Friday, November 17, 2017

Exploring the island paradise of Lana'i

Lana'i is a tiny Hawaiian island near Maui. It has one small idyllic town located in the center of the island. Paved roads radiate out in only three directions. Despite its small size, it's a wonderful place. People are friendly and welcoming. There are no chain retailers, gas stations, or restaurants anywhere on the island. The exception to this rule is the two Four Seasons resorts.

We took a friends trip over a three day weekend. At first it seemed that three days may have been too many for such a small place. Most people explore it as a day trip from Maui, if at all. In the end though, none of us was ready to leave. We rented an Airbnb, one of the few on the island, and a 4x4 Jeep via text message from a guy named Bart (sounds legit, right???). I was a little apprehensive that the Jeep would actually be at the airport, but there it was, sitting right out front.

Our first stop was the Lanai Cat Sanctuary. Hawaii has a major feral cat problem. This facility rounds up the strays on lanai, spays/neuters, and provides the cats with a safe, comfortable life. There were 593 cats in residence when we visited. Most were super friendly, which is uncommon for feral cats. The constant stream of visitors petting them and playing with them helps a lot. The goal is adoption, but the rate is low. Instead, most of the animals are kept fed and free roaming in a giant pen with cat beds, hideouts, baskets, and any number of places for cats to curl up. They're given shots and cured of diseases. Mike's goal was to pet them all. I bet he made it close to half. They loved him!

Next we followed a rich red dirt road to a 4x4 road leading to the ruins of Kaunolu Village site. Here was a historical loop detailing a typical Hawaiian village. There was also a big cliff (60') at the top said to test the might of warriors and the morals of criminals. If one survived the jump, he was declared innocent of the crime. It was nice and windy up there. Mike's shirt was protecting my shoulders and blew off the edge but stuck to the rock part way down. He climbed down to get it. YIKES!!

We checked into the Airbnb where the neighbor suggested a visit to the cultural center up the road. We walked and realized it looked pretty dark. I opened the door and looked around, setting off the alarm. The door was locked, but hadn't shut properly. I promptly shut it and we waited for the police to show up. Instead, one of the curators let us have 30 minutes since it was closed for the weekend. He was a wealth of knowledge. We really enjoyed looking around and learning about the island.

That evening, we went to Sweetheart Rock to watch the sunset. It was lovely and is a nesting ground for some sort of awkward ground bird. I say awkward because we almost stepped on several in the dark on the way back. The first seemed damaged waddling very low to the ground. Turns out, that's just how they are. hmmmm... We took a few minutes to explore the gorgeous Four Seasons resort and made guesses at the room rates for a night. None of us was even close. I looked up a random weekend in January and the cheapest I could find was $2550 for two nights. YIKES! The best part about that whole thing was realizing how amazing the stars are from Lana'i. I stopped on the side of the road away from all the lights and we spent some time searching for usually obvious constellations. It's AMAZING when there are just so many stars that the few brightest don't seem so obvious.

Day two was a trip out to Shipwreck Beach on the northeast edge of the island. There are about two miles of dusty dirt road leading to the beach with the best view of the wreck. We parked and walked another mile or so in toward the ship. It's a cool old hulking mass that was run aground in 1954. From the beach, both Maui and Molokai looked close enough to paddle to. Also near the beach is a big rock with a ton of petroglyphs. Some are clearly very old. Others look to be a bit more recent... Or maybe really recent.

Once we got back to town the rain started to come down. It absolutely poured! This meant no Munro Trail or most of the loop we'd planned for the day. We'd already been warned the 4x4 roads were too muddy for most of it to be passable. Instead, we showered, ate and went to the newly renovated theater to see the latest Thor movie, because he's super pretty (this might have only been my reasoning:)) We followed the movie with dinner at Lanai City Bar and Grille which was clearly the fanciest place away from the resorts. They had live music. It was clean and fun with good food.

When we walked back home, there was lightning all around. I LOVE lightning storms, but I haven't lived anywhere that has them since I left Utah. It's just not very common on O'ahu or Western Washington. We piled in the car and drove out of town looking for the huge herds of deer that roam the area at night. We found them! They were very shy of our headlights and their glowing red eyes were a bit eerie as they scattered. We stopped the car at a clearing and watched the lightning storm in silence.

The last day was the Garden of the Gods. This is what I'd been most looking forward to. It's this bizarre lunar/Martian landscape in a huge wildlife preserve. There are big round, red rocks everywhere. The dirt is a swirl of colors from a pale mint green to purple to the abundant rust red. Long grasses swirled in the breeze on hillsides on one side of the road. It's a beautiful place and it was all ours. We saw one other Jeep. The road was pretty smooth, but had one section that was really muddy from the night before. It felt a little like surfing to drive in it.
Frisbee in the park, playing on the jungle gym and swings, and some moose tracks ice cream rounded out the day. Gas for the Jeep was $4.68 per gallon at the solitary gas station. We returned the car and amused the TSA folks in the one room terminal by playing Heads Up, where a word lights up a phone screen placed on the "it" person's forehead and everyone else has to hint or act it out. My favorite round was dance moves. Utterly hilarious! A 30 minute jumper flight had us home in no time. What an amazing trip! Rachel, Brad, Camille, Thomas, and Mike, THANK YOU for the adventure!!!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

H3 Triathlon

Last month I completed my second triathlon this year! Maybe that's nothing for seasoned triathletes, but for a girl with the exercise routine focus of a gnat, it's pretty great. Usually I want to do EVERYTHING. I love trying new things: CrossFit, aerial rope, rock climbing, hiking, running, Olympic weightlifting, Biking Body Guide (BBG), triathlon, etc. I like it all. I want to do it all. Unfortunately there are two little problems with that. First, I still have to go to work to pay the bills. I can't just play all the time. Boo. Second, my body won't stand up to doing everything all the time. So, right now, I'm enjoying triathlon.
Anyway, the H3 Triathlon: Race to the Base is a one way race that starts with a 1500m swim at Ala Moana Park, which is suuuuuuper flat and lovely. Next participants hop on their bikes for a 26 mile ride up and over the H3 interstate to Kaneohe. Once complete, shoes are swapped for a 10K run on Kaneohe Marine Corps Base. So, 33 miles(ish), no big deal.
The swim went so well! I felt good and was a little faster than normal. Hooray! I was swimming next to a friend and lost her at the halfway point, so I spent the whole time going back trying to find her and trying to pass the sprint length swimmers. Turns out, she was right behind me. Sneaky. I love this picture coming out of the water, I look like I know what I'm doing.
Mike, being the gem he is, waited for me (Men started the race 5 mins early). We hopped on our bikes and rode together most of the way. He went ahead part way to the top and waited. At the top, we stopped and took pictures, had some water and a little snack. Then we went through the tunnel which was SUPER windy, but really cool! On the other side, the wind still blasted us, but the views are amazing! We stopped several times for pictures before continuing down to the base.

The run was pretty much pure misery. I think I mentioned in the last one that I do not enjoy the transition from biking to running. I feel weird, like my legs don't work. Two miles of flat and beautiful were just as hard as the second two miles of up and over hills. The last two miles felt easier because we were back to flat. Mike stayed with me the whole time, chatting away to keep my mind off of my cramping legs. He really is the greatest. This picture reminded me that I run like a T-Rex.
We crossed the finish line together; Mike with a big smile, me looking miserable as usual. Ugh, my pain face is impressively bad. Haha! Once again, I finished right in the middle of my age group. I feel really good about that.  

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Swimming with Wild Dolphins at Makua Beach

Makua beach is a lovely crescent of golden sand framing unbelievably bright turquoise waters. The green Waianae Mountains add another dimension of color and ambiance. As the sun rises, people make their way to the water listening for squeaks and clicks. A large pod of spinner dolphins lives here, using the clear water to rest.
With a handful of friends, we swam way out into the ocean to listen for these small indicators. We saw graceful green sea turtles, vibrant reef fish, but nothing resembling the curved dorsal fins and bottle noses we sought. We swam back in. Two of our group were having equipment malfunctions.
When we arrived, people started heading out in force (all fifteen of them). Mike and I shrugged at each other and followed. After a few minutes, we started hearing the chatter of ocean mammals. Then they were suddenly right next to us! A pod of twelve including two babies swam and spun, exhilarated from a night of hunting. We followed for a while, but were just too slow to keep up. As I surfaced, I noticed they were coming around for a second pass. The group had actually combined with another pod. Beautiful silver spinner dolphins were everywhere! They gossiped and played paddy cake and did little flips in the air. It was the coolest thing! 
Once we lost the pod, we played in the ultra blue water and dove around looking at the fishes and coral. What a perfect morning!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Mahi Mahi Wreck Diving

 I honestly have no idea if anyone at all cares about my diving or Hawaii posts, but since this is my online journal, I'm going to write about them. Boom. If you're interested, enjoy. If not, I have lots of posts for landlubbers. :P
Occasionally my dive club takes a trip up north to Waianae on the west side of Oahu. I finally found a day we could go with them. We did two dives. The first was a wreck called the Mahi Mahi. It was originally just the Mahi, but a storm broke the hull in two. So people were super clever and modified the name. Jokers.  Anyway, it's a cool old US Navy vessel that was sunk on purpose as a reef since Oahu's natural reefs are toast.

As soon as we dropped the 100' to the deck, I saw two gorgeous eagle rays soaring around the wreck. I probably spent half my time watching them gracefully fly through the water. They're sooooo pretty!! Otherwise, I think checking out the rusty deck machinery being slowly overtaken by the sea is the best part of wreck diving. So cool!
The second dive was a reef called caverns with lots of fishies, swim throughs and some turtles.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Aiea Loop and a Plane Wreck

I've now run 'Aiea Loop Trail three times. It's somewhere between four and five miles long if you don't get lost (more on that later). The loop is in the foothills above Pearl Harbor. The trail goes up for about two miles with little peekaboo views of the ocean and Pearl Harbor from time to time. There are lots of nasty little roots to trip over. It makes for a great little adventure run, which may be slow, but is so more up my alley than road running. Bleh.
So the first time I ran the trail, Mike joined me. We completed the loop in about an hour. The second time, Joe joined me. We decided to check out a different overlook (worth it!) and ended up taking a back trail down to Camp Smith. There we did a few pullups at a cool park and used Google Maps to sort of get us back on course. Really this dumped us out at Smith Airfield which is a very cool open field with a really nice road, signs from ages past, and no people. From there we cut through the woods back to the trail and completed our loop. This ended up being closer to six and a half miles according to the running watch. 

I found out there was an old airplane wreck there. So Mike, Joe and I went back to explore it. As expected, the wreck is visible right off the side of the trail. We had gone right past it twice and not seen it. There was a big branch hanging into the trail with an arrow and the word airplane written on it. We walked down the side of ravine following a path of destruction. Here was part of a wing; there was the fuel bladder. Further down the landing gear was jammed under a fallen tree. Near the bottom we found the motor. Most of the pieces of the old plane had been scavenged, but it was fun to find what we did.

The hike back out was a weird scramble up the side of the ravine since we figured we had gone too far to turn around. We were all scratched, bug bitten, and covered in little bits of leaves, dirt, mud, whatever. It was a really fun adventure. Since Mike had missed the last run, Joe wanted to take him to Camp Smith and the airfield, so we completed the longer loop again.

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!