What I packed – Photographer – Alaska – 2019

Check out my Amazon page for gear that I personally use and products similar to those I pack on my travels (many of which are listed below).

I used the PRVKE bag by WANDRD as my personal camera bag. My trusty Yellow North Face Basecamp Duffel was my main luggage.

My philosophy when travelling is purchase only as much as you can carry back. This trip in particular was geared towards hiking and being outdoors in colder weather.

Marked in bold are things I didn’t end up using.

Wearing on Plane

-Lululemon tights

-Tank top w/ built in sports bra

-Hoodie

-Sneakers

-Socks

-Hat – Didn’t really use

 

PRVKE – Carry-On

-Nikon D750

-28mm lense

-150-500mm lense – Came in handy when shooting nature and animals from a distance – not recommended to carry for hiking

-3 Nikon Batteries + charger

-Mogics – Power Bar

-Powerbank – didn’t use

-Samsung T5 SSD External + cable

-Card Reader + cable

-Macbook Air + charger

-Astrolapin

-Memory Cards

-Eye drops – Rohto 40

-Gloves – I brought them but forgot them for the glacier hike -_-

-Glasses + case

-Foldable Waterbottle

-Nuun – Electrolyte tablets

-Aux cord / Charging usb port / phone holder – for rental car

 

North Face Duffel – Main luggage

-Toothpaste tablets – BITE

-Toothbrush

-Contacts

-Contact Solution

-Shampoo & Conditioner

-Body Wash

-Lotion

-Tweezers

-Nail Clippers

-Razor

-Bug Spray – DEET! COMES IN HANDY!

-Sunscreen

-7 pairs of Underwear

-4 socks + 3 long socks

-3 Sports bra

-1 Bra

-4 Tanktops

-3 Shirts (2 long sleeve)

-3 Pants (2 tights)

-PJ’s

-1 pair Shorts

-Packable Rainjacket

-Packable Backpack – for hikes

-Swimsuit – Didnt use

-Hiking Boots

-Sandals

Healy – Talkeetna – Anchorage, Alaska, USA – Day 5-6 – 2019

06/17/19

Since we had a sick traveller, we took it a little easier this morning. Also, Raptors had won the championship and back in Toronto, they were hosting the huge parade so we all tuned in for that.

We took our time and slowly made our way back to Healy. We stopped by Roadhouse in downtown Talkeetna for breakfast – no tipping required as the fee is included in the fee. I got the biscuit and gravy. We shared a nutty cinnamon bun. Great assortment of baked goods and each meal comes with 2 drinks.

We walked around the general area and ended up going to the Talkeetna Historical Society – $5 to go through the museum that is located in an old schoolhouse. We stayed around to listen to one of the guys who have climbed Mount Denali. The talk went on for about 40 minutes and then we decided it was time to leave and begin our long trek back in the direction of the previous day.

We drove an hour and half north to check out Hurricane Gulch viewpoint. Then onto Denali North Viewpoint – You can definitely skip this lookout point as Denali Viewpoint South is much worthwhile. The rain was on and off during our drive. I feel like this drive in particular was too arduous especially for the views. We spent a lot of time in a car and pretty much just backtracked. We already made the decision not to do big hiking back at Denali especially with one of our people feeling under the weather.

Drove back down to Talkeetna and was trying to get to XY Lake (pass flying squirrel and turn right). We missed it the first time around and ended up at Christensen lake. We dropped off Merle and Kenny back at the cabin as both were now feeling under the weather. We ventured back and found the right entrance to XY Lakes. Once you turn onto the street, the entrance will be on the immediate right side and you follow down the path. The longest of hikes is 5.2 miles around XY lakes.

Once we finished the hike, we went back for Merle & Kenny and went back to downtown Talkeetna for dinner at Denali Brewpub. I got the Belgian beer then split fish and chips with sweet potato wedges as well as a sirloin pretzel dip sandwich with Ryan. The Fish & Chips was better than the sirloin pretzel dip sandwich.

After dinner, we walked over to Fairview Inn which was literally in eye sight distance. They had karaoke that night and Kushaan sang Backstreet Boys. We also were able to play some shuffle board and ping pong before calling it a night.

06/18-19/19

Since we stayed up late the previous night, we had a late start on our final day. The group went for coffee and tea and spoke with Todd who gave us recommendations for our route back to Anchorage. We took the Hatcher’s Pass route that would take us through the mountains before bringing us back to to the highway that would eventually bring us back to Anchorage. This detoured route took us off-road and it was quite nice to see that hidden route. It did get quite intense though as we started to get higher in elevation and Ryan was driving us into the clouds. It was a literal sheet of white that surrounded us and it didn’t help that the roads were narrow and hard to see metres in front as we ascended. We did see a few people on motorbikes pass up coming from above. We made it to the top of Summit Lake which was 3500+ft above sea level. It would’ve been a beautiful view if the clouds and mist had lifted but the eeriness of the fog made the experience pretty cool on its own.

At this point of the trip, 3 of 5 were sick. We all have been in tight quarters of the car for the week and that cough just started to spread.

Since the detour was a lot slower than we thought, we stopped in Palmer to get the infamous Taco Bell we had been talking about before hitting the road again. Since the weather was much colder than Denali and we had sick people, we continued past Reflection Lake, Mirror Lake and Thunderbird Trail which are apparently great little trails and stops right off the highway.

When we reached Anchorage, we decided to spend the day indoors at the Anchorage Museum. It was such a beautiful Museum with great exhibits. We pitched in $5 extra for the special exhibit – Frozen in Time (Not worth it). The collection of art and the dedication to spotlight Alaskan history was very informative especially coming into Alaska not really knowing anything. Alaska is actually quite the melting pot. Besides the Native Americans that lived there before, there were people from Sudan, Russia, Philippines, Japan, and so on and so forth.

We would have loved to stay longer however we needed to get Ryan to the airport by 630PM and we still had one more place to go before we dropped him off. We went to Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria which apparently has been known to be the #1 pizza in America and we had to try it out. The place is pretty cool. You can sit down and eat, order out and there is also a beer garden area where you can sit in a courtyard and drink and if you do takeout, you can eat there as well. We (Ryan, Kenny, Kushaan and myself) shared the Forager – Mushroom & spinach white pizza – not bad but also not the best pizza I’ve eaten.

Kenny ended off our final meal with a gratitude and appreciation circle where everyone went around our group and you had to name at least one thing you appreciate and/or a funny moment that each person brought to the group. It was a great way to end the trip and made us feel closer especially for strangers coming together in a timespan of 6-7 days from different walks of life to experience Alaska together.

After we dropped off Ryan, the rest of us besides Kenny had a few hours to spare before we also had to get dropped off at the hostel. Once again, the light messed with our sense of time as it was already 7-8PM and we were trying to kill time but majority of establishments were already closed. We went to the park by the Airport where we saw what sort of looked like what I’d imagine a sunset would look like at this time of year. We still had time to kill and found a place called Boba Tree and got a little taste of boba before getting dropped off. I got the Banana & avocado smoothie – $5USD.

The route home such as the route getting to Alaska took us from Anchorage to Seattle to Vancouver before reaching Toronto. It just so happened when we landed in Seattle, I messaged my friend Jenn (who is also a mutual friend with Kenny) just so happen to be flying out that same morning. I caught her for a split second before she had to board her plane enroute to Montreal.

Anchorage – Fairbanks – Denali National Park – Talkeetna, Alaska, USA – Day 3-4 – 2019

06/15/19

A transit day consisting of a 6-hour drive north from Anchorage to Fairbanks. We started off the morning going at Black Cup Coffee before heading to the Anchorage Saturday Market. Kenny had told us he was chatting with a girl named Michelle who just so happens to have landed in Alaska the night before and was also just travelling through the states (making Alaska her 50th state as well) documenting her own project called American Happiness. She met us at the Market and did a little interview with Kenny and we ate with her before dropping her off for her sea bus tour of Denali.

We then hopped back onto the road and started our trek to Fairbanks, which is 6 hours from Anchorage. We stopped along the way and took in the sights from Denali Viewpoint South. When you come to this lookout point, there is a tree in the middle. Look at where that tree is and look directly past it and there you will locate the top of Denali Mountain.

The weather got much warmer further inland we went. It was a long and gruelling drive but we made it in with a little rain. There definitely are more stops to make along the way. Around Denali National Park entrance is where we saw the most touristy of areas.

Originally, my plan was to reach Fairbanks around 2PM so we had ample time to explore and relax but I am glad we were able to check out the Anchorage Saturday Market and make a new friend. I wanted to check out the Chena Hot Springs but by the time we hit the road, we wouldn’t have made it in time. We mapped out the route to the hot springs from our Airbnb location in Fairbanks and that would require another hour drive – not worth it.

We made it to our Airbnb in Fairbanks where we met Kushaan. Kushaan was our final traveller who greeted us at the door but it got sticky and we got locked out. Luckily, the host was upstairs and opened the door for us. The day before, we had challenged Kushaan to greet us with a dance challenge or he couldn’t get in the car. He stepped up. Once we all got settled, we decided to leave the car behind and walk to dinner.

We went to Brewster’s for dinner. Steak bits, Popcorn Shrimp & Hoodoo German beer made up my meal for the evening – $35USD after tip.

We walked home to our delight feeling as if it was 630PM and getting that little bit of golden light but really, it was 1130PM.

06/16/19

With such a short period of time in Fairbanks, we drove a few streets to get the lay of the land and stopped by the infamous Antler Arch. Stopped by Alaska Roasting Coffee Co – Reindeer pockets for breakfast and off we went. A 2-hour drive south from Fairbanks to Healy where Denali National Park is located.

When we arrived at Denali National Park – Visitor Centre – You show your annual park pass (if you have one OR you pay your admission) and get your ticket to place into your car. Unlike other parks, the season pass covers 1 car but if not in the car, it covers the holder plus 4 people. It costs $15USD/pp if not.

We watched the video and then got ready to go on our first hike. We were told by the ranger to leave our car parked by the visitor centre as parking is atrocious everywhere else along the way (although there was parking and for a matter of fact empty spots). We hopped on the free shuttle bus that goes through the park and drops you off and comes around every hour on the hour. From the visitor centre, the bus leaves every :40. The bus was super slow but if you want to get further than the 18-mile marker, you require the bus.

We took the Savage River bus to the very end of the loop where personal vehicles are allowed – #18 and hopped off to do our first hike of the day – Savage River trail loop. The Loop was very easy and about an hour roundabout. We spotted a few caribou’s just hanging around by the bridge.

Once we finished that hike, we hopped back on the bus and got off at the Sled Dog Kennel. I thought we had more of a chance to play with the dogs but they are all on leashes near their dog houses. There is a sign that shows the behaviour of the dogs and yes you can pet them. There are a few dogs in the fenced off area who are off limits to play with.

We left before the demonstration and made it back to the visitor centre area to add more clothing layers before we headed to our final hike of the day – Mt Healy Overview Trail – one of the steepest hikes in the park. I brought a rainjacket and wore it for approximately 10 minutes before it got too hot. The trail itself is a steady incline – at the beginning not a huge incline but it’s a constant one.

There definitely are points where it is a consistent incline and then there are stairs. Once you’ve hit the stairs area, you are almost at the top. There are temperature air pockets along the way making it really hot then much cooler. Stop when you need to and take a moment to take in the views but don’t wait too long as the bugs start to bite.

Personally, I thought this trail was a little harder than Kenai Fjords – Harding Exit Glacier Trail. We got up pretty quick and even quicker going down. There are other points of Mt Healy that are higher but we chose a medium difficult hike route. The view is stunning from above. The best thing about hiking in Alaska in summer is that you don’t ever need to worry about it getting dark.

A 2-hour drive South to Talkeetna was to come right after the arduous hike and with so much light out, we didn’t realize that we would arrive to Talkeetna around 10PM and there weren’t many places we could find food for dinner. We had looked up all the restaurants and they all closed by 10PM but we did just barely make it in time for Subway. We arrived at 10PM but it still felt like it was 7PM with sunlight. The temperature did dip to the cooler side.

We stayed at an Airbnb Cabin – Talkeetna Wilderness Lodge. Cute little property with our cabin having a full kitchen and bathroom but also a communal fire pit.

Unfortunately from all this up and down weather especially from Kenai Fjords, Kenny ended up catching a fever and his bronchitis, asthma and whatnot was all becoming more intense.

Anchorage – Seward, Alaska, USA – Day 1-2 – 2019

06/13/19

To start off this trip, we had to fly to Toronto to Vancouver, then Vancouver to Seattle before we made our way to Anchorage. I guess there are more direct flights out of Seattle to Anchorage, Alaska. We arrived around 1030PM where Kenny and Ryan were waiting for us. We walked out to arrivals and found a SUV that had the We the North flag hanging from it (Raptors won the Championship in Game 7!).

We went to the hostel – Arctic Adventure Hostel – to drop off our things and headed to Walmart (open 24hr) to stock up on sustenance for the next few days before finding a late night place to eat and have a drink. We ended up at 49th State Brewing Co. 49th State Brewing sits on a corner of a sloped street that also has 2 levels of outdoor patio with heaters and a beautiful uninterrupted view of the waters. We got a table with a live fire going to keep us warm but also in visible sight of the beautiful sun “setting”. Since Kenny and Ryan had arrived earlier, Merle and myself ate while we all drank some local beer and cheers to arriving to Alaska, the start of our adventure and Kenny reaching his 50th state.

I ordered the Baked Alaska Ale and the Elk Crossing 10” pizza (Elk Meatballs) – roughly $24USD (after tax & tip). We left the bar around 130AM and the sun was pleasantly still up as we drove home. Surprisingly, many people were still out and about. Summer is similar to Iceland where the sun rises at 430AM and “sets” (really just sits on the horizon) at 1130PM.

06/14/19

Since we were all coming from different parts of North America, we decided to sleep in a bit and start our day later. I routinely keep waking up for 7/8AM Toronto time so even though we went to bed around 230AM Alaskan time, I still awoke at 4AM. We ended up leaving around 930-10AM. First stop, Kaladi Brothers – We got reindeer breakfast burritos and they got cold brew coffee. According to many blogs I read, the highway going to Seward is the #1 scenic highway in USA. It definitely had some beautiful spots but I wouldn’t quite say it was the best I’ve seen in my travels. It was a pleasant drive nonetheless.

One of Kenny’s friends mentioned detouring to a small town called Whittier. Whittier has the longest combined vehicle-railroad tunnel in North America. This tunnel lets to a small inlet town of Prince William Sound. This tunnel is a one-way tunnel that is shared by both cars and trains. It costs $13USD to go through and there are scheduled release times to allow traffic to go through smoothly. There are also restrooms available as you wait for your number to get the go ahead to go through.

One the other side in is Prince William Sound, a small inlet. There are a few waterfalls and also a bunker that use to hold many things. It was an interesting experience but if you have little time, I would suggest skipping it.

After this detour, we finally made it back on the road and enroute to Seward – Kenai Fjords National Park to do the Harding Icefield Trail. Parking is free and the visitor centre was open and restrooms available. The map shows you the trails you can take and also helpful tips if you were to interact with wildlife such as bears or moose. BUG SPRAY IS KEY!

We started our hike of the Harding Icefield Trail at the Exit Glacier. If you want to complete the entire trail to the top, it will be roughly a 6-8 hour hike. We arrived around 3-330PM and decided to hike to Marmot Meadows viewpoint. Reading all the comments of this hike, it was highly recommended to get hiking poles. The 3 of them had hiking poles but I decided to opt out of them. There are parts where it gets a little steep but for the most part, I was ok without them. I have to note as well that I guess I am slightly more athletic than the average person so if in doubt, get poles if you worry. Marmot Meadows viewpoint was a stunner. You get a good look at the glacier and the valley. The next point after Marmot Meadows, we attempted to goto since it would only be about an hour and we had made good time however, it got to the point where the trail was just covered in snow and me without poles, wasn’t the safest of options. Ryan and Kenny continued up while Merle and myself wait at Marmot Meadows for them. The hike down was rather quick (at least for me). I do recommend trying to go further if you can, the view just 10 minutes past Marmot Meadows I think has a better view than what you see at the Marmot Meadows lookout.

By the time we made it to the bottom, we did the smaller viewpoint loop to the bottom of the glacier.

We left the park and decided to look for dinner in town before driving back to Anchorage. We found a cool little place called Thorn’s Showcase Lounge. We all ordered a cup of seafood or clam chowder and shared some halibut butts (bites) and 2lb steamer clams in garlic butter. Delicious!

The good thing about this time of year is that the sun was still up and bright as we drove back and by the time we arrive back around 1230AM, they sun was right on the horizon and calming.

Itinerary – Alaska – 2019

#weuphereinthenorth #buttsonly

 

Back in November 2018, I applied for this travel experiment called Yuujou. It was an open call to people from all over the world. I made top 10 out of 30 000 applicants however top 5 were chosen to go on this 100 day adventure. Yuujou is a travel experiment that would push the limits of 6 travellers by making real life connections. Starting out in Berlin, the 6 travellers (split into 2 groups of 3) have 100 days to get to Tokyo but only travelling through friends of friends.

The best thing about going through this whole Yuujou process were the friendships I made. Yes, the connections for the most part are digital but they have expanded into the real world. On my last trip to Turkey, I was able to meet a new friend Jide in Istanbul who is apart of the Yuujou community.

This Alaska trip was an idea that was sparked between myself and 2 other Yuujou friends. Kenny from Wisconsin and Kat from Rhode Island who became my friends early on in the application process and we had supported each other to the very end. Since none of us got chosen for the Yuujou adventure, we all had other plans for the rest of the year. Kenny decided to start his own documentary journey. Kenny embarked on a 5-month road trip through a big portion of the United States. During our exchanges of updates on life, he told us that Alaska would be his 50th state to visit and both Kat and myself jumped at the idea that we join him and do our own Yuujou adventure. This idea became a reality but unfortunately, Kat was unable to join us. We opened up this trip to our network of friends and for this 6-day adventure. We tried very hard to accommodate everyone’s schedules but in the end, had a pretty good mix of 5 people coming together to explore Alaska.

Kenny’s friends Kushaan from San Francisco, Ryan from Toronto and my friend and old Varsity Badminton teammate Merle from Toronto (who I had only seen once or twice in 12 years prior to this trip).

Many people who go to Alaska tend to do Alaskan cruises but we opted to inland. Our original itinerary consisted of meeting in Anchorage (4 of us) and driving south to Seward to hike at Kenai Fjords, then driving North to Fairbanks and spending 2 days exploring and hiking Denali National Park. Obviously plans change so this itinerary reflects the original plans. If I could change the itinerary after going on this trip, I would have taken out visiting Fairbanks and spent more time exploring Seward and that area. We spent way too much time in the car for my liking.

Alaska is the place where retirees go to experience the outdoors outside (aurora borealis, fishing, nature, hiking, glaciers) unlike Florida where people go to retire on a beach.

 

Weather

-Note that for the month of June in Alaska, the sunrises at 430AM and sets at 1130PM which means tons of light but unfortunately no sights of the Aurora Borealis.

-With the extended hours of light, you don’t have to worry about hiking in the dark however, keep note of the timing especially if you have a lot of driving to do or looking for dinner options as many places close at 10PM or earlier on weekends.

-The temperature for the most part was a low of 8-11C with a high of 18-26C.

-When it says it will rain, we found that it would be sporadic and not last too long. Wait 15 minutes and the weather changes. I brought my rain jacket and wore it for a total of 10 minutes before I got too hot while hiking.

-The weather gets more warm the further inland you go.

-Tons of Mosquitoes – DEET UP!

 

Coffee

There are tons of drive-through container coffee/espresso stalls all over Alaska – in town and also on the side of the highways.

Alaska is quite the melting pot of cultures that spans decades. Russian, Japanese, African, Chinese,Filipino etc.

 

Hiking

– Hiking poles can come in handy – you can buy at Walmart for $20 or check out Goodwill/Salvation Army. They are not accepted as carry-on items.

– Bear Spray – If you are hiking, it is recommended to carry bear spray – $30USD – can be bought at Walmart but also know it cannot be returned. Make sure to cut off the yellow tie on it. We originally decided against it but another customer in the store suggested it. If you don’t use it and it can’t be returned, you can donate it to your hostel or to Park Rangers.

-Another technique we saw was that people would wear bells to make a discreet noise while they hiked.

*Remember – Black bears – try to be loud and talk them down and run.

Brown bears – play dead

 

Food

-Reindeer is very popular meat being served.

 

Now onto the itinerary!

This is the itinerary I had going into the trip. As trips go, they never go as planned.

Overview – Hawaii – 2018

Overview of Hawaii

Debating on which islands you want to venture. These are my opinions of each of the islands I have visit thus far.

Maui

Maui is the chill spot to be if you want a more relaxed city break. There are some great beaches where spotting turtles is a reality. The Road to Hana can be rough but once you get the hang of driving it, it’s not that bad. I highly recommend what we did and drive through the entire thing to the end and doing the Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku falls before doing the reverse visiting of mile markers on the Road to Hana. Gypsy Guide definitely came in handy and brought us to spots we didn’t even know about. Plus, it taught of the history of how Hawaii came to be what it is. The hike in Haleakala was absolutely amazing. Going up to the elevation of 10,000 feet and watching the sunset was absolutely incredible. The traffic is light here but especially on the Road to Hana, if you don’t feel comfortable, pull aside and let the locals pass you (single lanes). Small town feel in many of the areas. Paia is real cute. We stayed in Kihei which is where many of the resort/accomodations are located but its also located near some great beaches.

Oahu

Oahu is like the island version of Los Angeles. There is tons of traffic and the city grid isn’t that well laid out. It is for sure the most touristy of islands. Expect to be stuck in traffic. My favourite spot on this island is definitely North Shore and Haleiwa area. From my previous visit, I found that Oahu seemed too slow paced but after going to Maui and Kauai, Oahu seems to be the balance between the 3 and a nice place to come to.

Kauai

Kauai is the wettest of the 3 islands we went to. In the centre of Kauai, it holds the Weeping Walls – 2nd wettest place in the world receding over 400inches of rain fall. It is more humid and the rain comes in an out more often than the other islands. Small time vibes but unlike Maui, single lane to maybe 2 land roads but the traffic can pick up. Each area of the island has very unique burroughes. We stayed in Kapa’a. Going north shore, it’s a littler more of the posh area with Princeville and Hanalei Bay. Going south, you hit up Koloa and Poipu and west side – Waimea.

Kauai, Hawaii – Los Angeles, California, USA – 2018 – Day 13

07/11/18

The sighs started coming in the night before from Lulu and Renee who were already sad that the trip was coming to an end. The final morning we woke up and took our last walk on the beach. We went back to our Airbnb to shower and final pack before making our way to downtown Kapa’a for breakfast.

We ate at Hemingway Art Cafe – french inspired cuisine. It’s hard to miss being a blue building. It’s a quaint little spot. I ordered The sun also rises. We walked the strip a bit to check out the surf shops for stickers decals to decorate their bottles with. Back in the car, we went to check out the plaza that was around our airbnb before we went to our last stop – Walmart.

Once again, Walmart has all the goodies one would want in terms of souvenirs for Hawaii – macadamia nuts, chocolate, candy, snacks, souvenirs etc. We picked up our last bit of souvenirs and on the way out, we spotted a sign that said ukulele sale – Scotty’s. Lulu was able to pick up a ukulele that was half made in China and half made in Hawaii.

We had a stopover in Los Angeles overnight from 1-8AM. We were thinking of taking an Uber around but with the price of $130USD for a single ride, we thought hey, maybe it’s cheaper to rent a car – which it was. Luckily at LAX, Enterprise is 24 hours however, you do need reservations. We did not have reservations but Renee turned on her data and we were able to book one and off we went in a car for the next few hours.

Our goal was to find some late night Korean BBQ but by the time we got the car rental and drove to the downtown area, it was nearing 2AM and the KBBQ places were closing. We ate at Sun Nong Dan and ordered the huge beef brisket soup dish – $35USD. Free wifi – yay.

It was around 3-330AM by the time we arrived at LACMA to see the Urban Lights. There wasn’t many people around (2-3 + 1-2 security guards). We pretty much had the Urban lights all to ourselves really. Lulu pulled out her ukulele and had a jam session for a bit. We hopped back in the car and went to California Donuts, which is also 24 hours, and I picked up a matcha old fashion and a blueberry old fashion with a Thai iced tea.

We didn’t quite know what to do at 4AM in LA, so we continued to drive around areas that would rather be busy during the day such as Hollywood Blvd and Rodeo Drive. We drove through Beverly Hills area as well but at one point, we just pulled over and tried to sleep a bit in the car – didn’t last long. Slowly drove back to the car rental place as the sun started to rise over LA. Back onto a plane for another 4.5 hours back home to Toronto.

Kauai, Hawaii, USA – 2018 – Day 11-12

07/09/18

To start our day right, we stopped by Ha Coffee Bar for breakfast. I got the Hacienda Acai bowl and picked up locally roasted coffee beans.

After breakfast, we drove to the west shore to take in the wonders of Waimea Canyon State Park. We made it to all the lookout points and past many trails that would be ideal if we had more time. We also drove through Koke’e Statepark which is attached to Waimea Canyon State Park. You can camp in these areas with loads of trails to take. Waimea Canynon State Park brings you up to an elevation of 3600FT.

Many hikes that I would have liked to do in Waimea/Koke’e Park:

Awaawapuhi Trail

Alakai Swamp Trail

Honopu Trail

We finished our drive up and unfortunately the last 2 lookouts were for the most part covered in cloud coverage so we couldn’t see the Na Pali Coast from there but we were able to see into the canyon.

We drove about 30 minutes back to Kekaha to catch our Na Pali Coast boat tour with Na Pali Experience. We booked the 2-7PM sunset boat tour of the Na Pali Coast for $179USD. We had Captain John lead us plus a family of 3 on this 5-hour adventure down the coast. For those who aren’t the best with motion on waters, bring medication for it. I did not and apparently couldn’t handle the motion. To be fair, we came from a 3600FT elevation and the pressure from the elevation change was already messing with my head.

Take everything that they recommend you take including a long sleeve or something to keep you warm during the ride in and out. When you are on the boat, it takes about 45 minutes from where you board at the Kikia’ola draft boat harbour past the military base before appearing around the right corner of the Na Pali coast. The cloud coverage was pretty much over our ride. We saw the spots where Mary J Blige and many others have filmed music videos and movies.

The skies might’ve been dark but the waters gave us appearances of dolphins and turtles. Our sea captain also navigated us into some caves like a pro. We had a little bit of time to also snorkel in the waters. Being in the water was my safe haven for this 5 hour tour – bobbing in the water with a life jacket felt like bliss for me and my body that was suffering motion sickness. We hopped back on the boat after about 30 minutes in the water to a nice treat of freshly cut fruit and other little snacks before heading back to land. The ride back was bumpy and cold – a dry long sleeve or wrapping a towel is a good choice.

We learned that Kauai is slowly deteriorating. The whole island is actually a pancake but because it is so lush and tropical and tons of water falls, the water needs to find or make ways to drain back into the ocean. With that being said, all the ridges that are seen on this island are places where water flows out.

It felt so great to be back on land. We started our drive back from Kekaha to Kapa’a with Gypsy Guide on. It led us to try the most famous Saimin spot on the island – Hamura Saimin. You seat yourself around the W shaped counter or the big table. I got the small saimin and a chicken skewer. They are also known for their Lilikoi Chiffon Pie.

I really wish I went through with booking the helicopter tour over the island but I guess I will have to come back and do it. These were the helicopter companies I looked into and are highly rated. Helicopter tour gives you a new perspective of the island that many miss and wouldn’t be able to see from the ground or waters especially a view of Waialeale – Weeping Walls. Kauai also has the 2nd wettest place in the world called Waialeale – The Weeping Walls. The wettest place in the world is in India.

On facebook Market – You can post that you are interested in doing the Waialeale – Weeping Walls hike and hopefully a local will respond to take you OR you can look for a guy named Mark Woogie Kracht on Facebook – apparently he is a local who has done that hike multiple times and offers to take people.

07/10/18

Princeville – Hanalei

We had breakfast at Java Kai. The bright teal just draws you in. I ordered The Beetnik $9USD (toasty bagel with cream cheese, housemade pesto, local beets, & sprouts) and a Golden Sunrise shake (turmeric, dates, coconut milk). The food and drink were incredibly delicious. The coffee shop is also attached to a cute boutique called Shipwreck Kauai.

Our first stop after breakfast was Kīlauea Lighthouse – $5 – It’s just a lighthouse really but the money goes towards a good cause. If you don’t care to help a good cause of preserving land and refuge for wildlife – SKIP THIS IF YOU DON’T CARE TO HELP OUT. There is a little information house on the property to the left side of the lighthouse. Before we continued our trip to the North shore, we stopped by a fruit stand. There are a bunch of fruit stands around the islands which are not manned with a person but its an honest system where you take what you want and put money into the box that you think is fair.

We made our way to Hanalei Bay Beach and found the beach courts. We asked the lifeguard to borrow their ball. We peppered for a few hours. We got food in Hanalei and took in the quaint little town. I grabbed a chicken katsu mini from L&L.

We tried to make our way to Queens Bath but there are only 8 parking spots in a very posh neighbourhood where you cannot park on the side of the road and only in the designated spots. It is recommended to get to Queen’s Bath really early to claim a parking spot because the closest legal parking is quite a walk away.

Defeated from not finding parking to see the Queen’s Bath, we drove from Hanalei/Princeville to Koloa/Poipu. It was such a beautiful drive through the tall tree tunnel to Koloa. Koloa is a small town that is only a few blocks but is where the workers for the plantations use to reside.

We continued on to the Spouting Horn to watch the power of water currents apply pressure into the caverns and have water burst out of the blowholes.

We continued down the coast heading east to Shipwreck Beach & jumping cliff. The waves at Shipwreck beach are strong and great to catch a quick wave. To the left of the main beach area, you will see the cliffs and possibly someone brave enough to jump off the rocks. We decided to climb up and explore that area. When you get to the top, there is a lot of space and different layers of rock formations. Many people fish from up there. We were only able to witness 1 person jump from the rock but it took him much courage and talking up to jump.

To Poipu Beach – the beach is very populated by tourists. The view was nice with a large parking lot but nothing special.

The sun started setting so we decided to head back towards home and find dinner. We settled with Coconuts – Fish Cafe where I ordered the Local Style Seared Ahi Plate. Walked across the parking lot to Tropical Dream Ice Cream for some Thai Tea Ice Cream.

After all the hiking we had done the previous days, our clothes and shoes weren’t looking the best so we decided to head to Kapa’a Laundromat – open 24/7 to do laundry before we started our travels back home. We met a traveller from Montreal and met some locals who told us the history of Kauai during our laundry adventure. This one gentleman in particular told us how Kauai was never conquered by King Kamehameha so they are their own island before USA. His family owned land on Kauai so he has a different passport to show his is a true native of Kauai. His best suggestion for us was to just meet a nice Hawaiian man and move to the island. Those are fine words or wisdom to live by.

Kauai, Hawaii, USA – 2018 – Day 10

07/08/18

The flood that occurred earlier this year in February was such a disaster that they were still recovering. The northern part was still closed to public and plans were to reopen this area to the public in October 2018. So if you plan on visiting Ke’e (Tunnels) beach or anything west of Hanalei, you are out of luck.

Most things are closed on Sundays here. Very tropic and lush that it is a constant on and off rain and humidity. Island feels like Maui but traffic similar to Oahu but a single lane or 2 at a slow island pace.

We downloaded Gypsy Guide again for this – super helpful.

My itinerary for the day was to be a good hiking day. We started off with Sleeping Giant. We did the Sleeping Giant – West trail – You can park on the Lokelani Street. There are about 4 parking spots then you can park alongside the street (4-5 spots). The trail starts off going up a little incline. Once you get up to the top you will walk through a cool tree covered tunnel. Once you see giant pine trees you are in the right spot. You will spot a giant rock in the middle – this is your marker. You need to start walking up that hill in-between the giant pines which are mystical. Once you make it to the top of the hill after the pine trees, you will see the path split off. There will be another fork in the road when you reach the top, go right – you will see the bench and the shelters. You may think you have made it to the top, go left of the shelter and follow that trail down then back up to reach the head/chin of the giant.

After this hike, we hopped back into the car and went back down the road to our next stop – a view point – Ōpaekaʻa Falls which means rolling shrimp. There is a carpark that you pull into and walk further down to see the falls from a distance. You can cross the street to view the valley below. The rain started to pick up again and stayed a steady pace by this point.

We drove to our next hike destination – Kuilau Ridge Trail – There is enough space to park 5 cars – To start this hike, you need to pass the gate. This is probably a more Family friendly hike when it’s dry. The day we went was muddy and more difficult. I tried to avoid getting muddy but alas it didn’t last long. There are a few trees that have fallen onto the path that have not been moved that you need to climb over – This is where it would be difficult for the young or the older people to continue on. With the rain coming down at a steady pace, the water looked like thai ice tea due to the red clay. The hike up has some great view but once you make it to the top, the view is beautiful. If you pass the shelter and the picnic tables, there is a small narrow path on the left that you can take to walk out onto the ridge.

I’ve read many a blogs about the best hikes to do on Kauai and Wailua Falls is one I heard was a great hidden treat. You can technically climb down to the falls. There are 2 routes down. Route 1 is the easier way with ropes to aid your steep decline down. The hike down should be rather quick (when not wet). 10-15 minutes down. The entrance to this route is directly right of the falls after you have parked. You will see the green fence where there is an opening, which you need to climb over. Once you get over the fence, follow along the fence and hold on to guide you to the tree where there are ropes to help you down. There is an option to also walk behind the waterfall if you feel daring but it is a waterfall and the current is still quite strong so be safe. When we started to approach this fenced area, a local couple came back up after assessing the top half in which they turned back. They said it was very slippery and not worth going down and would come back another day. With my leg injury I halted myself but Lulu and Renee felt daring and ventured down. They said it was only a 10-15 minute climb down but I was airing on the safer side of things considering my leg. Probably 10-15 minutes after they started their descent, the rain started to pour again.

I waited for them in the car and also to wait out the rain. Our drive home wasn’t too far but we were definitely wet and muddy. Our shoes were encased in mud. After showering and drying off, we went drove north of our accommadations and had Saimin to warm us up. We ate at Saimin Dojo where I ordered the Garlic Shmoked Saimin – $11.50USD – it was definitely the right choice.

Oahu-Kauai, Hawaii, USA – 2018 – Day 9

07/07/18

My friends had wanted to attempt the illegal way up to Stairway to Heaven with the people we met the previous day at Moanalua Valley Trail but ended up not going. The only person from the previous day on the trail still wanted to go had never been and we wanted the friend who was a local to take us. It also rained overnight and was raining in the morning when we awoke. In true Herbie fashion, we took it easy. We started off our morning at Liliha Bakery which is famous for their cream puffs. I ordered the lilikoi malasadas & coco cream puff.

There is a castle called the The Kaniakapupu Ruins off the side of the highway but apparently has been closed due to deterioration and vandalism – I am sure people still visit this site. We continued on to Nu’uanu Pali Lookout for a quick look. It was incredibly windy and the visit here did not last long. It is paid parking but Tiffany just stayed in the car as we took a peek and came back. On a dry and less windy day, this place technically has a few paths you can hike.

After turning around a few times, we found ourselves mall ratting for the day to get last minute souvenirs and we were on a mission to find the Hydroflask’s that have exclusive designs you can only get in Hawaii. We stayed at Ala Moana Mall for majority of the day after the lookout point. It is a half indoor half outdoor mall which also does performances on certain days. Similar to Yorkdale Mall back in Toronto, they have certain wings that carry high end brands and also lower end brands. The special feature with Ala Moana Mall is the food courts and the special hidden food court that is downstairs called Shirokiya Japan Village Walk. $1 beers all day everyday and loads of food options (mainly Japanese). They also have performances on weekends. It takes you to Japan in essence.

From the mall, we slowly made our way to the airport. It was bittersweet because although we were heading over to Kauai next, Tiffany was leaving us and heading to Calgary for work. Hawaiian Airlines flight was easy going but we were still worried about making the car rental hours once again. We did land a little earlier but I ended up just rushing and taking the shuttle over to Enterprise first and picking up the rental. A blue Elantra. We had booked an Airbnb at a vacation rental in Kapaa area. We checked in and went to bed as it was already midnight by the time we got in.