Sunday, March 31, 2019

Hiking in Paradise

I knew I wanted to hike on Lanai, but there aren't too many designated trails.  I wasn't going to let that stop me, though.

There are a couple short trails near the Four Seasons resort.  One of them climbs up to a viewpoint called Puu Pehe  (Sweetheart Rock).  Named after a Hawaiian legend about two star-crossed lovers, it is a short trip that I didn't really consider hiking, since I did it in flip flops.  It was so beautiful though that I walked up here a couple of times.

For a longer hike, I headed for the Munro Trail.  It's really a single track dirt road, but the jeep rental companies won't let you drive up there anymore because they got tired of people getting stuck.  It's steep, winding and muddy.  Locals still drive it, and I ran into a worker checking cat traps.  But it was mostly deserted, and wanders through the rainforest to the highest point on the island.  It was 13 miles round trip, plus a side trip that made it about two miles longer.

The side trail off this road leads to a viewpoint where on a clear day you can see six Hawaiian islands and the deepest valley on the island.  I also ran to this point as a trail run one day.  I saw nobody except a wild sheep.

There's plenty of beach walking to be had.  Shipwreck Beach is 6 miles long and you could walk the whole thing and not see anyone.

I also hiked by accident on my last day on Lanai.  Having been told that it was probably too muddy to drive to Garden of the Gods, but to "go try it, but don't drive through the big puddles," by the person I rented the jeep from, I set out optimistically, only to be stopped by a muddy mess about a mile and a half from my destination. I knew the jeep could make it, but the rental places are used to city folk who have never used four wheel drive, so they are cautious.  I decided to walk the rest of the way on the single track road.

Some jeeps merrily passed me and I briefly regretted my decision, but it was a beautiful day, and I was about to get on a plane for six hours, so why not walk?  The end result was worth it.

You won't find manicured paths with lots of trail signs on Lanai.  You also won't find hordes of other hikers.  And if you're a little bit adventurous and seek out places to hike, there's beautiful views around every corner.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Life's (sometimes) a beach

I wonder a little about people who make pronouncements like "I could never just sit on a beach. I need to be active!"  Usually these people are wound pretty tight.  Maybe they should try sitting on a beach for a little while.

I'm an active person.  I exercise a lot and my job is often physical.  Maybe because of that, when there is a chance to relax, I'm happy to take it.  The deserted beaches of Lanai were one of the reasons I went there.

Don't get me wrong.  My days of baking in the sun wearing Hawaiian Tropic tanning oil were over by about age 17, and I wish I had known then the damage that kind of thing causes skin.  I also like to get a workout out of the way before I lounge around.  Then there is the issue of crowds.

As a child, I once declared to my parents that the beach we were on was "getting pretty crowded" when two people appeared at the other end.  I don't like towels right next to mine, listening to other people's beach tunes, or being in danger of being hit by a frisbee.  But given the right, secluded beach and a good book, and I can loaf around like it's my job, at least for a couple hours.

The "main" beach on Lanai is located near the Four Seasons hotel, a $1000 a night resort where the likes of me can't afford to stay.  The people who come over on the ferry for the day tend to go to this beach because they can walk there from the dock.  Still, it's never really that crowded.  You can usually find a quiet spot.  In the evening it's a nice place for a sunset walk.

I wanted something more remote though, so I jumped in my rented jeep and headed for Shipwreck Beach.  There are only 30 miles of paved roads on the island, and to get to most of the interesting places you need a four wheel drive.  Sometimes even these roads are impassable after a rain. But luckily I was able to make it to this six mile long beach.

There was nobody there when I arrived.  I walked a couple miles along the shore and found a place to sit across from the abandoned ship on the reef.  Although several ships have gone aground here, this one, a navy fuel barge, was intentionally left there.  I looked at the ship and made up ghost stories, read a book and searched for washed up treasure.

It was the perfect afternoon.

Monday, March 18, 2019

This might be heaven

I'm not going to lie, one of the deciding factors on going to Lanai, besides it being beautiful and uncrowded, was the chance to go to a cat sanctuary.

Here's where people say things about crazy cat ladies.  But I don't care! Cat ladies (and men) unite! For a cat lover, an outdoor space where 620 fluffy residents are cared for and can live out their lives safely is a kind of paradise.  And a cat sanctuary in paradise?  What more can a cat person ask for?

Lanai has a lot of feral cats.  They are living their best lives in a place where they have no predators, it's warm, and there's a lot of food and water.  As I hiked up to the highest point on the island, I encountered some workers setting live traps.  "What are you catching?" I asked.  "Cats!" they said.  Apparently these felines prey on endangered ground nesting birds.  Hence, the cat sanctuary.

When you pull into the cat sanctuary, an employee greets you and opens a gate.  The place is off the grid, but the cats don't care.  You won't see most of them: they are hanging out in the tall grass or in the many houses and hiding places.  But plenty of them come up to you.  Some will jump on your lap or sit by you to be petted.  A whole posse will come running if you have treats.

Some of the cats wear collars.  A worker explained that they used to put collars only on cats who had medical issues, but visitors would come and put collars on their favorite ones, so they could identify "their" cat when they came back.  I find this really cute.  "My" cat is called Mimi; he's fluffy and hangs out by the front gate.

The cats are all available for adoption: a lucky ginger was getting ready to go to Seattle.  There is no adoption fee, but the cats have to be checked by a vet before leaving the island and then there's the cost to transport them back.  Some people choose to "adopt in place," paying a yearly amount for their chosen cat.  There's no cost to go to the sanctuary, so they rely on donations.

It's easy to spend a few hours here.  Most visitors come over by ferry from Maui and take a shuttle.  Since I stayed on Lanai and rented a jeep, I went there twice.  Some people even get married at the cat sanctuary, but I'm not THAT crazy of a cat lady...or AM I?

If you want to learn more or donate to the kitties, check it out here.  If you're going to be in Maui or Lanai, it's worth the trip!

Monday, March 11, 2019

The SkiMos* know

I snowshoed along a powerline road, feeling annoyed.  I had obviously missed a turn, or taken the wrong trail completely, to hike up to the site of a former lookout.  I hadn't ever been there, but how hard could it be?  This wasn't right, though.

I debated.  Turn around and look for the right road? Go back and drive to a trail I had been on many times before, but knew how to get to? It was sunny out, something that has rarely happened this winter.  I kicked myself for not bringing a map or GPS.

Then I saw some ski tracks coming up from the highway.  They climbed up into the woods.  Still hoping to find the elusive lookout site, I decided to follow.  The tracks wound their way cross country through the trees.  I felt skeptical, but kept on going.

Eventually I emerged into an open bowl.  High mountains loomed above; the ski tracks climbed  up the face.  The sun lit up the snow in the valley.  It was incredibly beautiful.

I sat in the snow and gazed at the mountains.  I hadn't made it to my original destination, but I was at a place I would never have gone if I hadn't followed the ski tracks.

I should have known.  Backcountry skiers seek out the beautiful places.  I felt thankful for those mystery skiers as I made my way back down through the forest.

*ski mountaineers

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

A coach kind of person in a first class world

You guys! I just got back from Hawaii! I'll write more about that in future posts, but for now I wanted to talk about something I had always heard was fabulous but could never bring myself to pay for.


I realize that people do this all the time.  I see them in their plush seats as I file back to steerage, glumly expecting to fight for space in the overhead bin, relinquish the armrest to a space bully, and have my seat kicked for six hours by an exuberant kid.  But I only passed through this fabled land, never wanting to pay extra for it.  Instead, I made the best of Economy, even on one fourteen hour flight.

That's right, people.  I once spent FOURTEEN HOURS on the SAME plane.

But when I was googling Hawaii flights, frustrated by a long government shutdown and multiple blizzards, I realized that I could use my airline miles for a first class ticket and still have plenty left over for the future.

I sat in my first class seat, feeling like an imposter.  I felt like Elaine in the Seinfeld episode where she sneaks up to first class and gets kicked out by the flight attendant. The seat was so comfortable! A huge armrest separated me from my neighbor.  There was no way she could spill into my seat.  There was free food! Free digi-players to watch movies! The flight attendants were so nice!

To my delight, I discovered that my ticket also gave me entry to the airline's lounge.  I had only been in one of those once, when I had a free pass (and also saw Sarah Michelle Gellar in there).  More free food! Free drinks (although, who drinks whiskey at 6 am? Apparently a few people).  Comfy chairs with space in between them.  Nobody coming to sit right next to me with stinky fast food.  This was the life!

The flight back home was a red eye, normally pretty miserable for me as I try to sleep but constantly get woken by noisy neighbors, drink carts, and midnight readers turning on lights.  First class made it much more bearable, even though my seatmate, a night owl, typed on his iPad at 3 am. Curious what he was doing, I looked over, only to see a document headed "Personnel Evaluation: Confidential." I quickly looked away, but not before I saw a few sentences. (Sorry Becky, you're not going to like your review).

I'm sure on my next flight I will be right back in Coach where I belong.  But it was fun to visit the privileged land for a brief time with the folks who were paying $1000 a night to stay at the Four Seasons.  That really isn't me.  But it was fun to pretend.