Take for example the classic scene from the classic cinema experience that is "National Lampoon's Vacation". Clark Griswold appears to have not appreciated the incredible scene before him at the Grand Canyon. Now it's true that he technically just robbed the hotel and he's a wanted man, but still one feels that maybe his life would have been enriched if he had taken a few moments to explore the rim, take a trail down a little ways, maybe purchase a book that explained something of the geology (with the cash that he stole). Well, maybe that's not the best example...
What's that all about? All of the islands grew as large basaltic shield volcanoes, and as they moved off the hot spots the islands subsided and underwent severe erosion. Sometimes large landslides erased large portions of the islands, and started a sequence of erosion that produced rugged canyons, but there is nowhere in the islands that is anything like Waimea Canyon. In places it is 3,000 feet deep, almost 60% of the depth of the "real" Grand Canyon in Arizona. On such a small island it can't be very long, only ten miles or so, but the exposures are spectacular. But it tells a strange story.
There is a paved highway that leads to several spectacular overlooks, but there was a stubborn part in my psyche that insisted that I had to earn a view of the incredible gorge. I missed doing the hike on a previous trip because one of my students broke a finger and needed to be transported to a medical facility. This trip, it was finally going to happen, but I had strained a ligament or tendon in my foot, and I was, much to my chagrin limping badly. I actually had a cane, but it wasn't going to stop me. I was going to hike to the Waimea Canyon Overlook. I started hiking with Rebecca and Thomas (most of the other students opted to go shopping or snorkeling one of the coral reefs). It was a fascinating journey through the high altitude rainforest. We saw some of the native birds and vegetation, aa well as some non-native invaders, the goats (I'm just glad it wasn't one of the wild boars). The goats and boars have done immeasurable damage to the forest and their control is a continuing problem.
I stumbled into a clearing and had a view down the canyon where we could see the basaltic lava flows (originally black but weathered red and brown because of the high iron content. In places we could see the vertical dikes of basalt that once fed eruptions at the surface.
And that means that you, dear reader, have earned the view at last (this is because you still happen to be reading)! This is Waimea Canyon on Kaua'i, the so-called "Grand Canyon of the Pacific", one of the most stunning places on planet Earth (as far as I am concerned). We first see the view towards the horizon to the south in the lower reaches of the canyon.
Mrs. Geotripper and I made one more trip to Waimea Canyon before we ended our journey to the islands, and we saw awesomeness. Those pictures will be the subject of the next post