Cece and I went to Taranaki today. It’s a volcano near the west coast of the north island, and it’s pretty friggin awesome.

It took us three hours to drive there, and another three hours to get back, but it was totally worth it.

At the entrance to the national park there’s a sign letting you know that this is natural habitat for the kiwi, so please don’t bring Rover or Spot.

The Dog Language, "kiwi" is the word for "delicious"

Then you drive up a steep windy road that looks like something from the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland…

"We meet again, Dr. Jones."

Our destination is visible through a break in the foliage...

We made it safely to the parking lot, to be rewarded by a magnificent view of the eastern face of Taranaki.

When I say "face" I really mean face. Can you see it?

According to Maori legend, Taranaki used to live in the center of the island with all the other volcanoes, until he fought with a volcano named Tongariro. Said fight was over the affections of Pihanga, who was so beautiful even volcanoes had the hots for her.

(See what I did there? Volcanoes … hot? It’s a gift.)

Anyway, Tongariro blew his top, and Taranaki escaped to the west. When Taranaki is hidden by clouds it’s because he’s crying for his lost love, and when the sun sets behind him he’s showing off for the beautiful Pihanga.

(This episode is the origin of the old saying “Calderas before hos, dude.”)

Outside the visitor center is a beautiful Maori … uh, totem pole? Do Maori call them totem poles, or is that a Pacific Northwest thing? I tried looking it up, but googling “What do Maori call totem poles?” just got a bunch of sites of non-Maori talking about “Maori totem poles.” Thanks for nothing, intardnets.

Whatever it’s called, it’s beautiful:

Google failed me on what to call this.

There are hiking trails that will take you up to the summit and all around the volcano, if you have really sturdy shoes and about 5 days with no obligations. We only had a couple of hours (plus we’re old and weak) so we chose the Kapuni loop track to see the Kapuni Stream and Dawson Falls.

Remember when I said before about Indiana Jones? The track was through prime Indy territory. Cece showed discretion over valor and allowed me to walk point.

Hopefully the "Pirates" backpack will protect me

Her wisdom was demonstrated when I was attacked by a fiendishly clever trap, possibly in punishment for not knowing what Maori call totem poles.

Steve is already half-swallowed.

Luckily Cece pulled me to safety and we discovered Dawson Falls.

I had been looking forward to finally meeting Katie Holmes, but Cece had to ruin it by saying Dawson Falls is not the source of Dawson’s Creek. Damn, foiled again.

Dawson Falls is named after a European who was the first to discover it, if you ignore a few tens of thousands of Maori who saw it before him.

As you can see in these pictures, there is a very small waterfall a few meters to the right of Dawson Fall. We couldn’t tell if anyone had already named it, so I have officially claimed it as Steve’s Trickle. Please alert National Geographic, or whomever is in charge of keeping track of these things.

Dawson Fall and Steve's Trickle

I'm not threatened by your magnificent flow, Mr. Dawson

Cece took a video of this part. Let’s see if this works…

The Fall and Trickle land in a beautiful rocky base, where we sat and had our lunch while admiring my Trickle.

Afterward, we hiked back to our car and bid Taranaki adieu. As we left, his face was covered in clouds. I think he was sad to see us go.

E noho rā, Taranaki!