Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam
Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam

Friday, November 26, 2004

After All, It's a Swamp

Sunset at Polihale

OK, pretend you're in Hawaii, it's 82 degrees outside, the sky is blue, the ocean feels like a bathtub, the pool is beckoning. What would you do?

Kyra's brother Gannon's 11th birthday 11-22-04

Would you say, let's drive for an hour, part of it on a road with potholes large enough to accomodate a Volkswagen, and take four kids on a hike? A 9-mile hike through the world's highest altitude swamp? A swamp hike in a torrential downpour? A swamp hike that involves carefully navigating down steep vertical slopes in slippery 6-inch deep mud?

Kyra's brother Ian's 8th birthday 11-22-04

Or would you go for a swim in the ocean and drink mai-tais?

Steven holding one of the macaws at the Hyatt

We opted for the swamp hike, Doug, his sister Deb (Kyra's mom), Steven, Sean, and her two kids Gannon and Ian. The Alakai Swamp on Kauai is so wet because it's next to Mount Wai'ale'ale, the wettest place on earth with over 450 inches of rain per year.

It rained so hard I didn't take photos, I brought the camera along apparently so I could spend all my time trying to keep it dry, so the photos here are of happier times.

It didn't rain the whole day, as a matter of fact when we started out it was beautiful, we hiked along the ridge of the Na Pali coast with breathtaking views of the ocan and the Na Pali cliffs. We had to finish our hike in no more than 5 hours in order to get back in time for dinner, so we postponed photos until the return trip. Little did we know...

The trail started out along the ridge, then dipped steeply into the swamp, which is shaded and beautiful. Much of the trip is on boardwalk through the swamp, by the end of the trip we were praying for boardwalk.

The rain started shortly after that, just a refreshing little rain at first, but working its way into a torrential rainstorm. We had no rain parkas, and were as wet as if we'd stepped into a shower with our clothes on, the backpacks soaked through. The viewpoint was covered in clouds so there was nothing to see but fog.

We ate lunch and returned along the board walk, still in torrential rains. The rain finally abated, but those steep muddy slopes we had laboriously ascended and descended were unbelievably now far worse than on our initial journey. One slip off a slippery rock or tree root would result in a foot sunk midcalf in mud. The good part was that the mud didn't make us wet, the rain had already taken care of that.

The real panic was in trying to finish the hike in time to make our dinner reservation. Not taking a shower before dinner was simply not an option, so we slogged along. I won the award for falling in the mud by falling eight times. My legs were literally coated in mud all the way from the tops of my socks to the bottom of my shorts, I kept hoping it would rain again so I could rinse off.

Steven did wonderfully. We haven't attempted anything like this with Steven since his diagnosis, but he did great, it was his middle-aged mama and her bad knees that had the most trouble.

Doug, Deb and their mom Carol and dad Roger at dinner

But we made it. We got back (barely) in time for a wonderful traditional Thanksgiving dinner at Gaylord's at Kilohana Plantation, turkey and all the trimmings, pumpkin soup for starters and pumpkin crisp for dessert. In proper Thanksgiving tradition, there was so much food that even the 9-mile hikers couldn't finish their meals.

Ian, Sean, Gannon, and Steven relaxing on the couch in the restaurant after dinner

As for the hike, we had a good time despite all the mud. Would we do it again, well, maybe not in the winter. Doug, the kids and I did most of it in July 2003 but had started too late in the day to make it to the lookout, so we wanted to attempt it again. The main difference was that the ground was a whole lot drier in July than in late November, it rains more in the winter, you'd think we would have thought of that, we all went to college.

And, after all, they don't call it a swamp for nothing.

- Kathleen


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like you guys are having fun!!!! Enjoy the Hawaiin Rain ! lol

Love the pic with steven and macaw :)

November 27, 2004 12:35 PM  

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