Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


          Following up on last week’s article about our vacation to Kauai, I thought I’d share a few more of our weeklong experiences with you.

Without question if you are going to ever visit this Hawaiian Island known as the “Garden Isle,” you must visit the Wiamea Canyon. This amazing formation on the west side of the island has become known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” The only way to get there is to drive around the southern end of the island where you pick up the Wiamea Canyon Drive which heads straight north along the western rim of the canyon. Part way up the climb you connect with Kokee Road which takes you to the end of the climb which tops out at more than 5,000 feet. There were numerous turnouts, providing spectacular vistas over the canyon. Even on a rainy overcast day such as we had for this venture, it was magnificent. The Wiamea Canyon is made up of a long gorge extending in a south-north direction. On the mid-to-upper end are five gorges which extend like fingers on a hand in a slightly southwest-to-northeast direction. Several in our party had come fully prepared to hike some of the trails, but with the wet conditions the footing was a bit treacherous. Perhaps next time!

Isaura and I launched out on our own one afternoon heading for the Kilauea Lighthouse which is situated on the northernmost point of the island. The way the Hawaiian Islands are formed, this makes the Kilauea Lighthouse the northernmost point of all the islands. I was chatting with one of the volunteer park rangers (retired Navy guy) who shared a fascinating story with me. He told me that back in the 1920s Army pilots had been miffed by all the attention Charles Lindbergh received for his historic solo flight across the Atlantic on May 20, 1927, a flight of just over 3600 miles. Army Air Corps pilots had been flying these distances, but they received no recognition for their feat because they had flown over land. Well, on June 29, 1927, five weeks after Lindbergh’s historic flight, 1st Lt. Lester J. Maitland and 1st Lt. Albert F. Hegenberger completed the first transpacific flight, from California to Hawaii, a distance of slightly more than 2400 miles. What makes this story so interesting is that these two aviators almost perished in the Pacific by very nearly overshooting the islands. As they were making their flight at night they were using star navigation. However, they realized they had miscalculated and were off their mark. Just before sunrise and dangerously low on fuel, they happened to recognize the “double flash” from the Kilauea Lighthouse. They made a ninety degree turn to the south, safely landing. My new park ranger friend then informed me that the navigator on the flight, 1st Lt. Hegenberger, later entered the ministry as an Episcopal priest. I can see why! Had they not spotted the beam of light from the lighthouse, these two pilots would have met with disaster. I’m sure these men knew God had a hand in their safe arrival.

Perhaps the best experience of all was the Smith Family Garden Luau. I know what you’re thinking – “Smith? Did he say Smith? That’s not Hawaiian!” Well, a gentleman by the name of Smith traveled from his home in England to Kauai where he met and fell in love with a Hawaiian lass. They began a luau for tourists which has continued for more than 50 years, all run by family members. This luau is the most popular on the entire island, which means you need to call in for reservations. Our party of nine showed up along with 570 other interested diners. After walking in from the parking lot and securing our tickets we boarded a tram that drove us around their beautiful floral gardens and pools. Peacocks, trained to open their magnificent tail feathers, walked around the grounds for our pleasure. We ended up at one of the roasting areas for the six or more pigs they prepare each night. Then we are invited to go to our tables. Groups larger than six have reserved tables, which was great. The buffet was awesome! I can’t begin to tell you of the many foods that were prepared for us in this all-you-can-eat spread. I made one pass and I was done! After the dinner we were led to the outdoor amphitheater where we were presented with a lengthy program about the history of the islands, the various ethnic groups that settled there, and the dances and music unique to the Hawaiian Islands. Everything is done by the very large Smith family. Make sure you take this in when you go.

On Sunday morning, the day before we were to fly home, we all drove to a nearby native church called New Hope. We had a delightful time with these brothers and sisters in Christ who invited us to stay for supper – more Hawaiian food! Love it! My daughters, Laura and Jenny, agreed that they would love to come back to Kauai if for no other reason than to visit these believers at New Hope. The pastor’s son is going to be attending a school up near Reno where he is to play baseball. His parents are going to come to visit us here in Ripon this fall when they drop him off.
        The time in Kauai with our family was special. Just before we left, our six-year-old Alyssa said to my wife, “Meema, can we make this trip to Hawaii a family tradition?” We all laughed, thinking, “Wouldn’t that be nice!”

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