Making it work with another try
10 Jan 2023
By Louise R. Shaw
I’d been there with my family some years earlier and was anxious to share it with my new husband, even if it meant spending part of the day on a long drive up a winding road when we could be sitting on a beach.
There are just some things worth driving long distances for and the overlook of the Na Pali Coast on the Hawaiian island of Kauai is one of them.
The Kalalau Lookout is 4,000-feet above sea level and the view into the ridges and peaks and valley below is nothing short of spectacular. The drive along Waimea Canyon, what has become known as “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” is also pretty breathtakingly amazing.
We ascended, stopping at all lookouts, as is my want, and noticing as we did that more and more clouds were filling the sky.
Four-thousand feet is pretty high up there. Even clouds are comfortable at 4,000 feet and sure enough, as we drove the last few hundred feet to the very end of the drive, we were enveloped in a cloud.
And in that particular cloud, there were no views past the end of our arms, much less along the rugged cliffs of the Na Pali and down the Kalalau Valley to the ocean and beyond.
It was a disappointment, but at least it wasn’t snowing like the time a few days earlier when we’d gotten up in the wee hours of the morning and driven up 10,000 feet to see the sunrise over Haleakala crater on Maui, just like everybody said you should.
Turns out you only should if you check the weather report first.
Sometimes you’re better off just sleeping in. And then sitting on a beach.
But we sighed and shrugged and tried not to be angry or disappointed and our nine-month-old marriage survived. And later we laughed and told the story and others laughed with us.
And now we are approaching our 42nd year together and there have been all kinds of sighs and shrugs and trying not to be angry or disappointed and laughing and sharing and learning along the way.
Sometimes the views have been clouded in. Sometimes they have been spectacular.
We kept at it.
It was a full 35 years later when we next attempted the 18-mile drive from sea level on the south shore of Kauai to the overlook on the north.
This time we knew better. This time we checked the weather report (easier now with internet) and got up early and drove straight to the top, where the views were … true to expectation … spectacular.
And we hiked around in warm sunshine and I took pictures from every possible angle – twice. Or maybe four times.
As we finished our hike the clouds started to fill in, at first dancing around the trees and cliffs, then filling them all in.
On the way back to our car, we passed a young couple who’d just pulled in.
By now, there was nothing but cloud to see.
We greeted them but said nothing at all about the conditions.
Until they asked.
Was it clear this morning? she said.
Yes, we answered, watching them smile and shrug and try not to be disappointed.
We were you 35 years ago, we said.
We missed the view then too, but we came back.
I hope they will too.
Because after that first time you know better when to come. You know to wait for the right conditions. To start early. Not to be distracted.
And it works.
And when it doesn’t work the first time, it’s even better the second.
Just don’t give up.
First published in the Davis Journal in June 2021
Louise R. Shaw