Sunday, May 3, 2015

Miscellaneous Ramblings

Taro Festival, Hana
On the last weekend of April, we headed toward Hana to car camp and volunteer at the annual Taro Festival; perhaps the best cultural event on Hawaii.  Along the way, a cattle drive near Ulupalakua forced a 20 minute or so road closure.  This is a side of Maui not many get to see...
Welcome to...Maui?
Incredible Campsite on the Pacific
(Unless you're scared of Tsunamis)

Looking southwest from our campsite
Huge breaks along the distant cliffs
The tree was a lifesaver from the sun, but the temps
were no more than 80 degrees.

Just before the 9AM opening

Pounding Poi
A Local Favorite with the Keikis

Making Cloth from Bark

No Explanation Needed

Star took the following short video of Hawaiians performing traditional chants at the festival.  There was also traditional dance, hula, and music, and some not so traditional music.

It's good to make friends with local fishermen.  This is Ono...yum!

Heli Ops on Haleakala
I consider it a honor to participate in the Haleakala Heli Ops Backcountry Program.  Visitors pay $75 per night to stay in the always booked backcountry cabins.  The fees fund our program (and other cabin related programs), which includes hauling firewood, propane, and maintenance/construction materials out to the cabins as well as cabin assessments.  On this trip, my co-worker (a 30 year old Hawaiian) and I unloaded 1,700 lbs. of  material from five sling load nets dropped in by chopper at two different cabins. 

There is nothing glamorous about this job.  Once we land at a cabin, we have 20 minutes to remove gear, open the cabin and storage areas, and grab the dolly.  The loads arrive about every 20 minutes with between 300 and 500 lbs. in each load.  We are then ferried to the next cabin and start again.  It's extremely fast paced and physically taxing to unload a net at high altitude; especially for this 55 year old.  I would take some photos of the ground operation, but there's just no extra time.

Since no commercial flights are allowed over the crater, I realize I'm getting to do and see something that few people have experienced.  Mostly, I am fortunate to work with a dedicated, professional and fun loving crew.  We are a close knit group both during and after work, but the fun and jokes cease as soon as the sling loads start getting prepped.  The lead up to flight reminds me of our pre-game football rituals way back in high school as fist bumps, handshakes, helmet slaps, and words of encouragement are exchanged, and final checklists are covered.

When the chopper arrived to ferry my partner and me into the crater this time, one of the crew members got in my face and yelled, "Ben, you ready brah?  You ready?"  I nodded my head and approached the Hughes 500, knowing upon my return, I would be sore and aching for the next 3 or so days.  Still, I grinned from ear to ear.
Entering the Crater

Halemau'u Trail Switchbacks out of the Crater

Cinder Cones

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I'm at...Work?

Today, I headed to Kipahulu with a co-worker to check out a potential new project.  If we pull this off, it will be the highlight of my career.  I can't say anymore yet, but what an incredible day to be in Kipahulu with people sharing local knowledge of the area, customs, and culture.

Today was around 82 degrees with cool trade winds blowing in off the Pacific.

Keep pinching me, and one day I may actually believe this is happening.

Waterfall Driving into Kipa

Location of preliminary project scoping

Taking a photo of my co-worker taking a photo of visitors

The Sacred Pools of Oheo

The Oheo enters the Pacific.  One of the most beautiful spots
on our planet.

The first and perhaps last time I allow a photo of me in uniform.
Oops, Star just reminded me of the Japanese visitors who took
my picture with each family member as well as a group photo.

Waves were breaking at 20 ft. today and just 30 to 40
yards offshore today at Kipahulu.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Four Days in Hana

On Friday morning, we packed up the old Rav4 and headed for the tropical northeast coast of Maui and the little town of Hana.  Our accommodations were quirky and basic, but directly on the wild, rocky coastline of Hana Bay.  With nothing but large screen windows throughout, the waves sounded like freight trains rolling through all three nights.  The occasional gecko ran across the floor.  As one would expect in a tropical forest, the rain poured down numerous times during our four days and the sun did the same. 
The Waianapanapa Trail winds along a section of rugged, undeveloped coastline for just over 3 miles, and after Sunday, is one of our favorite day hikes...period.  The entire route is filled with blow holes, black cliffs, large caves, arches, blue water, and constant spray from the crashing of Pacific Ocean into the lava rocks.
Within 100 yards of the parking lot, you're on the coast
for the next 3 miles.

Star is getting violent again.

We met Wilson's 1st cousin, Buoy, on the trail.

Entering sacred grounds

Ancient Ruins stand together

Traditional Hawaiian Fishing

Meanwhile, back near the parking lot.
And THIS is why tourists die here almost weekly

We stopped at one of the many local organic farms serving
fresh coffee from the beans grown on-site.
Getting wired on local coffee!
Blossoms of the Mountain Apple Tree

Video from the trail

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Star's Molokai Adventure

I was hoping to spend a week in Lake Mead while Ben took a course there, but I decided it would be traitorous to leave my colleagues of the last six weeks during the last work week. I was rewarded by spending most of the last two days on Molokai. Although it's only a 35 minute flight from Maui, it's a journey into the past. Largely rural, with a population of only 7,000, it boasts of incredible mountains and waterfalls, farms and tiny villages, and native Hawaiians who would live nowhere else. I'm going back and taking Ben next time!

Molokai (from my 9 passenger plane):  These are
the highest ocean cliffs in the world.
Molokai Mountains

Kaluapapa, Former Leper Colony
and National Historic Park

Kaluapapa: Note the high mountains
designed to keep the lepers within the colony

Twilight from the Molokai Hotel

Sunset, South Molokai

But I Don't Want to Go to the Mainland

This past week, Star and I took separate adventures.  I was sent to Lake Mead outside of Las Vegas for training, while Star took off to our neighboring island, Molokai.  In my opinion, she had the bigger adventure by far.

We have decided to do two separate blog posts to attempt and illustrate just how far culturally our two experiences took us.  Star will follow my post with hers later tonight.

Talk about culture shock.  After being on Maui for 11 months straight, I finally ventured back to the mainland, and the sensory input was almost more than I could handle.  The huge city crowds and interstate driving was literally a shock to my system. 

Admittedly, part of the fatigue and stress was due to me waking up at 3:45am Maui time every morning and driving out to Lake Mead for class that started at 6:00am Maui time.  As the week progressed, I realized the Maui lifestyle has literally spoiled me.  I could feel my stress and anxiety levels rise as I attempted to navigate traffic and deal with people who were generally rude and unwilling to offer such simple things as directions and advice.  As Star told me on the phone Thursday night, you and I could not be in two more opposite cultures this week.

Upon returning home yesterday afternoon (yes, it's home, because home is wherever Star is), I was ecstatic.  I had returned to the friendly, jovial, laid back people of Maui.  As the sun set last night, I stood on our lanai and looked out at the sleepy island of Maui and could literally feel the stress of the past week leaving my body.

My hope for Maui is that it can somehow avoid joining the fast paced world of the mainland, because for all the immense beauty of this island, the lifestyle here is what sets it apart from most of the world.

I'll start my photos with my last full day in the Vegas area on Friday.  We had an exam Friday morning and were released from class at 10am, which gave me time to head north to the Valley of Fire State Park and do a little hiking:

Former Visitor Cabins Built by the CCC
Valley of Fire State Park

Beginning of White Domes Hike

Cool Slot Canyon

Silica Dome

Incredible Petroglyphs
On Thursday night, I went to Fremont Street, where the original casinos are located.  Since we want to keep the blog PG, however, these are the only photos I can share...
Mr. T and Mini T

After my hike Friday, I attended Pole Day for the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  The final group was fantastic.  Dale Enhardt, Jr. broke the track record and less than two minutes later Jeff Gordon set another track record and gained the pole position with a 195 mph lap.   

Coming off Turn 4 at 200 mph

Obligatory Hoover Dam shots...

Earlier in the week, I took the 5 mile Historic Railroad Hike near Hoover Dam before sunset.  This was the route the contractors transported materials to the construction site. 


Just made it back to the parking lot at dark