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A long, hard week (and it is only half over!) called for a long walk with a girlfriend tonight, a late dinner, and no time to catch up on this blog.

Just a little playing with filters before I tumble into bed.

A cannon at Gettysburg, coupled with dreams of vacation.

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Getting Back Into the Swing…

Saturday night late, I arrived home from my cross country flight from Atlanta.  I kicked off my 2018 travels by spending a week there and had a wonderful time. The flight home was good; I watched three movies (hey, that’s a long flight!) and got up at least a half a dozen times to let my row mates out to go to the bathroom, over and over and over…  Note to travelers: if other people are already getting up, go to the bathroom.  Just go.  Don’t wait until 30 minutes later!

My favorite moment was after we landed, when Ms. Window Seat informed Mr. Middle Seat that we had a smooth non-turbulent flight because the captain diverted us south to avoid the Rockies…  I laughed out loud!  But I held my tongue and refrained from pointing out that there was not a cost effective flight path from Atlanta to the Pacific Northwest that could go far enough south to avoid the Rockies…  Me thinks that Ms. Window Seat failed Geography…

Of course, with the time change, I was awake at 6:45 Sunday after not going to bed until close to 1 am Saturday night.  Can I go back to sleep or take a nap though?  NO!  I am the world’s worst sleeper…  Until my body decides I have had enough and then I can sleep through a 777 taking off, a home invasion of the house next door (with shots fired and police searching my yard with dogs and floodlights), or The Ramones in an outdoor amphitheater concert (all true stories by the way…)

So instead of napping, I went for a 5 mile walk with a girlfriend, walked to the grocery store for some basics (read: wine – and totally other stuff too!) and did enough yard work to get me 20,000 steps for the day, along with a complete and utter exhaustion…

I need to get my next vacation planned!

 

Whidbey Half-Marathon 2017 Weekend

Last winter, I signed up for my ninth half-marathon, the Whidbey Island Half!  It was April 23, 2017. 
 
There was just this one little issue that came up: I was fighting one of the worst colds I have had in a while.  I had been completely down for the count the weekend before.  Like the kind of sick where you are awake for less than 2 hours and you already are in dire need of a 3 hour nap…  In fact, my only outing the weekend before the half-marathon had been to venture out for a very slow stroll around the tulip fields for a few hours, which had completely wiped me out and sent me back to bed… 
 
During the week I was feeling a little better, so I decided to still try to do the race, knowing I could just take it easy.  I didn’t need to run much, or at all, if I still wasn’t feeling up to it.  Katie, Shelley and I all met up at the expo, then headed off for a girls’ weekend excursion in scenic Coupeville, Washington.
 
We checked into our accommodations, the Wisteria Cottage at The Inn at Penn Cove.  It was a very reasonably priced option for Coupeville, where most of the lodgings are Bed and Breakfasts.  Most of the hotels in Oak Harbor were either booked, or had jacked up their rates for the marathon weekend.  The Inn at Penn Cove is also a historic house and cottage, consisting of the Jacob Jenne house built in 1889, and the doctor’s office turned cottage where we were staying, which is also historic (sadly I don’t know when it was built – trust me, it was old!). 

The Wisteria Cottage at the Inn at Penn Cove

Katie was convinced our cottage was haunted.  So haunted in fact that we had to drag the futon into the main room, because she didn’t want anyone sleeping in that bedroom alone…  The proprietors are warm and welcoming, giving us a rundown of the quirks of the place, and even letting us know that it was no problem at all to have a very late checkout so we could go back to the cottage for showers after the race.  And in case you were wondering, no, we didn’t see any ghosts…  However, the drawers in that bedroom wouldn’t stay closed – was it due to the fact that the floor was sloped, or something supernatural?!  You decide…
 
After getting our lodgings squared away, we poked around in some of the shops in the historic downtown area, and enjoyed a wine tasting at the Vail Wine Shop, where we chatted and laughed and enjoyed ourselves. 
After that, we enjoyed the lowering sun and the remaining afternoon while we waited for the Front Street Grill to have a table ready for us for dinner.  I love spending time with my girlfriends, and we thoroughly enjoyed the quiet afternoon relaxing.

We had a water view table at the Front Street Grill, and I had the Saffron Mussels and a beer sampler.  So delicious!

Katie and my beer samplers at the Front Street Grill

I had a wonderful day, despite my continuing fatigue…  After dinner we headed back to the cottage to turn in early.  We had some calorie burning to do in the morning!

 

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park History

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park was established on August 1, 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson.  It was the 11th National Park established in the U.S., and the first in a U.S. territory. It contains and protects two active volcanoes: Kīlauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the world’s largest shield volcano.  A shield volcano is one built almost entirely of fluid lava flows, and is usually lower to the ground than other types of volcanoes with gentle slopes; it is said to look like a warrior’s shield.

The park today consists of 323,431 acres (505.36 sq mi) of land, with more than 50 percent designated as the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes Wilderness area.  In 2004, an additional 115,788 acres of land were purchased through a partnership with the Nature Conservancy and added to the park, making it 56% larger than its original boundaries.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Historically, Kīlauea and the Halemaʻumaʻu caldera with it are considered by the Hawaiian people to be the sacred home of the volcano goddess Pele, and Hawaiians visited the crater to offer gifts to the goddess.  In 1790, a party of Hawaiian warriors (along with women and children) were in the area, and were killed in a violent and fast-moving eruption. Many of the Hawaiians killed and others left footprints in the lava that can still be seen today.

The first western visitors to the site arrived in 1823, and the volcanoes became a tourist attraction in the 1840s.  Several hotels and restaurants were built along the rim of the volcanoes to accommodate the tourists traveling there.  Now, Volcano House is the only hotel within the borders of the national park.

The park has an easily accessible lava tube that was named for the Thurston family, a family that was influential in the designation of the park as a National Park.  It is open and can be walked through, with only a short, paved walk to reach it.

There are also amazing hiking and camping opportunities – how often do you get to hike and camp on lava!  The park ranges in elevation from sea level to the summit of the active volcano Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet.  From ocean views all the way up to stunning and violent lava flows!  The climates in the park range from tropical rain forest, to a desert landscape.  I was consistently surprised by the range of climate and bio-diversity that I saw on my trip to Hawaiʻi.

There are also a couple of scenic drives, giving visitors amazing views of the volcanic craters and the ocean.  The Chain of Craters Road takes you past several craters from historic eruptions to the coast. However, some of the road has now been covered by more recent lava flows.  The landscape here is always changing.

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park was designated as an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980 and a World Heritage Site in 1987, designations that recognize its beauty and importance in nature.

It was a brief visit, and I didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked, but I will share my visit in my next post!

Hawaiʻi 2017: Swimming with Dolphins

Day 5, Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sunday morning I had plans to go snorkeling with an old friend who lives full-time in Hawai’i.  Who knew it would turn into a bucket list experience of a lifetime!

We went to Two Steps Beach, right near the National Historical Park I had visited on my first day.  We walked out over the lava rocks and found the spot to get into the water.  From shore, we could see that there were dolphins out in the water!  A man near us told us that they had been there all morning, but we didn’t want to chance it, so we got in the water right away and swam out past the reef to where the dolphins were.  It was pretty deep water there, but so clear that you could see all the way to the bottom.

The dolphins were swimming in a big circle, they would swim near us and then go on their way to complete their circle.  They would swim really close, and then swim away and disappear for awhile as we tread water.  There were a few dozen dolphins, including calves!  A couple of them would jump high out of the water and spin in the air, clearly happy and playing.  There was another that was slapping his tail on the water.

There were maybe 20-25 people who had swum far enough out to be so close.  You had to be a strong swimmer, as we were a ways out and the bottom was far below.  At one point, one of the dolphins jumped out of the water only about 10 feet from Jay!  It was an amazing experience.  The dolphins were coming so close to us with each pass; they were obviously very curious about us.

This was easily one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  I could see their eyes, as well as the bite that one had on his side from a cookiecutter shark (also known as a cigar shark).  I watched the baby dolphins swimming next to their mamas.

Jay and I stayed out there for awhile, until I started to get a bit cold in the water.  We swam back into the reef, and watched the fish that were swimming  among the coral.  We saw puffer fish, trigger fish, and lots of other tropical fish.  Sadly, we didn’t see any turtles swimming.

When it was time to go in, we swam back to the same spot, where there is a little shelf under the water to stand on to get out.  If you go, just remember to keep your feet flat because there are holes in the lava rocks with sea urchins in them!  Don’t curl your toes!

Of course I wish that I had photos, but the memories that are in my mind will last a lifetime.  Since I don’t have my own, please enjoy these photos from Wikipedia of Spinner Dolphins and Cookiecutter sharks.

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I am so grateful that Jay took me to this spot – I swam with dolphins!  In the wild!  Amazing!