Let me see if I can remember everything we did, saw, ate, etc., because it was a long, busy day! In fact, I'm exhausted, so I think I'll just hit on the most notable (to me) stuff.
Brunch at the St. Regis
The first major stop in our trip was about 38 slow miles (you can't really drive fast on this island) away from "home" at the St. Regis Hotel in Princeville, which is an extremely snooty "private community" (kinda like a town, but all on private land, with its own police force and fire department and such), where we had an amazing buffet brunch on the Makana Terrace, a large, open-air terrace with gorgeous architecture, where you dine with a nearly panoramic view of Hanalei Bay and the beautiful Bali Haʻi mountains. (We took some pictures, and I would like to post them, but I'm on an unfamiliar computer and am so tired I can barely type this, so I'll probably just wait until we get home.)
The food was delicious. I'm not normally a fan of buffets, because the food is so often either inconsistently heated or dried out by sitting around, but this one included an omelet station where two women waited to make your custom omelet (I chose red pepper, spinach, mushrooms, bacon, and goat cheese.), which was piping hot and fresh, and a variety of other brunchy foods (croissants, bacon, eggs benedict, vegetable bread pudding, oatmeal, potatoes, etc.) that didn't seem to suffer the Buffet Disease at all. Everything tasted great. In particular, I loved my omelet (in which the goat cheese was the best I've ever had -- it must be produced locally and very fresh or something) and the vegetable bread pudding (it was more "bread pudding" than it was "vegetable," and extremely tasty, though Shannon was unimpressed). We all agreed that the bacon was delicious, as well. Crispy, but not crunchy, still a bit chewy without being limp. Wonderful.
The food was fabulous, but it was really the setting that had my jaw on the floor. Sitting out in the warm, fresh air, in a sheltered space that nonetheless felt like an aerie overlooking the ocean and verdant mountains; with this beautifully designed overhanging ceiling with a geometric edge; with a flat, serene, zen-like fountain beside us (and a similar, tiered one inside) ... it was my favorite thing we've done on the island in our entire several (5?) times visiting here. It was like a dream.
Mary showed us around the hotel a bit, as she's been there before to dine with other friends (though it was new to Gary as well as us), including a trip down two elevators directly onto a private beach with extravagantly curtained pavilions and conservatively dressed staff carrying buckets of champagne out to the sunbathing guests. Wow.
The Kalalau Trail
After brunch, we drove on another 11 miles or so to the Kalalau Trail, just past Keʻe Beach, at "the end of the road" (literally -- the road around the island doesn't go all the way around and ends here). It's a beautiful trail, but rather difficult hiking, as the trail is primarily composed of fairly slick, smooth (and rather damp) rocks, and there's a reasonably steep incline. It was only afterward that Mary told me that when they rate hiking trails on difficulty, this one gets the highest rating. Hmm. That might have been nice to know in advance! I only made it about half a slippery mile up the mountain before I decided that I would rather sit and enjoy the view of Keʻe Beach while the rest of our party walked up another mile or something to get a distant view of the Nā Pali Coast. After some reassurance from me that I was perfectly happy to sit alone for a while (and that I wouldn't mind a bit of time to myself, even), Shannon and his dad and Mary continued on and I sat on a rock at the very tiny overlook, so that people could pass me on the trail without physical altercation.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature began to get testy while they were gone, and I was feeling a bit rained upon by the time the rest of our party returned. It didn't bother me much, though. The air was warm, and the view was beautiful. But once Shannon & Co. had returned and we headed back down the mountain, the rain started in earnest. Well, maybe we shouldn't call it "rain" -- let's call it a "downpour," shall we? Within a few minutes, there was a small stream flowing down the trail, creating pockets of muddy puddles here and there where it wasn't creating slippery rock surface, while it simultaneously drenched us to the skin. My clothes were sopping wet, including my underwear, and my hair was hanging in a thick, lank, dripping mass.
It was pretty funny, actually, coming down the rocky trail in the pouring rain. We happened upon another woman who was making her way down, and the four of us (Mary had walked ahead, because she's very speedy.) walked together, laughing and talking and marveling at the impressiveness of the sudden storm. Gary found his soaked t-shirt so unpleasant that he took it off and continued down the hill bare-chested. When we got to the bottom and walked to the bathroom enclosure near Keʻe Beach, we found about a dozen people huddled under the awning, looking shell-shocked, and at least another dozen people climbing into cars and driving away through the now lake-like parking lot.
We were all (except Mary, who was only slightly damp in one spot because she'd been the only member of our party who bothered to carry an umbrella) drenched when we got into the car, unsure whether we were going to continue with the next intended portion of our day, which was for Shannon and his dad to swim at Hanalei Bay Beach. They decided that they would wait and see what the weather was like when we got there, since we had to drive past it (since we had reached "the end of the road" and had to turn around) anyway.
Hanalei Bay Beach
When we reached Hanalei Bay Beach, the weather was actually quite nice, not raining at all, but not too sunny, and so Shannon and his dad decided that swimming sounded good. We'd come all the way to the north side, after all! So the two guys swam, and Mary and I hung out under an umbrella on the beach, where she read Reader's Digest and I tried to nap on a towel. The guys had only been swimming for about 20 minutes when an impressive rumble of thunder brought them out of the water, once again dripping wet, and we all piled into the car while rain began to pelt us again.
Show Me the Way to Go Home
Then we went to Costco, since we were driving through Lihue (home of Kauai's airport) anyway, and bought lunch fixin's and such, and then back to the house. I'm sure some other stuff happened over the course of the day, but I'm currently falling-down tired, so I can't remember.
We got home (we left around 8 a.m. and didn't get back until around 5:30 p.m.), had some dinner, and then I napped for some ridiculous amount like 2 hours or something. I still feel like a zombie.
I have proclaimed quite insistently that I am doing nothing tomorrow, climbing no slippery mountains, befriending no hiking strangers, visiting no large shopping locations ... I'm planning to listen to my current audiobook, play some games of Ascension/Ticket to Ride/Carcassonne on my iPhone, wash my hair (which is 100% crazed in reaction to today's weather events, though it was already 40% crazed by the humidity beforehand), and enjoy some peace and quiet. Maybe watch some episodes of "The Muppet Show" with Gary, since we gave him the first season on DVD for Christmas. CHILL. That's my plan.
The cat sitter has been keeping us informed about what's up at home, and the cats seem to be doing well. She's probably fattening them up with her Secret Ninja Vet Tech Skills, and we'll get home to find them all returned to perfect health. Okay, probably not, but it's good to know that they aren't pining away.
And now ... let the chilling commence!