The Green Sands of Ka Lae, the southernmost point in the United States

Cori and I drove to South Point, her favorite place in the entire world. We went through a couple small towns on Rt 11, Holualoa and Captain Cook. We past her old high school and then about an hour later past the land her family owns. Further south, we stopped to see her old family friend, Bob. He’s living in a house that used to belong to her cousin, Laura. It’s a cute, spacious bachelor’s den now that he shares with his two white pure breed poodles, Sophia and Louie. He’s fixed it up quite a bit with a new porch, elevated roof and huge bathtub. It’s clearly an old charming place; the floors have disintegrated in spots. At the end of the bed, just before the porch you can see into the grass below. I loved the breeze running through the place. The windows are mostly just screen; it must be amazing to not worry about storm windows or glass here.

We didn’t stay long as we had a long hike expected ahead of us. Further south, the road really flattened out and the grass was very dry. There were cows and horses roaming around, probably quite happy that the sun wasn’t beating down on them today. If you didn’t know the ocean was there, you’d almost think you were in Nebraska.

We drove down a long narrow road as far as we were able to go in the rental car. We sat for a moment on the edge of the cliffs to eat our sandwiches; the wind was intense and chilling as we listened to the crashing turquoise waves smash against the walls below and looked out into the blanketed expanse of the ocean.

It was a long hike into Green Sands beach but not as arduous as we expected, now that the sun was napping behind the clouds; every once in awhile it would peek its head out from under the gray blankets but it was cozy and would roll over and bury its head again. The trail was mostly flat, covered in orange dust on the roads where four-wheel drive trucks brought out an occasional load of tourists too lazy to walk. Corri and I stayed on the trail closest to the water where large boulders of jagged lava rock jutted out of the crashing waves. In some spots, the ocean purged a pile of plastic debris, driftwood, rope and fishing nets.

We walked for about an hour before we reached the beach, situated in an alcove surrounded by eroded lava rock. The beach itself is notorious for its green sand, as it’s made mostly of olivine crystals, a translucent green mineral that forms into one of the first crystals as magma cools. I rolled the sand around in my hand to find the crystals and realized that at first glance without the sun out, it didn’t seem that spectacular. But if the sun was blazing, the beach would probably beam a supernatural green.

The water was extremely rough but Cori braved it for awhile to cool off and play in the sand. The beach was a bit busy with tourists; one woman was particularly notable, dressed in pink, the tops of her feet tattooed with abstract inspirational words, her blond hair bunched on top of her head, she took photos complacently of her visiting family while gripping her cigarette. She went to great effort to lean down and push her used butt into the sand just a couple feet in front of us and walked away. I didn’t find her very inspiring.

We stayed awhile, finished our sandwiches and watched the water come in over the burrowing crabs and sometimes surprising a tourist or two. As we walked back, we were greeted by a man running along the trail in flip flops, his toes bleeding. He asked how much further to the beach; we told him and he cheerfully ran along. We might have been halfway back to the parking area when he passed by us on his way back covered in sweat, still running, maneuvering pretty well in the dust and rocks in his dilapidated looking flip flops. We weren’t really sure what to make of him but we were amused.

On the drive back to Stephanie’s in Kona, we stopped briefly at the land Cori’s family owns. There are a few acres of coffee there that have been affected by the coffee beetle; she wanted to see what the damage looked like. The fields need to be completely cut back and burned and the crop started over. She left feeling, understandably, quite depressed.

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