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.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Shelley's Wedding and Shoshone Falls

In a super whirlwind, tiny ceremony in Idaho, my beautiful baby sister married her sweet man. I found out about this wedding about a month prior. Originally planned for June, the wedding was reconfigured to be parents only as his mother is ailing and they wanted her to be a part of their celebration. Two weeks later, I received a call that the invite list now included siblings. Holy crap! I scrambled to buy a ticket with a little bit of freaking out about the price and schedule and layovers. After a minor melt down calmly readjusting my thoughts, I found what I needed and booked it.

In no time at all, I was falling asleep on a red eye flight to Salt Lake City. Emily picked me up in the morning, we brunched, picked up a cake and began the journey north. The wedding was held at Kelton's parent's farm in Burley. It was a three hour drive of fields and farmland and snow flurries. We stayed at the Marriott, all four girls in two adjacent rooms. So much noise, so much sass! Anyway, Mom made lasagna and brought pumpkin pie for dinner at the farm. We overwhelmed his family with wildly told stories about Shelley and how she was the cutest kid ever. Kelton told us funny stories about growing up the youngest of seven. I'm ever glad to have been first.

Wedding day Anne, Emily and I woke up at an uncivilized hour to go check out Shoshone Falls at sunrise. The falls are about 45 minutes west of Burley. We piled in Anne's little Beetle and drove down the road singing our favorite late '90s and early 2000s jams. So much talent, you wouldn't believe it. We arrived at the falls just as the sky was lighting up. The falls are part of a reservoir on the Snake River. It's an incredible spot!! We found every available overlook and angle to take pictures from.

On the drive back, we stopped at a super tall bridge spanning the gorge cut by the river. The bridge is called Hansen Bridge. Fitting, no? It's super rad! We walked along the rim of the canyon with Emily joking that Anne is Jon Snow with her black mane of curls spilling out over her puffy winter coat, black of course. So many "Winter is Coming" jokes. (Game of Thrones, if you've spent the past decade under a rock.) Anne doesn't read my blog. So, Lord Snow, Em and I enjoyed the heck out of that place taking pictures and hoping we didn't slip on the snow dusted rocks and fall to our deaths. Ok, it maybe wasn't actually that slippery, but it really was that far.

The three of us made it back with time for everyone to shower, do hair, makeup, dress, and freak out that Shelley had disappeared. She returned to frenzy of activity. Anne did hair, Emily did make up. I moved stuff to the room Shelley and Kelton were staying in that night. I'm the hired muscle, not the one with artistic talent, obvi. Anyway, Anne and I took pictures while Emily helped Shelley into her dress. She looked stunning. The makeup was lovely, the hair impressive, but Shell glowed, and it had nothing to do with either.
I had the honor of driving the bride to the farm (add cheauffer to my list of skills!) and we set up first look pictures. Kelton came out looking dashing in a black blazer, kilt and tall black socks. We made him turn around and wait for the arrival of the queen...I mean bride. The first look was everything we all hoped for. He had an "allergy attack" on seeing her, immediately bursting into tears.  Soooo sweet!
A friend of theirs was ordained just for the ceremony. Jordan, like Kelton, wore a kilt and tie. He did a fantastic job. Wayne sang "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Elvis Presley as everyone walked down the aisle. Jordan gave a sweet and heartfelt sermon on love and commitment. Anne was photographer and took about a million pictures. They're lovely, by the way.

Afterward, family photos were taken and we went to a nearby daycare facility for lunch. It sounds weird, but it's really just a large warm space. Warm was important since I could see my breath for the full ceremony. Kelton's siblings had prepared a wonderful taco bar and decorated tables in a fall theme. There was a huge cake topped with flowers and a Deadpool silhouette that everyone said was yummy to go along with it. Shell and Kelton cut the cake. She stole the first bite and made a giant mess of Kelton's nose giving him the next taste. He was planning to be sweet, but she deserved the cake face. It was all smiles. The gluten intolerant girl (me) cut and passed out the cake to everyone. It disappeared remarkably fast. Dad gave a heartfelt toast. Shortly there after, everyone packed up, gave hugs, and went their own way. Short, sweet, beautiful.
Em and I drove back in a bit of a blizzard. Utah/Idaho snow is dry and easy to drive in. So I did just fine!

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.