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Getting the flavor of ... Hawaii’s forbidden island

Niihau, the smallest of Hawaii’s inhabited islands, is now open to visitors for half-day trips.

Hawaii’s forbidden island“There are few places in the world” like Niihau, said Catharine Hamm in the Chicago Tribune. From no other destination have I “come away so changed” as from Hawaii’s “forbidden” isle. The smallest of Hawaii’s inhabited islands, Niihau is privately owned and has long been off-limits to tourists. Yet it’s now open to visitors for half-day trips. Upon arriving, our helicopter flew over the isle’s sole village, Puuwai, home to roughly 130 natives who live off the land. As we departed and walked along Nanina Beach, the “sand stretched before us, unending, untrammeled, unpopulated.” Tide pools formed by lava brimmed with marine life. Monk seals “flirted shamelessly” in the waves. In the distance, an eland “bounded with the grace of a running back headed for a touchdown.” I scavenged for Niihau shells, which are used to make leis, and took in “one of the purest places in the Pacific.”Contact: Niihau.us/

The underrated Mount WhitneyMount Whitney shouldn’t be underestimated, said Jordan Rane in the Los Angeles Times. The mighty, 14,497-foot mountain in east-central California is the tallest peak in America’s lower 48 states. Still, because the 11-mile Whitney Trail elevates at a moderate rate, anyone with a “healthy pulse” and “reliable footwear” can tackle it. That makes Mount Whitney the “highest walk-up summit on the planet.” I was reminded of just how high halfway through my own hike, as I stood to catch my breath beneath a “vast canvas of Sierra silver and deep cloudless blue.” The steepest leg of the trek, known as the 97 Switchbacks, stood ahead. But I braved the course, “up a steep, lunar rock face with no end in sight.” Another 2,500 feet, and I was atop Mount Whitney’s daunting crest, “gaping over a glorious granite sea of southern Sierra Nevadas.”Contact: www.Fs.fed.us/r5/inyo/recreation/wild/mtwhitney.shtml

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