Happy Hippo Holiday!

We sang a Christmas song because we were feeling the holiday spirit.  We hope you like it 🙂


Dancing and dreaming

Sure, it’s a cheesy song from an animated movie, but it was really fun to learn and play together. Sing with the one you love!

It’s from How to Train Your Dragon 2. No shame.

A new photo from Paul

Paul was recently bird banding in southern Saskatchewan. He’s slowly editing photos, and this is the first one up so far. Click the thumbnail below to check it out:

Butala Homestead

Moon Song

We covered a song. You should have a listen 🙂

Go, Tommy, go!

We both wanted to post a short note about how proud we are of Paul’s brother Tommy for racing in his first marathon earlier today. He competed against runners from all over the world, and put in an amazing time of 2 hours 39 minutes!

Below is a link to a video that CBC news put together from the moments after the race.


Go Tommy go!

A screen shot from the CBC Ottawa news page today

A screen shot from the CBC Ottawa news page today

Jordan added this poster for his film featuring Paul and his brother Tommy on his website. You can learn more about his film here: http://docnow.ca/artists/jordan-kawai/



Photo by Laura Burns

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Hippies, Cliffs, and Waterfalls: A Review of the Kalalau Trail

One of the main reasons we went to Hawai’i was to hike the famous trail along the Nā Pali Coast, the Kalalau Trail. We had read and heard amazing reviews of the scenery, and were super excited to experience the coast.

Unfortunately, we ran into a few problems along the way.

When we started looking into the trail, we found out you needed a permit for overnight backcountry camping. This is pretty standard for most national and state parks in the US, so it wasn’t surprising. What was surprising, however, was the massive cost associated with getting the permit. In order to get a permit, it costs $20… per person… per day, and it could not be purchased at the park entrance. We wanted to spend three nights on the trail, which ended up costing us over $130 after tax. This is especially crazy when you compare it to the free backcountry permits available for Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, which had far superior campsite amenities. With the permit being so expensive, we considered just hiking without a permit and taking our chances, but we were warned that rangers occasionally helicopter into the campground to root out illegal campers in the middle of the night and hit them with huge fines (that must be what the permit pays for). We eventually decided to just pay the big cost instead of risking it.

This view seems worth it, right?

After securing our permit for three nights, we showed up early on Monday morning to start the trail. As we drove into the state park parking area, we noticed several firefighters, fire trucks, police officers and a helicopter. We assumed that there has been a rescue or injury along the trail and someone had to be airlifted out. We had heard many people had been injured and died on the trail before, so we weren’t entirely surprised, but a little unnerved.

Lots of warning signs…

As we parked the car and started gathering our packs, however, we learned that it wasn’t just one person who was being airlifted out. It was 121 people. The river crossing at the 2-mile marker had flash flooded the evening before; 98 people were stuck overnight. Most people who go to the 2-mile mark are only day hikers, and many of them didn’t have food or shelter for the night. As we looked around the parking lot, we realized there were a lot of muddy, exhausted looking people around. Luckily no one was seriously injured in the event, and although there were a few close calls, no one was swept away by the river. Just as we were deciding what we should do, some park rangers rolled out the yellow tape, and stuck a “trail closed” sign at the trailhead.

That was an expensive permit we couldn’t use

We checked back several times that day to see if the trail had opened, and made many phone calls to the state park office about options for getting refunds on our permit, and eventually ended up camping at a county park nearby (without a permit because we didn’t know we’d be staying there… and you can’t get a permit in person… and the park was officially “closed” on Mondays). All in all, a very frustrating day.

On Tuesday, the next morning, we arrived at the trailhead to find the “trail closed” sign still in place. A few other groups showed up, and we relayed to them what had happened yesterday. One other Canadian was setting out to run the trail, who just ducked under the caution tape and headed out. The rest of the hikers were weighing the risk of doing the same when a park ranger showed up. He had to hike to the river to check the water levels and then hike back out before opening the trail. We ended up waiting about 2 hours (impressive really for a 4-mile hike) for him to get back, but when he did, he said the water level was safe. He checked our permits (good thing we had paid for it) and a day late, we were finally on the trail.

About to finally start hiking!

After all of that, it was great to be on the trail. Right from the first kilometer, there were stunning views of the ocean and cliffs all along the coast.

One of the countless vistas

The river that had been flooded the day before was back at a crossable level. The beach that was at the river’s mouth, however, was not swimmable, especially at the tail end of winter. They even had a death tally to warn people not to swim.


The death toll reads 82

Paul sitting in the middle of the river that had flash flooded the night before

After passing the river, the crowd on the trail significantly died off. It’s a shame the day hikers didn’t get to see the vistas past the beach, though, because they only got more beautiful.

At the 7-mile mark, we reached the ominously-named “Crawler’s Ledge” with its signs waning us to not get too close to the edge as parts of the cliff face are prone to breaking off. The drop off of the trail into the ocean hundreds of feet below was unsettling, but the worst part were the strong wind gusts that felt like they could lift us off the cliff face at any moment. In the end, it was fine. We lived to hike another trail.

A slope all the way down to the ocean

Finally, 11 miles in, we arrived at our final destination, Kalalau Valley.

Sacred Land

We were prepared for the “hippie” community that was said to live at the campground at the end of the trail, but we weren’t really prepared for some of the things that went along with it. Many of the “campsites” we saw were obviously at least semi-permanent, some even showing signs of deforestation in the immediate vicinity.

You can see many of the trees have been cut down by a person illegally residing on the trail

We had a group of nudists residing next to our campsite, which was nice. A man also came up to us asking if we had various items we could give him. He asked for rope, matches, and lighter, our stove, and food… twice (the second time was just before 7am before we’d gotten out of our tent). When we explained to him that we had only enough food to complete the round trip, he got frustrated with us and accused us of having extra food we weren’t offering up. It was obvious he was not a hiker down on his luck, but a permanent resident eking out an existence on the goods brought in by others.

Kalalau beach at sunset

Kalalau beach at sunset

This was the first time we had ever experienced begging at a backcountry camping site. We didn’t feel entirely comfortable leaving our camping and camera gear unaccompanied in our tent, which was unfortunate because the beach beside the campground was beautiful. Paul did embrace the culture and went for a naked dip in the ocean the morning before we left while Laura watched the gear.

Laura is a tough guard.

Our hike out was less eventful, but no less beautiful than the hike in. We stopped at the half-way point on our last night, where we saw a 500ft waterfall and met a really nice Ukrainian family who lived in Seattle. They gave us mint tea and we shared many stories. We also crossed paths with a very stereotypical hippie at an overlook, which she informed us was called “space rock”. She was hiking the trail barefoot, and generously offered us some of her granola and a toke on her spliff, both of which we declined politely.

The Hanakoa’a waterfall

The view from Space Rock

The best part of the trek: At the end when we returned to our car, our windows hadn’t been smashed and our car hadn’t been vandalized! Ok, maybe that wasn’t the best part of the trek, but apparently this is a big issue in the area, as some less-than-savoury locals often prey upon vehicles in the parking lot because they know that hikers won’t be back to for a few days. We didn’t leave anything in the car, but it definitely would have been a hassle to deal with the insurance for the rental car.

Joyous over the fact that our car was intact!

So, is the trail worth doing? Yes. Especially if you don’t mind forking out the cash for the permit. If not, the day hike to the river that flooded is pretty nice too. The scenery is breath taking and the environment is very hospitable, but the logistics were the biggest hassle of any trail we’ve ever done. A lot of people just hike the trail without a permit, but the horror stories we heard of people being kicked out in the dead of night or having their camp trashed by rangers don’t seem that appealing. And we would advise you to find a local resident to drop you off at the trailhead, or hitch in to avoid leaving your car at the parking lot. But really, it would be a travesty to go to Kauai and not hike the Nā Pali Coast. So if you find yourself in that area of the world, suck it up, and have an adventure worth writing about!



Official Trailer

Our friend Jordan has been working on a Masters in documentary film making and, as some of you know, he has chosen Paul and his brother Tommy to be the focus of his film. Last summer we went on a trek on Hornstrandir in northern Iceland with Jordan and Tommy as part of that film.

Well, Jordan’s film is in the final stages of completion; it has screening date, and now an official trailer.



It’s screening at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto on June 5th. If you’re in the Toronto area you should go see it!

The Kalalau Trail – A Teaser

We recently returned from Hawai’i, and while there we hiked the famous Kalalau trail on the Napali coast. We are currently writing the blog post about the ups and downs (literally) of the trek, so we thought we would give a little preview of it first.


Paul taking a break on the Kalalau trail

Stay tuned for more!

Beaches, lava, and turtles!

Aloha! For the past 10 days we’ve been in Hawai’i, getting up to all sorts of adventures. We still have almost 2 full weeks left on the islands, but here is a quick post until we have some down time.

We spent one afternoon in Kekaha Kai State Park on Big Island, and while we were walking down the beach, we noticed three Green Sea Turtles eating some algae in the water! We hopped in the water and managed to get a few video clips of them swimming.


It was a beautiful beach, and old lava fields surrounded the park, which was really cool.

The postcard-like scene on the beach, with lava rocks and white sand.

The postcard-like scene on the beach, with lava rocks and white sand.