Hawaii!! We finally made it! For years Amy and I have romanced the idea of walking the beaches, hiking the volcanoes, snorkelling the reefs, and just exploring this great state. We picked the Big Island! Prior to departing on our “Great Hawaiian Adventure” we packed all the necessities; camping gear, swimwear, and I guess that’s about it. As a side note, I packed way too many socks, forgetting that I’d be wearing sandals the whole trip. We arranged for the amazing Grandma Vanderwyst to watch the youngsters in Nome while we travelled our western neighbor. The day we left, I reserved a car, and this was the only preparations we made. We did this intentionally to not be tied to any schedule or particular destination, but rather see where each day takes us. We never made it out of the airport, because of no vacancies across the island. I’m just kidding, everything couldn’t have worked out better. Everyday was new and exciting, and on the first day Amy and I expressed our appreciation for how kindred our travel styles are. It brought back memories of our extended travels across the lower 48. We made a road trip of Hawaii, driving the perimeter of the Big Island. The first night we stayed at Managos in Old Kona (captain cook). This place is known across the whole island for its clean, affordable rooms, and it’s amazing porkchops served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I can validate this claim. Having already danced in the pacific from a white sand beach in Kona, we drove southeast to Volcanoes National Park. Along the way we stopped at the famous black sands beach. Here we took a hike from the beach to nowhere. Literally nowhere, the trail just stopped after almost one and half miles of volcanic rock solitude. Upon reaching the Volcanoes Park, we established where we were camping and took off to find some trailheads. We hiked through the Thurston Lava Tubes, and then down the Crater trail. The Crater was breathtaking and still steaming. This National Park is ever-changing due to constant lava flows. Also because of lava, wildfires had erupted causing half of the park road system to be closed during our stay. No matter, we still had a very isolated camping spot. That night we were hit with a heavy storm of wind and rain. Our tent rocks, we remained dry and comfortable all night, it was Great! I think hearing rain hit a tent fly is one of my favorite sounds. The next day, we hiked several trails and left the park for Hilo. Hilo is a city on the east side of the island, where our friend Mel is from. We stayed with Mel and her family, meeting her twin boys for the first time. It was one of our trip highlights, exploring Hilo with Mel and playing with her boys. Thanks Randy, Allison, and Mel. Travelling Northwest out of Hilo we made our way to Wa’Pai Valley. This was a mysterious, gorgeous valley. There is only one, one lane road that enters the valley. This road has a 25% grade and is not recommended for any non four-wheel drive vehicle. We opted to walk. At the bottom of the valley, we waded in the ocean, played with wandering horses, and gazed in awe at the largest waterfall we’ve ever seen. The hike out of the valley wasn’t bad, but we were drenched in sweat, causing us to reconsider camping for the night. We found the Jacaranda Inn in Wameia. This place spoiled us! It was here that we witnessed a beautiful sunset while standing in a cut field outside a gazebos housed on rolling hills near a waterfall. Seriously, I was waiting to hear angels’ trumpets. It was fantastic! We stayed here two nights, exploring Wameia and the beaches west of it. While at the beach we snorkeled with sea turtles which Amy loved, but I feared. Seeing something as large as a sea turtle swimming at you is surreal, but nerve wrecking. I kept waiting for it to go for my jugular. Eventually we made our way back to old Kona and the Hotel Manago. There we completed one final hike to the captain cook monument hid in an alcove of great snorkeling. The trail was treacherous but worth it. While leaving the water we were greeted by two couples kayaking, then two tour boats, then about fifteen more kayakers. The snorkeling was amazing and it felt nice to beat the crowds. Sunburned and tired we spent the last day shopping and watching a movie. (the Lincoln Lawyer was good but by no means great) Flying home, all we could think about was our boys. I have no doubt we’ll reflect on this vacation and smile often over the next year, but for now, give me some play time with my boys.