[This was the magazine sidebar accompanying the story of our jaunt to Silver City, Idaho…]
The Owyhee Mountains were named for a trio of native Hawai’ian trappers, working for the Hudson Bay Company, who disappeared in these mountains around 1820. For my husband Keoni, a native Hawai’ian himself, this bit of history put an intriguing spin on our trip. Islanders use two words for giving directions: makai (toward the ocean) and mauka (toward the mountain)–anything on an island can be described within that frame of reference. When I asked him if that’s why his “uncles” might have lost their way, he replied in Pidgin, “Bruddahs wen’ mauka, wen’ mauka… Stay los’!”
Joking that our trip might double as a search-and-rescue, we armed ourselves with an offeratory can of Spam, which these days is a favorite food in Hawai’i (you can order Spam & eggs at McDonald’s there). He had another mission, looking for rounded rocks of pahoehoe lava (what we “here in America” would call vesicular basalt), which he’ll use to line an imu, the traditional pit for roasting a whole pig.
Our overnight bag and camera bag rode in the back seat, the car-trunk kept free for his boulder collection. On his native turf, however, he would never remove volcanic rock without making a return offering to the volcano goddess Pele–often a cairn of rocks with fresh fruit or flowers or a bottle of liquor. It’s a custom he takes seriously, though with his own touch of humor: if you hike in the Owyhees now, you might come across a stone cairn topped with a Spam can.