Thursday, June 21, 2018

Molokai, My Last Hawaiian Island

After a nasty rainstorm that caused flooding and mudslides on Kauai, our kayaking trip along the Na Pali Coast was canceled. The park is closed until further notice so the beautiful valley can heal. Since the trip was canceled along with a planned work trip, I booked a little weekend getaway to Molokai, the last island I had to visit. Since it was last-minute, I wasn't able to book the mule tour everyone raves about. However, the weekend ended up being the perfect blend of adventure, relaxation, and ice cream (don't judge). 
Molokai is very old Hawaii. There are no stoplights, chain restaurants, Starbucks, malls, etc. It's known as The Friendly Isle and is full of friendly Hawaiians. This is really only surprising because we've experienced the opposite on all the other islands. As it turns out, most people don't like their islands being overrun with Haole tourists and military beouffs. Go figure. 
Molokai is Southwest of Oahu and North of Maui. It's hot and dry with gorgeous western beaches and a beautiful green mountain on the east end. The first day, we landed and had breakfast before driving up to Kalaupapa Lookout and Phallic Rock (no joke, they call it that). Kalaupapa is the old leper colony. It's this incredibly beautiful green peninsula at the bottom of steep pali (cliffs). The overlook really only gives and idea of what is there. Since a permit is required and strictly enforced, we were unable to go. Maybe I'll go back and hike or ride the mules.
Phallic Rock is a very phallic rock. I think I'm funny. No? Anyway, it is said that if a woman makes an offering and spends the night there, she will leave pregnant. I'm not sure if she is supposed to take the man there with her or not. Either way, it's a short walk in on a pretty little trail. I touched it, barely, but didn't spend the night. So, probably safe? :)
Hawaii, HI Penis Rock So Classy Fertility
Following that, we drove east to Halawa Valley. We stopped to check out a farmer market in the main town. The road out is beautiful and coastal. Then it turns and winds through the valleys to Halawa trailhead. Apparently a permit is required to hike here too. We arrived too late for the hike, but some sites listed $60 for it. That's sixty dollars to move my own legs up a trail.... Sigh. There is a beautiful little beach at the bottom with waves for surfing and a giant pile of marine netting. This makes me sad. Mike found us a cocount and we split it for lunch. 
We stayed at Hotel Molokai which has funny little villas for rooms. Ours was super cozy. We enjoyed a long nap and played in the pool before dinner. The resort has a little oceanside restaurant with live music. Mike was a copy cat and we both had the blackened swordfish salad for dinner. It was fabulous! Afterward, we had to run into town to buy some of the Molokai Hot Bread, which is literally fresh warm bread with cream cheese and jam inside. Everyone raves about this. There is a line and everything. They are open every day! So, this just confuses me. Mike said it was tasty, but nothing mind blowing. It smelled way good.

The next morning we stopped at the town's only coffee shop for breakfast. My acai bowl had zero acai and all strawberry. New concept for me, but it tasted fine. We headed out to the west side to check out the beaches. We chose the longest beach in Hawaii, Papohaku, for a walk. Mike jumped in, and I chickened out. We walked all the way down to the other end and ran intervals back. The sand was so hard to run in! 
We ate at Molokai Pizza Cafe for lunch. I had a chef salad with no dressing (not as bad as you'd think). Mike had a pizza burger which looked awesome (are you seeing a theme yet?). We followed it up with this banana split just to make me feel better. We spent the rest of the afternoon curled up in a hammock at the hotel reading our books. 
The flight out may have been the best part of the trip. I booked us on Mokulele Air, which I've never flown. We were checked off a list to board. The flight left early because everyone was there. Instead of a noisy jet with sterile flight attendants, we were on a 12 seater single prop with big windows. The captain turned around in his seat to breif us. The flight was both stunning and fun. We flew lower because it's a prop plane. So worth it. I don't think I'll be island hopping on Hawaiian anymore. Loved it!
So that's it, a fun little weekend getaway with my man. Nothing insanely adventurous, but perfect for what we needed.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Springtime Adventures in Steamboat Springs, CO

Last fall my dad invited me to a yoga retreat in Steamboat Springs, CO in May. The cost was ridiculously low and I happen to love Colorado. Plus, a darling little ski town in the middle of nowhere with hot springs, um YES PLEASE! So, I was instantly waving my money in the air yelling "I WANT TO GO!!!" My husband is a super patient man. I RSVP'd immediately and Dad put the deposit in for the four of us.
Steamboat springs, Colorado, hiking
Fast forward to May, I'd been beyond excited about this trip for months. The retreat was run by Erin of Oso and Co Adventures out of Heber City, UT. She did an amazing job with planning and execution of every aspect of it. And the best part of all? She has two sweet doggies to snuggle. Westy was less than 4 months old and I couldn't get enough!
The schedule Erin had laid out for the retreat was packed full of amazingness. Each day began with pranayama (breath work) on the deck in the morning sunshine. That was followed immediately by breakfast, a two hour block of yoga, and lunch. Then there was a gap of time for an activity: biking, hiking, visiting town (more on all of that in a min). Then we came back for another 60-90 minute block of yoga, dinner and a lesson on Shamanism from Soaring Eagle Ed. Two nights even included visit to the hot springs.
Steamboat Springs Colorado, bike
Each yoga practice centered around a chakra. We began at the root chakra working on centering ourselves and finally ended with the crown chakra where we danced and did lots of fun inversions. So, seven practices in four days with completely different themes, movements, and poses. I loved each one. For the throat chakra, she had us scream for several rounds. I thought it was freeing and funny. Mike found it emotional. Lorrie was horrified. So, that was an interesting social experiment. 
aspens, steamboat springs, co, colorado, hike, hiking
The meals worked through the chakras as well. Some were a combination of two adjacent chakras. The food was a bounty of color and flavor, mostly vegetarian with a bit of turkey thrown in here and there. 
The activity for the first day was mountain biking. We rented bikes in town and rode Spring Creek Trail. It's about 4 miles each way with 1200 feet of elevation gain. Yikes. The original plan was to drive to the top and bike down. Most of us opted to bike up and down. I made it most of the way. The trail started around 7000 feet of elevation. If you've never lived at sea level then tried to be awesome over a mile higher, know this: you'll struggle. Mike and I felt like our lungs were raw and shredded by the midpoint. I finally turned around before the final push because why trash my body on day 1? Lorrie and I rode down together and I forgot just how joyous cruising downhill on a mountain bike is. The air smelled amazing, there were trees and sun and greenery everywhere, plus it's fun to ride across streams and bridges. This trail was a win. Even my lungs grudgingly agree.
mountain bike, biking, colorado, spring creek trail, co
Day 2's activity was a little bitty hike to Fish Creek Falls. Again, we pushed the distance. The first and bigger falls is only a quarter mile down a paved trail. Ummmm.... So we went to the second falls which is a crazy beautiful five mile round trip. Have I mentioned I love Colorado? BTW I love this picture of Mike. He's not even posing, he woke up like this. :D
waterfall, colorado, steamboat springs, co, hike, hiking, sexy man

hike, hiking, steamboat springs, co, colorado, yoga, waterfall
I visited the hotsprings both nights. They are up in the mountains with no light pollution, amazing stars, and not too many people. However, after dark, there is no lighting and people go nude. So we saw lots of random naked dudes with the flashlight beam while trying to find somewhere to stash my clothes. Luckily, everyone in my group went in swimsuits. 

I would love to do another retreat like this. We met so many great people. Living communally with tons of activities and someone to cook me awesome food is literally the best thing in the whole world!

Friday, March 23, 2018

A Dose of Maui Sunshine

One of the most awesome things about living in Hawaii is how easy it is to island hop. From busy Oahu, I can be on lush Kauai or beautiful Maui in 30 minutes on an easy jumper flight. Each island has its own unique feel and personality. Oahu is the most crowded, but the big volcanic spine of the Ko'olau Mountains through the middle of the island keeps it full of intriguing wild spaces. Maui on the other hand feels like sunshine. It's energy is warm, serene, and wonderful. There are beautiful beaches, gorgeous reefs, and big mountains. Haleakala is the volcano in the middle of the island. While the rest of the island is green, Haleakala is barren with a moon scape at the top. One of these days, I will backpack across that crater.
Maui Hibiscus Hiking Lahaina Hawaii
This visit was with friends. We met Duane, Angie, and Taylor in the gorgeous west Maui coastal town of Lahaina. Mike and Duane were friends years ago in both the Army and civilian worlds. It's been really fun to reunite. Mike and I arrived early Saturday morning. We ate breakfast at the beautiful Sea House restaurant in Napili Bay. The restaurant is right on the water with big open windows and a fabulous view. We had the sweet potato frittata and Haleakala custard pancake. Both were gluten free and delicious.
Maui Wild Pineapple Hiking Lahaina Hawaii
Next we took a little hike up Mahana Ridge Trail. I thought I had read that it was a four mile roundtrip. Nope, that's Waihee Ridge. Oops. We ended up doing a nine mile roundtrip to the Arboretum. The full loop through the Arboretum adds and additional eight miles for a total of 17. I was not up for 17 miles. Our hike was fun though. We followed it up with some super tasty Mexican at Frida's Beach House. We split the Diego Plato with beef. It was super tasty and we were once again seated right on the water. However, the service was terrible and prices were very high. We stayed in a darling two bedroom condo close to everything in Lahaina. When our friends arrived, we took a walk to find dinner and entertainment for the night.

Maui Hiking Lahaina Hawaii
 Maui Hiking Lahaina Hawaii

The next morning we had a dive trip to Lanai scheduled. At 0700, we boarded a boat and rode about 45 minutes to the neighboring island. On the way, we had to stop to watch whales jumping and playing in the ocean. Two even swam very close to our boat. So cool! The diving was ok. Visibility was over 100 feet and there were lots of swim-throughs and fish. I saw a huge lobster and a turtle. What made it not amazing was the number of divers on the trip. There were three groups of nine divers all hitting the same sites at the same time. The sites aren't big, so there weren't a lot of areas to enjoy without others bumping into you. The second site was First Cathedral which is a big cavern under the water. It's stunningly beautiful with light streaming in through smaller "windows". Again, ten people (a photographer had joined us) packed into a small space under water is not my favorite way to experience it. I think I was just spoiled rotten in Truk with our small dive groups. Lahaina Divers is a top notch company and provides muffins, sandwiches, chips, fruit and chocolate chip cookies. I had chips and fruit, but the guys loved the cookies. After everyone showered, napped and drank wine, we had a BBQ by the pool in the common area of the condos.

Maui Whales Lanai Hawaii Boat Ride

Maui Lahaina Divers Dive Diver Swim Through Travel Hawaii
Our final morning we all hiked up to the Lahainaluna High School "L". This is only a 3ish mile hike if you know where you're going. We turned it into a 5.5 mile hike complete with GPS and drone reconnaissance to get us there. We'd gone the wrong way around a new solar power plant (which hadn't existed when the directions were written). So, adventure route, which I like. The path down was well marked except for right at the beginning. It also smelled wonderful. The trail wound down through lemon gum eucalyptus trees. Reading more about the hike, we may have been trespassing. Whoops!

Lahaina High School Friends Maui Hawaii

Lahainaluna High School Lahaina Hiking Hike Maui Hawaii
Duane, Mike and I went spearfishing at Hanakao'o Park. We rented guns and went with a local guide. Keoki was awesome, but the price wasn't worth it to me. We go at home for free. So I struggle with paying someone to swim with me and put my fish in a bag. That's ok. We had a great time. I saw a bunch of octopi and almost caught one! We swam with a big eagle ray. I shot three fish, but one got away. Duane also shot three fish. The first was a porcupine or puffer fish and blew up like a spiky balloon. It was hilarious! Mike was unlucky but had a good time anyway.

 Hawaii freediving wildlife

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Diving the Underwater WWII Museum of Truk Lagoon

Truk Lagoon, Chuuk, Micronesia, FSM, Diving, Truck, Shipwreck
I've been a scuba diver for about 10 years now. That's not to say I've done a ton of diving, or that I'm the best diver everrrrr, just that I've been in the process of becoming comfortable in the water for some time. Somewhere along the way I heard about Truk Lagoon, a World War II graveyard of Japanese ships to explore. Micronesia was occupied by the Japanese during WWII. On February 4, 1944, the US Navy did a reconnaissance fly by and were spotted, leading to the evacuation of most of the Japanese naval fleet occupying what is now the state of Chuuk. What remained two weeks later when the US launched Operation Hailstorm were mostly Maru, merchant class ships converted for wartime efforts. The US Navy bombed the hell out of these ships, sinking around 40 ships and several planes. Subsequently, Truk Lagoon was a cemetery until about 45 years ago when the human remains were removed and the lagoon was opened for diving. The wrecks are in great shape due to a protective barrier reef that prevents currents.
Truk Lagoon, Chuuk, Micronesia, FSM, Diving, Truck, Shipwreck
Many of the ships are super deep, meaning they are technical dives requiring a lot more experience and bravery than I have. Most of what I dove was in 90 to 120 feet of water at the deepest points. Mike did one dive to 160 feet, which is about 20 feet deeper than I've ever been. Diving is really good in Chuuk. There are some amazing soft and hard corals, huge schools of tiny fish and overall healthy ocean which is surprising for a few reasons. The first, of course, is the shear amount of iron and steel rotting in the depths. Next is the oil, coal, gunpowder and whatever else was released into the water 70-odd years ago. Lastly, the population of the state is low, which is its saving grace. Otherwise, there would be trash everywhere. Chuukese people are very very poor. There is not much work to be had and a lot of the population is unemployed with little pride in their community. Heaps of trash surround nearly every house. Old broken cars line the road of the town. Those who work at the resort which is the major employer on the island, along with the airport, work 12+ hour days every single day. The people here are very hard-working, shy but kind.
Truk Lagoon, Chuuk, Micronesia, FSM, Diving, Truck, Shipwreck
Blue Lagoon Resort is my type of place in a few regards: no phones, televisions, and nearly useless internet available only in the lobby. Rooms are simple and clean with amazing ocean views. Food is mediocre, which was great for preventing me from pigging out. Diving. We did 14 dives on 11 ships and 3 planes. Wreck diving can be dangerous and technical depending on where and how you penetrate the wreck. Yes, penetrate is the technical term, which makes for really ridiculous conversation. Most of what Mike and I did was simply dropping into open cargo holds and a bit of swimming through passage ways and upper deck spaces. Swimming into a hallway through a dark doorway would've once been more than I could psychologically handle, but experience has made me a bit more brave. Cautiously brave, not stupid. Many of the ships had huge torpedo holes ripping the hulls apart, which gave me a new perspective on the weapons I worked on at Keyport. It's hard not to picture the chaos and terror that the two days of bombs and fire must have brought.
Truk Lagoon, Chuuk, Micronesia, FSM, Diving, Plane, Emily Flying Boat, Shipwreck
During my underwater tourism, I saw lots of cool stuff. Spare periscopes on a submarine tender, a tank on a deck, huge bow guns encrusted with sea life, a cargo hold full of planes, another full of ammo, an expended torpedo engine and propeller, a huge bomb, an engine room that looked like the machinery could start, remnants of trucks from the late 30s and early 40s, and the general overtaking of machinery by the sea were just a few of the man made variety. As for natural, two sharks, several eagle rays, sting rays, pipe fish, soft corals, lion fish were just a few.
Blue Lagoon, FSM, Micronesia, Truk, Chuuk
The first four days we dove with two brothers ages 68 and 71. They were fantastic! Bob is the elder and a firecracker of energy and excitement for all things adventure. Rick is his younger brother, more reserved with a presence about him that suggests he's used to running the show. Rick lives on Oahu so he let me borrow his regulator for the last two days. We met him and his wife for dinner when we returned to trade pictures and return the reg. It was so cool to me that even in their 70s they were out adventuring together and had such a tight relationship. I hope that's me and my sisters in 40 years. On that vein, it turns out most scuba divers are middle aged white guys with beer bellies. Maybe that's just who can afford dive trips. Without further ado, here are my favorite wrecks we did and what we saw:
Truk Lagoon, Chuuk, Micronesia, FSM, Diving, Truck, Shipwreck
Shinkoku Maru - an upright tanker wreck with beautiful sea life all over it. We saw a shark, an eagle ray, big schools of fish, lots of hard and soft corals. Swim through for operating table with bottles and bones, bathrooms with urinals attached. Super structure is covered in life. This was probably my favorite wreck.

Betty Bomber - This is an upright plane laying in the sand between islands. It's big enough to swim through the fuselage. I saw pipe fish for the first time. These are cousins to seahorses. The engines of the plane came to rest 20m away from the rest of the wreck.

Nippo Maru - Another favorite. This is an upright freighter with a small tank on deck. There are a few remnants of old trucks on the deck and the seafloor below. This boat also had a really cool sea life encrusted bow gun. The towers are still upright and covered in coral.
Truk Lagoon, Chuuk, Micronesia, FSM, Diving, Gun, Shipwreck
San Francisco Maru - Mike and Bob did this one. I chickened out. The wreck starts at 140 feet. There are three tanks strapped to the deck, some old trucks in the hold, and a bunch of marine mines on the bow. No pictures because it's too deep for the goPro housing.

Gosei Maru - Rick and I dove this freighter. It's another with a big torpedo hole on the starboard side. The hold contains the remains of the Mk 14 torpedo that took her down. A few small easy swim throughs, but mostly sea life on this one. The propeller was too cool. Mike did a bunch of free diving and didn't miss out on anything.

Emily Flying Boat - This awesome wreck finally settled upside down in the water. It's broken into several pieces, but still recognizable with lots of fish, coral, crabs, and other creatures.

Fujikawa Maru - Super cool passenger cargo ship. She's upright in the water with one hold full of Zero planes, another full of machine gun bullets and magazines. The bow and bow gun are covered in sea fans, coral, and anemones. So cool!
Truk Lagoon, Chuuk, Micronesia, FSM, Diving, Truck, Shipwreck
Sankisan Maru - Another favorite. This one is unbelievably awesome. It's an upright freighter that took a bomb straight to her aft hold that was full of weapons. So, the front end of the ship looks totally normal (for a shipwreck). Mid-ship and the holds have some cool old trucks that are mostly just chassis. One in the hold still had part of its motor and a steering wheel. As we swam to the back, the deck was ravaged and buckled and suddenly just ended. Part of the stern is upright a ways back. Apparently if you're intrepid you can find the rudder about 500 feet away.  The wreck itself is covered in coral with lots of fish. We even saw a sleeping shark. This was a super powerful wreck. We ascended up one of the towers that was a stunning coral reef ending just above our safety stop. Fabulous! Normally safety stops are boring. Not this one.

Hoyo Maru - The last wreck we dove is upside down naval tanker. It had a bomb hole into the engine room so we swam in to take a peek. Otherwise the wreck is covered top to bottom in coral, sea fans, and anenomes. The bottom of the boat, which is the top of the wreck was covered in big coral heads. We spent the whole time looking for octopi.

I made a video with from what we took on the GoPro. Check it out here:

Monday, February 12, 2018

There is More to Nevada Than Vegas

Las Vegas attracts a bazillion people per year looking to engage in all forms of debauchery. It's a glittering wild place that juxtaposes high end luxury with sleazy stripper clubs and curbside drug dealers. I fly in there a few times per year. I have family in one of the surrounding desert communities. I usually take a trip to the strip to see a show and have dinner, but I prefer to explore the desert around Las Vegas.
On the most recent trip to Nevada, Mom took Mike and me to Red Stone State Park with big rock formations jutting out of the sand contrasting with soft silver greens of the desert flora. We climbed over and under, explored some wind made cave systems, posed for silly pictures and enjoyed the golden light of the setting sun and the cool winter day.
The desert oasis also has some amazing cycling trails that run all over the place. We borrowed bikes and rode about 20 miles through the Wetlands along a river, which sounds flat if winding. It's not. Instead, there are some gnarly hills, made worse by the fact that I wore sneakers rather than cleats and clips. It was super dry and the temperatures were in the high 60s or low 70s. What a perfect day!
The best part about traveling to Nevada in the winter is that my likelihood of seeing slithering bottom dwellers that rattle is pretty low. Despite several long treks through the desert, I saw no reptiles. Yay for me!
Our one visit to the strip was to see Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque Du Soliel, which was fabulous! I had great tickets from a Black Friday deal. Wayne took us all out to eat and we explored the Bellagio before heading to the show. The Conservatory was decorated for Chinese New Year with dogs of all sorts. Double dates are wonderful!
Cycling and hiking are not the only things to do besides losing money and watching ladies jiggle. Previous trips have included a tour of the Hoover Dam and gorgeous bridge that spans the canyon, drives around Lake Mead, rock climbing at Red Rocks. My favorite parts are time with family: cards with Grandma, dinners with cousins, walks with Mom and her doggies.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Big Family Fun in Kauai

Each Hawaiian island is completely different. If you think going to Maui or Oahu means you've experienced the whole state, you're missing out. Where Oahu is packed full of activities, city life, and adventure, Kauai is rural and loaded with free ranging chickens. It is exactly what you picture when you think of Hawaii: lush forests, huge tropical plants, giant trees draped in vines with big leaves, perfect beaches with turquoise water and sea turtles. It is an idyllic place.
I convinced my family to come to Hawaii for a week to celebrate my mom's 60th birthday (and step-dad's birthday too). All three of my sisters flew over, two with significant others in tow. We stayed in a big, beautiful Princeville home on the North Shore and stocked the fridge with food from Costco.
Kilauea Lighthouse
Wailua Falls
Waimea Canyon
Lithified Cliffs
Queen's Bath
Poipu Beach Park
Kilauea Mini-Golf

Sleeping Giant (4 miles)
Hanakapi'ai Falls (8 miles)
Okolehao (4 miles)
Pu'u Okila Trail (3 miles)
Kaluapuhi Trail (2 miles)
Sleeping Giant was probably my favorite hike. We woke early and started the hike before dawn so that we would be at the top for sunrise. We reached the top just before the sun crested the horizon. It's not a long hike at only four miles. The sun broke through the low hanging ocean clouds scattering golden light throughout the valley and kissing the tops of the waves coming to shore. It was glorious!
The next greatest hike was Hanakapi'ai Falls which is the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail with the addition of another two miles following the river to where the canyon ends in a huge gorgeous waterfall. This one was fun with only two miles of really rough elevation gain, which are the miles on the Kalalau Trail. Those two miles have spectacular peek-a-boo views of the Na Pali Coastline, which is even more scenic in the winter with the waves crashing on the shear cliff faces. The boys swam in the pool under the falls, but it was friggin' cold so I skipped it.
Kilauea Lighthouse is a bird sanctuary and national wildlife refuge (or as the park ranger told me, "the bastard little brother no one remembers exists where it's perfectly ok to yell things like 'look at those boobies' and 'frigate!'" *snicker* Anyway, it's a beautiful place high on a cliff surrounded by crashing waves, and home to albatross, nene (the Hawaiian goose and state bird), red-footed boobies, and frigate birds.

The Lithified Cliffs are an shoreline of petrified sand dunes on the South shore of Kauai near Poipu Beach Park. They're like white lava rock: sharp with exotic shapes. We saw a huge turtle here after snorkeling and watched a great sunset.
Queen's Bath is a serene and beautiful pool in the summer time. In the winter, the surf turns it into a raging whirlpool of waves and currents. It's unbelievably beautiful and intense and should be handled with extreme care. Many people have died there. We all survived, but there may have been a scary moment or two. I'll protect some dignity and keep that story close. No picture because my phone died in that incident.

For mom's 60th birthday we took a little road trip to the other side of the island to see Waimea Canyon. This is known as the Grand Canyon of Kauai. It's a huge rift in the earth. The major difference is where the Grand Canyon of Arizona is dry and arid. This canyon has walls dotted with green. It's alive and thriving with a big waterfall. Along the winding road through the park are vistas of the canyon, hiking trails, and rest stops. And the best part, no snakes! Yay Hawaii!
In the park, we hiked Pu'u Okila Trail at the Kalalau Overlook. It's a 1.7 mile trail out along the ridge above the Kalalau Valley. It's mind blowing. The valley fills with clouds, overflows the trail, clears, and cycles again. It's stunningly beautiful, saturated with color, and has amazing ocean views.
For the most part, we ate a ton of yummy food we made in our big kitchen, drank pina coladas with scavenged coconuts and oranges, and played games. The house had a resident gecko that takes care of any bugs and randomly skitters across the wall. We went to the beach and played in the water even getting Anne, who usually stays out, in with some snorkeling gear.