“Looking North to Hanalei” ©1978 by Chas Wyatt, Watercolor and Ink on Paper

The Garden Island, the Adventure Begins

When I was in Southern Utah in the mid-seventies a friend I ran into told me about the island of Kauai, Hawaii and that he was going back there. He told me that he was hitchhiking on the island when Jackson Browne stopped and gave him a ride; he ended up giving Jackson a tour of the island. He also told me that the island was ‘redneck’; I wouldn’t fully fathom the meaning of that word until I was there, even though I had grown up in a ‘redneck’ Oregon logging town with hair down to the middle of my back, sticking out like a sore thumb. His stories had piqued enough interest in me that I would eventually find myself boarding a plane and heading to a dot of land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, even though I barely had a little more money than what was needed for the airfare.

I had come back from a summer in Montana where I had picked cherries above Flathead Lake and had then traveled to Jeremiah Johnson hot springs over Lolo Pass on Hwy. 12 in Idaho. This was back when the National Forests were considered paid for through taxes by the citizens, before the Feds decided it was necessary to prohibit camping and charge fees for wiping your nose in designated spots of the forest. So, at that time people could camp by the hot springs and blow their nose without much consequence; now, it is a day use area only and you will be charged a fee just to visit that part of your National Forest. I remember waking up to a crashing through the forest and as I peeked out through the opening in my tent, a big Bull Moose appeared with a huge rack of antlers. He stared at me for a bit and then started lumbering off in another direction. I then traveled to Lake Chelan in Washington State where I spent some time with some friends who were making Cedar bark baskets above the lake, before returning to my home state of Oregon. I had met a special someone in Montana, but, she was with someone else at the time. We would correspond via snail mail and our lives would touch again further down the road.

I had made up my mind to make it to this mysterious island in the Pacific and ended up working at some friend’s food booth at Saturday Market where they served soup, sandwiches and bagels and in addition to helping them out I made tarts with a wholewheat and sunflower seed crust with Blackberries and Apples, that I had picked myself — they were a hit. I had barely made enough money to cover airfare and have some left over for living expenses in a place I had never been to before and knew next to nothing about. Other than it was part of the fiftieth state and had a subtropical climate, whatever that meant.

When I arrived on the island, it was pre-dawn and seemed like a strange, muggy foreign land. As I hitchhiked, not really knowing where I was, for some reason, I was heading towards the North Shore. As the sun came up it started raining and a beautiful double rainbow appeared, framing the emerald mountains that lay in the center of the island. I was in the town of Kapaa and a friendly woman walking towards me, greeted me and started talking to me. She welcomed me to the island. I would find out soon enough that not all inhabitants are as friendly, but, so it is with most everywhere one travels to. I would find that my friend who had first told me of the island had long since departed, but, I would make new friends.

The Na Pali

I would travel to the end of the road at Haena, where the Hawaiian wilderness takes over and the Na Pali cliffs rise from the sea as high as 4,000 feet. The Na Pali trail rises and dips between these cliffs and sea level traversing many valleys via exstensive switchbacks and parts of the trail can be very treacherous. At the time I was there, there was a section of the trail that rounded a bend on a rock outcropping that was barely more than a glorified goat trail, covered in loose gravel with the waves of the ocean crashing far below. A doctor on vacation to the island had fallen to his death on the rocky crags and pounding surf below. I didn’t hold my breathe on purpose whenever I passed this section of trail; it was just a gut reaction. I just went as far as Hanakapiai Valley in my first venture into the Na Pali and it is on the wet side of the island. As you progress to the valleys further along, they become more arid as you migrate to the dry side of the island.

While I became familiar with Hanakapaiai Valley I found a rock jutting out of the bank above the stream that runs through the valley with an eye and nostril carved into the stone by the ancient Hawaiians. This is simply known as ‘Lizard Rock’. The valleys are also blanketed with terraces built by the Hawaiians to grow Taro and various fruit with irrigation systems, of which many are still functional. I also became familiar with Cane Spiders; while they may look wicked, they are pretty much harmless to humans and provide a service by consuming the mosquitos that proliferate in the valleys, although their ability to jump pretty far, can also be unsettling. The ones I remember were white, although the one in the picture below is a dark color.~

Cane Spider

Less benign are the centipedes which grow up to six inches, or more in length. Luckily, I was never stung by one, although I had numerous encounters with them. Once while climbing up a valley I put my hand on a rock, or actually, I put my hand on a centipede while attempting to put my hand on a rock; it felt very much like those rubbery creepy crawler bug toys I remember as a kid. Another time while I was in my sleeping bag above a beach, I felt something by my hair and I jumped up immediately and shook out my sleeping bag, where a large centipede fell to the ground that had been crawling by my head. I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. It was a full moon. Mosquitos, mosquitos, mosquitos are also less benign.

Along the Na Pali trail there is a rock formation that cascades down to the sea, resembling a dragon, if you use your imagination~ apparently Peter, Paul and Mary did, as it is said to have inspired the song, “Puff, The Magic Dragon”. You never know who you may meet along the Na Pali. Someone I know said they met Goldie Hawn and that she was very personable and down to earth; I met an ad guy that supposedly came up with the old slogan for the defunct Continental Airlines; “We Really Move Our Tail For You”; he was accompanied by a couple of girlfriends; maybe it’s true. So much for my brushes with the famous.

People can be good and people can be bad. While climbing out of the Hanakapaiai Valley one time, a harpoon swished below me into some rocks. There were a couple of bad characters following me that had come over from Oahu looking for pot patches. Halfway along the trail, though, I met a Native Hawaiian that had just returned from Canada to his home, as he was a Conscientious Objector to the Viet Nam conflict and his family didn’t believe in the war, so they sent him to Canada and he was returning under the amnesty program. He said he had a tent set-up back in the Kalalau Valley and that I was welcome to use it. When I was back in the Kalalau Valley sleeping in the tent the guys that had thrown the harpoon had swiped my backpack and I caught them pouring the contents out on the ground under a Mango tree. No doubt, they were disappointed in not finding any pot, but, this time they had acquired a couple of machetes; they asked me “You like beef?”; as things were about to escalate and obviously the odds were stacked against me, a friend rounded the corner and the situation was diffused. They weren’t in the valley for long, as the plunder they were seeking came to no avail and they had created too many foes in the valley, but, mainly, I think they just became hungry and tired.

I came to love the Kalalau Valley. Kalalau means ‘Cleansing light, or spirit’ (light and spirit are interchangeable in the Hawaiian language and have the same meaning). I spent my birthday on the beach in Kalalau Valley during a full moon and although there was a thin cloud layer overhead, the moon shone over the cliffs as it started to rain. There over the ocean appeared a moonbow; the only one I have ever witnessed. It lasted for hours; longer than any rainbow I have seen where the light is refracted through the rain by the sun. There is a scene in the film “Jurassic Park” where Raptors are running across a ridge in a valley; I know that ridge well; it is in Kalalau Valley and I have traversed it many times. The next valley over along the Na Pali, is Honopu, “Valley of the Lost Tribe”. It is only accessible by boat, or helicopter, although it was rumoured that ropes existed over the steep cliffs from Kalalau to Honopu, but, if true, they have long since rotted away. In the 1976 Dino De Laurentis version of “King Kong”, the scene where Jessica Lange runs through the arched rock to the waterfall was shot on the beach at Honopu Valley.

Once, I climbed the terraces in Kalalau up to the base of the cliffs. On the highest terrace at the foot of a huge escarpment, I discovered the largest Orange Tree I have ever seen. It was loaded with huge Oranges and the terrace was covered with the ones that had fallen. They were the largest, sweetest and juiciest Oranges I have ever tasted. In the upper reaches of the valley are natural pools carved out of the lava rock where you may view the ocean below while swimming. Beside them is an array of several waterfalls where banana trees grow. Once while I was exploring the valley, I seen a strange creature jump out of the underbrush and run away. It had a long tail and was about the size of a small dog. It wasn’t a Mongoose, as they aren’t present on Kauai. I’ll never know what it was that I saw.

As in life, you may never know what will occur back in the valleys. There is a waterfall in the lower part of Kalalau Valley with a shallow pool below it. There was a guy standing on top of the waterfall and I tried to tell him that there was only about a foot, or two of water in the pool, as it seemed like he was thinking of jumping, but, he wouldn’t listen and jumped anyway; he was lucky, as somehow he miraculously managed to only scrape up his nose on the bottom of the pool. One day a helicopter landed on a ridge above me; they were there to pick up the body of someone who hadn’t been so lucky; he had slipped in the stream and hit his head on a rock. I made the mistake of drinking from the stream when I first arrived in Hawaii and contracted Giardasis, caused by the Giardia parasite. The intestinal pain was excruciating and I could barely walk. Fortunately, I ran into a friend and he gave me some dried Apricots which soaked up the contaminated water and helped me immensely. I made it out of the valleys. Another time, I was climbing a tree to get a view of the ocean below and a branch broke. As I fell, the back of my knee fell on the protruding broken branch and left a gash. In the humid climate, the wound would succumb to staph infection. Watch your step in the wilderness, no matter how benign it may seem to be.

It is an eleven mile hike along the Na Pali weaving in and out of valleys and up and down steep cliffs going from sea level to upwards of a 1,000 feet, or more. I use to be able to do it in a day; I’m not sure if I have the stamina to do it at all, now. There is a legend of a Menehune Princess (they were small people in Hawaiian folklore that use to complete a great work in a single night), that died along the Na Pali trail. Perhaps her ghost still wanders the trail. Once, at night, I thought I seen her dancing in the moonlight, but, it was just the leaves of a banana tree swaying in the Trade Winds.

Island Characters

Perhaps, if asked, these people would also describe me as a character. I do find them colorful, however. Guitar John would walk around carrying an electric guitar, sporting a mullet and a fake British accent. He didn’t have an amp, so I wondered if he just plugged it into a Coconut tree, or something. There were three infamous Bills on the island at the time I was there. “Buffalo Bill” was a gruff character that looked like he went too many rounds in a boxing match. I tried to limit my interaction with him. “Kung Fu Bill” had a skinny skeletal frame, missing upper front teeth, long grey hair down to the middle of his back and glasses. He got his nickname from an incident that occurred on the southern part of the island. He was being harassed by a group of large Samoans at a bar and they encircled him in the parking lot. He tried to talk himself out of the situation and told them that “we don’t have to do this”, but, as the first guy came at him and threw a punch, he pulled his agressor’s arm out of his socket. The next guy received a broken kneecap. The third, some broken ribs. They didn’t know the guy they were harassing had a Black Belt in martial arts and soon the circle of Samoans had dwindled and dispersed — at least the ones that could still move. Word travels fast on the island where everything else seems to revolve at a slow pace. Overnight “Kung Fu Bill” had become a legend and nobody harassed him again, unless they hadn’t heard the story. He really had a mellow, peaceful demeanour, unless you crossed that line. “Wild Bill” was also skinny, had balding blonde hair, long fingernails and lived on the beach, splitting coconuts with a machete. He would dance around throwing his machete up in the air and catching it by the handle; I would often worry about him missing and cutting himself. He had dropped out of society — once he was a rich stockbroker on Wall Street with a glamorous high-maintenance model wife and he threw everything away to go live on the beach in Hawaii. Goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Suzanne ‘Bobo’ Rollin was a strong, statuesque surfer. Once, Bobo and some friends decided to swim the Na Pali to Kalalau ( there is a current running along the coast like a river under the surface of the ocean), but, they weren’t expecting to run across a large school of man o’ war jellyfish. They had to dive under the clouds of jellyfish and then come up for air in the gaps between the school to avoid the stinging tentacles. They made it to the beach at Kalalau, exhausted. Then there was “Artist Dave” and Suex. They were a couple of the friendliest, gentlest people I had met and were a beautiful couple. “Artist Dave” got his name from a large painting he had done of the jungle, although I didn’t get to see the painting. He was also the son of Peter Marshall, the original host of the TV game show, “Hollywood Squares”. Suex had beautiful long flowing blonde hair and I would think of Lady Godiva when I would see her riding her horse through the surf, literally “bareback”.

Sunday Feast

The Hare Krishna’s had a farm and a health food store. Every Sunday they would host a feast, with the premise being that you must go listen to, and perhaps even participate in the chanting. It was a sort of meeting place, where you might reconnect with friends, or meet someone new. Hawaii itself is like that; a sort of crossroads of the world. Many people would fly down from Alaska to catch some warmth. I met a 17-year-old woman and her friend that had lived her whole life up to this point on the island of Samoa; they were on their way to explore Europe. I can’t remember the names of all the people whose lives entertwined with mine on the island. I met Karl at the health food store and he had convinced me to be a partner in growing pot, even though I was already doing so on my own back in the valley of Kalalau. I learned from Karl that I didn’t like partnerships and that I rather be Captain of my own ship. Once Karl and I were socked-in by a storm for three days at the Krishna farm — a whole lot of chanting was goin’ on — don’t ever let them tell you that it doesn’t rain in Hawaii. Besides growing pot, I also hand-made greeting cards that the Krishna’s let me sell through their health food store. They were well-received. Karl’s ploy was to become rich growing pot and when tax-time rolled around to claim he was just an artist and “didn’t keep any records of his transactions”. I don’t think he ever became an artist. Once he had met someone who had a condo at Princeville, Hanalei and that person was letting George Harrison stay at the condo. He said we might get to meet George, but, it never happened. George Harrison is the only Beatle I ever seen on tour, though.

“Moku’ae’ae Island” ©1979 Chas Wyatt, watercolor and ink on paper

Secret Beach

‘Secret Beach’ isn’t really a secret. It can be found on maps in many guides to Kauai. Perhaps it was more of a secret when I was there. It is on the northern-most point of the main Hawaiian islands. Suex would often ride naked on her horse through the surf on the beach. The beach would change often with the storms that came and went, bringing sand in and taking it back away. I am not sure what it is like now, as when I was there, they had begun to divide the old sugarcane fields above the beach and put in a subdivision of houses. It was my other favorite hangout besides Kalalau Valley.

Karl had built a beach hut on a mound of earth that was situated just off the foot of the trail that lead to the beach. There was some powerful mana at work here with that mound of earth, as his hut was practically, for all intents and purposes, invisible to the various people who would come down the path to the beach. Even the locals wouldn’t find it and walk right down onto the beach. We would often observe people on the beach from the hut and they didn’t even know we were there. It was almost scary.

Further down the beach was a natural spring shooting out of the rock cliff walls onto the beach. It was like a shower provided by nature. One time, I was under the ‘shower’ with my eyes closed, when I felt the presence of another body next to me. I ducked my head out from under the water and opened my eyes; there before me was a beautiful blue-eyed brunette standing buck-naked. She was going to college on Oahu and had come over to Kauai to go windsurfing. I will leave the details of what took place next, to your imagination. I had many close encounters of the feminine kind on Kauai; many picked me up hitchhiking and many were from Oahu — a dancer that had just bought some donuts to share with me, a beautiful hawaiian with long dark flowing hair, in a jeep, etc. Hawaiian women from Oahu seemed a lot more friendly and open to haoles (whites), than the locals. It was the 70's.

I also seemed adept at finding fruit trees. I found a sort of orchard someone had planted, not far off of a trail by secret beach where there was a Lychee Tree(the fruit has a hard shell that resembles a strawberry with a white grape-like fruit and a single seed in the middle — it is much sweeter than a grape), a Starfruit Tree(when sliced in sections, it resembles a five-pointed star and has a delicate taste), lemon and grapefruit trees and a banana grove.

Wainiha Valley

According to Hawaiian legend, Wainiha Valley is the valley where rainbows were born. It is sort of an off-shoot of Hanalei Valley. Karl had told me about a powerline trail by a cemetary that went up a ridge and lead into the valley, so I decided to go exploring. When I got into the valley by following some wild boar trails, I heard the boars, but, I didn’t see them and thankfully wasn’t charged by any. On the hills of the valley were planted Norfolk Island Pines and Eucalyptus Trees in rows. It was like an enchanted forest. After adventuring as far upstream in the valley I could go before it gave way to thick undergrowth, I headed back down. I had lost the path I had taken up the valley and ended up crashing through a thick wall of ferns where a large boulder sat in the middle of the stream. I sat on the boulder in contemplation. When I told Karl about my adventure in the valley the next time I seen him, he laughed and said he found that very same boulder in the stream.

There are many places I didn’t explore in my time on Kauai and many further adventures that could be taken. I met a couple coming out of a lagoon in the entrance to a cave and they told me about diving under the wall of the cave and coming up into another room of the cave where there is a sandy beach. Because of the refraction of light through the water on the cave ceiling, it is known as the “Blue Room”. This is on the North Shore. I met some more adventurous souls who told me about riding inner tubes through abandoned cane irrigation tunnels and shooting out the other end into the river. A couple of issues were that you never knew what awaited on the other end or how far would you plummet? Was the tunnel collapsed? And if caught, you could be fined by the property owners for trespassing. There is a hike that leads through a couple of irrigation tunnels into the Hanalei Valley, where the wall of the valley is visible with waterfalls cascading down from Mt. Wai’ale’ale (at an elevation of 5,148 feet, it averages 452 inches of rain per year),(known as “The Wall of Tears”, or “Weeping Wall”). The name of the mountain means “rippling water”, or “overflowing water”.


In the spring I left the islands to go back to the mainland to a “gathering” in New Mexico. When I landed in the NW it was a warm spring day, but, my body was used to the subtropical climate of Hawaii and wearing only a t-shirt and cut-offs, I was shivering. I only had a few cents left in my pocket and when I asked a stranger for some spare change for the public transport and explained that I had just gotten back from Hawaii and was broke, he said “You have such a good story, that I’ll give it to you”. I had a pretty good tan going from being in Hawaii, but, in the Mountains of New Mexico, I got even darker. It is funny how white people seek out the sun and wish to turn their skin dark; it is especially ironic where racism is concerned. I had never thought of myself as being racist, but, it wasn’t until I was living in Hawaii that I fully grasped what it is like to be despised simply because of the color of your skin and the prejudice that accompanies those ways of thinking. Practically speaking, it was the first time in my life that I experienced being a minority.

It was there in New Mexico that I found the woman I had first met in Montana. We fell in love, but, I had never felt such emotions at this intense of a level and I was immature. The only other time I had been in love was also with a woman from the Twin Cities in Minnesota. We broke each other’s hearts and I was devastated. This was near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico and the irony isn’t lost on me.

When I returned to the islands, I would sit in the library at Kapaa and listen to Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” LP for hours. One day when I was hitchhiking a guy picked me up and took me to a beach pavilion in Kapaa where some people were hanging out. Before I got out of the car, he handed me a necklace and asked me to give it to a girl standing there. (An irony here is that I had given the woman I had fallen in love with in New Mexico a puka shell necklace I had made from shells I found on Secret Beach). When I handed it to her, she was elated and gave me a hug. She was also a Blue-eyed Brunette from the Twin Cities and I would find out later that she had traveled to Hawaii with the former boyfriend of the woman I had fallen in love with. He had gone there because of the same woman. Debbie and I also didn’t stay together (the woman I handed the necklace to). Decades later, I would find the woman I had fallen in love with, just before 9/11, courtesy of the internet. She is a successful vocal coach and musician and lives in Manhattan. I had suspected that after New Mexico, she had gone to the Big Island, and I would find out later that I was right. We were islands apart, but, it may as well have been another galaxy. We still communicate, but, we are different people, now. Once, I ran across another blue-eyed brunette from the Twin Cities with the same name as her. I do not try to understand the reason for some things in the universe.

Taylor Hippie Camp

By the time I had landed on Kauai, a community known as Taylor Hippie Camp had met its demise. It had begun when 13 hippies were jailed due to state vagrancy laws. A disgruntled landowner had been at odds over zoning laws on a piece of land he owned at the end of the road on the North Shore which he had wished to develop. He bailed-out the 13 “vagrants” and let them camp on his land and build tree houses there. Perhaps a form of protest towards the state, but, I can’t help but think that there was an element of empathy involved. His name was Howard Taylor and he was the brother of actress Elizabeth Taylor.

When I was there nothing remained of the community, as the state had forced Howard’s hand into selling the land to them. The tenants were evicted and the tree houses were burned to the ground. The state then turned their focus on those living back in the valley of Kalalau.

A band formed from members of the former community, simply known as THC. I seen them perform at a fundraising event for JoAnn Yukimura who was running for the county council (she would go on to become the country’s first Japanese-American woman mayor), (CSN would perform for her mayoral campaign). The female vocalist that fronted THC was named Moana and she had long, thick black hair down to her waist. She had a husky, gravely voice that was sort of a cross between Janis Joplin and Lydia Pense of Cold Blood. My friend Karl had also introduced me to the music of a band called Seawind, whose members he had known on Oahu. I had the good fortune of seeing them open for George Benson. Karl had moved onto some land near Secret Beach into an A-Frame, but, was consequently booted-out as quickly as the owners had invited him to move in. Their property was being sold to the band, America. The last time I seen Karl was in Arizona. When I was leaving Kauai, I took OK Airlines (Oahu Kauai Airlines); as the plane taxied down the runway, the plane steward couldn’t get the door latched and was hollering at the pilot that he couldn’t get it shut, as the pilot continued down the runway picking up speed. Finally he got it latched just before take-off; I told the steward I’d take two of those little bottles of alcohol that they offered for the flight to Oahu. Like Twain, I never returned to Kauai. I still hope to. Here is a clip from a movie about Taylor Hippie Camp. ~

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