November 28, 2011
Not long after a spectacular dawn broke over Moloka‘i on Monday (November 21st), we raised the anchor and left Lono Harbor. We again had a lovely downwind sail in strong breezes and 8 – 10 ft waves (3m), and in sunshine and cheerful mood we approached Diamond Head from the southeast. We initially returned to a slip with three-point-tie on the outermost dock at Ala Wai but after a week we moved to the floating cross-dock. Although lacking the view of the Ala Moana surf-break, this more-inland location in the marina had the advantage of a side-tie so that we (and Martha) could get on and off the boat more easily without having to scramble over the anchor and bow rail.
We spent Thanksgiving (Thursday) at Kathy and Dan’s house with Randall starting his preparations for the traditional turkey meal on Wednesday evening. Kathy loves to eat turkey dinners but does not enjoy cooking them. Randall loves to cook (and eat) turkeys so Kathy had done all the shopping and Randall did all the cooking, which was a day-long affair. Being so far west, it seemed a bit odd that almost all of the traditional Thanksgiving Day football on TV was over by the time we had eaten at 4 pm but it meant that Randall was able to watch snatches of it all morning between meal preparations.
Just before we ate, Dan read us a brief account of two of the original pilgrims who were said to have had the first romance among the pilgrims in the New World. The reason for telling us about this was that Dan is a direct descendent of the young woman, who must have participated in the very first Thanksgiving gathering. After stuffing ourselves with the delicious food, we had a good walk around the neighborhood and watched our first Christmas movie (Love Actually). Randall is not usually allowed to play music from his huge Christmas collection until after Thanksgiving but Kathy had no such restrictions so it was playing from the moment we arrived at the house on Wednesday afternoon.
Friday morning found us packing Dan’s truck with camping equipment and we set off for an hour’s drive northeast to the windward side of Oahu. At the north end of the large Kane‘ohe Bay, we pulled into the parking lot of the Kualoa Ranch visitors’ center where we were joined by Dan’s boss (and friend) Earl, his girlfriend Kate, and their cute dog, Giget. Tourists can tour the ranch by bus, SUV, all-terrain-bike, or horseback and the attraction is that the ranch is mostly in a narrow valley that runs perpendicular to the shore and between narrow, steep-sided, 2,000 ft high (610 m) ridges. The floor of this privately-owned valley is grazed by beef cattle but with the spectacular backdrop of the dramatic ridges, the ranch has become a popular location for filming tropical scenes. Even though the valley is close to Honolulu and fairly accessible for construction equipment on the good farm roads, viewed at the correct angles it can look like a remote and ancient world. Scattered throughout the valley are various pieces of sets leftover from film production and these are the highlights of the visitors’ tours. Various parts of the TV series “Lost” were filmed in the valley including on a small section looking like a golf-course. Among other movies, scenes were shot in the valley for “Jurassic Park”, “50 First Dates”, “Windtalkers”, the recent version of “Journey to the Center of the Earth”, and there were several huge footprints that were dug-out for “Godzilla”.
The only people allowed to camp in the valley are personal friends of the owners or, as in our case, people who are trusted to perform some useful stewardship work while there. For years Kate had been working with the ranch owners helping to manage their invasive plants and other natural resources so we had been invited to join their privileged group on their Thanksgiving camp thanks to our association with Kathy and Dan. The campsite is on the north side of the valley and while enjoying stunning views is discretely off of the main tour-route. We were discouraged from walking around the main roads when tours were occurring but this left various other trails to hike on during the day and plenty of other times to view the more popular areas.
Dan and Kathy provided us with a tent, inflatable mattress, and sleeping bags and everyone pooled food to be cooked over a camp fire. There was a composting toilet and solar shower so life was not too rugged and it was astonishing how much stuff everyone had brought in their vehicles for just a couple of nights. Along with Earl and Kate we were also joined by George and his son Nikolai, and a family of Earl’s friends, Kelvin, Thea, and 10-year old identical twins Brooke and Thalia. Everyone got along very well and we had a fun Friday evening by the campfire roasting marshmallows, telling stories, and, inevitably, drinking.
Although all tents had been raised successfully and securely, it was a windy night and between the noise in the nearby trees and the billowing or flapping for various tent parts, few people slept very soundly. However, Saturday started off with sunshine so most of us walked two miles (3 km) up to the ridge at the head of the valley. From there we had a most spectacular view back down the valley and also over into Kane‘ohe Bay. Dan and Kate stayed at the camp and started on their stewardship work which involved removing unwanted Brazilian peppertrees and umbrella trees from within a stand of Pandanas in a steep-sided gulch adjacent to the campsite. Earl and Kelvin helped with the project in the afternoon by which time quite a good area had been cleared. The Pandanas (Lauhala or thatch screw pine) is a thin, palm-like tree that produces long, grass-blade-like leaves in a spiral formation around the main stem. Hawaiians used the leaves to make mats, baskets, and “grass” skirts, and “nuts” from the pineapple-looking fruit was ground to make flour.
By late Saturday afternoon the wind had increased and a front was forecast to pass through overnight bringing stronger winds and gusts up to 49 mph (43 knots). Some rain was also possible so Thea decided that their family did not need another sleepless night and they packed-up and left. The rest of us enjoyed a walk around some of the movie sets and another campfire evening that was made a little more exciting by the wind-blown ash and sparks. Predictably it was another very noisy night but there was only very light rain and all the tents were undamaged and stayed in place.
Some of us returned to the head of the valley on Sunday morning, this time going a bit higher to where we could see the large, ancient-Hawaiian Moli‘i fish-ponds at the north end of Kane‘ohe Bay and over into the neighboring, relatively undisturbed valley to our north. This fully forested valley is conserved as Ahupua‘a ‘O Kahana State Park and gave us a good sense of what the Kualoa Valley must have been like prior to establishment of the cattle ranch.
We finally packed-up and left after another turkey-sandwich lunch. We enjoyed a much quieter night in the house and then returned to Tregoning on Monday morning. We were very glad to see that she was exactly where we had left her and all was well aboard despite being told that there had been some very strong wind gusts in the harbor. We had borrowed Kathy’s car that day and fulfilled several errands that required a carrying-capacity that exceeded what we could manage on our bikes (e.g., dropped-off our mainsail for some repairs, picked-up our inspected life-raft, bought a new toilet bowl for the forward head, and filled two of our propane tanks). By the time we had returned Kathy’s car to her office and cycled the couple of miles back to Ala Wai, we were exhausted and ready for a quiet evening to recover from our lovely Thanksgiving “vacation”.