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Hawaiian Hiatus

Well, kids, between work and FIAWOL hobbies life has been a bit of a grind lately. Nothing traumatic, mind you, but stressful. So it was with great pleasure that I flew the frenetic coop for Maui on June 13th.

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Mountain clouds on Maui

Why Maui? Last winter my eldest nephew took a job in a dive shop in Kihei. As so often in our family this became an excuse for a family expedition. We rented two condos in Kihei for a week, and basically the whole lot of us went out there: Mom, Dad, my brother, his wife, and their younger son, and my sister, her daughter, and granddaughter.

I hadn't been to Hawaii (other than passing through the Honolulu airport on the way to Yap or Australia) since 1974, and I hadn't been to Maui since 1970. The reason for *that* visit was my sister's graduation from Seabury Hall, which is a private high school she attended while we were living on Yap. She's been back a number of times for reunions, especially in recent years, and so she was one of our local guides, along with the eldest nephew.

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On Maui in 1970: That's me in front, my sister and mom behind me, Dad on the right end

So what did we do? We did a number of bird-watching expeditions with our parents, who are avid birders, even if their age means they can't go as far as they used to. In this pursuit we visited a number of wildlife refuges and botanical gardens, a couple of which were quite fascinating even for the non-birders amongst us (e.g., me). Kula Botanical Garden had amazing and outre plants from all over the world, as well as a couple of nene geese, which are endemic to Hawaii. Hosmer's Grover on Haleakala is a bizarre folly in which a man named Ralph Hosmer tried to reforest the mountainside with trees from all over the world, which resulted in a somewhat unsettling and weird looking hodgepodge of trees. However, it somehow manages to provide habitat for five endangered species of endemic birds, including the beautiful red i'iwi, which we saw all over the place.

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Boardwalk in birdland (a.k.a. Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge

My brother and the two nephews went diving a number of times, joined occasionally by my niece and sister-in-law. A couple of those dives started out on the shore (as opposed to on a boat), and on those occasions I went snorkeling in the same area. The snorkeling wasn't as great as some of the other places I've gone, but it was perfectly enjoyable. One thing I'll say is that you can tell that Hawaii is serious about protecting sea turtles, because I saw sea turtles in all three spots I snorkeled. Also lots and lots of urchins, and lots of different corals as well, along with more fish than you can shake a snorkel at. If nothing else, it's always great to get into ocean water that doesn't freeze your ass off. Swimming in buoyant salt water is one of life's great pleasures.

What else? On Thursday, which we used to celebrate Fathers Day, since we wouldn't all be together on Sunday, we not only went birding Hosmer's Grove, but we stopped by the Ulupalakua Ranch Store, which is way out in the boonies and not easy to get to. The reason for that visit was so that my sister could meet up with an old classmate who now grows organic coffee which she roasts in a hand-cranked popcorn popper. We ate lunch at the store, and the burgers (beef, elk, or venison) were superb. We also stopped by Seabury Hall on that trip and ate cream puffs from Komoda's, which is something my sister and friends used to do in high school. That place had a line out the door, and the cream puffs were excellent.

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Eating cream puffs at Seabury

My brother and I went for a hike in La Perouse Lava Fields, where lava flowed sometime between 1500 and 1600, and where some sectors were still utterly devoid of life -- no plants, no insects, no lichen, no nothing, at least that I could see. There was some other sightseeing, including a trip to Ioa Valley with its scenic Needle, and several visits to Maui Brewing, which started in Lahaina but now has a large production facility and pub (and soon restaurant) outside Kihei. Great beer in a light industrial setting.

I napped a fair amount and read a fair amount. We mostly ate in, although after half the family went home on Friday, my brother's family and I went out Friday night. We drove around a lot (two rental vehicles), and it was just fascinating to see different parts of the island and to see what different aspects of island life were like. Definitely not a third world country, I'll tell you that, although there were some older, more ramshackle houses that felt more like the tropics I'm used to. Lots and lots of sugar cane, and one big sugar processing plant that we visited back in 1970. We tried to find a piece of sugar cane for the four-year-old great niece to taste, but the only thing we could find in the farmers markets was a dried up old stick that had no juice in it. As little C said, "It's gross!"

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My sister and her granddaughter pose against another cloud-enshrouded crater

It was wonderfully relaxing. I managed to restrain my drinking, which I don't always do on such family vacations and which actually made life a lot more pleasant. I also managed to avoid sunburn for the most part, which was another big plus. (I did bang my knee on coral on the final day, but that was more blood than pain.) It was good to see that my nephew seems to be energized by his experiences out there. The boy is growing up. The mangos were ripe, which made me very, very happy indeed. All in all, it was a great slice of Hawaiian life, and just what the doctor prescribed for stress. (My latest doctor really is Hawaiian, and I saw him right before I went out there, although it was about tendinitis, not stress.) My family is amazing, and it's always good to spend time with them, wherever we are. I'd happily do it all again.

Morning on Maui

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