Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Chasing Waterfalls (A Hawaiian Christmas)

If there's one thing I'm learning about hiking in Hawaii, it's that the experience is more about the journey than the destination. A little like the Christmas season, I think. Because sometimes it seems that before you've even finished your morning coffee, it's over. And you're left sitting in a pile of trash, hungry, and counting how many new toys your kids have already broke. Or maybe that was just me.

But the events leading up to that moment, now those are the memories I want to hold on to. And my favorite holiday, Christmas Eve, certainly lived up to its reputation this year.

It's rainy season here, which means that it not only rains a lot, but it's also typically overcast and cool during the day. And by cool I mean mid-70s. It's lovely for us locals--a subtle shift in seasons and a chance to actually wear jeans. But probably not the best time of year to visit. And also not the best time of year for hot water (for those of us using solar panels.) So we celebrated Christmas all on our own this year. It was my first time, in 33 years, not spending the holiday in Pennsylvania. (Jon's only missed one year while he was deployed a few months before our wedding.) And while, in some ways, I was looking forward to spending the day with just our little family and doing our own thing, it still was a little sad to feel so distant from all our families. So we decided to start some new traditions, and that began with a hike on Christmas Eve day.

We let the kids open a gift early--new Hydro Flasks all around! Jon and I love ours and the cheap knock-offs we bought the boys for school didn't last the first semester. So we decided that it was worth the $100+ it cost to outfit our brood with quality water bottles. And like the good, little Hawaiians they're becoming, our kids were thrilled! Some of them actually sleep with their water bottles. Kinda like a beloved stuffed animal. (It also saves me from those bedtime delaying cup-o-water-runs.)

Our kids haven't had tons of experience with hikes and we weren't quite sure just what they could handle, so we decided to start out with Likeke Falls. There's two different ways to access this trail--one from the Pali Lookout and the other from the Presbyterian Church parking lot (which is what we did.)

Thankfully, we had a few friends do this hike recently and they warned us that the turnoff to the waterfalls is easy to miss. In case we have any friends planning to do this hike in the future, this is what you're looking for (it's on the right if you're coming from Kaneohe, on the left if you're coming from the Pali.)

The Old Pali stone road.

That white tape means turn here!

Look for this tree!
It was a fairly easy hike for the kids. I even noted to Jon that our boys must have reached that stage where it's no longer cool to hang out with mom and dad--they were up ahead of us the entire time. Julia managed it just fine and Joci was on Jon's back (which made crawling under branches a bit of a challenge for him.)

There were a few people on the trail along with us, but nothing like our visit to Manoa Falls back in October. Plus, the big group ahead of us originally missed the turnoff. So we had a good 15 minutes at the falls all by ourselves before they looped back around.

We had a fun time at the top letting the kids splash around, hang off some branches, and climb the highest point for some gorgeous views. And Jon and I were able to climb a little bit higher on the waterfall. And yes, this is the waterfall. Basically it's a 15 foot high stream. I mean, it's nice, but I've seen way more impressive falls for a lot less effort in Pennsylvania. Jon says I'm crazy and need to get out more. So I'll qualify this by reminding you all that I've only seen 3 waterfalls up close and only on the island of Oahu. On my bucket list for the next 3.5 years is to hike to a truly jaw-dropping fall. Until then, we'll just enjoy the journey. Oh, and those views!

We were pretty muddy by the time we got back. And since the hike ended up being easier and shorter than we imagined, we decided to just grab some drive-thru lunch and do another one.

And we thought this was muddy!
Jon and I have both had our eye on the Maunawili Falls Trail for a while, but the reviews were spotty. For one, I wasn't sure if my kids could manage 3 miles. And then there was the mud. Literally every review mentions the mud. One description says there are a few stream crossings. Um, not quite. At one point, you are actually hiking up a stream. Not crossing it. But honestly, by that point we were so incredibly muddy, it didn't matter anyway.

So fresh! 

This was actually a really fun hike through lots of jungly wilderness. My favorite part were the views at the top (because you actually hike up and then down again.) The mud was a little challenging. My calves are still sore from 4 days ago. And it's muscles that have never been sore before. But I guess that's because I've never hiked in mud before.

Julia struggled on this trail. She and I spent a lot of time together since the men + Joci were usually way up ahead. I mean, her stride is so much shorter than mine and she had a tough time sidestepping all the roots and mud puddles. We had some quality conversations about overcoming adversity and learning to find joy in seemingly difficult situations. You know, real life skills. We also found that Lia greatly responded to some verbal encouragement. So whenever she'd announce that her energy tank was getting low, we all started cheering her on to fill her back up again.

This waterfall was a bit more crowded, mainly because there was a group of hot shot young men jumping off the cliff after making us all wait 15 minutes for them to build up courage. But the trail itself was fairly empty and it ended up being a beautiful, mild afternoon for a hike.

Lia called this 'Punzel's Hair!

We made it to the end!

Naturally, we were all exhausted when we got home. It took a while to empty out the van, hose down all our shoes, strip the kids, and get them in the shower. We were halfway through the girls' tubby (at 4:20) when we realized that the Christmas Eve event that we thought started at 6:00 actually started at 5:00. It was 40 minutes away. Jon and I still needed showers. The kids all needed dressed up. And the cookies for the exchange still needed cut. We did it all in 25 minutes and limped in (because we had to park a mile away and walk) to the Admiral's Lighthouse just as the service was starting.

I still had mud on my leg and Jack had muds in his ears!
The Coast Guard Admiral lives at the base of Diamond Head in a house on a cliff overlooking the ocean. It was a gorgeous evening. The Chaplain did some advent readings interspersed with singing Christmas Carols while the sun went down and then we all lit candles as night fell on the lighthouse.

It was quite magical, for Jon and I. And pure torture for four kids who were not acting at all like they had just hiked all day. (Perhaps it had something to do with skipping dinner and instead grabbing a fistful of cookies for the car ride there.) We ended up forfeiting our seats and moving to the back of the grassy lawn where four children spent two hours wrestling, climbing the lighthouse, making unnecessary trips to the bathroom, and turning on their candles at all the wrong moments. Memories!

At the end of the evening, Jon took the girls up to the top of the lighthouse for one last view. They spotted a red light blinking out on the ocean and came rushing down to the rest of us yelling that we had to leave RIGHT NOW because they saw Rudolph and knew Santa was on his way! So we all hustled to the car and no one fell asleep on the way home because it was all just too exciting!

And that was Christmas Eve! By far my favorite part of the holiday. Christmas Day I woke up to the kids "trying" (and failing) to be quiet in their rooms until 6:30 (the time we said they could come out.) The day was a blur of cookies and hot chocolate (that Joci spilled, because it wouldn't be Christmas if  someone didn't spill their hot chocolate,) the Christmas Story, opening gifts, video-chatting with both our families and some of our friends, football, a quasi-fancy dinner that no one liked, and lots of clean-up.

Because you can't do Christmas without a fire!

Thankfully, everyone was worn out enough that we could trick them into an early bedtime. Time to rest up. Because now begins winter break, with four kids at home, during rainy season. And that is an adventure all on its own!

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