the grand canyon of the pacific

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Sometimes when I wake up in my little town on the Mainland and see the temperature hovering around balmy negative fifteen degrees Fahrenheit, I remember the island where I was born and how my foolish childhood self used to gaze admiringly up at the slopes of Mauna Kea and dream of one day living in a place where it snowed.

As the East Coast becomes increasingly miserable this January, I thought it an apt time to share some memories from the little detour to Kaua’i that my family enjoyed when I visited home this summer, including a visit to what I might humbly suggest is among the most phenomenal natural wonders the world has to offer.

Waimea Canyon State Park, often hailed as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” can hardly be captured in photographs, but I hope these fleeting impressions give you a slight sense of these Pacific mountains’ majesty!

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I might talk a good game about the friendlier climes of my childhood, but the truth is that my family lives at 4000 feet above sea level in what is best described as a tropical rainforest environment. Most people associate Hawai’i with beaches and endless summers–my home is forested, constantly misty, and often overwhelmed by the occasional influx of volcanic “vog.”

So I was certainly not surprised to find the even more altitudinous Waimea Canyon equally obscured by ghostly clouds and frequent showers!

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My first impulse, of course, is to say that the landscape looked Martian, but perhaps that’s not quite right: what could be more earthly than this?

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The clouds fluctuated, and we did enjoy some brief flashes of sunlight – in a chiaroscuro that would make even Caravaggio weep, I’m sure.

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I think I miss Hawaiian ferns most of all when I’m on the Mainland: if only uluhe like this grew in Western Mass! (I mean, I could also say “if only canyons like this grew in Western Mass, but I’m trying to be realistic.)

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