By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 12/7/2019
Posted: 4/27/2010
Topics/Keywords: #Kauai #Hawaii #WaimeaCanyon Page Views: 3205
Michael and I explore the west side of Kauai.

Today was spent exploring Kauai's western interior, with an emphasis on Waimea Canyon, sometimes called "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific", and with good reason!

Waimea's main street.

Michael and I totally slept in this morning, and then I spent a couple of hours catching up with my blogging for the day before. Michael made breakfast here in our Island Home; and it was actually 2:30 pm before we got on the road! But ya have to take it easy some days or you will need a vacation from your vacation when you get back home.

Fortunately my arm injury from yesterday seemed to be much healed, still feeling weird but nothing that would keep me in bed.

Today was the day I planned to see the Waimea Canyon, which meant a drive up Kauai's western half. We started by driving to the town of Waimea, which was a charming little place that reminded me of Mayberry from the old Andy Griffith TV show.

Not having had lunch yet, despite the time, we stepped into a little local joint called Da Booze Place in which, despite the name, one could not drink alcoholic beverages. It was actually a burger joint (they did sell beer, but you couldn't drink it there) and I ordered a BBQ bacon cheeseburger while Michael got a teriyaki burger. We each had fries. The food was very good; and we got a show as well, as the owner's kids came in from school and bantered with their mom on the other side of the counter.

After our burgers we stepped a couple doors down and got ice cream cones. Although they had the usual flavors, their specialty was island favorites. Michael got some kind of mocha coffee ice cream, but I had a coconut flavor called Haupia. I don't like coconut, or didn't think I did, but the lady gave me a sample and I was hooked.

The owner, Deb, told us she was from California and had lived in Seattle, but had moved to Waimea with her partner eight years previous.

"Partner?" I asked. "As in, 'family'?" (Family is "code" for gay or lesbian.)

"That's right," she smiled.

"'Cause, us, too!" I gushed.

"I kind of figured," she admitted. Probably when she heard me criticize Michael's choice of ice cream flavors. I mean, who would do that with anyone but their spouse?

Michael at our favorite ice cream shop on Kauai. Statue of Captain Cook, whose first landing in Hawaii was here at Waimea.

Outside the row of shops was a statue of Captain Cook. On Cook's third great voyage, in 1778, he discovered the Hawaiian Islands (which he named the Sandwich Islands after the excellent ham-on-rye he happened to have for lunch that day), landing first on Kauai right at the native village of Waimea. After making friends here (and inadvertantly infecting the locals with European diseases that slashed their numbers from about 1,000,000 to less than 80,000 twenty years later), he made his way to the Big Island where he landed during the festival of Lono, goddess of agriculture and peace, which was seen as a good sign. After leaving, one of the masts of his ship broke and he had to return for repairs. Unfortunately, it was now the festival for Ko, god of war; and for Lono to show up again threw the universe out of balance. Cook was killed, probably accidentally, in the resulting confusion. But the Hawaiians still liked him and gave him a king's funeral rites.

Continuing north from Waimea, we encountered drier land than we had seen so far in Kauai. That's because all the volcanic islands in this part of the world have a dry side and a wet side. The winds come from the east, carrying moisture. When they slam against the volcanic mountains they release that moisture in the form of rain. The air flowing over the mountain is thus dry, and the leeward sides of the islands are therefore less wet than the windward side.

The western side of Kauai is a lot drier than the eastern side.

After some 11 miles of driving on twisting, turning road, we reached the Waimea Canyon lookout point. We were 3400 feet above sea level. The lookout is a platform and you can't really see what it is you'll be looking at until you climb it. But when you do see it, your jaw drops.

Waimea Canyon.

The colors are so varied and so subtle that it takes a moment for the eye to focus, to figure out what it's seeing.

While it is in essence a canyon, that is, a steep valley formed by erosion (in this case, from the extreme quantities of water rushing along the Waimea River from the extreme rainfall on the island's central peak, Mount Wai'ale'ale, one of the wettest places on earth). But it is unique in that its shape also comes from the catastrophic collapse of the volcano that formed Kauai some 4 million years ago.

Waimea Canyon Stately trees in Koke'e State Park.

There were several other lookouts further up the road. All these were in Waimea Canyon State Park. But then, we suddenly found ourselves in Koke'e State Park. I hadn't heard of this place and didn't know what the story was but we followed the road anyway. There were lots of trail heads with numerous empty cars clustered around them, suggesting this was a spot popular with hikers. We were still gaining altitude; a sign said we were at 4000 feet, and the roadside was lined with trees and pines that made it look a lot like the Skyline Drive in Virginia's Shenandoah Mountains.

But the payoff on this trip was following the road to its end, where there was a lookout over the Kalalau Valley. You feel like you are looking over the edge of the world.

The Kalalau Valley.

After chatting a few minutes with five gay guys traveling together, Michael and I retraced our steps—which included stopping for more ice cream in Waimea—we managed to get to a minor natural wonder, the Spouting Horn (which Michael and I kept miscalling "The Horny Spout"), located in Po'ipu near where we are staying. This natural wonder occurs when water rushes under a lava shelf and bursts through a small opening at the surface. Every wave produces another spray. The Spouting Horn frequently spurts salt water 50 feet into the air. The phenomenon is supposed to be especially exciting at sunset when the spray becomes incandescent with the colors of the rainbow. We got there at sunset and didn't see any incandescence, but it was beautiful anyway.

The Spouting Horn.

The sun was actually setting behind us.

Sunset at The Spouting Horn park. Sunset at Spouting Horn park.

But then a beautiful full moon crept out from behind some clouds, and there was magic after all.

Moon at Spouting Horn park.

This is our last full night in Kauai, as our plane leaves tomorrow night at 10. We have to check out of our accommodations tomorrow at 11 am. I am still not sure how we'll be spending our last day here—simply hanging out at the beach would certainly be adequate!—though Michael does want to visit a botanical garden we discovered near the Spouting Horn.

In any case, right now, it's dinner and a movie…and bed!