The Labyrinth: Discovering Kauai's Waimea Canyon by Katie Twaddle We travel in a red jeep. The top is always off, and I hold onto the roof bar so tight my knuckles turn white. I’m heading up to Waimea Canyon with my friends, Ben and Connie. When I feel like exploring, they are the people I call because they always manage to find places I never even imagined existed. We drive up Highway 552 (the Kekaha side), where each turn is sharper than the last and nobody goes the legal 25 mph. Just before the first lookout, we stop dead center in the road, a tradition of ours. We exit the Jeep: about 5 feet over to the right there’s a short metal railing and then a 3,000 foot drop. Six months ago there was probably about 15 more feet of red ground past the railing before erosion took it down. In Waimea Canyon, it’s impossible to tell which cliffside will crumble next. I take a quick look down, and then out at the expanse, wondering which edge of the Kokee State Park we will be exploring today. We continue on, and when we reach the Kokee State Park’s museum and café, we stop to grab a map. Even though Ben and his wife Connie have been to the Canyon probably a thousand times, we still aren’t sure exactly where we’re headed today. A place called Mohihi Falls is on the agenda, but finding it is going to be a challenge. Before I know it, we’re on some dirt road I’ve never seen before: Mohihi Road, of course. The road has potholes as deep as the tires on the jeep. We find this out the hard way. It’s recently rained; we can tell because the potholes are filled with red and
The Labyrinth: Discovering Kauai’s Waimea Canyon
by Katie Twaddle
We travel in a red jeep. The top is always off, and I hold onto the roof bar so tight my knuckles turn white. I’m heading up to Waimea Canyon with my friends, Ben and Connie.
I carefully and cautiously write this story. Some questions may be raised, and must be answered by yourself. I know quite well from working in the tourism industry that it is impossible to not offend totally—no matter how hard I try to please. But, I am trying to find, from some universal human concept of morality—that acceptable line or balance for a story that needs to be told. I am leaning towards true and unique stories to jog your thinking. However, I do not want to offend anyone or promote any profaned feelings. Honestly, we all know real people that are tempted and struggling from natural and common carnality, and there is no way I want to add to that. So, take a second to ponder this thought: why do people choose to be nude with a backpack, wandering naked while risking life and limb on one of the world’s most treacherous hikes—the cliff hanging trail into Kalalau. So, we’re talking about nudity. Let’s start with the most renowned naked people to walk the earth: Adam and Eve. They lived for a short time without stress, in a perfect temperature and climate—in a garden that was abundant with food and water. How could anything go wrong? They were living in naked perfection. But, then came temptation, and the acting out on that temptation by biting into the Forbidden Fruit. Immediately they became self-aware, and then began the shopping at the Fig Leaf apparel store. What a bummer! I know a lot of you are thinking Why? Why? But honestly, myself and every other person that lived would have had a bite too. I understand the modern day impact or consequences of that bite of the fruit that brought consciousness. My Pastor, Von, once told me of encountering a beyond-horrible-smelling homeless
I carefully and cautiously write this story. Some questions may be raised, and must be answered by yourself.
Nualolo Aina Valley is remarkable for its remains of taro growing terraces, reminders that for hundreds of years people lived their lives in this remote valley, even into the early 20th century. Adjoining it, and once connected by a primitive ladder over the separating cliff, is the abbreviated Nualolo Kai beach and valley, which also has multiple and elaborate lava rock terraces visible afar from the ocean. Taro, or kalo, grows in water and is considered a perfect food plant. Its heart-shaped green leaves and starchy root, similar to a potato, are rich in nutrients. Poi, that gray paste most visiting tourists have reluctantly tasted as proper fare at a Hawaian luau, is made from the taro root. Though most say it must be an acquired taste, it was only several decades ago that poi was a staple for Kauai’s children, promoted by our local public health departments. No doubt a substantial amount of taro could be grown in Nu‘alolo ‘Aina, but was there enough for everyone? And all the time? With frequent devastations from landslides and flash floods, how many could this and the bordering valleys feed? We don’t know, but consider this: Kauai’s population in Captain Cook times may have been close to 100,000, though only a hundred or so lived in Nualolo Aina Valley is remarkable for its remains of taro growing terraces, reminders that for hundreds of years people lived their lives in this remote valley, even into the early 20th century. itself. Today, Kauai’s resident population is only about 55,000, even with a relentless stream of imported food and commerce by barges every day. Taro in olden Hawaii had to be a most productive crop. It was everything, overshadowing even what could be harvested from the sea. I’m sure the youngsters then were saying something like, “Oh Mom, poi for dinner again!”
Nualolo Aina Valley is remarkable for its remains of taro growing terraces, reminders that for hundreds of years people lived their lives in this remote valley, even into the early 20th century.
A big part of the Bali Hai ridge is here at Hanakoa Valley, comprised of two incredible lava dyke ridges protruding up like sentries guarding each side of this lush, tropical rain forest valley. In the middle of Kauai's Hanakoa Valley, you can see a waterfall cascading gracefully into the sea. To the right of that, along the near coastline, the shouting color of red iron ore makes it look like you took a wrong turn and somehow ended up on Mars. The bright orange rust of the coast stands out like a stop sign in the midst of the Mars-like soil with the dark green Hala trees creating a surreal contrast looking like some alien plant form, or perhaps something from Dr. Suess’s children’s book, Horton Hear’s A Who. Further back on the ridge, the sisal plant thrives looking like a twenty foot tall asparagus for giants. But then again, everything here looks big. There is a Jurassic Park feeling here, like you expect a Pterodactyl or other ancient flying dinosaur to swoop down from a nest on the cliffs, trying desperately to pluck you from the raft. WHAT TO EXPECT...
A big part of the Bali Hai ridge is here at Hanakoa Valley, comprised of two incredible lava dyke ridges protruding up like sentries guarding each side of this lush, tropical rain forest valley.
Kauai's Awaawapuhi Valley is the narrowest and deepest of Na Pali’s remote, isolated valleys. Some say the name refers to the valley’s sinuous curves and twists that wind between its three thousand foot walls, like a slithering eel, or puhi. But the more accurate translation is more romantic, for ‘awapuhi is the native word for the wild ginger that grows in its shady depths. Revered for its decorative and fragrant flowers, it also had many practical uses— for food and fiber, and especially for the natural shampoo that oozes from its flowering stalk. Nowadays this valley (Awa) of the wild ginger looks much less lush than it must have been in ancient times, for the irrigated terraces for cultivating the life-giving taro have long since fallen away. By sea, the valley itself is hidden from view except for its towering cliffs, for it hangs above a low sea cliff, with the valley’s stream ending in a waterfall to the sea. At the base there is now a tall natural screen of dark green hau, a native Hawaiian bush of the hibiscus family, whose bark was once used for rope-making. But there can still be seen a multitude of half-washed- away rock dams that at one time went completely through the stream to create perfect terraces for growing taro. Imagine those terraced gardens in their heyday, like those of Bali except for growing taro, not rice. Farming must have been challenging then because the dark shadows of the sheer cliffs limited the sunlight, and a combination of red, clay-like rocky debris from the cliffs and the rocky valley soil meant much work to hand separate out the soil to fill into the terraces. There were also episodic heavy rains and powerful flash flooding, the valley stream becoming a swollen red river that washed away everything in
Kauai’s Awaawapuhi Valley is the narrowest and deepest of Na Pali’s remote, isolated valleys.