November 30, 2003

I am clearly the child of drought. It rained heavily all night, sometimes keeping me up, and into this afternoon. When it finally tapered off, no longer having to yell over it for my voice recognition to hear me was a relief, but I was already anticipating its return. I'm living in a place that gets an average of 50 to 75 inches of rain a year, and I wonder if that's enough.

We went for a late afternoon walk to our local waterfall to see how it liked all the rain. The river is perhaps a foot higher than it was on our last visit and the color of weak cocoa. It rushes around corners, leaps over the waterfall, and boils its way downstream. The term "erosional landscape" is suddenly perfectly clear.

This was a weekend of walks. Friday, we took a long lunch break to go for a picnic and explore one of the forest preserves where we saw rainbow eucalyptus, five very large amphibians, egrets, several other birds, a centipede, and a very fast earthworm. Hopefully a couple of the pictures I took will come out well. In the meantime, a handful of pictures from our mid October trip is now online. I'll be adding new pictures as we get them developed.

Yesterday's explorations took us to the west and north sides of Kauai. I've gotten myself a library card and have checked out Roadside Geology Of Hawaii. Fascinating stuff. We used it as a guidebook as we drove, stopping to check out residual stones, 5 million year old flows, and pillow lava. We stopped by Wailua Falls, a nameless waterfall with a great swimming hole and an amazing banyan tree, and the Menehune Ditch, an ancient irrigation channel.

At Waimea, we angled inland and drove along Waimea Canyon, a.k.a. the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. We drove to Kokee at the end of the road, left the car and started walking. After a mile of steep hills, we found the lookout point, which we ignored in favor of getting up close to the top of the Na Pali Coast. The Pihea Trail, apparently carved by water and feet, winds along the ridge and swings around the head of a valley; we looked down on cascades of green tumbling to the ocean. Only when we spotted a tiny egret below us did we begin to appreciate the distance to the bottom. Again, erosional landscapes.

Eventually, the trail bent away from the ridge, dissolving into orange mud laced with a red clay and shot with grays and purples. After our shoes were thoroughly coated, we found a boardwalk trail leading into the Alakai Wilderness at the summit of Mount Wai'ale'ale. With an average of 475 inches of rain per year, it is the wettest place on earth and lush with ferns and mosses and dwarf trees. We stopped at a crossroads in the boardwalk, the rather surreal experience of finding a boardwalk crossroads in the middle of a swamp made more so by the sudden appearance of two men in camouflage accompanied by nine large dogs.

The return to the car brought us to an estimated total of 8 miles, all moderately strenuous terrain. My knees held up rather well, considering, and my feet are surprisingly blister-free. I'll be very grateful, though, when my new arch supports arrive.

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