The Koa Experience by Tiffany DeEtte Shafto (2007)
Tim and I had the most amazing time on the Big Island! One of the many highlights of our trip was our primary purpose in going—meeting our koa sawyer and seeing the mountain where this beautiful wood is coming from. We started our morning at 4 AM to be able to meet him at a lookout 45 minutes north of Hilo where we were staying. As we waited, we watched the sunrise and marveled at its incredible orange glow through the clouds. Our sawyer arrived and after a delightful conversation we were following him up the mountain. We headed up through gates and elevation changes and watched in awe as the forest changed from ironwoods to guava to ohia and koa. It became denser and the hapu (tree ferns) among the koa were reaching heights of 30ft as they stretched to reach us on top of the ridge. The koa tree canopies engulfed us and we continued.
We finally reached our destination after an hour and a half in four-wheel drive (we only traveled eight miles) and the landscape changed completely. We exited the protected forest onto private land that had been used for more than a century as cattle pastures. Here the ohia and koa trees stood out among the grass, beautiful and majestic. This was the place! This is where they perform the task of searching for the fallen, dead, and dying trees, reclaiming them with loads of heavy equipment, and milling them into the boards we use to create our artwork.
This is where new life for the amazing koa begins and it is this handful of people who make it all possible for so many of us. What a task! Our jaws dropped and we had a permanent smile all day.