Recent PostsWinter Views-- The Cosmic Dunes and the Bad, Bad Basin-- DVNP Winter Views-- Lassen NF, Alabama Hills, and Ancient Bristlecones: Back to Cali Winter Views-- The Painted Hills, Oregon Winter Views-- Crater Lake National Park: The Land of Fluff and Puff Winter Views-- California Cascades: Shasta and Lassen Winter Views-- December 2020 to April 2021-- Intro A Life Changing Adventure-- The Kalalau Trail Images of Energy: The Mana of Kauai from Ocean to Trail The Curfew is Over An Intimate Look Along the Alakai Swamp Trail
Aloha and welcome to a little blog about photography, travel, recent readings, and of course, Kauai. I hope you enjoy the observations, perspectives and images. Thanks for visiting.
2020 was a year of opportunity. Opportunities to think, to walk, to photograph, to be grateful for the life of friends and loved ones who past and to be grateful for the lives we have. 2020 gave us a chance to take a timeout. To rest. To watch way too much Netflix. To spend time with our family and to take some time for ourselves. 2020 gave us chances everyday to think about what is really and truly important to us. And hopefully we used this opportunity to discover more about ourselves and what it is we love. Yeah, a timeout. 2020 was a timeout. I realized just how important being photography and being in nature are to me. It is who I am and how I wish to connect with the world and with you.
I used the last days of 2020 and the first months of 2021 to photograph nature outside of Kauai, in 23 states over 18,000 miles. When people ask me, "Where did you go?" I reply, "America." One place and just one state wasn't enough for this long timeout and opportunity of discovery.
Originally I had two, separate, winter photography trips planned. One to Yosemite National Park in December/January. And one to Yellowstone National Park in late February. However, when Kauai was removed from the Hawaii Safe Travels Program in November-- effectively eliminating tourism (safe or otherwise) and making any productive business activity in the gallery nearly impossible-- I decided to combine the two winter trips into one, long, photography road trip. So I put an "Open by appointment" sign on the shop window; shipped my 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser to Oakland; and from there I drove to Sonoma where Gary and his team at Mudrak Custom Cruisers installed an Alucab Expedition Rooftop Tent, Alucab Shadow Awning and an ARE rear drawer. I needed some new kit to help me camp in the winter as I knew most campsites would be closed or would have limited facilities available. And I'm getting a little old for a long road trip out of a tent. :-)
The above picture shows my FJ and Alucab tent 15,000 miles later in TX. During the trip I slept 90 nights in this tent, sleeping only two nights in a hotel after getting the Alucab tent installed at Mudrak Custom Cruisers in Sonoma, CA.
FJ and Alucab Shadow Awning in Big Cypress National Preserve. The awning wasn't that useful during the colder areas of the trip. During the cold winter days I wanted as much sunshine as I could get! However, I did use it in Zion NP and in Grand Canyon NP while cooking and eating in sleet (Zion) and snow (GCNP).
*If you have any questions about the overloading gear seen above feel free to ask in the comments section below. I may add a gear review on the Alucab roof top tent and awning one day. Let me know if you would like to see something like that. Cheers!
Sigh, Sonoma, CA
Anyway, back in Sonoma, I had a day or two to kill while the Alucab tent, awning, and overloading accessories were being installed. So I grabbed my camera and walked around town. I took a few pictures and ate a wonderful brunch at Sunflower. Of course, due to then revised COVID protocols, I had to eat my avocado sandwich in the park because just a week before I arrived all outside dining at restaurants and cafes was forbidden by the state of California! This was something that would be very challenging during the trip-- all of the different COVID rules and regulations that I would encounter from California to Florida from December to April. I knew I would need to be flexible during the trip, and I recalled what I heard often in the Marine Corps-- Semper Gumby. So yeah, I would need to be always flexible.
Tile, Sonoma, CA
Time for Reflection (The Journey Begins), Sonoma, CA
Forthcoming blog posts will feature photographs and Winter Views from
In the next post I'll share a few images from Mt. Shasta and Lassen, two of California's beautiful Cascade mountains.
I'll be in touch soon.
A Chance to Rest and Look Through the Leaves, Kalalau Trail, mile 1.75, Kauai.
Do a Google search of the best hikes in the world and 8 out of the 10 results will include the Kalalau Trail. And most will likely have it at, or near the top of the list. For me, I rank it right up there with The Teton Crest Trail in Wyoming and The Santa Cruz Trek (with side hike to Laguna 69) in Peru as the best hikes/ overnight treks that I have ever done.
Much of the Kalalau Trail is narrow, loose and or muddy (depending on the rain) single track, high along the ocean cliffs of the incomparable Na Pali Coast along Kauai's north west shore. The Kalalau Trail, Mile 3, July 2020.
As the Kalalau progresses you soon find it's rhythm: Climb up stones and mud to level off atop a sea cliff. Then descend down into a valley, crossing streams and no name waterfalls. Kalalau Trail, Mile 1.5, July 2020.
In both July and August 2020 I followed my own advice and camped at Hanakoa on the way in and on the way out. I found this itinerary to be much more enjoyable-- especially since I carried two cameras, tripod, filters, tabis, all of our camping gear, and half of our food. :-)
One of the Many Little Waterfalls at Hanakoa, The Kalalau Trail, Mile 6.25, August 2020.
Hanakoa is at mile 6 of the 11 mile long Kalalau Trail. If nothing more it is a nice place to rest before continuing on to Kalalau. For others it's a reasonable place to make camp, and overnight before the heat of the day really sets in. If you do decide to camp here, keep in mind that there are two camping areas: one before Hanakoa stream, and a second is to be found after crossing the steam and climbing above the fast flowing waters of Hanakoa Valley. Both of the main campsites have a covered pavilion and picnic table, but only the first camping area (Ha'ena side) has a vault toilet. The Kalalau side does not have a toilet. This means that if you choose to camp on the Kalalau side of Hanakoa stream, you will have to cross the stream every time you wish to use the toilet. Both campsites are fine, and I have camped at both. Generally I choose to camp on the side closest to where I am going-- on the way in to Kalalau I choose the Kalalau Side. And on the way out, I choose the Ha'ena side. While I enjoyed my nights at Hanakoa, Hanakoa Valley (and indeed, all of the valleys along the Kalalau Trail) can be quite "buggy." So bug spray (Deet) and mosquito coil are recommended. We kept a mosquito coil burning pretty much our entire time at Hanakoa and didn't have any mosquito problems. If you can find space in your pack, I would take definitely take some.
Loose scree around mile 7 of the Kalalau Trail initiates the hiker to the more dangerous, infamous section of the Kalalau Trail: Mile 7-8. Kalalau Trail, Mile 6.9, July 2020.
After a night of blissfully listening to the rushing waters of Hanakoa stream we woke up inside a wet tent and I made a quick breakfast of mango oatmeal, coffee and energy gel. We then break camp, load our packs and begin our hike from Hanakoa to Kalalau. 5 miles ahead of us and we are a little nervous and excited for what awaits. Soon after climbing out of Hanakoa Valley, we turn the corner and see ocean blue before descending into another valley. The trail is loose and overgrown but we are soon out onto another exposed cliff. Yet this one seems a little different. It's a little wilder, a little steeper and I approach it with much more caution. Yep, we've come to mile 7-8, perhaps the most dangerous section of trail, one that culminates with "Crawler's Ledge" and will test us both mentally and physically.
Miles 7-8 of the Kalalau Trail, Mile 7, July 2020
In 2013 this section of trail terrified me. No joke. I was scared. I actually got a crick in my neck from walking the entire trail, but especially here because I refused to look down towards the oceanside. Instead, I craned my neck to look down to where the cliff met the trail, refusing to allow anything else into view. But in July 2020, on the drive to Ke'e beach, I had a little pep talk with myself, telling myself that I would respect the trail, respect the mountain and respect the ocean below. But I wasn't going to give it my fear. And I wasn't going to give it my power. This, as well as hiking with Naomi, really helped. Now, after a few times over this section in the past couple of weeks Mile 7-8 is actually one of the funner parts of the trail. Yes, it is narrow. And the drop is real, but it ain't nothin' to give your fear to. Please, don't let this section, or any other section prevent you from hiking to Kalalau. You'll be OK and your life will be better for the trek, the effort, the courage, and for the respect given to the trail, the mountain, the ocean, and the Na Pali Coast Wilderness Area.
The views along the Kalalau Trail, especially after Hanakoa Valley are truly stunning.
Piggy Back, Kalalau Trail, Mile 8, July 2020
The Colors of the Kalalau Trail, Mile 8.75, July 2020
Green and Blue, Kalalau Trail, Mile 9, July 2020
Wild goats keep you company along the trail. Keep your ears and eyes open for their call and cliffside runs. Kalalau Trail, Mile 9.5, August 2020
The Red Hill above the Verdant Kalalau Valley, Kalalau Trail, Mile 10, July 2020.
Sunset at Kalalau Beach, Kalalau Trail, Mile 12, July 2020.
After arriving at Kalalau Beach we chose a permitted campsite in "the woods" about a a half mile after crossing Kalalau Stream. All of the campsites in the permitted wooded area are quiet, and most of the campers here hiked in. Closer towards the main portion of Kalalau Beach, by the waterfall (shower!), the campsites tend to be a little more populated and can be noisy as many boaters tend to arrive-- especially on the weekends and likely, without permits-- with partying on their mind. Please, I encourage you to keep this area wild. Get permits; hike or Kayak in and out; and leave no trace. If you do decide to boat in, please, do so legally and take out what you bring in. Respect sacred Kalalau. Mahalo nui loa.
If you don't want to hike it, why not try kayaking in and out? A summer paddle on the Na Pali Coast may be the perfect adventure.
Kalalau Beauty, July 2020
Looking for Waves, Kalalau Beach, July 2020
And Finding Them (Toes to the Nose), Kalalalu Beach, July 2020
Sunrise Kalalau Beach, July 2020
Kalalau: Where Rainbows are Raised, Kalalau Beach, August 2020
A Rainbow Falls into Kalalau Valley, Kalalau Valley, July 2020
The weather moves in and out all along the trail, catching on the mountains and rain showers often pass, offering blessings to the hikers and the landscape alike.
Hope for an hour or two of rain one day and use the time to rest, listening to the rain tap-tap against the tent or lush foliage of the valley.
As soon as the showers come, they pass, revealing spires and flutes, hinting at the mysteries left behind. Kalalau, July 2020.
The mountains and clouds of the Na Pali Coast, Kalalau, July 2020.
If you have the energy, explore the Valley Trail to Big Pool. I didn't make it back there until my third trip to Kalalau, but Big Pool because it a really cool spot. Think short hike to a cold mountain stream where you can frolic and sun on the warm rocks of the valley wall while listening to a tropical waterfall.
Valley Stream, Kalalau Valley Trail, July 2020.
The Big Pool (Born Free), Kalalau Valley, August 2020.
Coming out of the valley to catch a rainbow, Kalalau Valley, July 2020.
Going to Kalalau is like entering a new dimension. Sea Cave, Kalalau Beach. August 2020
Night Sky above Kalalau Beach, July 2020.
Hiking The Kalalau Trail is truly a life changing experience. You truly become part of the landscape and by extension the entire experience becomes a part of you, never to be removed.
When packing, go as light as possible. Consider only taking a few items of clothing. It really isn't going to be cold out there unless if you are doing night or very early morning photography. If you are walking around, hiking, exploring then I don't think you will ever be cold. So no need for hoodies or anything like that. You may want to consider a light rain jacket though as it will rain and if it is windy one morning before sunrise you can always throw it on to block the wind.
If you are going for photography take everything that you think you may need because you may not ever make it back there again.
I find a wide angle zoom (16-35) and a medium, telephoto zoom (70-200) to be very useful. I carried the following gear in July and August 2020:
I carried all cameras and camping gear in an F Stop Gear Tilopa pack and F Stop Gear tripod bag.
In 2013 I used a Clik Elite bag and carried a Canon 5D3 and a Canon 16-35, f/2.8 II. If you were to only carry one lens I would go with a wide angle zoom. Wider the better out here because the mountains are so close to you.
October 2013 Trip-- 3 Days and 2 Nights (Kalalau x2)
July 2020 Trip-- 4 Days and 3 Nights (Hanakoa- Kalalau x2- Hanakoa)
August/September Trip-- 5 Days and 6 Nights (Hanakoa- Kalalau x3- Hanakoa)
In July and August 2020 we ate Trailtopia backcountry food for most of our meals. I really love this company and their delicious vegetarian meals. You can find their products here at Trailtopia.com
I used a MSR Hubba Bubba 2P Tent, Patagonia quilt, and Nemo inflatable sleeping pad and pillow. Hammocks are popular sleeping options, but be prepared for rain.
Tabis (felt soled neoprene booties) are useful for the stream crossings as they add safety to otherwise sneaky tricky sections of trail.
Slippahs are a luxury for camp and are highly recommended. They are comfy, and they let your feet dry out. A clothesline is also useful to hang dry any wet items like socks, shirts, swim shorts, etc...
A medicine kit and duct tape/athletic tape are also recommended. This may come in handy in all kinds of various situations. Check out Naomi's hiking boots from our July 2020 hike. She had a massive blowout right at mile 7-- on the way in! We had to make several repairs at different times both on the trail and at camp. Thank goodness we had tape and a positive attitude!
Legend. Kalalau Trail, July 2020
If you would like to see more images from my hikes to Kalalau click the link here, The Kalalau Trail.
Likewise, if you have any questions about the hike, my experiences or the gear I took, please feel free to reach out to me in the comments section below. I would love to hear about your experiences as well. Mahalo and happy trails!
PS-- All mileage is approximate.
Above you will see the cover of my new photo book, Images of Energy: The Mana of Kauai from Ocean to Trail. This book features over 100 photographs from my favorite beaches, hikes and wild places of Kauai. The hardcover 10"x8" photo book contains 112 pages, and is printed on fine photographic paper, which has a pearly luminescent finish.
When making the book I wanted to focus on the energy of the island-- the mana that I see and feel when I go out with camera and pack to photograph Kauai's incredible nature. I find that this energy heals my spirit and mind, and in this time of uncertainty, I wish to share this healing power with you all.
The book is organized into two sections: Oceans and Trails. Each section moves clockwise around the island. The Ocean section starts at Ke'e Beach, and the Trails portion begins at Hanakapi'ai Falls. The book includes a basic map (seen above ) to help guide you from location to location. Not every beach of Kauai is featured, nor is every trail. And some are represented with multiple photos. I did this because I didn't want the book to be merely a guide book. I wanted it to be more meaningful and in this way I think that you will find an opportunity for personal discovery, creativity and fun.
Pop the Top had to be in the book. This image is all about the mana of Kauai's oceans. The dynamic interplay of water and light, made possible by the underwater formations that cause waves to dance all along the Na Pali Coast. I just couldn't make a book about Kauai without this photo being included.
My mom and dad received an advance copy of Images of Energy and my dad surprised me with a text that read, "Page 39 is my favorite." To be honest I had no idea which image he was talking about and had to inquire which one it was that he liked. He replied, "Full Moon Rise and Palm Trees." This photograph was taken looking across Nawiliwili Harbor towards the new Timbers Resort in Lihue. I would have never thought that this image would be my dad's favorite. But that's part of the fun of the book. Looking through the over 100 photographs and finding the one that you that speaks to you most clearly.
Much of my photography is based on intention: planning; revisiting; studying the behavior of animals and ocean; and reconnaissance of trails and wilderness areas. I think this meditative process comes through when viewing the book as a whole. The images come from 8 years of living and photographing on Kauai. I think the oldest image is from the spring of 2012 and the newest is from the summer of 2020. In a sense it is a retrospective of my time on Kauai and my relationship with the island. And the book was made during a time when we all had ample chance to reflect on what the hell it is we are doing.
Be healed by Kauai. Let Images of Energy be the medicine.
This morning, Tuesday May 6, 2020 the nightly curfew on Kauai expired. The nightly curfew? You ask. Yes, the government of Kauai enacted and enforced a nightly curfew from 9pm to 5am to combat the spread of the Coronavirus and to avoid overburdening the island's first responders. But now that curfew has been lifted so let's celebrate FREEDOM! with 10 images that were either taken between 9pm and 5am or where made possible by traveling during this period of darkness. I must be clear that none of this photographs were taken during the time of the curfew itself. These are all older images from the archives. Rest assured, during the time of the curfew I was at home watching Netflix, drinking beer, playing with the cats or cards or sleeping. :-)
1. In the Light of Lightning, Kilauea Lighthouse, December 4, 2012
In the Light of Lightning was taken around 8:45 pm in the middle of a lightning storm. It is a single exposure, 25 seconds long. During the exposure three separate flashes of sheet lightning lit up Kilauea Point and the 100 year old Kilauea Lighthouse. On this night I photographed at the cul de sac by the gate to teh lighthouse and National Wildlife Refuge for about 3 hours, leaving around 9pm. At the time, I lived in Princeville so it wasn't a long drive home, but I would not have made it in time to meet curfew. Thank goodness there was no curfew (or Coronavirus) then! Since I released this photograph in late December of 2012 it has been my best selling image. Only two metal prints remain, and I don't have anything else like it. It is, without doubt, my most unique photograph.
2. Na Pali Coast at Sunset Seen from the Nualolo Trail, Koke'e State Park, July 1, 2015
Na Pali Coast at Sunset Seen from the Nualolo Trail is another photograph that wasn't taken after 9pm or before 5am, but it couldn't have been done with a curfew in place. You see, I hiked out here for sunset and then hiked back in the light of the full moon. The Nualolo Trail is a difficult 8 miles long trail, but it's one of the best hikes on Kauai. I had been thinking about doing this hike at sunset for some time and was happy to finally accomplish this goal. I'm thinking of doing it again real soon. I'll keep you posted...
3. Koke'e Night Sky and Paperbark Tree, Waimea, June 29, 2014
Koke'e Night Sky hints at the magical possibilities of Kauai. It's a dreamy image, and like all of my photographs, it is a single exposure. For this shot I used a head lamp and shined it on the tree during the 30 second exposure. Aperture is wide open at f/2.8 and I'm shooting at 16mm wide. There is residual light from sunset and a lot of ambient light from Port Allen reflecting off the clouds. A couple of shooting stars are also visible. I like this one. There's a lot to look at and it keeps bringing me back for more. After taking this photograph I camped at Koke'e State Parka and slept under this sky. Yes, the magical qualities of Kauai.
4. Shipwrecked, Poipu, July 3, 2017
Shipwrecked is truly a night shot. I took this photograph at 10:47pm at Shipwrecks beach in Poipu. I try for one night sky photograph a summer and this was the one for 2017. I like the contrast of milky way and ocean and the gradient illumination on the cliff. By the way, the light on the cliff is ambient light coming from the Grand Hyatt. I didn't add any light or utilize a head lamp or light beam for this one. I shot this photograph at 15mm using an ultra wide angle Zeiss Milvus prime lens, f/2.8, and a 30 second exposure.
5. Peering Into the Night Sky, Hanalei, August 30, 2019
Peering into the Night Sky was a long, late night. I started at the famous, old church in Hanalei-- Wai Oli Hui La'a-- but there was too much light pollution for me to pick up a lot of stars. After fruitlessly trying for something that the conditions wouldn't allow, I decided to move to Black Pot beach where I took this photograph-- at 12:33am. Here, I again used a head lamp to light up the pier. This technique is called "light painting". It takes some trial and error, but once you get it dialed in it can be an effective technique to have in your bag of tricks.
6. Super Blood Moon, Kulikoa Point, January 20, 2019
A lunar eclipse turns the full moon red. These are so much fun to photograph. This eclipse occurred quite early in the evening, actually. And while this particular image was taken outside of the verboten times, the walk back to the car was a long one, and I didn't get back home till well after 9pm. So we celebrate the Super Blood Moon here! :-)
7. Super Blue Blood Moon, Moloa'a, January 31, 2018
The clouds lifted around 2:45 am and the stars shined brightly. I got dressed and made my way outside with camera gear to photograph the rare super blue blood moon— the first one since 1866. This photograph is from the peak, around 3:20 or so. I like these events that bring people together from all over the world. It makes me feel connected and happy that nature is the connector.
8. Night Dance, Koke'e State Park, August 12, 2015
“How can we know the dancer from the dance?”
~ William Butler Yeats
This is my favorite photo from a night of amazing star gazing in Koke’e State Park. I hoped to photograph a meteor shower, but was unlucky. I don't think I caught a single one.
9. Closer than You Think, Polihale State Park, June 24, 2014
The stars are closer to us than we realize. Our dreams are closer than we think. And so, too, are our fears. Let's brush them aside and grab our dreams.
10. 3 Sisters, Salt Ponds Beach Park, July 14, 2015
Golden hour on a west side morning can be quite special. But if you are staying on the North Shore it can be a very early start and a long drive past many wonderful sunrise spots along the way. I lived on the North Shore of Kauai for 10 years and wanted to to try something different on this morning. So we packed up the camera gear and coffee and made a day of it on the west side, stopping first at Salt Ponds for this photograph of palm trees gently blowing in the breeze. Now, I live on the west side so I can make it down here every morning if I wished. Funny though. I'm thinking about North Shore sunrises now that the curfew stay pau.
Stay safe and healthy!
The Alakai Swamp Trail on Kauai is hike best done slowly and with the senses alive. The end view at Kilohana Vista is often never realized due to clouds and fog, but the beauty of this trail is not in the distant view-- it' in the up close. The intimate look at the unique plants is a botanist dream. The sound of the birds is a symphonic high. The feeling of the mist and wind on your skin is a complete change to that of the ocean and beaches below. The scent of the flora as it dries in the ephemeral sunlight is blessing to be cherished in the moment and in memory.
As you walk the trail look at the little things that are all around you. Some are fluffy and others prickly.
Life is all around you.
In all different stages and ages and many, many shades of green.
Because the Alakai Swamp Trail rail leads through an Hawaiian rainforest and bog, much of the path follows planks and boardwalk, some of which are in decay.
The chaos of the rainforest can be overwhelming. It's quite easy to trip or slip as you travel, awestruck, through this wondrous world of green.
In most sections of descent and ascent the boardwalk breaks off into fern-lined steps.
The planks become squeezed by mosses, ginger, tree ferns, and ohia trees.
There is one easy stream crossing as the trail descends an Ohia grove and then rises to the swamp a few hundred feet above.
Nene crossing in the boggy-foggy Alakai Swamp.
If you are lucky you'll see Nene, Apapane, I'iwi and maybe even a Pueo along the trail. The trail is an absolute birders paradise.
A pueo flies high above the Alakai Swamp Trail in Koke'e State Park, Kauai.
A Pueo or Hawaiian Short Eared Owl stands in an Ohia tree near the Alakai Swamp and Pihea Trail junction.
An Ohia Lehua flower shines in a brief moment of sunlight on the Alakai Swamp Trail.
Shades of green and a symphony of life can be seen all along the Alakai Swamp Trail.
Nearing the Kilohana Vista where an old wooden platform and (most likely) heavy clouds will welcome you.
The Way back? This way, please.
A tree fern to unfurl soon.
Relax and Unwind along the Alakai Swamp Trail.
One last look at one of the many interesting little things that you will see along this wonderful trail.
Time to head home.
All photos in this post were taken on April 28, 2020. While on this day I was unable to see Hanalei Bay from the Kilohana Vista I have seen it before-- at sunrise, during the middle of the day and just before sunset, too. If you are going solely for the view, then I would say go as early as possible. But if you are going for the overall feeling of joy, then go whenever the time is right for you. Happy hiking!