Garbage Sea

Sunday, January 27, 2008

We spent the day exploring the West coast of Kauai. This was the only coast we have not yet visited. We started between the south and west shore at the Glass Beach in the industrial part of Hanapepe. It was named because the beach is covered in shards of glass. We saw many tourists combing the beach for the glass and ceramic pieces that cover the beach. Following the blue book, we spent little time on the beach, and instead ventured off to the rocks running along the beach, to the source of the glass and ceramic shards.

Along the side of the beach is an old dump site. This may not sound interesting but it is surprising what the sea does to the old machinery that the locals dumped (and continue to dump) along the side of this former garbage site. Over time the metal and garbage become interwoven with the lava and rock. If someone managed to pack away some of the rusted equipment to a New York museum, they would have little problem convincing the curators of their value as modern art.

The blue book calls the hike past the Glass Beach the Melted Metal and Keyhole Cave at Swiss Cheese Shoreline. The Swiss Cheese refers to the holey lava rocks that like many rocks along the shoreline have worn away under the wavy barrage of seawater. We’re not sure we made it to the Keyhole Cave. There were a few caves we passed as we climbed over the rocks and garbage, but at one point, when the remaining wall of the dump site rose ten feet, and we were surrounded by rocks and garbage, the smell became overpowering and we decided to end our hike early instead of carefully picking our way over the rocks and garbage, trying to avoid the many glass shards and battle that still covered the site.

At one of the holey rocks, Doolies came across two fish trapped in a small pond from the last high tide. They were pretty fish and Doolies wished she had a bucket to help them return to the ocean. I patiently explained that when the next high tide came around, the fish would swim over the rocks and return to the ocean. Doolies nodded in agreement and still wished for the bucket.

After leaving the Glass Beach, we drove along the west shore to the beginning of Waimea Canyon. It is said that Mark Twain dubbed the Waimea Canyon the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The blue book sets the record straight: although it’s a nice story, from Twain’s biography, it turned out that during his visit to Hawaii he never set foot on Kauai. Even without Twain’s blessing, the canyon is still quite large and majestic. It is a four-thousand foot ascent to the highest point of the canyon. While I would like to say we hiked up it, it was our not-so-fancy Jeep that did all the work. There are well-paved roads leading through state parks up through the canyon. There were a few hikes that led down into the valley, but we did not have the proper clothing for the hikes—and we were tired and the bugs were biting and Mercury was not in the right house.

Along the drive up Waimea Canyon, there are beautiful vistas every few miles, and we shot many photographs of the canyons. To tell you the truth, once you see one photo of the canyon, they all look about the same.

At the very top of the canyon we did find a different and quite beautiful vista. A light mist had followed us up through the valley, and when we arrived at Pu’u o Kila Lookout, the mist cleared to reveal a beautiful rainbow cutting across Kalalu Valley and the Pacific Ocean. While it was a long forty mile round trip (mostly stuck behind very slow cars), it was worth it for this picture alone.

When we entered the canyon, the temperature was around 70 degrees. As we worked up to the peak, it dropped to 60 degrees. When we returned to sea level we entered Kekaha. It was a toasty 80 degrees in Kekaha, the last town on the western side of the island.

Leaving Kekaha, we drove to the end of the highway 50 with the hopes of seeing Polihale State Park. The park was closed, but we did find a few roads leading to Ka-Boom Mountain. That is its name, Ka-Boom Mountain. There are many military bases along the western end of Kauai, and the military dug manmade caves along Ka-Boom Mountain to store explosives and ammunition. Suffice to say the large fences did not allow us to get very close to the mountain. It was here that we decided that our exploration of the western side of the Kauai was complete.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by Kipu Falls. We planned to visit these falls on our first day in Kauai. When we asked the parking valet to check our directions to the get to the fall, he told us that he wasn’t supposed to tell us how to get there. It’s a liability thing: many of the sites in Kauai are not run by the state, and when people get injured, they blame whomever helped them get there: the land owners, the travel books, and the hotels. To show that we could, we stopped at Kipu Falls, walked up through the muddy path, and arrived at the falls. They were smaller than the other waterfalls we had seen, and a group of locals were toweling dry. There was a ladder leading from the bottom of the falls to the rocks above. It is likely they had spent the day jumping over the falls. We did not stay long, as we learned from our first hike in Kauai that the mosquitoes have a real affection for red mud, and there was plenty of red mud around the falls.