Sunday, September 6, 2015

After a 3 Month Blog Absence, We Bring you Molokai

Star has been wanting to take me to Molokai ever since her work trip to a school on the island last February.  The island is no more than half the size of Pickens County and has a whopping population of 7,000 people.  The majority of those are of Hawaiian descent.

If you're looking for resorts, high end restaurants, nightlife, or fancy gift shops, then Molokai is probably not for you.  If you're looking for a quiet, laid-back, secluded island, then you can stop looking.  Molokai is a secret gem in the Hawaiian archipelago.  I think the photos and videos below will verify that statement.

My favorite part of the trip was actually the 30 minute Makani Kai Airlines flight over and back.  The pilot takes you by all the sweet spots at a low elevation, and, at less than $200 round trip for the both of us, it was quite the deal.  Best of all on the flight to Molokai, Star and I were the only two passengers on board.  Yes, you heard right; there was one pilot, one flight attendant, two passengers.

Star, the flight attendant, and me
No problems with leg room on this flight.
Leaving Maui
That's a mighty big rock
Arriving at Molokai


Tallest Sea Cliffs in the World at
2,500 ft. in height
Below is Papohaku Beach, two miles long with beautiful white sand.  Star and I were here about an hour, and were the only two people on the entire beach.  I've heard of Australia's Gold Coast, but I can't imagine it being any more striking.  I started looking for Wilson and Tom Hanks.
When I asked Star why there were only one set of footprints,
she responded, "Because that's when you stayed off the hot
sand and took photographs of me."

On Day 2, Friday August 28th, we drove up to the Molokai State Park at the edge of the cliffs.  The Kalaupapa Lookout is incredible, looking down to what was once called "The Leper Colony."  There are around fifteen survivors of Hansen's Disease still living by choice in the village.  They will be the final Hansen patients on the peninsula. Beginning in the 1880's, Hawaiians with symptoms were hunted down, boarded on ships, and unceremoniously forced to swim to the isolated peninsula. Initially, many of them died quickly, since there were no amenities. The site is now  home to a new National Park.

Of course, Star insisted on taking the hike out to nearby phallic rock.  When she crawled right on top of it, I'll admit it made me feel a bit inadequate.
Star looking way too satisfied

While Molokai doesn't offer much for the serious hiker or backpacker, there are numerous four wheel drive roads.  On Day 3, we took our rental Jeep on a trek into the Molokai Forest Reserve, which hugs the tops of the sea cliffs along Molokai's North Coast.  We made it 18 miles through beautiful, secluded forests, until at around 4,000 ft. elevation we encountered very steep downhills and decided to call it quits.  This was new to us, but Star had a blast. One of the early stops was the Sandlewood Pit.

I've heard King Kamehameha wasn't very popular after
his men gathered up much of the precious sandlewood and
sold it to China in 1888. 

This is the actual pit the King's men dug to replicate the hull
of the ship, so they could sell as much as possible to China.  At
one time, it was full of sandlewood.

The end of the road for us
Somebody tell me, is Star having fun yet?
36 miles of off road will make you delirious
On our last full day, we ventured to the East Coast and the Halawa Valley.  This little road hugs the coast the entire way.

Good to see that Molokai has the same auto recycling program
as Maui.

If walls could talk, this one would have a story.

Full Moon from the Wharf
Some video clips of the flight back to Maui


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