Surf’s Up: Exploring Oahu’s West Coast

Since I leave Hawaii a week from tomorrow, I decided to start exploring Oahu’s nature by zones, taking roughly a day in each zone rather than the sporadic visits so far. We started yesterday by driving the west coast highway north from Kahe Point Beach Park until we ran out of paved road in the Ka’ena Point State Park.

As stunningly blue the water is with staggering shades from turquoise to deep blue, the hills, mountains, and vegetation opposite the shore were equally beautiful in their way. As much as I’m enjoying hanging out at Whole Foods in downtown Honolulu, spending the time to drive out of congested areas and into island nature is a fantastic way to see the true Hawaii.

Injured seal on ledge, and her (or his) mate staying close by


Hawaii Hike

Koko Crater upper right

Took my first Oahu island hike yesterday with my younger son. As with most (just about all) hiking trails here, you have to do a lot of vertical climbing to get to the views. And as expected, the views are spectacular but you have to earn them through a lot of cardio over the 500′ elevation rise on the trail!

Mongoose, not native and unwanted invasive specie (not my photo)
We hiked up the Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail but didn’t make it all the way to the lighthouse. Sadly, the lighthouse is gone now and only foundations remain. And while we didn’t see any whales (a common sighting along this trail per comments I read) we did watch a mongoose go in and out of the grass along the trail’s edge. The trail offers no shade and the day was hot so we rested at one of the higher lookouts then turned back to go down.

This trail is touted as one of the easiest hikes on the island, yet was challenging for me. We’ll see how I fare on the other trails later on and hopefully share more island paradise views.

Anywhere America

One thing I’ve noticed more in my travels this year is that fundamentally, American big cities have more in common than they are unique.

As I was eating lunch at Whole Foods today, I pondered the above scene out my window and realized, except for the palm trees (and even that is common to many U.S. cities), I could be looking at Anywhere, America: similar vehicles, recognizable retail places, large developments wiping out unique stores and hotels, etc. Granted I could have walked three blocks to where I took the beach picture shared yesterday, and clearly that wasn’t Anywhere, America. But it does feel like our population centers are rapidly morphing into consistent, rubber-stamped developments of corporate and retail conglomerates.

Remembering travels over past decades, before the advent of big box stores and rubber stamped brands across America, each city seemed to have a more distinctive feel with unique representations of local retail and culture. Not any more it seems. Understood that fundamental capitalism and the need of many to become unusably rich drove local businesses, restaurants, and retail out of downtown areas. Places where preservation of architecturally historical buildings exists like Boston, Chicago, etc., have at least protected those unique icons, but for how long?

I have to confess having a pet peeve about the rapid extinction of local coffee shops in big cities. Having spent a lot of time in these, I remember enjoying many with their local cultural or artistic vibes. It’s been sad to visit New York City, as an example, over the years and witness the elimination of such places. True to our capitalistic addiction, they’ve been replaced by the now ubiquitous Starbucks. Did it really make sense to wipe out a local coffee shop so an intersection could have two Starbucks diagonally opposite? Saw that multiple times on my most recent trip. And for the record, although it takes extra effort, you can search and find some local NYC coffee shops, at least for now.

I guess this post comes off as old-fart whining for the good old days, but with the proliferation of Wal-Marts and the continued embedding and growing dominance of the Amazon empire, how long will any uniqueness remain in our signature cities? How long before we start taking down historical buildings, replacing them with high-rise condos complete with street-level unaffordable retail space? And I, for one, wouldn’t bet against seeing a Starbucks there before the first well-heeled tenants move in.

Writing Time, Island Style

The only activity that hasn’t been as frequent as I’d like on this nomadic tour of the U.S. is my writing routine. I finally got on track in early April and have been doing better, but then I hit the Hawaiian islands and promptly went tropically lazy!

As it turned out, my sons’ apartment isn’t conducive to writing time, nor are there many coffee shops in Honolulu. Seems this culture embraces tea (particularly bubble tea) far more than coffee. Other than a few scattered, tiny Starbucks, did not find an effective place to spend morning hours writing until a few days ago when I discovered Whole Foods in downtown Honolulu.

Besides being one of the most amazing Whole Foods I’ve been in, they have a large outdoor patio with lots of varied seating that, when combined with some good coffee from inside and their famous by-the-pound breakfast bars, I’m all set! It’s about a 15-min. drive from the boys’ apartment to downtown Honolulu, but since I’m “commuting” around 7 a.m., traffic’s not horrible yet (it’s horrible just about all other hours of the day – think L.A. traffic and you get the picture).

While I can’t get down there everyday, I’ll be content with 3-4 times/week spending 3-4 hours there. And as a bonus (as if the consistently pleasant weather here isn’t bonus enough) Whole Foods is a short walk to the in-town beach (photo below). Island style, indeed.


My absence here is by way of taking a few months off from van life, first to stay with friends in Fort Collins, Colorado, for a few weeks then later flying to Honolulu, Hawaii to visit my two sons. Sadly, Tamasté could not go Hawaiian, so while I’m gone he’s taking a long nap parked in Fort Collins.

I landed in Hawaii on April 28 after a long flight from Denver. As expected, Hawaii is ripe with glorious photo opportunities but they haven’t happened yet due to timing and weather. Mostly I’ve relaxed with sons by enjoying island food (and discovering a new fondness for bubble tea), watching a lot of movies, and generally hanging out. An excellent way to break from the routine of van life for a bit.

I’ll be back on the road again around Memorial Day weekend, and expect to be back to posting here more regularly by then. In the meantime, we’ve planned a few awesome Hawaii hikes next week when the weather will be better for photos, so expect some eye candy then!

Ghost Ranch

Among the many natural treats in the Abiquiu area is the Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center. Situated on a small portion of the 21,000+ acres of awe-inspiring mesas and Northern New Mexico landscapes that make up Ghost Ranch, the main compound area is a delight of scattered and varied adobe structures, some dating back to the beginnings of Ghost Ranch. Artist Georgia O’Keefe spent much of her time in the area at the Ghost Ranch acreage which inspired some of her work.

Roy Pfaffle won the property in a 1928 poker game, and his wife Carol Stanley set up Ghost Ranch as a dude ranch after her divorce from Pfaffle. She then sold it to Arthur Pack in 1935, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for having the foresight to protect Ghost Ranch for future generations by donating it to the Presbyterian Church in 1955. The church still owns and manages the education and learning center, and continues to protect and preserve the ranch’s vast acreage. You can read more about Ghost Ranch’s diverse and deep history here and here.

Part of the Ghost Ranch compound taken on the hike up to Chimney Rock

As for me, just being around these vibrantly colored mesas, big sky views of distant mountains, including O’Keefe’s beloved Pedernal, combine with the varied adobe structures and working ranch atmosphere to offer an amazing escape from the modern world. I stayed in the RV campground here one night, but have come back for multiple day visits to explore the exhibits, eat in the dining hall, and take a five-mile breathtaking 600′ elevation-change hike up to Chimney Rock.

Chimney Rock

This place, as well as Abiquiu itself, feels like somewhere I’d like to stay for a long time. As of this writing, I’ve lingered in this area for 20 days, the longest stay in one natural place so far on my nomadic journey. It’s hard to explain to those who haven’t been here, and even harder to those who have but don’t get it, that these landscapes and histories have an energy, draw, and intense raw connection to nature making one wish they could stay and enjoy a slower, uncrowded journey through the varied days of every season.

Ghost Ranch grounds