I woke up this morning to the sun blazing through my windows, and for a minute, I thought I was wearing a wetsuit. Then, I realized I was in Hawaii, asleep in my own bed on Kauai; and not attending a travel bloggers conference in Keystone, Colorado, where the air is so dry that I drained Keystone Lake to sate my thirst and applied a five-gallon bucket of lotion to my dry skin. Too bad it took until our last night at 9,280 feet elevation to discover the humidifier in the room.
We don’t need humidifiers in Hawaii. The air rolls in off the ocean pre-humidified, sometimes so much so the air feels like an extra-thick layer of non-breathable skin. Especially when you’ve been away for a couple weeks. It’s amazing how quickly our bodies adjust to new environments. My dog-sitter, who flew in from the mainland to pamper our pups while the hubs and I were away, said she felt like her skin had just adjusted to Hawaii’s humidity, had finally squeezed out the excess water it had absorbed upon her arrival and returned to its usual shape right when it was time for her to catch a return flight home.
Tropical air is moist. Mountain air is dry. We all know that. And, yet, when we go from one extreme to the other, it’s inevitable to take notice. Travel has a way of leading one to compare and contrast.
At first, Kauai and Keystone seem about as similar as salt and pepper, as sugar and shoyu. Nighttime temperatures in Keystone dipped into the 40s while we were there; whereas, Kauai saw the temperature gauge descend to the low 70s. Elevation at my home is 65 feet above sea level; Keystone’s is 9,280 feet.
But the more I looked, the more that Keystone made me think of Hawaii. I saw Hawaii’s native goose, nene, in the family of Canada geese foraging in the grass—their goslings look like giant versions of our own. I saw the Hawaiian duck, koloa maoli, in the mallard paddling around the lake. I saw the Hawaiian crow, alala, in the cawing crows in the trees.
When the news broke of Colorado’s High Park Fire, I thought of the wildfire in the Napali-Kona Forest Reserve in Kokee State Park, albeit much smaller and with no loss of homes. As the week and High Park Fire carried on, I learned of a brush fire down the road from my house and another across the island of Kauai at Hanapepe. Today, I read of a wildfire near Pahala on Big Island and another in Kula on Maui. Both Hawaii and Colorado must have droughts in common.
In gazing at Colorado’s mountains—because you cannot not stare at them; they are right there, a hand’s reach away—I wondered about the forest. I could discern three, maybe four different species of trees, and I wondered if they represented Colorado’s native forest or whether the forest had been overrun by invasive species, as has happened in so many places on Kauai.
Colorado is known for its breweries. Shoots, the current governor of Colorado opened the first brewpub in Colorado. The state has 139 licensed craft breweries and another 75 in planning. Denver brews more beer than any other city in the world. Colorado has the highest percentage of draft beer consumed in the U.S. We get it: Colorado likes its home brew.
When my husband and I dragged our bodies into the house after a travel day of mechanical break-downs, plane changes, gate changes, re-routing and long lines, our dog-sitter—with a bit of glee in her English-accented voice—offered us a cold beer. A beer, she said, was brewed in Hawaii, called Longboard Lager and made by Kona Brewing Co on Big Island. There are other Hawaii breweries—Hawaii Nui Brewing, Aloha Beer Co., and Maui Brewing Co. Maybe not 139, but, still, Hawaii has its breweries.
I’m not sure where this leaves us. Maybe the message or take-away of these observations is that we are all more alike than we think. At our core, that people are more similar than dissimilar. Maybe. If I’m feeling philosophical. Or, maybe, when I made these observations I was simply homesick.
As I write this late in the afternoon, gentle rain falls in fits and starts while clouds drizzle down the pleats of the mountains across the street from my home office like icing on pound cake.