Friday, September 22, 2017

Mokulua Plane Wreck

I love having visitors. My mom came to Oahu for the Labor Day weekend. We had a wonderful time hiking, kayaking, and just spending time together. Our kayaking adventure was something I have had on my list of Hawaii gems for six months. We rented a double and a single kayak. Mike took the single. We loaded our boats with fins, masks, and snorkels. I love the picture below. Mom is working hard and I'm hanging out. Good job, Mom!
We used GPS coordinates found on this blog and used Mike's triathlon watch to get us there. Mike found the wreck with far less trouble than I would have thought. Basically we looked for the dark reef and the landing strip at Bellows Air base. He jumped in and swam around until the watch told him we were there. Voila! While he was splashing around, Mom and I looked for sea turtles. She saw three. I only saw too. They poked their cute curious little heads out of the water to watch us, but swam away when we unloaded our fins.
The plane is a cool old P-47 thunderbolt that's been hanging out down there for the past 70 years. The engine of the plane failed right after takeoff from Bellows. The plane went down, pilot lived. Apparently in Hawaii, if you wreck your plane, you just leave it. We've been to three plane wrecks on Oahu now. I'll post on the other one soon. It seems the wreck was still visible above the water until the 70s when a storm pushed it out to see. Now it's wedged between sections of reef about 12 feet down. The tail is ripped off and lays to one side while the engine and propeller are further beyond it. The whole plane is in remarkably good condition for 70 years of harsh ocean water. We jumped in and did a whole bunch of swimming around. Mom even leaned over the edge to check it out. I paddled her over to the engine too.
After 20ish mins, we'd seen what there was to see and jumped back in. We took off toward the Mokes, a pair of beautiful islets off the coast of Lanikai. We landed on the bigger of the two (with about 50 other people...ewwww) and did a little walking around. The islands are bird sanctuaries and smell about how you'd expect. It's about two miles to paddle from Moku Nui, the larger of the Twin Islands, back to Kailua Beach Park. We totaled 4 miles round trip paddling. Go us! Our arms were noodles.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Playing Tourist in Boston

Two of my favorite people moved to Boston this summer for a yearlong escape from Utah. So, of course, I had to pay them a visit. My sister's birthday fell on a Friday and Mike and I always go somewhere for our anniversary (Belize then Iceland/Ireland the past two years). This year we flew 6000 miles to the gorgeous city of Boston.
After an overnight flight, breakfast and a nap, we rented kayaks and paddled the Charles River, then rode on Hubway bikes just for the freedom and novelty to Boston Commons. Next, we had fancy cocktails on the top floor of the Prudential. We walked back to Em's place and "got all gussied up" as Mike says. Then we had an amazing dinner at a jazz bar and restaurant called The Beehive. It was fabulous!
The next morning I woke up feeling like a superhero, weird since I drink so rarely. I talked Mike into running a loop around the Charles over a few bridges. It was gorgeous! We took off feeling pretty good. A mile in we joined a huge group of people doing a walk for heart disease. Two miles in, I realized I was not doing quite as well as I had though. Three miles in we did some walking and took some pictures. After five miles, we were back at the apartment. 
Em and James took us to the Boston Public Library. Its a super beautiful marble historic building with the coolest place to study. It also leads into the new library which is also amazing, but more modern. After that, I was finally ready to eat something. We went to a salad place called Sweet Green. Oh my gosh! So freaking good. I need one of these next door to my office, or maybe my house.

James was called into work on Sunday, boo! Emily, Mike and I went on a Duck tour. Our guide was a pirate with great jokes and a good attitude. Unfortunately, 3/4 of our boat was non-native English speaking. So most of his jokes went WAY over their heads. We were the three giggling in the back corner. Anyway, it was a great tour with a ton of history.
Next, we picked up a Zip Car and Emily drove us to Nashoba Valley Winery for apple picking and wine tasting. It was delightful! There were tons of people there with kids and dogs and picnic baskets. Everyone was just hanging out enjoying the beauty. The trees were just barely beginning to show signs of fall. We picked a peck of Gravenstein and Macintosh apples, sampled a bunch of red wines, and took silly pictures in the apple orchard.

On our way back we stopped at Trader Joe's (I miss this store so much! Pleeeeeese come to Hawaii!!!) and picked up meats and veggies. The rooftop at Emily's apartment building has grills, tables and chairs and even a big TV with cable. We watched a lovely sunset and had a feast. I made an apple pie for dessert. I think it turned out ok, but should have baked longer.

Monday we went whale watching. We sailed way out of the harbor until Boston was just a blip on the horizon. We stopped to watch a mola mola fish sunning itself in the water. These are the strangest looking creatures. They are gray and flat with long gray fins on top and bottom. They move by waving those fins. They don't have the tail and side fins most fish do. Super odd. I'd never actually seen one in person before. We ventured further and started seeing spouts. We found five or six fin whales which are freakin gigantic. We looked them up after the trip and realized we were only seeing maybe five percent of the whole. Then we found a single young humpback. It was a calf from last year and had NO fear of the boat. She swam right underneath us a few times. Seriously the coolest!
On recommendation, we had to try Tiger Mama. It's an Asian Fusian place with clever pairings. We ordered a bunch of plates and split them four ways. They have an extensive gluten free menu and are very conscious of it. The food was amazing! I can't decide whether their papaya salad or their seared scallops were better.
For our anniversary, Mike and I went to the aquarium. You'd think with as much diving as we do the aquarium would be nothing more than amusing. Not so. We spent a full 45 minutes in the shark exhibit. They had rays and sharks you can TOUCH!!! It was amazing! The place in itself is so dang cool. It has four levels with a huge cylindrical tank in the middle. A concrete ramp spirals up around the tank which is full of fish, rays, bonnethead sharks (!!!!) and even a huge old turtle. The first level has three penguin exhibits. They're super stinky but also super cute! Each has a colored band around one wing which lets you identify it on an ipad nearby. There are all kinds of fish on each level including a big octopus. Additionally there were poison dart frogs and anacondas. Yikes. Finally, they have some super cute seals, which are hilarious animals if you just sit and watch them for a bit.

We went to Legal Seafoods for lunch. I'd heard they had a GF lobster roll (at $30! yikes). The one we went to did not. Also the service was poor at best. However, we had really good lite clam chowder, a salad and seafood casserole. Very tasty, but we were stuffed for the rest of the day. So much for anniversary dinner. Haha!

Afterward we went back to the aquarium and watched a 3D IMAX film on great white sharks. So cool! I find sharks fascinating. Most people are terrified of them and think they should all die. Those people don't understand how important they are. Sharks are vital the the health of the oceans. They clean up dead and dying animals. They should always be treated with respect and awareness, but they're not mindless killers. I hope people realize that before it is too late.

We stayed at a cute AirBnb in East Boston just blocks from great dining, an amazing view of the skyline, and the airport. Easy peasy. Thanks to Emily and James for a fast and furious weekend in an amazing city!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Neato Maps and Gratitude

 It's safe to say I've been some places. I love to travel and see and do. I've been some places, seen some tiny portion of the world. I found these cool maps that allowed me to visualize how many countries and states I have been to. At the same time they show the whole state or country. I am amazed at how little ground I have actually covered and how many places I have yet to experience. This gives me a solid case of the wanderlust. Truuk? Peru? New Zealand? Australia? Palau? Mongolia? I'm coming for you!
At the same time, I'm immensely grateful for the life I was born into and have created for myself. Utah is a magical desert adventure land with nearly every sport imaginable. I was raised mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, skiing, and camping. My dad would sneak me out of school to go ski when I was in elementary. Mom took me for horseback rides in the fields and mountains around my house. When I was older, I did these things on my own and with friends. Greatest memories ever!

I moved to the great state of Washington in all it's dark beauty after college. I'd heard it rains there. A lot. Turns out, that's not really true. Amidst all of the towering evergreens, I discovered trail running, learned to snowboard, climbed my first multi-pitch, went backpacking, and hiked beautiful Olympic trails. Did it rain? Oh yes, often. Was it awful? Nope! I loved it.

Lastly and most lately, Hawaii is home base. It is a wonderland for anyone who loves adventure. There is so much to do here no matter your priority. Beautiful beaches and turquoise waters are just the first glimpse. I worried I would have island fever, be bored, or run out of things to do. Instead I am worried that I will leave before I can hike all the trails I want to hike, dive all the wrecks, learn to surf, kiteboard, freedive, play ukulele. I have fallen in love with cycling beneath the incredible green, jagged pali (cliffs) of Eastern Oahu, doing sunrise yoga on the beach, and chasing sunsets.

So, I choose to be ever grateful for the incredible life I have. Thank you to my parents for the guidance and lessons that put me on this path, to everyone who has helped me along the way, to my beautiful sisters who provide the most delightful chaos, and to my amazing husband who brings light to my life. I love you guys!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Honolulu Tinman Triathlon

A week and a half ago, Mike and I completed our first (mostly) Olympic triathlon. An Olympic tri is 1500m swim, 40K bike, and 10K run. Tinman has a shorty swim at only 750m. This turned out to be plenty. The race started at 5:45 AM in waves based on age and sex. Mike went at 5:55. My training partner Joe followed at 6:00. My group of ladies was the last and smallest group. Small but mighty!!! (too much? k sorry) About five years ago Mike and I ran an x-terra triathlon at Deception Pass in Washington. I trained hardest for the swim and was very unprepared for the thrashing mass of bodies that swimming with a group entails. This time, I was smarter. I trained with a buddy and learned to keep an eye on him to space myself. So, during the Tinman, I started all of the way to the outside of the group and stayed there the whole time. As the pack spread out and thinned, it was more comfortable. I survived!
I had practiced the bike ride several times. I tore out of the gate and made great time. There was one intersection that wasn't protected by a police officer and I was nearly hit by a car. Not optimal. Anyway, I averaged 18 mph moving pace over the 25 hilly miles. That's my fastest overall ride yet!
Transitioning to running was really hard for me. My legs didn't want to work and I felt like I was jumping up more than actually moving forward. Imagine how a toddler runs. That was me. Luckily I came out of the transition gate with Joe, who coached me and kept me moving down the road. After a couple of miles, I felt better and ran/walked the rest of the course. My heart rate was really high the whole time. As I approached what I thought was the finish line, I heard Mike cheering me on. Then someone on the side line yelled "Pass her!" to the runner behind me. Of course my first thought was "Aw HELL NO!". I took off at full sprint and realized the course kept going around 2 more corners. So I ran and ran and ran and crossed the finish just before him. We high fived and I tried not to die. This picture was taken 3 seconds after a whole series where I look like I just took a kick to the stomach. I like to pretend I ran across the finish line with such a big smile on my face.
I had a great time and I am really excited to run the H3 Triathlon in October.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Lost in Paradise: Climbing Crystal Canyon

When Mike and I first moved to Oahu, we learned there was one climbing crag by the sea at the Northwest tip of the island with pretty good climbing. So, of course, we went to scope it out. It had poured endlessly the day before and we were pretty sure the rock would be too slimy to do any real climbing. Mountain Project gave us directions to the trailhead "located .3 miles East of YMCA between two signs." The trail was .5 miles long. Cool, found it, doesn't look like much though... Hmmm...
The trail entered through a bunch of trash and into an area that looked more like a high school kid pot hangout than a trail to a well used crag. We hiked along what was maybe an animal trail for a ways and finally arrived at a real trail. It forked shortly after. We walked one side of the trail, which clearly went out to the road. So we tried the other side. It went up the canyon. Thinking that looked pretty promising we followed the trail in until we hit a 15' wall of vines/roots with a rope hanging down. Obviously, we had to go up to continue. Challenge accepted!
From there, we ascended canyons walls using wet, muddy ropes, navigated around a big pool using chains bolted to the wall, up what obviously was a waterfall when it rains and finally up the side of the canyon to what could be a climbing wall. It was not the right climbing wall, more a project long abandoned. A few bolts, an old bucket, and some tools stashed under an overhang, were abandoned. The views of the North Shore and Mokuleia Beach were spectacular! Every time we were about to give up and backtracked, we found another rope or chain leading up.
Finally we ran out of up minus one very unstable looking cable. Command decision was to head back down. We back tracked down along the muddy ropes and vertical root wall back to our original point of indecision. We picked the other trail thinking it would be something real and ended up walking through the trees on unbalance lava rocks until we came to a really nicely maintained trail with a big sign that read "H4 Tsunami Escape Route". We used that to walk out through the YMCA and back to the car. Three hours after we started, we were mud splattered, scraped, and grinning ear to ear. It was a great little adventure!
Consequently, we drove .3 miles WEST of the YMCA, and there was a very nice, well-used trail complete with a note about stolen climbing shoes. Plenty of adventure for later. A Google search tells me the canyon is called Crystal Canyon. There isn't much on it, a local treasure not many have frequented. I loved it!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Dirtbagging the Perfect Getaway in Kauai

When I was in Japan, I watched The Perfect Getaway with a group of friends. The movie was entertaining and the company was good, but the scenery was unbelievable! I decided I had to go! That was 2010. Since I have a bucket list that is five pages long... not kidding... I finally made it happen this year. Mike and I chose to keep the trip as simple as possible. Fly in, hike, camp two nights, hike, fly out. It ended up being a little more dirtbag than usual, but was all the more fun for that reason.
Mike and I took a 6 am island hopper flight to Kauai. We boarded a bus to Hanalei where we rented a camp stove since you can't take one on flights. Seriously, TSA, I can have a lighter, but not a camp stove without fuel? Logic people, logic! Anyway, the bus stops in Hanalei which is the cutest little North Shore Hawaii town. I like it better than Haleiwa. From there, we hitchhiked to the trailhead. Neither of us had ever thumbed a ride before and it took a solid 10 minutes, but eventually a beat up Tacoma pulled over. We threw our packs in the back and had a fantastic ride with Rashal, an Indian international student out adventuring while waiting for his work visa to show up. He took us all the way in.
At 10:00 we started our hike. The hike is 11 miles up and over ridges, around cliffs and through valleys to a gorgeous beach. The weather was partly cloudy with a light sprinkle of rain, which completely saved the day and kept the temperature down. The first two miles of the trail are steep, up and over a ridge from one beach to another. They're also packed with tourists with very little regard for trail etiquette. After that, we met very few people, a few day hikers here and there and a few backpackers coming or going, all friendly, some barefoot.
The trail winds through a tropical jungle full of birds, palms and lizards curving suddenly into open mountain vistas with turquoise water far below. Along the way we found ripe mountain apples to munch on. There are also mango trees everywhere, but they weren't in season. We took a brief stop for lunch (Mike informs me that snacks do not count as lunch) at a picnic area near mile 6. Eventually the trail rounded a bend with a sign that read Dangerous Cliffs ahead. Cool! Our type of hike! One side is very sandy and I was glad we had left the rain behind. The other side was a narrow trail cut into the rocky cliff. Neither area was as scary as people made it out to be. However, the sand was a deep reddish brown with yucca plants growing there and there, the cliffs were black, and the turquoise waves crashed on the rocks below. It was very beautiful and I could see how people might get distracted.
Finally we rounded the corner and descended into Kalalau Valley. We followed a red dirt trail to a lovely stream with little waterfalls and pools, then up into the campground which is really just a bunch of trees that people hook hammocks up to. We did not have a hammock and I'm utterly disappointed about that detail. If you go, take one!! After some (too much) research, we left our tent behind and brought just the rainfly, our sleeping mats, inflatable pillows and a blanket. We left all these at a campsite in the middle and went straight to the waterfall at the far end of the beach for a shower. After 6 hours of walking in the dirt, it was amazing!
I rehydrated some turkey chili for dinner and we ate on the ground, hobo style, passing the cook pot back and forth. It was perfect! Afterward, we heated some water for tea on the beach while the sun set. We dragged our mats, pillows and blanket out to the sand and slept under the stars. I hadn't thought about the moon being full. It was brilliant and super duper bright. Not great for sleeping or star gazing. haha!
I woke at dawn to pink tinged skies over the ocean and dramatic green cliffs surrounding the valley. Perfect. We put our stuff back at camp and went to explore the sea caves before breakfast. There are a series of tide created caves all along the beach. Some are small indents, others are huge caverns. We walked into the pure blackness of one that ended in a pool. Mike swam in to see if it went anywhere, fortunately, it did not. I'm adventurous, but have my limits.
After breakfast, we walked back to the river to fill waters. Mike lost a sandal in the water and we jumped from rock to rock all the way out to the ocean to find it. No luck, but it was fun! We found some abandoned Keens that fit him and headed up the Kalalau Valley trail. It vaguely follows a stream up to a small waterfall with a swimming hole and rope swing. It may go further, but I was pretty happy with that spot and my legs weren't feeling like I needed another 11 mile day. 10 was enough. :) The stream was brisk and refreshing and deep enough that I didn't bottom out with the rope swing. On the way back down the trail, we ran into a huge group of people heading up to the falls. Timing win!
The rest of the day was quiet, lunch, a nap, some card games, and watching an incredible sunset on the beach. Mike moved us to a beachfront campsite that opened up that morning. It was perfect! We had our own little path to the super soft sand. All of the campers come out to the beach for sunset. I counted just over 40 people including myself. There may have been a few more in the tree line though. It's a big area and we didn't spend much time with others, though I assume you can be as social as you want to be. We slept in our campsite which offered a bit more protection from the wind and midnight sun. One of the feral kitties that roams the campground decided to walk across my feet during the night. I have no idea where the cats came from. There aren't any along the trail and it's a solid 11 miles to civilization. Strange!

We woke at dawn to a beautiful moonset over the ridge while the sun turned the sky pink and blue. We had breakfast, packed up quickly, and were on the trail by 630. It was really hot the day before and we were hoping to avoid too much sun on the exposed parts of the trail. It worked. We were in the shade or under the canopy for most of the day. We took a detour by the middle campground to go check out a super tall waterfall.
The last two miles of trail were so much harder than the previous 10 (including the waterfall side trip). The people watching was interesting, but it's hard walking up a seemingly endless incline with a pack while you're getting shoved by teenage boys who are all about getting to the bottom faster than their brothers. Yeesh! There were still some friendly people though. The trip back took 6.5 hours with the side trip and a few nutrition breaks. We showered at the beach so we'd be less offensive. Mike ran right into Rashal as we were heading in to change into real clothes. He gave us a ride into town, again! Seriously, nicest guy there ever was!
We spent a few hours in Hanalei finding lunch and exploring the shops. The bus ride back was an adventure, full of homeless people, drunks, interesting people, and teenagers. We got to the airport shuttle stop in Lihue to find out that it stopped running early on weekends. So, we walked the last few miles to the airport and caught our 730 pm flight out. Whirlwind trip, but I wouldn't change a thing. Every moment was just as interesting and lively as the last. Someday we will kayak in and spend a few more nights.
One thing worth mentioning, we thought we were going somewhere remote and secluded. We were wrong. The beach and campground never seemed crowded. However, there were helicopters flying overhead from 800 am to about 530 pm every day. Zodiacs and sailing tours sped along the coastline until sunset. Nights were peaceful and quiet.
Mike and I rewatched The Perfect Getaway when we returned and realized just how little of it was actually filmed on the trail. Really I just love Milla Jovovich, Timothy Olyphant and Chris Hemsworth. So rewatching a pretty movie with pretty people, kind of great!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Baby Albatross at Ka'ena Point

When Lisa and Jeff were out to visit last month, we walked to Ka'ena Point from the North Shore. It's listed as a hike, but I don't believe that long flat walks constitute hiking. Anyway, you basically walk 3 miles along the beautiful shoreline to a protected bird preserve on the westernmost tip of O'ahu.

Along the way we saw some tidepools, lots of locals camping, and huge yucca plants, which I think are really cool. I just like succulents, ok? Yeesh! When we started the walk (see, walk, not hike), a park ranger told us that it was albatross weaning season. So the baby birds were just spreading their wings and leaving the nest. We saw a bunch of them! Each was the size of a fully grown turkey with a huge wingspan. They're still downy with dark feathers that are beginning to transition into the smooth white feathers that adorn the adults. The adult birds have a wingspan of up to 11 feet!

At the very tip of the island is a rocky point created from lava flow (have I mentioned how cool it is to live here? LAVA!!!!) Anyway, Mike and I walked out there to take in a view of the west and north sides of the island and we saw two monk seals lounging in the surf!

The walk back was long and uneventful, but we stopped at the Dole Plantation for Dole Whip and everyone was a happy camper. Mmmmmm! Pineapple!