Posted in Today's File, Travel

Another Hawai’ian Ventures into the Owyhees

[This was the magazine sidebar accompanying the story of our jaunt to Silver City, Idaho…]

©Kana & Keoni Tyler

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.


I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a few kinds-of-crazy, a joyful wife, a mom... a list-maker! :)

11 thoughts on “Another Hawai’ian Ventures into the Owyhees

  1. Spam was a big deal when I was growing up int the bush is Australia. I remember spam fritters being a once-or-twice a year store-bought luxury. It’s all about perspective isn’t it!


  2. This is oddly the second post today I’ve seen featuring a can of Spam, though admittedly the context of both images is quite different. :)

    Love this post, Kana. Makes me want to go to Hawaii. It also makes me miss Montana with that sign that so clearly shows her silhouette. :)


  3. In the fifties, Spam was really big in Canada. Probably it was a post-war luxury. We all loved it fried and in sandwiches and with eggs and as the main event at suppertime. Now people make fun of it.

    Love your adventures.


  4. Spam with eggs at McDonald’s in Hawaii??? How that twists my memories of “luncheons” offered by my non-cooking best friend’s mother during childhood visits in Mississippi. SPAM????What an offering to the rock gods (pun intended!)


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