Emily Shoff on Telluride Inside… and Out: Big Island Detour

Emily Shoff on Telluride Inside… and Out: Big Island Detour

 By Emily Shoff

Tidepooling at Puako at Sunrise There’s a little trip Andy and I like to take with the girls when we’re on the Big Island of Hawaii. We drive over from Puako, just north of Kona on the dry side of the island, to Hilo, the wet side.

Mornings in Hawaii usually start early. The near-equatorial light and the trumpet of bird sounds call us out of bed by 6 a.m. But on our Hilo day, we leave the condo at first light. There’s a lot to see and the earlier we start, the more time we’ll have. Besides, sunrise is a great time to be out in Puako. Guava pinks and mango oranges swim across the sky, while just off the fringing reef in the water, humpback whales travel north.

The Big Island is a strange place. Climbing out of Puako on Highway 19, the vegetation changes so quickly from beach scrub to lush green hilltop pastures that if you blink, you may wonder if you’ve been lifted out of the tropics and placed on the top of Dallas Divide in June. Even the surrounding 13,000-foot peaks are snowy – although I still don’t really understand how Mother Nature pulled that one out of her hat.

The first stop on our adventure is Waimea, a ranching town that feels like Pagosa Springs has moved to the tropics. The air is cool, and cowboys ("Paniolos") drive pick-up trucks everywhere. Yet, Waimea is anything but hick. In fact, the iced lattes at the Waimea Coffee Shop are some of the best I’ve had anywhere. The pastries are good there too, but we’re holding out for something better: Tex’s.

Hawaii has had a motley crew of influences—Japanese, Polynesian, American—but the best in my book were the Portuguese for the malasadas they left in their wake. Malasadas are what happen when you take the recipe for donuts and do something better to it, transforming conventional goodies into squares of dough, fried and dusted with sugar. At Tex’s, they make them like that around the clock. Our brood likes to sit out on the lanai overlooking the ocean watching the big waves roll in against the shore as we lick sugar off our fingers.

Akaka Falls After Tex’s, we wind our way to Hilo, stopping at places like Akaka Falls, one of the largest free-falling waterfalls in Hawaii. The Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Gardens have about as many flowers as Telluride has trails. At the Hilo Farmer’s Market, we can shop for food for our entire vacation: we fill our baskets with local mangos, papayas, tomatoes, bok choy, and of course, fresh flowers.

Wandering the market on our most recent trip, our four-year old Siri looked around and said, “Can you imagine if we lived like this every day?” I close my eyes and picture the scene: flip flops, fresh mangos, fresh everything. The sea. Sounds pretty good. Before I can say anything though, Siri says, “But then it wouldn’t be vacation, right, mom?”

Hilo Market “Exactly,” I say, grabbing her hand, grateful to have a four-year old in my life to keep things straight.

Before long, it’s time to leave to leave Hilo and head back to Puako. As we travel back over the Saddle Road, cutting through the mountains this time instead of around them, we look out at the snowy peaks and the lunar-like landscape and fall in love with Hawaii all over again. Adventures like these are the reason we travel for two days with young children to get here.

Hawaii, like Telluride: like no other places on earth

Emily Schoff Telluride Inside… and Out welcomes another voice to our growing family: Telluride was the last stop for Emily and her husband, Andy, after a 7-month trip around the world. Although it felt like fairy tale when they first arrived—snow in town in August and a rental house that didn’t possess a key to the front door—10 years and 2 daughters later, Telluride feels more like home than any place they’ve ever lived. Emily writes regularly for the Telluride Daily Planet and Edible San Juans and has contributed to the Denver Post, High Country News, Mountain Gazette, and Shelter.

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