LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Wanderlust: Return To Hawaii, California And New Mexico With 32 New Life Birds

It took me almost 60 years to return to Hawaii, but I finally can say I have. Home from a 31-day trip to Hawaii, California, New Mexico and Arizona, we’ve spent the better part of two days unpacking and catching up on mail. After four states, 10 flights, four rental cars and a whole bunch of hotel rooms, I don’t even want to look at my suitcases for a while. One of the most difficult things about making the trip was thinking about my late mother and how she loved to travel and how it was she who taught me to pack a suitcase.

My first trip to Hawaii was on the USS Mitchell, a troop transport ship from San Francisco to Pearl Harbor to Yokahoma to Okinawa, with my brave young mother and her (then) four young children in tow. Mother told a hundred stories of this journey, stories to be saved for another day. I remember when the ship sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge. And I remember when it pulled into Pearl Harbor. And I remember Mother engaging a cab to take us to see a volcano.

This was our passport photo taken after the U.S. Army had “filled us up” with vaccinations. That’s me on the bottom left.

This is a photo my father took of the ship as it arrived in Okinawa, on Father’s Day 1964.

Back to the present day, Jim has been to Hawaii a number of times, but only as an adult and most of those visits were courtesy of the U.S. Navy. This time, we were in Hawaii to join up with his siblings, for his late brother Jay’s memorial services. I took hundreds of photos, saw a whole bunch of new life birds, ate a great deal of wonderful food and rode in the ambulance with Jim from Pearl Harbor to Tripler Army Hospital on December 7, of all days — yup, you read that right. I had to summon 911 for Jim and he was stuck with two of his Oahu days in the hospital.

I also took my first surfing lesson and was upright four times before I threw in the towel on that. We saw the glow of Mauna Lau from our Maui balcony, went swimming at a black sand beach, visited almost every national park site on the islands, saw a lot of lava, spent two nights at Volcano House (where Mark Twain slept), visited the state Capitol grounds and enjoyed the colorful language, flora and fauna and music of Hawaii, especially vibrant during the Christmas holidays.

The Fuglie clan started their journeys home, but Jim and I flew to San Francisco, where he had a date with destiny, arriving at the St. Francis Hotel exactly 51 years since he left the USS Oriskany and spent a night at that very same hotel. San Francisco was beyond bedlam with the approaching holidays.

The California highlights for me were when we escaped the maddening crowds and visited Muir Woods and Point Reyes National Seashore and the drive to Pinnacles National Park as well as drives of Highway 1 and Highway 101. We followed some literary trails which included stops in Carmel, Monterey and Pacific Grove. And our last day in California included a tour of the Hearst Castle.

My mother had a lifelong fascination with lighthouses, so naturally I had to visit at least one lighthouse. Point Pinos was a beauty.

After a very long day of flying (we could have driven from Santa Barbara to Albuquerque faster), our last leg of the trip found us in New Mexico. My favorite state flag has always been New Mexico’s and whoever coined “Land of Enchantment” is a freaking genius. We weren’t long for NM because we were bound for Arizona and our last Western national park, Petrified Forest National Park.

Christmas Eve and Day we luxuriated at La Posada, one of the few original Harvey Hotels in operation. This was my first Christmas without my mother and the only Christmas I’ve not been in North Dakota since I was 10 as well as a rare Christmas not with my daughters (who I missed powerfully).

After the obligatory stops on the corner in Winslow, Ariz., we drove more backroads and visited six new-to-us national monuments. Hubbell Trading Post and Montezuma Well were big highlights. After some laughter and quarrels along Route 66, which is dotted with some sad and some funny abandoned buildings, we raced to Durango for the icing on the cake.

Jim had not been to Flagstaff or Durango. While it was fun to visit in winter, the winter driving was not, and we woke up to snow in Farmington, N.M., and the question of whether our flights would be disrupted. (Fortunately, it was smooth sailing, and our daughter picked us up at the airport, to the cold and deep snow, but — HOME.) After one last night in a historic Durango hotel, the Strater. Alas, while I had booked the Louis L’Amour room, 222, it was not to be and we got bumped to the fourth floor. Durango was filled with holiday cheer and the sound of the Durango Silverton Railway, a narrow-gauge train I remember riding once as a child in the late 1960s.

I posted some videos from the trip on my YouTube, including one Jim shot of my surfing lesson, complete with the Fuglie cheering squad on the beach. I swear that’s me on the screen for a nanosecond.

I stood around in the cold for 45 minutes to shoot video of the Durango train. I’m sure I was just as excited as the little kids.

My mother got me started as a birder. Here are my new life birds from this trip, with a nod to my friend, Valerie, who shared with me her Hawaii birding guides and tips:


  • Common Myna.
  • Black Noddy.
  • White Tern.
  • Pacific Golden-Plover.
  • Hawaiian Duck.
  • Hawaiian Stilt.
  • Nene.
  • ‘Io (Hawaiian Hawk).
  • Erckel’s Francolin.
  • Oma’o.
  • Apanane.
  • I’iwi.
  • ‘Amakihi.
  • ‘Alawi.
  • Red Junglefowl.
  • Kalij Pheasant.
  • Spotted Dove.
  • Zebra Dove.
  • Rose-ringed Parakeet.
  • Red-vented Bulbul.
  • Japanese White-eye.
  • Chesnut Munia.
  • Yellow-fronted Canary.
  • Red-crested Cardinal.
  • Yellow-billed Cardinal


  • Brant.
  • Emperor Goose.
  • Fulvous Whistling Duck.
  • Black Scoter.
  • Black Oystercatcher.
  • Sabine’s Gull.


  • Juniper Titmouse.

That’s 32 new life birds!

Home to deep snow and feeders abandoned by the birds, I filled the feeders and this afternoon a Northern Flicker dined on the suet.

And golly, does the Hawaiian language sure does have lots of vowels.

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