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

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


Playtime in the Pacific [pt 2]

Earlier, I detailed how hoarding a week of vacation days paid off when I used them to unwind in Oahu’s beautiful Windward Coast/North Shore area. While being in or on the beautiful waters near my rented studio was amazing, I have to admit the island is chock full of beautiful vistas…and in Part 2, I share a few more of my favorites.

With the backstory to my Oahu vacation already out of the way and the trip deliberately low-key in nature, there’s more to show than to tell.

However, since real-life acquaintances seemed fascinated that a) I was planning on doing lots of swimming and hiking and b) that I didn’t come home fried like a pork rind, I suppose I can leave aside their misjudging of my hobbies and share the (boring) secret to bringing my shark-bait-pale self home without mishap.

Yes: thanks to hats, lavish and frequent use of high-number sunscreen, and SPF clothing that included a rash guard as well as an oh-so-sultry A-line “swim-mini” skirt, I escaped burning.


On the plus side, when paired with a navy T, the swim-mini looked relatively presentable for off-the-beach/trail wandering:

Enjoying the view from Haleiwa's Anahulu Stream Bridge...

...and enjoying a view OF the beautiful circa 1921 bridge

My efforts to stay uncrisp’d got a boost when I convinced Mr Vix to leave the sun behind for a few hours in order to explore a charmingly shady, less-charmingly muddy trail loaded with ginger, wild coffee shrubs, taro, and banyan trees. As we tromped up and down toward a small waterfall, we were treated to glimpses of the Ko’olau Mountains we’d been ogling all week from different vantage points:

The Maunawili Falls Trail proves beach views aren't the only game in town

Exchanging water views for another of Hawaii’s intriguingly tree-root-laden trails led me to wonder if Polynesian tiki carvers were big hikers. Because there’s something about the stair-stepped roots that really remind me of the gods’ faces:

L, Tikis for sale at a roadside stand; R, more of the Maunawili Falls Trail

Unfortunately, my question remains unanswered despite conversation with a modern-day carver. The carver came out of our discussion a little richer, though, as Mr Vix was unable to resist a small tiki representing Lono—seeker of knowledge, protector of family, and bringer of peace, good luck, good spirits, and good fortune. [And also god of clouds and storms, which we’re choosing to ignore.]

Maybe the spirit of Lono began guarding my wallet immediately, because despite an encounter with carved mermaids I found them singing each to each, but not to me*:

L, The military controls access to stunning, shade-laden Bellows Beach, allowing the public in on weekends; R, mermaid pendants for sale in a North Shore shop

Though it’s more likely my ears were just tuned to the frequency of surf, not sirens:

Lai'e Point, a popular fishing spot on Oahu's Windward Coast and one that (legend has it) began life as a giant lizard

And that my eyes were still too dazzled by the textures found in some of Oahu’s most famous landmarks…

A sampling of Oahu's beautiful landmark signage

…and still mesmerized by the variegated shadings of earth and sea seen on one of the island’s most beautiful short hikes

Another view from the Lanikai Ridge Trail, this time towards the Ko'olau Mountains and featuring yours truly

to fully appreciate the mermaids’ charms.

Of course, there’s also the fact that I’d come to Oahu with my own talisman—the water-loving jaguar, in the form of my perimenopausal panther print dress—and perhaps my unconscious didn’t require another.

Diamond Head and the city at dusk; R, ending the trip in Honolulu Airport's beautiful gardens (and realizing we're in semi-matching outfits)

While I’m not sure who or what deserves credit, I’m glad to have left the island feeling mentally and physically more agile. Hanging onto that well-being in the midst of day-to-day life is the trick, alas, but a trick I need to master. For now, I’m going to dig a moat to protect the sensation, and start fixing up a canopy to keep it dry.

* Given my reoccurring obsession with faux-mermaid synchronized swimmers—which Tine of Highly Irregular Blogspot added to by posing with Copenhagen’s The Little Mermaid statue—I’m not sure how I escaped the pendants’ lure!

Playtime in the Pacific [pt 1]

As one with a hopscotched past of self-, under-, un- and just plain crappy employment, I have a hearty appreciation for group health insurance rates and paid vacation days. When I realized my present-day hoarding of the latter for “something special” and “the right time” could put me on the wrong end of a use/lose policy, though, I let my inner hedonist out FAST.

After a quick mental health inventory (assessment: fried, dyed, and laid to the side) the choice was obvious, if clichéd: Hawaii.

My last trip to the Aloha State was 4 years ago, and I swear just thinking about taking my archetypal stressed-out mainlander caboose back to one of the islands caused my shoulders to drop a smidge farther away from my ears.

Seeing cheap direct flights worked a little magic, too—as did investigating the plethora of places that would work with my “vacationing like the other half lives” philosophy. Knowing I could race away from responsibility and land somewhere relatively budget-friendly, private, and beautiful after 6 hours on a plane was insanely comforting.

But it was MORE comforting to actually spend a week immersing my senses in settings like this:

L, Toward Oahu's Lanikai Beach; R, scene from a watersports rental shop

And this:

Outrigger canoes await their owners as Kailua Beach beckons

Admittedly, it’s giving me cognitive dissonance to be dodging puddles when just a few short days ago I had the luscious, lightly trampled sand of windward Oahu between my bare toes.

But of course I’m grateful to have had a chance to absorb so much natural beauty. And also grateful my trip’s forecast of 80s and extremely stormy switched at the last minute to (mostly) 80s and sunny.

[Because let’s face it: I get more than enough rain in Oregon. Way, way, more than enough.]

Having packed for wet + wild and gamely steeled myself to enjoy a beach holiday of museums and cultural centers, I happily abandoned all plans of enlightenment and instead spent my time under sunny skies and straw hats.

There’s a difference between being ignorant and being a fool, after all, and I wasn’t going to pass up a chance to maximize my time in and on transparent, aquamarine water backed by a stunning view of the Ko’olau Mountains!

A paddler's view of Oahu's gorgeous Kailua Beach and Ko'olau Mountains...and taking a break from the paddling

Even Mr Vix, who lived on Oahu as a kid and decided to accompany me back there, couldn’t believe the overt gorgeousness around us.

While we had to buy drugstore snorkeling gear and rent a kayak to explore the bays of Kailua and Kaneohe, the studio we rented came with all the trappings for great beach trips—chairs, mats, towels, umbrellas, boogie boards, and a cooler. Plus constant fresh air, lots of light, and the sound of the ocean. Plus-plus a welcome basket of pineapple, papaya, macadamia nuts, and Kona coffee.

[Which is more or less what we kept ingesting and replacing during our trip, and brought home for later.]

Our $125/night all-in studio came with tropical treats, beautiful light, beach paraphernalia, and fresh air that carried the sound of surf and birdsong (and the occasional power tool)

Helping to set the tropical mood even more was the small cottage’s use of lush landscaping. The geckos, birds, and I approved of how we were tucked away from the main residence and close neighbors…

The path to our studio came with lush landscaping and loads of geckos

…and both Mr Vix and I loved Kailua itself. Because it sits roughly halfway between Honolulu’s sights and the North Shore’s legendary beaches and towns, we knew we had a great base from which to explore both areas.

In theory, anyway.

In actuality, we couldn’t seem to stop assessing North Shore snorkeling spots for tropical fish and giant Hawaiian green sea turtles. And searching that same laid-back locale for fish tacos, shave ice, locally grown coffee, and intriguing items.

L, Outside a North Shore residence, Elvis lives; R, I packed a few things that would blend in with Oahu's tropical colors and felt right at home

Good thing we made sure to revisit a few of Mr Vix’s old stomping grounds in the city so we could round out our report back to family….

Checking out stalls at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet

* See my shots of Kailua Bay—taken from abandoned military bunkers—here

Next: Part 2 of Playtime in the Pacific, in which I tromp hill and dale and eyeball some tempting local wares