In recent weeks, while the Mainstream Media has moved on to other breaking stories, such as Hurricane Idalia on the East Coast, heat waves in the Midwest, the latest mass shooting, or the passing of iconic singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett, the people of Maui are still struggling to put their lives back together.
Maui is an enchanted place that we’ve had the privilege of visiting many times over, especially in the last decade or so. We’re very familiar with Lahaina, its historic shops and buildings on Front Street, the incredible Banyan Tree, and the busy waterfront.
Thanks to a family friend, we were able to take a number of very informative and educational whale watching and snorkeling trips out of Lahaina through the auspices of the Pacific Whale Foundation. Unfortunately, the building where this wonderful nonprofit organization was housed is no longer there – turned to charred rubble like so many other structures in the devastated historic downtown district, as an unprecedented fire raced through it in a matter of hours.
Many people from Bainbridge Island and Washington State visit Maui and the Hawaiian Islands every winter to escape the rain, cold and gloom of the Pacific Northwest.
Over the years, we have discovered great places to swim, snorkel and hike throughout Maui. One of our favorite hiking spots is the Lahaina Pali Trail, just outside of Lahaina that has an 800-to-1,000-foot elevation gain over some five miles on some very rugged lava rock.
While the ground can be tough on your feet, and the heat pouring down on you over slabs of exposed rock can be relentless, the views of the Pacific Ocean below and the islands of Lanai and Molokai in the distance are breath-taking and worth the climb. This particular hike – not easy to find off Highway 30 – makes its way in, around and under dozens of huge electric turbines that are moving, or not, depending on the wind speed, making for a somewhat eerie juxtaposition.
Another favorite of ours is Napili Beach, a great snorkeling hole, not too far north of the big resorts in Kaanapali, and just south of Kapalua. The community – several miles north of Lahaina – is made up mostly of single-family homes and smaller condo/timeshare developments. The beach is very inviting and has some wonderful snorkeling, especially along its northern banks. A restaurant – just steps from the sand – serves up reasonable lunches, drinks and dinners.
But enough of this tour guiding down Memory Lane. Maui, and especially Lahaina and nearby towns, such as Kulu, are still hurting and are likely to be doing so for some time to come.
A Suquamish and Bainbridge friend of ours, Marianne Metzger, has lived in Maui and has been visiting there for more than 50 years. She has been in touch with friends there who have been on the front lines of trying to assist their fellow islanders in need.
“She (Marianne’s girlfriend) and her husband have been helping with rescuing and getting basics for people,” she said. “The first need was propane and gas.”
Metzger, a retired Alaska Airlines Flight Attendant, spent two years attending school at Mauna Olu College, and visited the islands on hundreds of trips during her career. During those days she made a number of friends and acquaintances on Maui and elsewhere.
Her friends that are helping out in Lahaina live outside the historic town in Wailuku, and their home was spared any fire damage. “The reality is,” Metzger added, “Is that what you see on the (television) news isn’t even close to what it’s really like.”
There are still hundreds of people missing, and many who survived and some who may have perished, took to the water to escape the inferno. “It’s possible that the fire was so hot that (rescue workers) can’t find the bodies,” she said. “How many people went in the water … and after eight hours in the water, did they drown? … The hardship is going to be incredible for some time to come.”
We’ve all heard on the news that Hawaiians want to rebuild the old Lahaina town to its original state, if possible, but some also fear that outside investors and developers may swoop in, purchase properties, and construct large hotels and resorts.
Metzger and her Maui pals hope this doesn’t happen. “The Hawaiian people are so good at working together,” said Metzger, “that they’ll pull it off. … Natives want to rebuild it like it was.”
The devastating fires have put a huge dent in Maui’s multimillion-dollar tourism economy, but Metzger, for one, encourages people to continue to make plans to visit the islands, especially in beloved Maui.
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