Tag Archives: hawaii

Trip Report – Hawaii

Hawaii has never called to me. Most of my impressions of America’s 50th state formed in the crucible of late ‘80s television shows, movies, and the representations therein. Those didn’t spark any interest for me as I got older and began to travel more often. It took a family holiday to draw me to the archipelago, and while I enjoyed my short time on the islands—I feel like I left Hawaii with unfinished business.

For Thanksgiving, we joined my in-laws in visiting my brother-in-law and his wife at their home on O’ahu. He serves in the U.S. Coast Guard and is stationed in Honolulu, living just off Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. We didn’t have much time on O’ahu, and the holiday kept us busy. So I don’t have a lot to say about the most populated island in the chain—we didn’t make it up to the North Shore, only saw a bit of the stunning East Shore, and we didn’t spend enough time in Honolulu for me to understand it as a city. It was the ghost on the horizon. Its grid remaining unexplored.

After the holiday, Kari-Lise and I took the short 25-minute plane ride from Honolulu to Maui, where we spent the remaining five days of our vacation. Some with family and some off on our own. It was a packed five days, and we saw the bulk of the island. As a result, my feelings for Maui are mixed. I’ve never been much of a resort-person, and a large portion of the beaches are dominated by hotel towers and mediocre restaurants, all featuring the strangely typical menus. I don’t care about outdoor malls, I have little attraction to group excursions, and you can only eat so much overcooked macadamia-crusted seafood. So there’s a lot of Maui that wasn’t for me.

But there is a wildness there if you’re willing to put in the effort. The shallows all around the island teem with life, and there’s a lot of snorkeling and diving with plenty to see. But, as a guy who has relatively serious vision-issues (legally blind without my glasses), snorkeling isn’t high on my priority list. So, if you’re like me and crave a bit more adventure away from the capitalist extravaganza of the resorts, I have a few suggestions.


Iao Valley State Park

We tackled this on our first full day on Maui. A short (and beautiful) drive away from the Kahului and the dry desert-like basin of central Maui, up into a lush and narrow valley. Here, you’ll find a tiny state park (I believe the whole thing is just over 6 acres) and some easy hiking trails (so easy I’m wary of even calling them trails) with some substantial views of a few incredible landforms. It’s not a large park, but it’s memorable, and in being tucked away, it’s not as congested as other parts of the island.


Haleakalā

The Haleakalā National Park and its volcanic namesake dominate the western side of Maui. After a long and winding drive up the side of the dormant shield volcano, you’re greeted by a stunning view of Maui and the surrounding islands as well as a view into the alienesque vista of the crater. At ten-thousand feet, I found myself fighting against altitude sickness. That’s not something I’ve encountered before, and I’m a fairly experienced hiker—so while I’d have loved to hike some of the trails, we decided to forgo the more extensive hikes and stick close to the roads. Kari-Lise and I are a big fan of our National Parks, and I’d love to return to Haleakalā and take a crack at the paths atop its crown.


The Hana Highway – The Whole Thing

You’ll hear about the Hana Highway before you ever go—it’s a dominant draw, and after a few turns along its windy rainforested course, you’ll understand why. It’s a remarkable experience. Weaving its way through the coastline of Western Maui, the Highway cuts past stunning views, beautiful waterfalls, narrow bridges, and is dotted along the way with local fruit stands. We even managed to make a side trip down an old dirt road to see the Pi’ilanihale Heiau—it’s the largest single heiau in all of Polynesia. I’ve never been to an archeological site like that before, and it was well worth the short jaunt.

The passage “ends” at Hana for most—but we’ve never been satisfied with the status quo. We continued on, and after an incredible meal at a roadside Huli Huli stand (the best meal of the trip), the Highway really became something special. Narrow roads take you into places many tourists avoid; the landscape is raw, wild, and remote. The asphalt gives way to a pot-holed country lane that bends and weaves through jungles, gulches, and cliffs before emerging into the rolling hills of Maui’s stunning Upcountry. The route past Hana, toward Ulupalakua, was easily my favorite experience on the island.


The Honoapiilani & Kahekili Highway

On the north side of the island lies a small highway that doesn’t have the draw of Hana, but is nearly equal in beauty. We chose it on a whim toward the end of our visit, allowing us to complete our Maui experiences and getting away from the tourist traps and stuffy resorts of the west coast. The road here is narrow, and with fewer turnouts and long stretches of single-lane roads, it’s not as traffic-friendly as the Hana Highway. That said, the views of the ocean and the tumultuous surf along the north shore are stunning, and the crowds along the coast were lighter. We stopped and got some banana bread, watched a man feed the mongooses, check out a natural blowhole, and generally enjoyed our day. It was a pleasant way to cap our experience on the island and left us feeling like we had absorbed much of what Maui had to offer.


Advice & Tips

  • Skip the restaurants along the beach and focus on the Huli Huli stands or the holes-in-the-wall away from hotels and condos. The food there is better and cheaper.
  • Buy fruit from the fruit stands. Seriously. This is how they’re meant to taste.
  • Rent small if you can—while all of the roads I mentioned would handle a vehicle of any size; a smaller vehicle will make navigating the narrow roads much easier, especially for nervous drivers.

I began this report talking about unfinished business. Maui was pleasant, but I felt no sirens call. It didn’t captivate me the way I had hoped. While moments along the way will resonate with me, I don’t think the island itself was for me.

It has been said that there’s a Hawaiian island for everyone, and I’m still willing to give that aphorism a chance. The Big Island temps me, Kaui looks as if it could be a near-perfect fit, and I am eager to give O’ahu more time. (It’s probably no secret for those who read my work that cities fascinate me and Honolulu is the remotest city of its size in the world. So, yeah, I want to spend more time there.)

I’m certain there will be other Hawaiian visits in my future, and I look forward to them. Not every trip has to strike the right chords. Not every journey will become the magical experience we dream of—and that’s fine. It’s a part of travel, and understanding that is key to experiencing this wondrous world. But for now, I’m still looking for my island.


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2019 in Ten Significant Photos

2019 in Ten Significant Photos

Every December, it has become a tradition to assemble a post wherein I share ten photos from the year that represent the most significant moments of my past 365-ish days. I look forward to this every year. This annual ritual forces thought and introspection in a way algorithm-driven apps like Top Nine avoid. (I ranted about this a bit at length, last year.) It leaves me to ponder how I lived my year. What mattered the most? What experiences drove me? What did I find meaningful? What shaped me as a person, a partner, a creator? What made me or my world around me better?

The rules are simple but firm, pick ten photos from your past year that are the most significant to you: positive or negative—significance can be found in either. But it can’t be more, can’t be less. Some moments will have to fall by the wayside—and that’s intentional—culling is essential. It’ll help create a more realistic picture of your year. Some years will be harder than others and you’ll need to discover significance in the smaller quieter moments. The ten are irascible and relentless.

So, enough talk! Let’s take a look at my 2019 distilled into ten significant photos.


Lime Kiln Trail - 2019New year, old trails. Kari-Lise and I always like starting the year off right by escaping the city and heading into the mountains for a hike. (In this case, the Lime Kiln Trail and easy little seven-miler in the Cascades.) This year was no different. We had big plans to hike more throughout the year, but life got in the way. Still, it’s always refreshing to start a year in nature, and 2019 was no different.


Amsterdam - 2019
In mid-January, we took a trip with our ex-pat pals Kelcey Rushing and Jimmy Rushing to the beautiful (and infamous) city of Amsterdam. It was terrific. Great place. Wonderful sights. Amazing people. Delicious food. We were there nearly a week, it was packed, and I felt like we had barely scraped the surface. There was so much we didn’t see and so much more we could have done—I absolutely want to go back. If you’re interested in more details, read my Amsterdam Trip Report here.


ECCC - 2019
Emerald City Comicon happened, and once again they somehow let me returned as a pro. My buddy Steve Toutonghi and I attended together, and it was a really eye-opening in a lot of ways. As much fun as fan conventions are, I’m much more interested in talking shop, attending readings, and sitting in on discussions about story-craft. That said, it was enjoyable, and there are worse ways one can spend a weekend. Plus, I managed to see some good friends, and Steve and I sat in on some great panels. You can read about my experience in this debriefing.


Finished Manuscript - 2019Roaders celebrate! I finished another manuscript! (Two years in a row!) Gleam Upon the Waves has been a bit of a fight, but I am thrilled with how it turned out. I got some great feedback from my first round of beta readers, and I’ve been neck-deep in revisions since. It’s so close. I can hardly contain myself; I want to share it with everyone! Gleam’s a little different, but it’ll be worth the wait. I promise.


The Vision of Graces - 2019
Early in the summer, Kari-Lise and her friends Laurie Lee Brom and Syd Bee had a three-person show at Roq La Rue Gallery entitled The Vision of Graces. All three artists brought fantastic work, the show sold out, and the turnout was stellar. After moving to Seattle in 2008, I’ve attended hundreds of art openings across the city (and around the world), and this was easily one of the best.


13 Fantasy Map Brush Sets - 2019
I completed a project! A quite large mapping project. One that is really hard to capture in a single image. This year I began to release completely free brush sets for Photoshop that would empower indie authors (and anyone else) to create high-quality fantasy maps for their projects. The goal was to release a free brush set a month, and thanks to some overeagerness in February, I ended with thirteen free brush sets for the year. The response was overwhelming. I couldn’t be more humbled by the reaction, and I’m glad everyone has been so receptive. You can download the brushes from my Free Stuff page.


Two new nieces - 2019I leveled up as an uncle and now can dual-wield nieces! Up until this year, I was only proficient in nephews. Liesel Lynn (Left) was born in August to my brother Anthony and his wife, Aischa. Blakely Michelle (Right) was born in October to my sister Meghan and her husband, Tyler. Aren’t they adorable? I’ll be meeting both for the first time at Christmas, and I cannot wait. And, as a bonus, I have a THIRD niece due next year. Nieces! Nieces EVERYWHERE.


Art Happened - 2019
So. Much. Art. Beyond Kari-Lise’s show we attended two amazing exhibitions with our pal Kai Carpenter at the Seattle Art Museum, we hit up the Seattle Art Fair, and took in many many many art walks. Stand out openings include an incredible show from Rick Araluce and a recent one from one of my favorite artists working today, Peter Fugerson.


Haleakalā National Park, Maui, Hawaii - 2019For Thanksgiving, we went to Hawai’i with Kari-Lise’s family hanging out on O’ahu for a few days and then spending nearly a week on Maui. I’d never been to the Hawai’ian Islands until this year, and I’m generally not a tropical-destination traveler, but the trip was memorable. Even after nine-ish days, I came away feeling like I have unfinished business with Hawai’i. But more on that later—I’m in the process of putting together a more detailed trip report.


The Kari-Lise Klassic - Burke-Gilman Invitational Marathon - 2019On December 14th, Kari-Lise ran her first marathon. This spring, she started running again, and this summer, she decided she would train for a marathon as her eventual goal. We were traveling during the Seattle Marathon, so to complete her goal, she decided to host her own with me running ahead, setting up aid stations along the entire 26.2-mile course. Friends came out and cheered her on, I made her a teeshirt, a few ran with her some part of the way, and one all of the way. She crushed the run, and I couldn’t be more proud.


In Conclusion

Since changing the title last year from “awesome” to “significant,” I find myself taking more time with this list. Much of the labor from 2018 blossomed in 2019. Where last year felt sparse, this year, I found myself culling more than I expected. There were lectures and readings I attended with my friend Steve Leroux. Time in the backyard with Kari-Lise around our fire pit. I got really into smoking meat and making stock—cooking in general, really. Our friends Roxy and Redd deciding to leave Seattle and travel indefinitely (Follow them here.) Then there was the excitement of Moth & Myth, which I’ve barely mentioned here. The Sounders winning another MLS Cup. Birthdays and anniversaries and snowstorms. It was one hell of a year and if I wanted I could have tripled this list. But the rules are the rules, and distilling the year into ten is the requirement—no more, no less.

So, how about you? What did you experience in 2019? What are your ten? Assemble them and leave a comment with a link! Let us all know about the significant events in your year.


Want to revisit photos of past years? Click on any of the links below and check out my pictures from that specific year. I find it fascinating to watch subtle changes year over year.

2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 2018


Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. AlexanderWant to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →