The Best Part of This Season

Me in the forest-my happy place

I’m probably not the only person who can’t wait to get their Christmas tree up and decorated. For me it’s not just the tree with lights, sparkly bulbs, and tinsel, it’s the whole process of finding the right tree.

Earlier this week I went with my daughter and her family to get our Christmas trees. My hubby doesn’t like to go, but will if I insist. This time he happened to be out of town, so I hopped in with my daughter and her kids and away we went!

About 2 hours from where we live is the Malheur National Forest. There was 6 inches of snow at the Idlewild campground. The kids were ecstatic! These Alaskan grown kids love their snow! They hopped out of the van and started suiting up in snow pants, boots, coats, and gloves. Then they tied sleds to the back of the pickup.

We headed off on a forest service road toward King Mountain pulling two sleds and three kids. The first part of the road had mostly pines. We were looking for fir trees. At the same Y in the road as we’d stopped the year before, we pulled over and the kids started playing in the snow, building forts and snowmen, while the grownups and the littlest child headed out through the trees looking for the prefect Christmas trees.

Hiking through the forest looking for Christmas trees.

I found my tree first. Or at least I thought it was the tree I wanted. We cut it down, put the permit on, and hauled it back to the pickup. We checked on the kids, who were having a wonderful time and headed a different direction looking for a tree for my daughter.

We marked an X in the snow by one tree along the road and kept looking. We found a small grove of about a dozen trees. My son-in-law and I liked one but my daughter thought the one by the road was better. We hiked back to that one and she said, no, the others were better. So we hiked back to the small grove and she cut down the one we all liked that was there.

It was nice having helpers to get my tree.

When we returned to the truck, the kids were busy rolling large balls of snow and making snowmen. My daughter and son-in-law joined in helping one of the younger siblings make a big snowman. Once everyone agreed they were hungry and ready to head home, we tied down the trees, and set out the sleds so four of the kids could ride the sleds back down to where we’d parked the van.

Snowman in the works.
Enjoying my tree.

Back home, I hauled my tree into the house and realized it was going to take up too much room. After toppling it once, drilling holes and putting in limbs where there were bare spots, I decided to cut the bottom 3 feet off the tree to make it fit where I wanted in the first place. The limbs I cut off went to my daughter to make wreaths and boughs for decorating her house.

With my tree chopped down to a size I could decorate by myself, I enjoyed putting on the lights, ornaments, and tinsel. It isn’t a perfect tree, but it makes me smile when I look at it.

I hope you all have a special event you do each year that makes you happy!

Finally Found Paradise

Chickens were everywhere

Saturday morning, we planned to drive up to the end of the road past Hanalei and walk the hiking trail to a water fall. We discovered you had to have a parking permit, which were already spoken for three weeks out or take a bus.

We went to Hanalei and had a snack and coffee and tea again in the Wake Up Cafe. We asked the waitress/owner about the parking permits and discovered if you didn’t have one, there was no way to park. So we looked up the shuttle and discovered that we couldn’t get it just a couple blocks from where we were staying but we could get on it at Waipa just a short distance out of Hanalei. We booked it for the next day.

Flowers being sold at the market

After that we took in a Saturday market, checked out the shops in Hanalei and went back to our condo and hung out waiting for the next day.

Sunday, we rose early, packed drinks, lunch, towels in the backpack and headed to Hanalei for breakfast at the Wake Up cafe. I had the Over The Falls French toast without the coconut and whipped cream. It was very good and kept me full for the hike.

We drove to the shuttle stop an hour early but were lucky they let us on then. The ride in the shuttle to the end of the road, was nice. Hawaiian music was playing and the large windows made it easy to see everything outside.

Rocky trail

At the park, we were told the last bus left at 5 pm, to be sure and be back before that time. We walked through the park and found the trailhead. It said 2 miles to the beach and 4 miles to the falls.

We started out planning to go to the falls. Weeellll, let me tell you. The first half mile was all up hill on an uneven rocky path, then we went down and had switch backs were some of the steps were almost too tall for me to pull my heavy bottom up.

But the views! This was the Hawaii I had dreamed of seeing! Bright green plants, beautiful blue ocean, colorful flowers! It was gorgeous everywhere I looked. And I stopped often to look and snap a photo!

We crossed several places were water was running down a small ravine. They were like mini waterfalls. I used one to wash the sand off my feet on the way back.

fish in the fresh water

At the bottom near the beach and before the trail went up to the waterfalls or down to the beach, we crossed a river. It was just the right temperature to cool us down after our two mile trek. We kept our shoes on to cross. The water at the deepest was up to my knees. After staring at the sign for the falls and seeing the trail went up and up, we decided that 2 miles in and back out was all we could handle.

We went to the beach and enjoyed seeing fish in the fresh water coming from the river, a small cave, which I sat in for a photo, then the crashing of the waves and watching sail boats go by. We hung out on the beach for a couple of hours taking photos, enjoying the view, and picnicking.

Pretending to be a mermaid

The hike back was harder as there was more downhill than uphill. The views were stunning and I stopped a lot to take them in and remember this was my paradise!

Researching the Next Book

Painting that caught my eye at the art show.

I had two reasons I wanted to go to Hawaii- I had always wanted to see a tropical island and I wanted to set a book there. After working on my husband for 40 years, he finally gave in. Our daughters who had visited several of the Hawaiian islands suggested they thought their dad would like Kauai the best. When he said yes to going, I quickly booked a place to stay and got plane tickets before he changed his mind!

Last week I showed you the first couple of days in Kauai. This week I have photos from the next two days.

On Thursday we drove the Waimea Canyon Road. The canyon was pretty. It was deep, had lots of deep gorges and narrow peaks. The colors ranged from orange and pinks in the soil and rocks to the vivid greens we’re expecting to see in the foliage.

Waimea Canyon

From the Canyon Viewpoint we continued north and stopped at all the viewpoints along the way. One had a trail to the top of the waterfall we’d viewed at the Canyon viewpoint. Hubby and I started out on the trail, thinking we’d see more than the trees, brush, and vines as we slipped and slid down the muddy trail. After about a mile, we turned around and went back. It was hot, humid, no air in among the vegetation, and we couldn’t see anything.

Back at the car, we continued up the Koke’e Road to the next lookout. The Kalalau lookout overlooked the Kalalau valley and the ocean. It was really pretty.

A short distance from there was another lookout, the Pi’u o Kila. From here we took the Pihea Trail and walked a good mile and a half up it and stopped to have a picnic lunch. This trail had a rocky down hill climb to start, then it even out along the rim of the canyon but was a bit on the slippery side, but not near as bad as the trail that we’d hiked earlier in the day. There were wonderful views of the Kalalau Valley and the Waimea Canyon on the other side.

At the car we headed back the way we’d driven that morning because we had come to the end of the road. We had dinner as a small restaurant and went back to out place to soak in the hot tub and visit with some of the other vacationers at our condo.

Friday I was excited to attend a luau that night. To make sure we weren’t late for the luau we only had plans for me to check out an art show happening in Lihue.

Mindanao Gum tree

The morning started out with us walking around the area where we were staying. I took photos of the flowers and the Mindanao Gum tree which has gorgeous colored striped bark. The art show didn’t open until noon which gave us time to slowly make our way to Lihue, have lunch at the mall where the show was being held.

I’m so glad I had discovered the art show! I talked with the young woman manning the show and explained why I was there and discovered that the show is held every year and it’s a juried show with a judge. The judge this year came from California! I discovered that I can have Shandra be the judge for one of their shows, by having her be friends with one of the board members. Spending time looking at the art, I wrote down the names of the artists I admired so I can look them up online and get a feel for the type of artists who enter the show. As I walked around studying the different mediums, ideas slowly swirled in my head. While I’m still uncertain how the character will be killed and why, I know how Shandra will be in Kauai, how she becomes involved in the murder, and where I want the murder to take place.

painted gourds by Sally Tomiko

It had started raining in the afternoon. we were almost and hour early for the luau and the man at the gates suggested we go see a waterfall that was about 15 minutes away. We drove there and sat in the car for fifteen minutes waiting for the rain to let up so we could get out and look at the waterfall without being soaked.

Sitting in car waiting for rain to slow
Opaeka’a Falls

We noticed a man standing inside the open door of the men’s restroom when we drove up to the waterfall lookout. He was weaving a basket with palm leaves. Hubby and I discussed he was probably making the basket to sell. We waited until it looked like he was about finished and Hubby walked over and asked him about the basket. He was making it to sell and was asking $10 for it. I had told Hubby I’d to as high as $20 so we were both excited when he got into the car with my $20 basket.

the basket

We went back to the area for the Luau, still raining, and waited with the others at the entrance under a small entry to the gardens. We learned what I had thought would be a more intimate affair and I had made reservations for months ago had 500 people attending! It was a fun night with buffet style serving, dinner entertainment of Hawaiian songs and hula lessons and then a beautiful show afterwards. The show at the end depicted dances from all the cultures who inhabited the islands- Philippines, Tahitian, Japanese, New Zealand, Samoa. While it wasn’t as intimate as I’d thought it would be, it was definitely worth the money.

Next week I’ll tell you about finally finding the paradise I’d been looking for.