wow, this was SO worth it.”

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When we reached a flat head I set my pack down and took out Baby G. He immediately climbed over to the rock pile to pick up a rock in each of his hands, shoving it into his mouth to grind his teeth. I had my camera out, turning 365 degrees, snapping photos, thinking in my head that pictures will not do this place justice.

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After half and hour the fog lifted and William Sound Bay was open for all eyes to see. It robbed my breath and made my heart thudder with an ever increasing beat that went faster and faster. It was alluring, frightening, fascinating, graceful and wild all at the same time.

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The straight, uphill battle of a hike cleared my head and breathed mountain air into my soul and left me with a peaceful, calming feeling. The view gave me a sense of energy, yet begged me to stay for the afternoon and maybe into late evening.

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As I began the walk down all I could of think of is that I could not of spent my day and better or more memorable.

Adventuring to the Coast

A while ago your grandma grew up in a town in southern Washington. Longview rests one hour shy of the west coast, nestled on the Columbia River. They lived on Songbird Lane, where the kids took turns milking the cow and climbing the pear, plum and apple trees to pick fruit. Your great grandma was always bustling around the kitchen, canning the fruit and vegetables to fill the cellar.

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Years later grandma married a Minnesotan, moved here and has lived ihere ever since. Since I have been a young girl I have frequently gone on trips to the west. Upon the first few trips, I do not remember the smell of the river mills nor the waviness of the Lewis and Clarke Bridge on a windy day. It was sometime later when I began to differentiate one place from the next that I realized how different the west was from inland.

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Our trips would begin early at 4 am on Saturday morning. My sisters and I would wander half-awake to the table to eat. We excitedly shoveled in our cereal, but wearily rubbed the sleep from our half open eyelids. We filled our arms with blankets and pillows for the long, seemingly arduous car ride. Once settled into the car, sleep overtook us for hours of the day and when we awoke we ate grapes and cherries and cheered with excitement that we had crossed over into the state of Montana. Not many hours later we groaned from the length of the car ride and asked half a million times if we were almost there.

My very fondest memory of a trip west was one that was accompanied to the coast. Grandma brought us to the beach to meet our cousins for a camping trip. Despite the day being warm, the breeze floating off the coast was cool, causing us running through the sand back to the campsite to dawn on our sweatshirts. The ocean was loud slapping against the shore, pulling sand. The sound crashed through my mind, captivating me and interrupted my thoughts but brought a soothing feeling inside. That weekend we slept out under the stars and when the sun got warm we leaped over waves in the ocean. We roasted hot dogs and gulped fruit by the bowlfuls. We watched the sunset cuddled in blankets with the temperatures dipping, but the sand still warm from the golden rays of sunshine.

From then on my dear son, every trip west I have made, I fill at least one of my days with the Ocean. Each time I go I fall in love all over again with the feel, the sound, the presence, the taste and idea of the Ocean. But most of all I love how I feel when I leave it, the longing to return, but also the comfort of knowing that it will still be there the next time I get there. In time my love, you will find how comforting and beautiful certainty is, in the continuous life of change.

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And so the time came that I was bringing you my dear little one on this trip. One of the most beautiful and amazing duties of motherhood is adventuring the world and teaching you all the beauty that belongs to it. The awe from your eyes of the exploration of the world is something I wish I could bottle and take out every so often to enjoy. When I watch you watch the world it is as though everything is new and steals the breath right from every inch of your body. I had a feeling that you would love the coast.

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When we arrived you fought to be out of my arms. From the minute I put you down you speedily crawled every direction, as there was so much to see you couldn’t decide where to go first. You plowed your chubby fingers into the sand, which resulted in the sand flying up into the air. You giggled and squealed with delight and the boogers that fell from your nose were soon littered with sand displaying a sand mustache.

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Just as in so many other instances, your small little being taught me that sometimes the most important and best part of your day is to be in awe over the absolute beauty of nature. As the day waned I picked you up and for a few precious moments as I told you of the power of the ocean and the little that I know about it, my mind wanders back to the time I was first brought here. And with all of my heart I hope that your darling little soul was just as captivated as my youthful soul was.