Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Hawk Tree

One of the many things I love about New Mexico are the gigantic cottonwood trees that tower mightily in the high plains desert. Their size seems counter to the amount of rain and nutrients that are available in this climate, but they must have adapted well. For tower they do. My friend John and I discovered "The Hawk Tree" while road biking in the Sandia Mountain foothills and exploring some side streets ("all those hills"...gasp, pant). As we rode this particular street the landscape transformed from hot, dry, scrubby vegetation, to a lush, tree filled oasis. The Hawk Tree was the centerpiece. We stopped at the dead end where it grew and stood amazed at the cool, green beauty that surrounded us. It wasn't only the cottonwood, but many other trees were attracted to this area as well, to the point that it reminded us of the forests of the eastern U.S. where we both grew up. As we enjoyed cooling down, we heard shrieks coming from above and behind us. Sure enough, a hawk flew overhead and landed in the cottonwood. He must have sounded the "all clear", because another, then another, and yet another came swooping to roost in the welcoming arms of the cottonwood! It was astonishing...they were talking to each other soaring from branch to branch until they found one they liked. They didn't seem bothered or excited by our presence (too old and slow to be a threat, to big for dinner!) To see that many raptors in one place was a special treat for sure. Since the area was bounded on the east side by city Open Space, I vowed to hike in and explore the eastern side of this unlikey oasis. Two weeks later I did and snapped the pictures you see here. That day I stood beneath its branches and witnessed 3 was obviously a favorite place for them.

Even though Hawaii was an awesome trip (and I was a bit depressed on my return home) I realized (I never really forgot) that NM is a truly incredible place. Since I have been home I have been treated to so many moments that make this so evident. The afternoon thunderstorms, the Mommy quail and her 8 tiny chicks that hatched in my backyard, the hummingbirds sipping nectar within meters from where I sit...I think the Universe was just saying..."This place is pretty cool too. Cheer up and look around your eyes and your heart."

Friday, July 4, 2008

Saying Aloha!

We spent Wednesday hangin' out at the condo to rest up for our last adventure we had planned for Thursday. Wednesday we spent in the surf, sand and grass. The surf has been HUGE, so bad for snorkeling, but great for body/boogie boarding, surfing, etc. We would just go out on the beach and body surf mostly...and let the waves just hammer us! It is a blast, and very tiring. We are going to need to rest up after this vacation. So with the beach and reading under the palms in the morning and afternoon, and our afternoon chill (lunch, nap, frisbee on the luscious lawn in the pic), our day was pretty much spent. We ended up eating at Keoki's Paradise again for our last nice, big, $$ dinner, then walked back to the condo and creamscicles for dessert. We hit the sack kind of early, since the wake up call (by me) was at 630am on Thursday and, as teenagers, B&M would sleep much longer than that if undisturbed!
Ever since we got a guide book for Hawaii, Maddie scoped out zip lining as one of the top things she wanted to do while here. Since we were running out of time, and there were some thing I wanted us to do as well. we decided on a tour with Outfitters Kauai that had a bit of everything...kayaking up a (calm) river, jungle hiking, wagon ride through a huge working ranch in the middle of an ancient volcano caldera, zip lining, swimming and rope swinging back at Kipu Falls, and a powered boat ride back to the start. It was an all day affair, with 20 people on the tour and 2 tour guides (Aram the Surfer Dude and Nate the Cable Guy...super nice guys). BTW, the pic to the left is the last you will see of this adventure (sadness). Maddie was snapping some pre-trip pics at the check-in shop, and the camera battery pack ran out of gas--arghh. No extra pack, no time to charge. Oh well, this was one for the memory banks...and we could all relax and soak it in since we didn't have to worry about snapping pics every couple of minutes. It's all good! SO if you want some pics, browse around their website: . Sorry!
The trip started with a van ride to the kayak launch point, then a 3 mile kayak up the Hule'ia River past the Menehune Fish Pond (long story by guide), past the rope swing where Indiana Jones escaped the dart-blowing Natives in Raiders of the Lost Ark (swinging into the river and swimming to the waiting sea plane...remember?) Cool. The kayaking was so much easier than the ocean kayaking I made the kids endure...the water was calm and there was no they were cruising!! We had some good splash-wars with the other kayakers, the mangrove and "tourist bushes" (another longish story), and it seemed this leg of the journey was over with all too soon.
After abandoning the kayaks, we hiked through...and I am not kidding...a tropical rain forest jungle. It had rained the previous night (almost all night), and as we hiked you wouldn't know if you were in the Amazon or Indonesia or Kauai. Dark, dense forest, water dripping from the leaves, birds of all kinds singing, squawking, sunlight trying to find its way through the canopy...pretty awesome. I had to stop behind the group and visit the Liki-liki bush (too much coffee/water), and while making my way back to the bunch I hear thing loud grunt in the bushes next to me. I was thinking...whoa...that's a wild pig. And as I stood there, it grunted again and O could hear it snorting, but still couldn't see it. Knowing they could be aggressive and could have 6 inch tusks...I didn't wait around much longer. Aram was bring up the rear, so I asked him about it, and he said...oh yeah, there were quite a few out there. Hog encounter...nice. He also told me that many of the hard core natives hunt the pigs with dogs & knives..that's it. The dogs chase down the pigs (and he said the things can be HUGE beasts), grab a hold of it anywhere it can, then the hunters try to jump on and slit the pigs throat! A high adventure, high adrenaline sport! Too me, that is much more sporting than a using a rifle at 1000 yards. Right on dudes!
After escaping the wild boar, we came out of the jungle to a tractor pulled wagon where the caldera, refreshments and Hawaiian cookies awaited. (Not roughing it too bad, eh?) We rode the wagon through the caldera and some magnificent scenery. You could see how huge this volcano must have been, and where the side blew off millions of years ago. I mean this was many, many, many miles across in both directions! The property we were on was a 7000 acre working cattle ranch right in the middle of it (Kipu Ranch) and it reminded be much of Valle Grande in northern New Mexico (however a bit more verde!) We shot the breeze with the guides as we rode along and soaked in the surroundings. Ahhhhhh.... Right before we turned of the path to the next leg of our adventure we saw some more (friendly, female) wild pigs in the road the cutest clan of little baby piglets. Maddie so wanted one! I have to admit, they were really cute. When we drove up, the babies scattered but the moms ( and some peacocks - equally impressive) came to munch on some feed the guides threw out to them. It was interesting to watch the dynamics between the pigs and the peacocks competing for the same food...animal kingdom WWF! "And in this corner....."

To Be Continued...
(still lunch, zip line, Kipu Falls, hike, boat ride to come)
gotta go eat breakfast, pack and check out of here (maybe one more dip in the surf!)...sadness :-(

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Helo Tour - WOW!!

The Moday helicopter tour of Kauai was one of the highlights of this amazing trip, without a doubt. I am not going to take the time now to try to describe it in detail since it would take longer than the flight itself! I will update this post later after we return. Just a few details...we went on a Hughes 500 with the doors OFF (as pictured)...what a blast. I let the kids pick...they could have had a comfy, quiet ride on an A-Star instead...but to my surprise and excitement, they chose the open door. Great choice! The wind, noise, the ground thousands of feet below your sandal bottoms, the cliffs so close you'd think you could reach out and touch! Brian & I got the back seats (me right , Brian left), and from left to right in the front was the pilot (Jason), Maddie, and Christine (had to fly with 4 and she was our foursome, she actually flies helos, big ones, in the active military). Maddie was glad she wasn't the only girl, and Christine was great with her. The flight was about 60 minutes long (longer would have been better!) and it covered all the highlights of the island. We got to see some places we have been (North Shore, etc), and some places we haven't (Na Pali coast, Waimea Canyon, the wettest spot on Earth >420 inches of rain a year!) I ended up taking over 180 pictures on a 60 minute flight. Obviously, can't share them all here, but I will try to pick out some highlights! As I said, words can't describe, and I don't think pictures can either. Memories and feelings are what we will keep forever. If you ever get out here. I highly recommend it!!

It was fabulous! Gratitude.... Aloha for now!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Stand Up Paddling

Before I try to describe yesterday's helicopter tour of the island (on a later post, since it may take awhile), I wanted to post today's adventure...which was a solo (i.e. no kids), "stand up paddle" lesson for me with a guy named Sage Gasaway, whom I met after watching him in the surf way out from our beach. When he came in one day, I followed him to where he was loading his board in his truck and struck up a conversation...which eventually led to him saying he gave lessons (Google "stand up paddling" to learn more of what it's all about). So one thing led to another and I lined up a lesson for this morning at 630am starting at his house which is right on the Hanapepe River (so we launched right in his backyard, to the right in the pic). Sage was a gracious, patient, centered teacher and I really appreciated his positive, unhurried was a pleasure to meet him and share this experience. It was also cool because it was just he & I, one on one, so I got his undivided attention which he freely gave. We started out on the river which was totally calm, just to get used to standing up on the board, falling off properly (which I got real good at), proper paddling, turning, etc. The river led to the harbor at Port Allen, which then led to the it was perfect for learning because the level of difficulty could be adjusted to the student , from calm to heavy surf (easy to hard). Sage was sizing me up as we made our way down river to the bay, and decided I should go for the whole shabang. So first we went to what he called "the buoy", for which he said I have big bragging rights, then asked if I wanted to tey to go out to what he called "my buoy", which was further out in the harbor/ocean where the wave action kicked up quite a bit. (Let me throw in a Google pic to break up te text...I have no photographic evidence of any of this except the above since my camera isn't waterproof).
So I made it out to "my buoy", for which he said I got huge bragging rights! Oh yeah! The only way I can describe the feeling of stand up paddling is that it is like standing up in a canoe and imagine that. The boards we had were 11'6" (huge) and the paddles are about 5' long. On the way back from the buoy we saw 3 of the biggest sea turtles I have seen on this trip. One of them ended up swimming almost directly underneath my board (bonus) and I swear his shell was at least 3 feet in diameter! What a treat! What a setting. What a way to start the day! One of those moments in life when everything is peaceful and that you will always remember. Gratitude. So once Sage figured I could handle the waves, he asked if I wanted to try catching some waves at a spot where they broke in the harbor/beach area (which was perfect since it was shallow with a sandy bottom, i.e. softer landings than on rocky or reefy bottoms). So there we headed, Sage coaching and encouraging, hoping that I could catch a wave and ride one in (he said he never includes this in a beginner lesson, but thought I was up for it). The waves were small by his standards (he rides the big ones way, way out), but it is amazing how small a wave can upset your balance. So for me it was extremely challenging. Anyway, long story short, I ended up catching 3 or 4 really good rides (and crashing many, many more times than that, but like Sage said, it's not how many times you fall that counts, it's how many times you get back up!) It was awesome, and it seemed like he was as pumped as I was when I caught one and rode it in. We played there and talked for quite awhile, Sage trying to coach me on more techniques as he saw I was ready (he was so unhurried and relaxed and we were both having fun...there was no clock watching or caring about time). After catching one more bonus wave all the way to shore, he asked if I would like to paddle up the river to a swinging bridge. I said I was game, and he was too, so back to the calmer waters and up river we went. The view was phenomenal as we talked about all kinds of things and paddled leisurely up the Hanapepe to the bridge. On the way back to his landing, we saw a barracuda...very cool. The lesson ended up being about 3 hours long and I was (am) whooped...stretching and ibuprofen will be needed. Sage got the boards out, I told him I would like a picture to share, and we snapped the one you saw above. I feel like we became good friends, and he actually said he would bring an extra board with him if I wanted to join him in the surf on the beach where we are staying later this afternoon when he finishes another lesson. (this is one of the places he comes when he is on his own time and wants to ride the big surf). I may take him up on it (if I can still move)! Thanks Sage...awesome time!! Aloha!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Surf's Up Dude...

Today B&M got some surfing lessons (I was the official time will come Tuesday...I am going for standup paddling lessons in Hanapepe). There is a great spot right on our beach where all the local schools give lessons, so we just signed up at the beach hut and off they went. The class was ~2.5 hours, with 30 min. of ground instruction, 1.5 hours of surfing with the instructors help, and 30 min. of play time. I think they had a blast ad they did really well. Both of the made it all the way to shore many times over the course of the class (with style)! It was fun watching them too. I figured with Brian's snowboarding and Maddie's balance beam work, neither would have problems...and they didn't.

Here's Maddie! Her biggest problem was getting the board off the beach and back in the water. Beginner boards are big and bulky, but she muscled through it. You go girl!

Here's Brian. Both had a few good crashes too, of course! A bit more practice (10 years or so) and they will be ready for the Banzai Pipeline!

We just hung around the rest of the day (they were whooped after surfing), had dinner at Puka Dogs, went for a nice evening walk along the beach, resupplied foodstuffs (and ice cream!) at the Koloa Big Save, and then settled in for the night. It was a good day (and I am afraid they are running out...ohhhhhhh noooooooooo). Aloha for today!

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Saturday was a recovery day from the North Shore blitz. Slept until our bodies said "Get up!", then Maddie made banana pancakes for breakfast. Maddie wanted to visit the pool, and Brian wanted the beach, so they decided beach in the a.m. and pool in the p.m. I had a bit of laundry to do, so I threw that in and met them at the beach. I had enouh sun from I was hiding in the shade all day today. Met some more nice people today (some dudes playing bocce ball...I may join them in a friendly tournament). Brian met 2 young ladies (HS juniors) from San Francisco while folicking in the surf and has spent (and planning to spend) some time with them this week (they leave the same day as us). So the beach was a good call for the morning activities. We went back and chilled out for lunch and then B & M went to the pool while I had a power nap and did stuff around the condo. I met them over there just when they were ready to leave the pool, so we came back and played frisbee on the lushious lawns. Then I made them get in the car (nooooooo!) to drive to a couple of waterfalls I read about, Wailua & 'Opaeka'a. Both were "drive up and gawk", so we didn't have to work for these (except getting the kidsin the car!) Wailua was huge...173 feet tall (taller than Niagara?) and in an absolutely wonderful setting. You can hike to the bottom of this one (down a steep, slippery path) and play in the pool and spray from the falls. I didn't get any takers on this one, so we may have to come back when everyone is feeling more energetic. Met a very nice woman (Irene) and her Hawaiian boyfriend/SO, and had a very nice chat with them about the islands and lots of other stuff. She was quite a chatterbox and the kids were growing tired of us gabbing (like Dad...c'mon), so we jumped back in the car and over to the next falls...'Opaeka'a.
We couldn't get as close to this one, but the bonus was that the Wailua River Valley lookout was right across the street, which was equally amazing! This is the river I would like to rent kayaks and meander is a true jungle and lush beyond description. We'll see if we have enough time! Aloha for today...another day awaits!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Headin' North

We forced ourselves into the car Friday to circumnavigate the island to the east and north as far as we could go (dead ends at the start of the Na Pali Coast). Packed up drinks, snacks, snorkeling gear and hit the road. I had an idea of quite a few beaches I wanted to hit, and figured if we liked what we were doing we would just stay or go as the spirit moved us. There is soooo much to see, and in a one day trip you just can't cover it all (not even in a month!) My plan to drive to the end of the road, and then work our way back and hang out where it felt good was changed as we approached a spot Maddie had picked from the guidebook...Queens Bath. It was near Princeville and was a beautiful little hike down a root-filled, dirt path through the jungle. If it was wet, it would have been treacherous (slippery roots), but as it was, the roots acted as stairsteps. Once we reached the ocean where a clear stream ran into it, we turned west (ask Maddie about the deposit she made) and made our way to this! Queen's Bath is a lava pool that fills as the tide comes in. Some people we ran into said it wasn't as full as they have seen it but it was still pretty cool!

The water in the ocean was crystal clear and we could see these huge turtles swimming off the edge of the lava flow. Too bad it was too rough to snorkel out there. Also, the views up and down the coast were phenomenal. On the way out we took advantage of fresh water stream to wash and shower the salt water off. Nice.........

Very near Queen's Bath was another beach that supposedly had good snorkeling and was pretty well hidden, hence the name Hideaways Beach. It turned out it was hiding...because I took the wrong path and we ended up on a beach (after a long, long walk) that wasn't so great as a beach or for snorkeling...but the views were great (below pics)! We didn't realize we were on the wrong beach until we got back to the car, and by then we were hungry and a bit whooped, so we opted not to try to find Hideaways Beach this go around.

We then drove to Hanalei in search of food. I found where I am staying next time I come to Hawaii...Hanalei is a great little town with a wonderful feel about it. I asked a local at Java Kai where the best place to stay would be, and she recommended the local YMCA for $15 a night with all the necessities...sold! Next time, I am there!! That way I can afford a hundred days instead of only 10! The kids got lunch at the Village Snack & Bakery..Brian got Mahi with brown rice and macaroni salad, which he woofed down with recklss abandon...and Maddie got "the best cheeseburger I ever guys don't even know how good this is!" I went across the street to an organic market and got roasted potatoes & brown rice smothered in vegetarian chili (with a hude, crispy Fuji apple on the side). Needless to say, lunch was a hit (or we were just really hungry!) Now I just needed a tree to take a nap under...zzzzz. But no...there was more exploring to do...down the road with us! Next stop, Tunnels Beach for snorkeling. The roads on the North Shore are really congested with one lane bridges (part of the charm) so with lots of cars and people, parking can be problematic at times. Such was the case with Tunnels...although our hike to the beach turned out to be shorter than expected, and the snorkeling there was First supplanted Shark's Cove on Oahu as my first place snorkeling spot so far! We chatted it up with some nice people there and they pointed us to the area where they thought the snorkeling was best...and they didn't steer us wrong. Schools of fish in the hundreds, big, small, colorful, deep, shallow, warm, cool, turtles, eels, was indescribable! We snorkeled until we were out of gas. Fantastic... After catching our breath and warming on the beach we reluctantly packed up our stuff because we knew there was one more destination on the list and right down the road...the end of the road at Ke'e Beach and the start of the Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali Coast. A few more one lane bridges and we were there and lucked into a parking spot (we noticed a fresh stream with a pool on the way for rinsing off after Ke'e). Well, Ke'e was alright, but the beach was small and crowded, and the snorkeling wasn't very good...maybe the charm is that it is the last stop on the road. Brian and I found the real gem as we snorkeled (Maddie opted out and stayed ont the beach to take pictures) west around a rocky point and found a secluded section of beach with towering cliffs as a backdrop. We got out and walked around the area (only 4 other people there) admiring the majesty of it all. One of the people was an Aussie dude that asked Brian if he saw any "totles"...Brian didn't clue into the accent for a bit until he realized the guy was asked for turtles...which we had seen, and susbsequently led him and his girlfriend to, for which they were very grateful.

So by now we were all pretty spent and ready to do the about-face back home. But before the drive back we wanted to rnse the salt off so we drove back to the stream/pool, and I told Brian later that our timing was impecable, for as we got out of the car, three girls in thong/skimpy bikinis had the same idea as us. Maddie didn't snorkel, so she watched glaringly from above like a Mother Hen as Brian and I enjoyed all aspects of the scenery around us. I had to pinch myself and make sure I wasn't dreaming...LOL!! Maddie was not pleased with the girls or our male oggling (the girls certainly didn't mind us being there)...she doesn't quite realize that's life and the male/female dynamic...we were just enjoying the moment and appreciating the way the Universe provides! Needless to say we didn't get any pics of that episode since Maddie was the official photographer!

So after rinsing we started back and stopped again in Hanalei for shaved ice at Paradise Shave Ice, coffee (to get me home awake) at Java Kai, and burgers (Brian) and fries (me & Maddie) at Bubbas Burgers. I gotta go back there (Hanalei)!! We arrived home safely ~8pm so it ended up being an 11 hour treat for all of us. It was showers, an Avatar episode on the web (Maddie & Brian, since we missed the airing at 630), then B.E.D. AAAAA - Aloha After Another Awesome Adventure!