I always seem to make discoveries at Kanaha, Kahului's 88-acre beach park. I used to swim in a windsurfers' zone until someone told me about the "swimmers" beach farther down.
I drove down to the far entrance one day, parked by a tangle of hau where the colony cats laze, then padded across the nice sward of grass under great old ironwood and kiawe trees until I reached the shore. Sure enough, there it was - a large area sectioned off by a metal cable strong enough to deter any trespassing windsurfer.
It made me feel quite safe - until the shark scares, that is. When the wind is high, I laze down to the cable's end, then fight my way back like coach Soichi Sakamoto's young swimmers in the Well 7 ditch at Pu'unene in the '30s.
One afternoon, coming back from a swim, I spotted a ranger's truck. In it was the gentlemanly George Senn, back on the night shift after the debacle of the ruthless cutting of dozens of mature milo trees in the park.
This happened after the parks department ended evening ranger service due to budget cuts. (Word to the wise: Private citizens are offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those bandits.)
Senn told me rangers there have reclaimed the campgrounds for solid folk, pushing out the homeless and putting 80 chronic noise and troublemakers on a list to be denied permits. One evening we went to the Kahului side of the park to view the vandalism - sad, sawed trunks one after the other. Nearby we noticed a goodly number of native plants. It turns out this is the work of the devoted volunteer Mike Perry, the retired Lahaina postmaster who has made restoration of Kanaha after last year's tsunami his mission.
On Arbor Day volunteers assembled by Jan Dapitan - dedicated doesn't begin to describe her - added to the mix and planted naio, pohinahina, 'ilimapapa and 'a'ali'i. The Maui Outdoor Circle contributed four new milo trees.
I'd long wondered where the north shore bike path began at Kanaha, and Senn suggested we find the road running along the airport. We slipped through the gate and there it was, another Kanaha discovery.
As the sky darkened, we walked along the blue-lit runway with its eccentric collection of markers and lights, while a yellow full moon pulled out above us. It was strange - on one side the beach jungle, with calls of creatures going to sleep, on the other the glare of technology.
Our last adventure at Kanaha had a less peaceful ending. I have lived here for years but never knew the main entrance to the bird sanctuary lies along the beach road. Late one afternoon, we decided to check it out. The sign at the gate said the park is open from sunrise to sunset, so we didn't sweat the fine point of when exactly sunset is defined.
After some tranquil moments spotting Hawaiian stilts and wondering if they like that algae green water (turns out they do), we arrived back at the entrance with plenty of daylight to spare. We we soon discovered that sunset means whenever the supervisor of airport police says it is.
Hmmm. This was no fun. A 10-foot high chain-link fence, night falling quickly, and me with an injured ankle. Again, the full moon rose at Kanaha, splintering up through the palm leaves while we paced about in captivity.
I finally remembered to stop fretting and start praying, and shortly a kind shuttle bus driver stopped and told us who to call. Our one able climber made it out, tracked down the number on his iPhone and secured us a speedy rescue by a well-mannered former Maui cop.
"Where you guys from?"
Duh. "We live here."
To bring us (me) back to our senses, the able climber suggested we round out the evening exploring the new Courtyard Marriott across from Costco.
Man, that place is wired. Personal TV screens in the bistro booths, a high table where you can eat and plug in, a bank of computers in the lounge where a TV endlessly blares. You can print out a boarding pass, and learn the precise time, weather, Dow Jones averages and breaking news.
Paintings of traditional Hawaiian themes give a nod to the locale, as does the view of Haleakala from the swimming pool, but we could have been Anywhere, USA.
Thanks, but I'll take the moonlight and the 'aeo.
* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose "Keiki o ka 'Aina" column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.