A couple nights ago, not wanting to end my night too early (especially since it was so nice out and the sun was still shining), I decided to go for a drive. I didn’t have a destination in mind; I just wanted to drive. I had been feeling rather restless lately. I think this was due to the upcoming start of the school year, the start of my last semester of college…at least, that’s what I think it started as. I drove out west, past the next O! adventure with Steph, past Village Pointe and all the way to 180th where I decided that I didn’t want to continue to Elkhorn. I decided to drive to Lincoln instead.

As I continued to drive, I realized how nice it was to drive in solitude. Only some great music and my thoughts to listen to. In a way it reminded me of Hakalau; how Hakalau has always been a place of simple joy, almost a place of refreshing peace and cleansing. It was where I was able to go, once a year, to forget all the worries of everyday life.

the view from the cabin

Now, some may be asking, what is Hakalau? Where is Hakalau? Hakalau is formally known as the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, it is located on the windward (Eastern) slope of Mauna Kea on the Big Island (a rather bumpy, two-hour, off-road drive up the slope). It was always a special trip for my dad, my sister, and I; we’d fly in from Oahu just for the weekend trip. We went for four years, once a year with my relatives who live on the Big Island. During my drive, I realized that it was this place I missed.

There was always something about the natural beauty of the place that took my breath away, made me feel more alive. During our visits, we’d drive up early Friday evening, usually getting to the cabin after dark. We’d do volunteer work all Saturday. This consisted of planting the small, underbrush plants that support the natural ecosystem of a rainforest, collecting koa seeds, and planting koa trees. We would do anything Uncle Byron needed help with. Saturday nights were for the ono (delicious) food, beer, laughter, story telling, great company and good times. On Sundays we’d clean up the cabin, take some small tours around the reservation, and then head back down the mountain.  Some Sundays we were even able to go akala berry picking (last picture below)! Akala berries are native Hawaiian raspberries. They are quite large and make for a great snack during the ride back into town.

backyard at the haunted cabin

Hakalau made me feel like I was a part of something bigger and more important than anything I could ever imagine.

It was always a weekend where you turned off your cell phones, ipods, and other electronics and connected with the people and nature around you. It was fantastic and oh-so-refreshing.

Over the years, we were able to introduce several people to our special haven on the slope of Mauna Kea. On one trip, we took my friend Remy, my cousins Ryan and Lisa, and Ryan’s parents – Uncle Stu and Aunty Sue. My sister brought her friend Amber along on our last trip. My dad was able to bring along his long-time friend, Uncle Gerry. It was my hope that they would be able to treasure it as much as I did. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to introduce more of my loved ones to Hakalau.

driving one of the trails

This summer makes two years since I’ve been back to Hakalau. Some how I was able to forget the magic of that place in the tedium of my everyday life. Now that I’ve remembered, all I want to do is hop on a plane and go back. A part of me is afraid I’ll never be able to go back again.

During one of our visits, we were able to tag along with one of the University of Hawaii Hilo’s bird research teams. They were doing catch and release with the nets that day, banding the native Hawaiian birds. I was lucky enough to be able to hold and release a native Hawaiian bird. That was something special, something not many people get to do in their lifetimes. The sad thing is, I took it for granted then.

flock of nene geese

Two years ago, I was still planning to go to Pharmacy School to become a pharmacist. I was intent on the belief that I would find a way to rid the forest of gorse, the spiny shrub that was overtaking parts of the forest. I was sure that there had to be some chemical/biological way to eradicate the plant from the area.

So much for that, right? Hopefully some bright biologist will find the answer to the problem.

Anyways, I hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures, even if you haven’t read through all my rambling. It’s a peek into the paradise that many don’t have the opportunity to see.

akala berry (native hawaiian raspberry)

Hopefully Steph and I will go off on an adventure worth blogging about soon…especially since school is starting soon. Where did summer go? sigh.

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