When I arrived in the Northwest in the late 1990s, one of the first pieces of advice someone gave me was to find a way to enjoy the long winters, like taking up skiing—downhill or cross-country—or snowshoeing. The point was to embrace it, not simply try to wait it out. Since I'd moved from a part of the country where snow was rare and usually lasted only long enough to hurry outside and take a few photos before it all melted and life went back to normal, he knew there would have to be an adjustment on my part to the length and severity of the season here.
The second bit of wisdom was to run away at least once before summer returned, preferably to a warm, sunny, spot.
I took his advice on both counts. That’s how I discovered Kauai.
Leaving Spokane behind, escaping the brown lawns, the grimy snow berms and monochromatic landscape, fleeing my overbooked schedule, down-filled wardrobe, and the claustrophobic feeling of spending each day under heavy skies, I landed on an island so green and warm I could feel myself bloom.
After months of slogging through freezing fog and navigating slushy streets and icy hills, the sand and sun and sea were heavenly. I checked into my room at the Grand Hyatt, slathered my winter-white skin with sunscreen and headed to the beach. At that moment, I didn’t want to do anything more than just lie on a chair on the beach and relax.
Eyes closed, the heat of the sun warming my body down to my bones, I could hear the distant sound of children playing at the pool, the cries of sea birds calling as they circled overhead, and the constant, soothing sound of waves hitting the shore.
I felt the weight of winter lift away.
Kauai is a small island, one of the most natural and undeveloped of the Hawaiian Island chain. I spent the next few days exploring as much of it as I possibly could. I hiked to the Waimea canyon and watched whales and sea turtles as I cruised the Napali Coast by catamaran. The big splurge was a helicopter ride to the volcanic crater that is both geologically significant and culturally sacred to the island.
I ate seafood and barbecue and pie and I got to know more about the island’s history and culture at the museum.
But now, deep in the middle of another Spokane winter, what calls me back to Kauai is the peace and the quiet, the sun, the sea and the sound of one wave after another crashing on the rocks and sandy beaches. After more than a decade in the Northwest, I’ve learned to love the beauty and challenges of winter. But, and this is just as important, I’ve come to appreciate the benefit of escaping it, if only for a day or two, to do nothing more than soak up the sun.
You can read more about about my visit to Kauai, here and here.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer based in Spokane, Washington, whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of 'Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons' can be reached at email@example.com