Pausing between Stop and Go on Oahu’s North Shore [pt 2]

Previously, I shared how I eased into a week of island life by wandering around some of the North Shore’s laid-back beaches, towns, and nature reserves. Looking for a rinse, lather, repeat scenario? Then read on.

Back when I had more of a brain, I swear I read that new experiences—be they pleasant or stressful—focus the senses. How else to explain the fact that I’m terribly oblivious to things in my real-life surroundings, but tend to skew much more I was blind but now I see on vacation?

On Oahu’s North Shore, a watchful figurine keeps an eye on the waves and those who ride them

Even if I’m mistaken, surely being relaxed enough to notice the striking markings on neighborly geese, green sea turtles, and dogs was a sign of positive things happening to my body and/or soul.

Renting a tucked-away space on property one hour and a world away from Honolulu airport increases the odds of sharing space with real personalities

Since the line between “attentive” and “obsessed” can be a bit blurred for me, though, I’ll keep mum about how many times rocks had a starring role in my photos.

The historic Lili’uokalani Protestant Church sits right in the thick of what passes for action in low-key Haleiwa

Admittedly admiring the stones’ craggy textures and subtle shadings was easier from land than from sea. Bad enough that I’m incapable of getting out of ocean swell without banging myself up on any nearby rock—once Mr Vix and I decided to attempt standup paddleboarding my seemingly magnetic attraction to hard, jagged lumps became even more problematic.

I didn’t realize that until I was actually on (or more accurately off-and-on) a board, of course. Others made wafting across glossy water look so effortless!

At least my athletically inclined companion was also quite…challenged…by the activity. As the dunkings mounted and the learning curve refused to budge, we exchanged meaningful looks with the small dogs hitching a ride with their paddling owners.

Top, standup paddleboarding in Waialua Bay looked so simple; Bottom, my trusty hat and I were both wet and bedraggled after my first attempt at monkey-do

Luckily, our second attempt to SUP was a much closer match to our fantasy script. Late afternoon sun, stretches of the stunning Anahulu Stream to ourselves, green turtles sunning themselves on the banks, and actually STANDING UP versus kneeling or falling in.

While mere onlookers a few years ago, this visit we were the ones standup paddleboarding along the ridiculously picturesque and tranquil Anahulu Stream while bathed in golden light

Though I’d arrived on the island wanting to spend every daylight minute of my trip in the water, laziness and nosiness won out. Even in the relatively remote North Shore area, we had to make concessions as to which activities could be fit in and which canned due to time. Which may be why Haleiwa was officially named a historic, scenic, and cultural district in the early ’80s, but what do I know?

What I do know is that there were plenty of minutes on our trip for both repeat stops at juice bars and for capturing the business end of a watersports shop…

L, Don’t even think about leaving Lanikai Juice and its heaps of locally grown goodness without an antioxidant rainbow in your hand; R, a local watersport landmark continues its bold color scheme around the back

…as well as for aimless driving around that let us admire small businesses in action and repose…

A moment of rest at Paradise Shrimp Farm’s roadside stand in Waialua

…and for taking in views where volcanically pigmented earth met up with sky and luxurious growth.

While sugarcane’s influence continues to decline, this drive-by shot gives a glimpse of how agriculture still rules on Oahu’s North Shore—good news for fans of the island’s pineapple, coffee, vegetables, and more

All of which made me (once again) glad that so many West Coasters consider Oahu the proverbial red-headed stepchild of the islands. I don’t know how anyone can turn up their nose at a spot that has all of the above plus the gorgeous Waimea Valley Reserve, but hey: more exotic tropical foliage, wildlife, and archeological remnants for me.

Enter the public portion of Waimea Valley Reserve’s nearly 2000 acres and discover a setting filled with tropical foliage and wildlife…including some endangered strains and species

At the Waimea Valley Reserve, beauty and critters are around every corner, and amazing birdsong seems to accompany one along every path

Though just a North Shore visitor, I’m aware that the area’s last 100+ years of history includes colonialism and careless use of the land as well as typical 21st century social problems. And while the busy town of Wahiawa may not be full of rural delights, I’m glad there’s a story of renewal and preservation unfolding there that’s a counterpart to the conservation efforts in the Reserve.

Wahiawa’s 2011 public transportation center acknowledge’s the town’s present needs and pineapple plantation-centric past

So here’s to places that share their beauty and their history, their changes and their struggles, their stories and their bounty. Sometimes the exchange is exactly what’s needed to create a bridge from one’s own past to a richer, more colorful future.

Kamehameha Highway has little in common with its 4-lane-plus cousins, winding along the North Shore’s beaches, towns, and agricultural parcels

PSA: Take a history-laden video tour of Waimea Valley Reserve

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Pausing between Stop and Go on Oahu’s North Shore [pt 1]

Leaving a job that was well past its sell-by date for something with lots of tangible improvements—and the promise of intangible ones—should have been incredibly easy. But no: I exited dragging a chunk of reluctance behind me thanks to a core group of amazing co-workers I didn’t want to give up. Co-workers who’d provided daily laughs, intelligent insights, reliable teamwork, and empathy.

Plus genuine happiness when they heard I’d whipped together a week of escapism before starting over in a new environment. They couldn’t go unwind and have fun, dammit, but since I could I certainly should.

To them, I was the soot-choked canary weakly fluttering toward blue sky, the newly elected mascot of Team Save the Drama for Your Mama, the lucky thing who’d been handed pudding filled with proof we all deserved better.

Clearly I needed to do them proud in spite of my tight timeline and eroded energy. I went for a classic solution: a brain/body reset in Hawaii. With nothing from the old or new job to worry about, relaxing into island life happened surprisingly fast.

Easing into island life

Due to plane fares and vacation rental openings and preferences I ended up on Oahu’s rural, romantic North Shore. Mr Vix and I arrived as the surf season was winding down, which meant we only got to ogle folks on 25-foot waves vs 50-foot ones. And we found the smaller beaches sparsely populated even on weekends.

Somehow neither seemed like genuine hardship.

Surfers aside, daily walks along Kawailoa Beach usually featured more fishing poles than people

While we’d explored a lot of Oahu during our last visit to the island—including a couple of day trips to the North Shore—we deliberately stuck close to our temporary home this time. “Close” being a relative term, of course. As visitors, it seemed rude to ignore ALL of the outdoor activities that promised to take us farther and farther from the realities of everyday life, so off we went.

From an end-of-the-road trail that led to an oceanside preservation zone but came with pleasant diversions…

After a dusty hike in to the remote Ka’ena Point Reserve, I enjoyed a both-eyes-on-the-winter-surf-beyond reward while hiking out

…to encountering creatures who put my attempt at snazziness to shame…

Despite blue-green-grey colors and iridescent shoes, getting out-peacocked by a too-fast-for-me…well, peacock

At the Waimea Valley Reserve, a finally-still peacock provides a lesson in pattern-mixing

…to reminders of the ocean’s power—

Though I knew the North Shore’s legendary waves and riptides might rule out daily swimming, I was able to find protected spots without much trouble

and its beauty—I spent my days in a haze of delight. I’d arrived hoping for daily swims, and lucked out by finding local spots too boring for surfers but awesome for me.

At the end of Dillingham Airfield, Army Beach offers sandy shores, crystalline water, and a perfect spot to cool off after hiking to Ka’ena Point as long as the surf cooperates

Out of the water, plenty of intriguing visual stories drew me in. While the late Ron Artis’ community-driven work brightens many North Shore landmarks and gives locals and visitors alike windows into the past…

Storytelling is embedded in Hawaiian culture; here, musician-turned-artist Ron Artis’ work beautifies a storage unit outside Haleiwa and Wahiawa’s Sunny Side bakery

…one can also find communications that call for respect but vary in permanence…

Informal meets formal reverence: L, a call to keep the remote road/path to Ka’ena Point from becoming a dumping ground; R, the Waialua-Kahuku War Memorial

…hauntingly beautiful structures that leave the viewers with more questions than answers…

Vacant for more than 60 years, the former Waialeʻe Industrial School For Boys–a reform school–occupies prime North Shore real estate

…plus spots sacred in ancient Hawaiian culture and protected today.

L, Recent offerings at c. 1600s religious temple Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau, likely a place of past human sacrifices; R, haunting eyes adorn an abandoned military bunker at Ka’ena Point, another sacred spot in Hawaiian culture

As we soaked up the sun along with the sights, I could feel long-term tension start to erode—and believe me, that’s a story my body’s been longing to tell.

Next: Part 2 of Pausing between Stop and Go on Oahu’s North Shore, in which I reveal my apparent fascination with stones, empty space, and exotic red flora

Gratuitous Color Shot #18: I took it on the run baby / ’cause that’s the way I want it baby

Hawaiian folklore deems Oahu’s rugged, remote Ka’ena Point as a leina a ka ‘uhane, or jumping off point for souls leaving the earth. Guided by ancestors or deceased friends, a soul leapt from the point’s sacred rock into the ocean before entering po heaven. But apparently not all the dead were as lucky: some say souls judged unworthy were cursed to wander the island in misery and isolation.

As I’m extraordinarily pleased to announce I’ve accepted a position with a new company, the legend’s core concept—being escorted and supported when heading into the unknown—is one that resonates with me greatly right now.

Especially since the drawn-out process of seeking a better professional life had me living in dread that someone would sidle up to me and start singing “Heard it from a friend who / Heard it from a friend who / Heard it from another you been messin’ around [with interviews].”

Fortunately, my efforts to slide out with minimum drama and a bit of grace succeeded. Objectively, I know I’m headed for a better place; subjectively, though, I’ll be in limbo for a while as the whole new-job thing sorts itself out.

Wish me luck with my leaping?

At Oahu’s westernmost spot, a fellow hiker embraces a more upward view of Ka’ena Point Natural Area Reserve

PSA: Read more about efforts to restore the ecosystem at Ka’ena Point

 

A week of wandering in and around bold, beautiful Vancouver BC [pt 3]

Previously, I shared how I investigated bits of Vancouver’s westside/downtown as well as a couple of its celebrated gardens and self-described hipster neighborhoods. Next up? Seeing what BC’s Scenic 7 had to offer, exploring Greater Vancouver, and poking my nose into some of the city’s calming spaces.  

Near the end of our week-long Vancouver visit, Mr Vix and I were trying to choose between several of the area’s many relaxing day trips. Bowen Island! Whistler! The Sunshine Coast! The options were plentiful and the hours dwindling.

In the end, we chose an inland drive along the Fraser River, egged on by the tourist bureau’s edict:

Discover the wonders of the ‘Scenic 7’ Highway—rolling foothills, fertile pastures, and powerful winding rivers. This route grounded in history, steeped in culture, and drenched in scenery is truly majestic.”

While I regret to say we were rather underwhelmed by most of 7’s vistas, I tip my professional hat to the writing that put the hook in our mouth. And since the road took us to glacier-fed Harrison Lake, seen at its azure best thanks to seasonal minerals and late afternoon sun, the end certainly justified the means:

Partially fed by glacier runoff that turns its spring/summer water azure, Harrison Lake offers beautiful vistas and an icy embrace

The lake may be the centerpiece of the Harrison Hot Springs township, but the public springs are directly across from it. With more road tripping still ahead another choice had to be made…and the day’s 32C/90F temperature swayed me. After all, though the water seemed frigid with just a few toes in, there were people simply standing around in it—surely I’d acclimate after immersion!

I lasted all of 15 minutes before choosing to admire the scenery from land vs lake.

Luckily for the curious but non-hardy, Somewhat-Scenic Highway 7 leads to more than just stunning Harrison Lake and its adjacent activities and lodgings. Following the route puts one on the doorstep of many local farms and restaurants (and if the timing’s right, in the middle of many a festival).

But pacing is everything. Which is why we somewhat dutifully ticked off spots on the Maple Ridge Port Haney Heritage Walk after lunch at Maple Ridge’s Big Feast Bistro and pre-potential snacking in the next town north. From the walk, I gleaned many things and recall two:

  • the widowed Mary Charlton built and ran the area’s first bank, which opened in 1911 (6 years before British Columbia women could legally vote)
  • early brick-making involved science and art

The Maple Ridge BC heritage tour takes one along the Fraser River and into the workings of a former brick factory

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that Maple Ridge’s history was overshadowed by Chilliwack’s legendary sweet corn and Agassiz’s hazelnut product offerings—but Sparkes and Canadian Hazelnut, you didn’t disappoint.

If bringing 14 field-fresh ears of Chilliwack sweet corn from BC back to Oregon is wrong, who wants to be right?

Part of the reason we needed a relaxing day trip was my earlier push to escape the city’s pavement for North Vancouver’s Lynn Canyon Park and Grouse Mountain. Look how friendly the latter appears from afar and on top:

Grouse Mountain seems innocent enough when viewed from Queen Elizabeth Park or the top of the mountain itself…

Too bad the 2,830 stairs of the Grouse Grind welcome ~ 100,000 hikers a year but don’t really do friendly. Instead, they gloatingly reside on a trail I’d label both “very challenging” (official description) and “monotonous” (Fodor’s guidebook description).

…but going up it via the notorious Grouse Grind had me longing for the end

I will say having a photo that makes it look as if I was well ahead of Mr Vix despite the fact that I slowed him down considerably ALMOST makes me glad I didn’t say, “Oh hell no” and turn around a few hundred yards in.

Fortunately for my aging knees—and for those who want or need to commune with nature on flat or gently rolling trails—the city’s seawall path and Stanley Park provide many treasures.

From the shores of the park’s Lost Lagoon…

Stanley Park’s romantically named Lost Lagoon doesn’t disappoint

to small encounters and welcomes…

Manicured lawn, well-kept trails, and more greet seawall strollers and Stanley Park visitors

to spots ideal for orienting (and brief law-breaking)…

Stanley Park’s size means it can offer serenity or community—along with opportunities to quickly rule-break or take in city views

the city itself offers lots of opportunities to get-away-without-going-away. I’d like to think that even mega-sporty outdoor enthusiasts appreciate the many zones where nature waves hi instead of giving one the finger, but if not—their loss!

Vancouver, like most (all?) PNW cities, prides itself on keeping nature close…and our rented condo’s rooftop pool didn’t disappoint on that score

Until next time, Vancouver!

A week of wandering in and around bold, beautiful Vancouver BC [pt 2]

Previously, I detailed how my Vancouver trip included a laid-back exploration of the city’s vibrant west side and downtown/west end neighborhoods. In addition to seeking out some of British Columbia’s slightly more rustic treasures, however, Mr Vix and I had two other goals to fulfill: find colorful plants in highly landscaped settings and observe Canadian hipsters in their natural habitats.

Hailing from a region where the descriptors “iconoclastic,” “weird,” “funky,” and “repurposed” are tossed around with both pride and derision, my travel partner and I were curious to see how Vancouverites lived/worked/played in settings known for fewer tourists and more attitude.

We were realistic about the hardships we’d face—including being surrounded by loads of appealing restaurants, bakeries, coffeehouses, and independent shops—but after securing our pith helmets and loosening our belts, we pushed forward.

Once we hit Commercial Drive, it didn’t take long to see that when it came to standing out, the stakes were high:

On Commercial Drive, it’s not cool enough to have a pristine vintage car: you also need Satan as your chauffeur

Luckily, having just watched comedian Simon King perform a set in which he shared his (hilarious, blistering) thoughts on “the Drive,” I was schooled in how to (theoretically) attend a poetry slam and one-up anyone who arrived on a bike decorated in Barbie heads.

Barbie heads with x’d out eyes.

Though it’s dubious I’ll ever be ambitious enough to steer my mid-life crisis in the hipster direction, I appreciated Mr King’s insights. Currently, however, I’m all about the intersection where bourgeois meets hip: food. Locally sourced, organic, family-operated, gluten-free, fair-trade, fusion…if that’s how you want to roll and the end result tastes good, I’m game.

Especially if cherries are involved.

Having gone wild for local cherries during our trip, we plucked more from one of the Drive’s many greengrocers to take home (and two sets of eyes were on the prize vs my rumpled clothes)

[As a fairly high-quantity purchaser of local cherries, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries on this trip, I have to say with some regret but mostly glee that I deem BC cherries superior to Oregon’s. Ours are quite good; theirs are extraordinary. We still reign supreme when it comes to strawberries, though.]

The day we were on the Drive, French-Tunisian won our lunch money. And not just because my (derumpled) Missoni-fabric-by-the-yard outfit coordinated with the setting.

An interesting French-Tunisian menu plus a great view of the Drive’s action made the Carthage Cafe our choice for a late lunch–but the flavors captured most of our attention

As I tottered toward the car with a belly full of chicken tangine, I realized that anytime I’m in an area described as being artsy or edgy, I encounter tableaux that make me want to squeal, “Oh, aren’t you just the CUTEST THING!”

Visual, consumer, and edible treats abound on the Drive

Of course I’m never sure if that’s irony at work or the desired response.

Rather amazingly, Vancouver seems to offer opportunities to reflect on social issues even when one swaps streets for leafier settings. One minute it’s all heirloom roses and fern grottos, the next, compelling biocultural art installations:

At the VanDusen Botanical Gardens, we came across artist Nicole Dextras’ captivating Little Green Dress Projekt (Earth Art 2012)

Somewhat confusingly, though, artist Nicole Dextras’ work made it both easier and harder for me to resist the wide variety of eco-friendly clothing for sale in Mount Pleasant/Main Street (SoMa) boutiques.

The silk saris that had been transformed into skirts and tops entranced my Persnickety Bohemian side, but I eventually managed to ignore them.

Main Street’s Mount Pleasant area, aka SoMa, is filled with shops (including Spirithouse, where silk saris have been refashioned into skirts and tops)

Then I offset the pain of saying no to featherweight multi-culti clothing by saying yes to ethnic food.

Also in resistance mode was Mr Vix, who abandoned yet another of the city’s temples to vinyl so we could continue exploring the zones labeled Riley Park, Little Mountain, Mount Pleasant, and/or SoMa.

While the decor of Bob Likes Thai Food demonstrates the warmer side of Main Street/Mount Pleasant, Red Cat Records & CDs is all about the cool

Sure, the Red Cat record store clerks may have eyeballed my [repurposed, thank you] top and [ancient but out-of-the-landfill] underlayer’d dress and wordlessly conveyed that they thought Mr Vix was taking a break from escorting his sheltered virgin aunt on a genteel sightseeing tour. But dammit, I wasn’t going to let that keep me away from admiring the neighborhood’s older homes and visiting the nearby Queen Elizabeth Park and its stunning gardens!

Besides: Queen Elizabeth Park, a former quarry site, really is a fantastic place. Multiple vistas of the city, great use of color and texture, and many an inviting spot to meander or rest.

What’s not to love?

Especially as I finally got to feel like a neighborhood insider when the flowers saw my blouse and gave me the half-nod that means “you pass, man, you pass….”

Just a short distance from the many charms of Main Street/Mount Pleasant, Queen Elizabeth Park offers visitors admission-free views of beautiful gardens

Next: Part 3 of A week of wandering in and around bold, beautiful Vancouver BC, featuring more and less rugged examples of British Columbia’s natural beauty 

PSA: Get a probably NSFW taste of the bawdy Simon King during a Comedy Now show several years back or connect with him via his website.