“Pic of the Week”, February 27, 2015: Silversword, Hawaii


Among the pleasures of being atop Hawaii’s giant volcanoes — Haleakala on Maui, and Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island — are the unusual things you see.  Standing on an otherworldly landscape of reddish-brown or gray-black lava rock, the views over the clouds are often breath-taking.  You can often see the Big Island from the top of Haleakala, and Maui from Mauna Kea.

If you divert your eyes from the magnificent views to the ground, you’re likely to see this rare gray-silver spikey plant known as “Hawaiian Silversword”.  It only grows in Hawaii and then only a mile or more above sea level.  Your best chances of seeing it are on the giant volcanoes.  The climate up here is harsh — …

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“Pic of the Week”, December 20, 2013. Iao Needle, Maui, Hawaii

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Iao Valley State Park (pronounced “Yeow Valley!”) is a small park worth seeing not just for its physical beauty but its historic importance.  While the Iao Valley is really situated in the heart of the eroded West Maui Volcano, it can only be approached from Central Maui.   A several mile road winds its way up the Iao Valley from Wailuku, a lovely drive through lush rain-forest.

Iao Valley gets its name from the Iao Needle, a rock pinnacle stretching to 2250′ (just under 700 M) above sea level; it’s the subject of this week’s highlighted photo.  The adjoining small Iao Stream gently tumbles down the Valley in no way betraying that it was here in 1790 that …

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“Pic of the Week”. May 3, 2013. Rainbow over West Maui

West-Maui-2013-070-Kaanapali Shores Rainbow over West Maui

If you want to see lots of rainbows — almost too many to count — Maui is the place you should go.   The frequent showers carried in by the trade-winds usually don’t last long and give way to brilliant sunshine.  The sunlight is dispersed when it hits the water droplets in the air and, voila —  a magical rainbow!  Often Maui’s rainbows span a full hundred and eighty degrees and double rainbows are common.

I like this photo because you can see the lush green bulk of the West Maui Mountains (an eroded volcano) framed behind the rainbow, which seems to stretch to “infinity and beyond!”

(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance)

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“Pic of the Week”, bonus photo for February: Hawaii’s Nene. The rarest bird I’ve ever photographed


Some of my favorite experiences while traveling are encounters with wild animals, especially when these are unexpected.   To stumble on extremely rare birds while traveling the roads of Hawaii was a treat!

My wife and I recently finished a fun week in Maui, one day of which was a trip to the summit of the dormant volcano, Haleakala, which occupies more than half the island’s land mass.   As we were driving up the mountain, we saw two pair of nene eating grass beside the road, enjoying the mist and drizzle on the mountain.  If you look carefully on an enlargement of the photo (below), you’ll see water beading on the nene’s back.

Hawaii’s great volcanoes (Volcanoes National Park on …

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The Valley Island of Maui: 3) Central, Upcountry and South Maui

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The largest stretch of (relatively) flat land on Maui is the valley between the two volcanoes, Haleakala and the West Maui Mountains.  This area is commonly called “Central Maui” and it’s here most locals live.  “Upcountry Maui” refers to those communities that lie within a thousand meters or so of sea level on the lower slopes of Haleakala abutting Central Maui, an area that tends to be cooler and greener and that’s popular with cowboys and ranchers.  “South Maui” refers to the stretch of coast on Haleakala’s southwestern rain-shadow, just south of Central Maui.  South Maui is a very dry and popular tourist area with great beaches, upscale resorts and lots of golf.

Rainbow over sugar cane field, Central Maui

Besides its thousands of homes, Central Maui is mostly …

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The Valley Island of Maui: 2) Haleakala National Park

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Volcanoes never cease to fascinate me!  Something about their massive size and primal earth shaping power appeals to my sense of curiosity and awe.  So it’s not surprising that I find Haleakala to be Maui’s most interesting place to visit.  There are no lodges or hotels in the park making it truly a day trip destination.  It’s easily accessible and besides a massive crater and awe-inspiring views, offers the chance to see some rare species — namely the Nene (Hawaiian goose) and Silversword (silver-green cactus-like prickly plant).

Some background on Haleakala….

In Hawaiian, Haleakala means “House of the Sun” — a great name for a mountain that stretches to the heavens and dominates Maui’s landscapes!  Haleakala National Park covers much of …

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The Valley Island of Maui: 1) Introduction and West Maui


There are few destinations that evoke more traveler’s fantasies than the Hawaiian islands; of these, Maui is thought by many as THE island to visit.  I have a genuine fondness for the Big Island, one of my favorite travel destinations, but Maui certainly is in the same league.  Most definitely worthy of your time and energy.

Hawaii is among the most remote places in the world, farther from any continent than most anywhere.  As such, it always takes many hours of flying (or an incredibly long boat journey) to get there.  For us it’s a six hour trip from Portland but it’s always a worthwhile trip.  As our plane approaches Kahului Airport from the south — as do …

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