Humpback Whales, Spinner Dolphins, Birds of Paradise and chickens

Elaine, her mom Mary Bottoms of Greeley, Colo. and I just returned from an 8-day vacation trip to the Island of Kauai, Hawaii. It was the third trip to Hawaii for Elaine and the first-ever trip for both her Mom and I.

And, if you have not been to Kauai recently (or ever!), here are some observations from our trip:

Kauai, with a permanent population of 60,000 (the same as Carson City), is one of five main islands of the State of Hawaii, the others being: Hawaii, Maui, Molokai and Oahu.

Kauai is known as the "Garden Island" due to its lush growth and it's pleasant year-round temperature ranging from 75 to 85 degrees.

The island is 553 square miles with 50 of its 113 miles of shoreline composed of sandy beaches.

Mt. Waialeale, the highest point in the center of the island, is the wettest spot on earth with an AVERAGE rainfall of 440 inches of rain per year! Yipes! 440 inches!

Be forewarned that if you fly from San Francisco to Lihue Airport on Kauai on United Air Lines (like we did), you will be flying for about 5.5 hours on a large jet, with about 450 passengers, where you are packed in like sardines with limited leg room. Then, your leg space really gets small when the person in front of you puts their seat back to snooze. Geez, I felt like a monkey perched on a football by the time we arrived on Kauai.

Then the fun begins when you leave the airport in your rental car.

The highways in Kauai are well built and well maintained, with no complaints whatsoever, and they are a pleasure to ride on. However, whoever is responsible for their signs needs to find a new job.

The Kauai highway number signs (such as Highway No. 50, 56, 570, etc.) are few and far between.

Many times, for miles and miles, a highway has no highway number or the highway number magically changes to another, with no advance warning or any signing.

We have never been so confused so many times or made so many U-turns. And, to compound the problem for the first-time visitor like Don Q, the tourist maps we were using had probably been created by that same miserable individual responsible for the lack of signs.

Sigh, I'm sure that Elaine and her Mom learned some brand-new nasty words while we were thrashing around, trying to read Hawaiian names on street signs that did not match up with the maps.

On the plus side during our stay, we took a 5-hour sunset dinner cruise along the NaPali coastline, where we saw spectacular rugged coastal scenery plus all kinds of wildlife including: Humpback Whale cows and their new calves on their migration to Alaska, Spinner Dolphins putting on spectacular aerial displays alongside our Catamaran, and Albatross skimming along the ocean surface, looking for prey fish.

And, as advertised, the sunset was truly breath-taking and resulted in Elaine getting a number of awesome digital photos.

Also on the plus side was the unforgettable, 1.5 hour helicopter tour of the entire island.

The rugged NaPali coastline, the Grand Canyon of Kauai and the spectacular waterfalls were the subject of many more photos.

On the minus side, there are the chickens. Yep! Chickens!

There are "zillions" wild chickens everywhere you go: Countless numbers of big and little roosters, hens and chicks. All of those birds are the descendants of chickens that escaped when Hurricane Iniki destroyed a number of chicken farms, way back in 1992.

Those darn things are EVERYWHERE. In my less-than-humble opinion, the State Bird of Hawaii should be changed from the graceful Nene Goose to the lowly chicken. It would be a more proper fit!

The roosters crow all day long (what the heck happened to roosters only crowing at dawn?) and the hens cluck all day long. I never dreamt my first trip to Hawaii would involve huge numbers of chickens everywhere we went.

The ultimate irony was the day that we ate a quick lunch at Kentucky Fried Chicken, prior to our helicopter ride. We had to wade through a number of chickens in the KFC parking lot to go inside.

Geez, you would think that those stupid, noisy birds would know where NOT to go.

Would I return to Kauai? In a heartbeat: The weather, the scenery, the sunrises, the sunsets, the lush growth, the pounding surf, the people, the accommodations, the tours, the food, the drinks, et al were awesome and unforgettable.

But, on my next visit to Kauai, I'm going to bring the biggest, meanest, nastiest, scrawniest, hungriest tomcat that I can buy.

I'll fix those miserable chickens! Then, we'll see who crows all day!

-- Bet Your Favorite Pigeon

Bet your favorite pigeon that he can't tell you which flower I found to be the most spectacular.

If he grins and says, "It is the Bird of Paradise," he could be one of the many friends or relatives who received Elaine's flower photos as E-mail attachments.

-- Don Quilici is the Outdoors editor for the Nevada Appeal.


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