Back to the Future in the Caves of Kaua’i

I’ve been fascinated reading Back to the Future in the Caves of Kaua’i (Yale University Press) by paleoecologist David Burney, particularly after discovering Makauwahi Cave (one of the world’s richest fossil sites) is at Maha’ulepu, a special place for me on the island. I found this book on a rainy day in small-town Hanapepe on the south shore of the island, at a shop that claims to be the westernmost bookstore in the United States. The bookshelf aisles were rather narrow and at times I resembled a drunken trapeze artist with Oliver Fern in the backpack carrier. It was as though he were a magnet and could make any book zoom into his clutches, including rare old books in mint condition. I finally hit on a foolproof system whereby I contorted my arm around and grabbed one of his hands in mine while keeping his free hand mere inches from the other side of the aisle. He was frustrated but clearly enjoyed the challenge and my bookstore browsing was cut a great deal shorter than usual. After chatting with the owner, I learned she moved to Kaua’i just a year ago from Olympia (a city about an hour south of Seattle).

The day we visited Hanapepe, Po’ipu received nearly 4 and a half inches of rain. It was an extraordinarily humid day and even the ballyhooed trade winds couldn’t extinguish the gushing geysers of slimy perspiration drip-a-dripping down my face. We enjoyed exploring several small towns. I’d wanted to do some documentary shooting and I got my chance. Koloa town was a downpour at times, but Hanapepe was a reprieve from the storminess. We picked up lunch from Brick Oven Pizza on our way back to Po’ipu so Oliver could still have time to take a nap. Later in the afternoon, Oliver Fern and I swam during an especially fierce deluge and we stifled giggles as the lounge lizards scattered helter-skelter for shelter with their novels and newspapers.

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