Maui — Five Month Update

Trey Whitaker
7 min readDec 12, 2022
Abbey in Maui

Our adventure has shifted from adapting to the island to experiencing day-to-day life on Maui. In just the past couple weeks, a vacationing snorkeler went missing after a shark encounter, a volcano erupted nearby and we had our first Hawaiian Thanksgiving.

In the case of the missing snorkeler, this occurred a couple miles up the beach from us. A husband and wife were snorkeling when he noticed sharks in the area. Reportedly, he first fought off one of the sharks and then couldn’t locate his wife. He swam back to shore to call 911. There was an extensive air and water search, but only remnants of her snorkeling gear and bathing suit were found.

This was big news on social media with most people expressing their sadness and offering their condolences. As is typical in the world today, some commenters were quick to question the grieving husband’s story by suggesting that it was an insurance scam.

The Hawaiian Islands

Mauna Loa: While this volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii hasn’t erupted since 1984, it has been erupting for over 700,000 years. With each eruption, the Big Island continues to grow. From shore-to-shore, Maui is about 25 miles away from the island of Hawaii. When standing on top of Maui’s Haleakala crater, you can see Mauna Loa’s volcanic plume pushing through the clouds. On our island, we are beginning to see some effects including the appearance of ‘vog’. This is the volcanic ashe version of smog.

Scrivener writing application

Scrivener: My writing projects have never been longer than a couple pages. Blog posts, columns, speeches and the like. Wanting to write something more ambitious, I have started a fictional story titled ‘By Chance’. This tale is loosely-based on my senior year of high school in 1976–77. To help pull this together, I’ve been using a new application, Scrivener, to outline the story and gather research. Much of the research is related to the time period. The news, clothes, language, technology, movies and music of the times. Listening back to the music of this era has spurred a lot of mostly wonderful memories. I feel very fortunate to have grown up listening to the music of the 60’s and 70's. Below are the playlists I created for 1976 and 1977 to act as a soundtrack to this story.

Visitors arriving at the airport in Maui.

People, People Everywhere: The population in our area is continually changing with vacationers coming and going. During our walks along the beach, it’s common for Abbey to make friends with visitors. This week, we came across a woman who asked to hug Abbey. She said it would be therapy for her. Over the past 35 years, she’d had five labradors, but they were now all gone. Abbey was helping her to heal. Since then, we’ve seen her on the beach a couple times for more Abbey hugs, but, like the other vacationers, she will soon be gone.

There are countless interesting people that we run across including:

  • No Shirt Guy: Abbey and I see him most mornings. He walks and talks on his phone. He never wears a shirt and it’s not because he resembles The Rock. He looks more like Dwight Schrute. What is most interesting is that his pale skin tone is completely unchanged despite the daily shirtless walks. No tan, no sunburn. I’m beginning to suspect that he’s a cyborg.
  • Chicken Man: We spotted a guy carrying large reusable shopping bags with each arm. The bags were so heavy that he had to stop to rest every 50 feet or so. At first, I thought he was carrying groceries, but he was headed toward the beach. Eventually, we discovered that he was carrying bird seed in those bags and feeding the wild chickens that lived by the beach. His routine is so consistent that the chickens gather near the crosswalk each afternoon in anticipation of their seedy savior’s visit.
  • Traveling Boat Captain: One of the drop-ins at Aloha CrossFit is a long-term visitor. She will be on the island for three months. I’ve heard of ‘travel nurses’, but her profession is ‘travel boat captain’. She moves around the country to wherever boat captains are needed. She’s here to captain whale watch boats during Maui’s peak season.
  • Shark Man: This gentlemen likes to stop us on our walks and share stories about his connections with the sharks offshore. He claims that they tap his kayak to warn him of rip tides and other hazards. He recently visited a local shaman and was advised that he has Dr. Doolittle-type powers. I’ve asked him to tell the sharks that I’m cool.
VO2 Max Improvement

Fitness Goals: A heavy diet of CrossFit, hiking, biking and walking with Abbey have seen my fitness continue to improve. It’s still tough to walk up the switchbacks in the crater, but the breaks on the way out are now shorter and less frequent. Last week, we did a CrossFit workout that I’d last done 8 years ago. The results? 2014/Age 55: 61 reps. 2022/Age 63: 122 reps.

While hiking in Connecticut this Spring, I recall setting out on a hike and planning the route based on which hills would be included. I realized that I’d never done that in the past. I was always confident that I could go anywhere without question or concern. Needing to consider routes based on well-being was a sign: I could give in to that concept of a diminished ability or make the necessary changes to fight back.

The first step toward rejuvenation has been a success and now it’s time to set new goals for 2023: Maintaining my activity level while improving my nutrition and mental wellness.

Just Mauied

Local Shirts: Hoping to fit into the community, I’ve continued to resist any shirts that a vacationer might wear. I’ve been sticking to my collection of CrossFit and Life Is Good t-shirts. My bicycle helmet is now covered with stickers of my favorite local vendors like Maui Smoothie, Maui Jun and Maui Sunriders. I try to use my Bank of Hawaii card for all my in-store transaction. My skin color is now darker from being outside and active every day. My efforts to assimilate and being recognized as a local are working, but nobody will ever confuse me for an islander. I just want to avoid being lumped in with the latest gaggle of cruise ship passengers wandering around downtown.

University of Hawaii’s women’s volleyball team

Rainbow Wahine: Since even West Coast sports is usually over in the late afternoon, the local stations broadcast University of Hawaii sports in the evening. Cherry has become a fanatic for the women’s volleyball team, the Rainbow Wahine. They had a great season including winning the Big West title, but were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Bad weather on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving In Maui: We had plans for a dinner cruise in the afternoon, but a rare poor weather day caused us to cancel our plans. The idea of eating dinner while our plates of turkey slid around the table was a no for us. Instead, we had an early dinner at a popular local restaurant, Monkeypod, and then spent the day lazing around on the couch. Given the small number of lazing around-worthy days here, it was fun to hang inside without the guilt of missing a beautiful day outside.

Haleakala National Park

Visitor’s Center: We’re getting better at hosting visitors. We know a few good restaurants and can provide advice on things like surfing lessons, snorkeling and where to view sea turtles. During a recent visit by the Nadeau sisters, we went up to Haleakala National Park to hike into and around the crater. They were our first visitors to take this on and I was curious to see their reaction. It’s impossible to not appreciate the grandeur of the inactive volcano, but it is a challenging experience. Hiking out of the crater in the thinner air at 10,000 feet can be a challenge to the unaccustomed. The winding ride up and down the side of the crater on narrow roads with no guard rails is a bit like a very long roller coaster ride. Kudos to the Nadeau’s trying this while on their vacation. At points, they looked like they wanted to get off the roller coaster.

Next up will be Christmas and New Year’s on the island. On Christmas Eve, we’re scheduled to go on a whale watch. When I was a kid, we would go caroling around our neighborhood. I never imagined that this tradition would, one day, be replaced by watching whales breach.



Trey Whitaker

Former CrossFit gym owner, corporate manager, paratrooper, youth sports coach and jujitsu black belt. Now a trail steward at Haleakala National Park on Maui.