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Hawaiʻi 2017: Hilo

Day 3, Friday, May 12, 2017

After we left Mauna Kea, we headed over to the East side of the island to Hilo – the wet side of the island.  We made a brief stop at Rainbow Falls.  We walked out to see it, just a hundred feet or so from the parking lot and it was gorgeous!  And then, just like that it started raining hard – showing us exactly why it is called the wet side of the island.  Of course, I had left my rain jacket in the car because it came on that quickly!

Rainbow Falls in Hilo

 

Brent and me, caught in the rain

In Hilo, we stopped at a place called Cafe 100, that serves Loco Moco, a Hawaiian specialty.  Loco Moco features brown rice served with gravy,  a fried egg and a hamburger patty.  There are lots of people who claim to have “invented” Loco Moco, but it is generally agreed that either Cafe 100 or another place in Hilo, the Lincoln Grill, first made the concoction in 1949.  So we ate the ORIGINAL Loco Moco!  Cafe 100 offers a plethora of variations, including subbing out the hamburger patty with spam (do this!), or vegetarian Loco Moco.  It was tough to make a choice!  I have to say, while interesting, and while I always love trying the local fare, Loco Moco probably isn’t going on my list of favorite must have foods.  It was kind of a meh for me.  I guess not everything while traveling knocks it out of the park…

Loco Moco!

After lunch, we were on the hunt for turtles!  We went to Carlsmith Beach Park in Hilo, and there were several big turtles there!  They were quietly munching on the algae on the rocks, and several swimmers were out in the water with them.  Remember in Hawaii, it is illegal to harass sea turtles or approach them, but these turtles were so friendly they didn’t seem to mind people standing in the water watching them.  I was so happy with the photos I got there!  We also saw a Black Crowned Night Heron and several ducks hanging out in the park.  Next time I go I definitely want to swim here!

We also visited the Liliuokalani Gardens, another park in Hilo, which has a couple of really interesting draws.  One is the Banyan trees that are planted here.  Each of the trees were planted by a famous person back in the 1940s and 1950s, and each tree is marked with the name of the person who planted it.  Richard Nixon and Babe Ruth both planted trees here!  Oddly, I took exactly no photos of these banyan trees, so you will have to take my word for it, and check them out yourself.  The other interesting draw here is the Japanese Garden.  I do have to admit I was pretty confused when I saw people fishing in the pond, until Brent let me know that it does not have koi in it.

 

We got out and wandered around at the park, checking out the kids who were jumping off a stone building into the water, and also a young man fishing with a net.  He would throw the net into the water, then get in the water to gather the net back in, being very careful not to tear it on the lava rocks!  We didn’t see him catch anything but it was really cool to watch!

 

Kids jumping into the water

 

Net fishing in Hilo

This is also where I saw Common Myna birds, Turtle Doves and Yellow-billed Cardinals, a bird native to South America but introduced to Hawai’i.  They were all so neat to capture!

A Common Myna Bird

 

Yellow-billed Cardinal

We still had more adventuring for the day, so we couldn’t linger too long!

 

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Hawaiʻi 2017: Mauna Kea

Day 3, Friday, May 12, 2017
Friday was a big day!  I woke up at 6, got up and had coffee on and sat on the lanai for a while as breakfast was cooking.  But we couldn’t dawdle too long because we had a big day!
 
Our first destination was the summit of Mauna Kea.  You can drive to the top!  The Visitor’s Center on the mountain is at about 9,200 feet.  By the time we got up there, it was getting pretty cold, so I took the opportunity to change into pants and we checked out the exhibits at the Visitor’s Center.  There was scientific data about the mountain and its observatories, as well as information on the traditional origin story of Mauna Kea.

Me at the Visitor’s Center

Poliʻahu is one of the four goddesses of snow in Hawaiian tradition; and an enemy of Pele, goddess of the volcano. She resides on Mauna Kea and is Hawaii’s most beautiful goddess.  Poliʻahu mingled with mortals on the east slope of Mauna Kea and was hōlua sledding with them one day when a beautiful stranger challenged her. The stranger had no sled, so she borrowed one to run against Poliʻahu.  In the first run, Poliʻahu won, and then she exchanged sleds with the stranger to be gracious, and won again. On the third run, the stranger opened lava streams in front of Poliʻahu to try to win the race, revealing herself as the goddess Pele.  Once she recovered from Pele’s attack, Poliʻahu threw snow at the lava and froze it, confining it to the island’s Southern end.  Pele is said to rule Kīlauea and Mauna Loa on the southern end of the island, but Poliʻahu controls the northern end of the island.

Mauna Kea, when measured from the surface of the Earth (on the floor of the ocean) is 33,000 feet tall and is actually the tallest mountain on Earth!  But when you measure from sea level, the summit of Mauna Kea is at 13,796 feet, because most of the mountain is below the surface of the ocean.  The road getting up there is a rocky gravel road and 4WD is required.  I think a lot of the rental car companies don’t allow tourists to go up there in the rentals, but we had the Rodeo – there are perks to driving in an old beater SUV!  The road really is rough though people – it is definitely a bumpy trip to the top, so if you plan to go, be careful!

The gravel road to the summit

 
The summit is interesting – a barren, rocky landscape with patches of snow!  It is interesting to think that there is snow on Hawaii, even in late spring.  The summit of Mauna Kea has an observatory with telescopes for stargazing and scientific research – it is a scientific facility and not a tourist attraction so we didn’t go inside.  There is a stargazing program with telescopes at the Visitor’s Center though for people who are interested!  We wandered around at the summit for a bit and took photos, but there really isn’t a whole lot to see or do there, besides say you have been, unless you plan on hiking. 
Given my experience with altitude sickness on Pike’s Peak, I wasn’t that interested in staying at the summit too long.  Plus we had other places to see!  But now I can say I have stood at the summit of the tallest mountain on Earth!  Take that, you Everest mountaineers!

Hawaiʻi 2017: The Painted Church

Day 2, Thursday, May 11, 2017

After the City of Refuge, I visited the Painted Church nearby.  It wasn’t a planned stop; I drove by and saw the sign and decided to check it out.  The Painted Church is officially known at St. Benedict’s Roman Catholic Church.  It was built in 1899 in a simple European Gothic Cathedral style, marked by the pointed arch on the exterior and the vaulted interior ceiling, by Belgian priest Father Velghe.

 

The Painted Church – St. Benedict’s

 

Exterior of the Painted Church

Father Velghe was also a self-taught artist with a lot of talent.  The church has beautiful painted murals that Father Velghe painted, and the intricacy is amazing.  Father Velghe painted sections of the church with trompe l’oeil, which in French means”deceive the eye.” It is an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create an optical illusion of three dimensions.  The nave behind the altar of the Painted Church is trompe l’oeil.

The story is that the murals were painted to educate the illiterate Hawaiian people, but there is some debate about this theory, as it is known that Bibles were translated into the Hawaiian language at the time the murals were painted. I am more inclined to believe that it was a way to provide some extra beauty to this little church.

There is a little cemetery outside with some old graves and pretty statuary.  Photos are permitted except during services; it is still an active Roman Catholic parish.  There were some vendors outside selling fruit, nuts and crafts, so bring some cash!

Statuary outside the Painted Church

 

Exterior and cemetery of the Painted Church

After the Painted Church, I was getting really hungry, so I found Da Poke Shack nearby.  They sell poke, both to eat there and to take to go, but they also have a little BBQ joint on site.  I had the pulled pork sandwich with sides.  YUM!

After lunch, I checked out a couple of little antique shops, before it was time to pick up Brent and Rich from the job where they were working.

My ride!

We picked up Brandon from the airport and headed to Costco for supplies.  We had a huge salad for dinner topped with Ahi Poke (a choice of spicy or regular) and loads of veggies.  We also made Mai Tais and went swimming and hot tubbing that night.  What a fun day!

 

Costs and Fees: The Painted Church is free to visit – although donations are much appreciated. 

Hawaiʻi 2017: Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau NHP

Day 2, Thursday, May 11, 2017

Brent and Rich were going to work on my first full day in Hawaii, so I was on my own for the day.  I dropped them off and then headed out driving the 1994 Isuzu Rodeo they keep there, with its bouncy shocks and squeaking.  This truck was prime high-riding style at 23 years old!

My first destination was the Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, previously known as the City of Refuge.  It was established in 1955, and was renamed with the correct Hawaiian name and spelling in 2000.  An estimated 421,000 people visited in 2016.  Even now, the name City of Refuge is still used unofficially, even though it was never technically accurate; it was never really a city.  People didn’t live there – there were no permanent residents there.

Pu’uhonua o Honaunau NHP Sign

I watched a ranger talk, presented by a native Hawaiian Ranger; he gave the history of the site.  For hundreds of years until the early 19th century, Hawaiians who broke a kapu (one of the ancient laws that was part of a whole series of laws and regulations) received absolution from a priest if they could make it to the place of refuge, or puʻuhonua.  The thing is, you had to swim there, because the puʻuhonua couldn’t be reached by land without crossing the royal grounds, and that was off limits.  But if you could get there by water, you were pardoned, and could stay there to rest and recover before journeying home.

The park also contains a reconstruction of the Hale o Keawe heiau, the Hawaiian version of a mausoleum, which was originally built by a Kona chief named Kanuha in honor of his father King Keaweʻīkekahialiʻiokamoku (massive bonus points if you can pronounce that!). After the death of Keaweʻīkekahialiʻiokamoku, his bones were buried in the heiau, and more of the nobility of Kona were buried inside until the end of the kapu system in Hawaii.  A son of Kamehameha I, the founder and first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii, was the last person buried here in 1818.  Eventually this heiau was destroyed – the one existing on the site today is a reconstruction.

 

The ranger talk ended with him playing a nose flute – he did a great job too!  It was really cool to watch.  After the presentation, I explored the site.  It has several reconstructed traditional Hawaiian dwellings and structures for visitors to see.  You can watch people making tools and traditional items using historic methods.  There is also a konane board, which is a strategy game similar to checkers.

An artisan working in traditional methods

The City of Refuge is right on the water and I was able to walk across the lava rocks to see the fish and shellfish in the water.  Sadly, I didn’t see any turtles though…  There were several other people there, but it was certainly not crowded.  I enjoyed strolling around at my leisure and checking everything out.  It was so worth the visit!

 

Costs and Fees: $15 per vehicle at Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park (free with a National Parks Pass). 

Hawaiʻi 2017!

I got an offer I couldn’t refuse for May, 2017.  A chance to go to Hawaiʻi with friends!  My friend Brent’s father Rich owns a condo and they were going, and I was welcome to tag along!  Even better, our friend Brandon was going to join us! I certainly couldn’t pass that up, so I booked a plane ticket and set about doing a bit of research on what I wanted to do when I was there.  Specifically, I was headed to the big island of Hawaiʻi, and staying in the town of Kailua-Kona (although most people seem to just call it Kona). I had never been to the Big Island, and my last trip to Hawaiʻi was in 1992, to Maui, when I was 16 years old.  It was high time for another visit!

Since I was traveling with friends, I couldn’t plan the whole itinerary – there were going to be joint decisions about what we were going to do.  So I made a commitment that this trip would be more relaxed, more ‘go with the flow’ than my usual fast-paced road trip.  What better place is there than Hawaiʻi to “endure” a bit of forced relaxation?  It didn’t disappoint! Of course, in characteristic style, I did manage to find plenty to keep me occupied during my trip, so I will hope that you enjoy my series of posts.

Day 1, Wednesday, May 10, 2017

My first day was mostly a travel day.  I flew out on an early flight and and met Rich and Brent on my layover, between my first and second flights.  I had booked onto the same flight as they were on, but had no idea where they were seated, and I happened to choose a seat right behind them!  So great snacks! – win for me!

This happy girl is going to Hawaii!

We landed in Kailua-Kona at about 3:30 – we had arrived in paradise!   We were picked up by a family friend and headed out immediately for an early dinner.  At dinner, I had the breaded Ahi Poke (I had no idea it sometimes comes breaded), pickled cucumbers, salted cabbage, corn and other goodies.  We spent a long time at dinner, with Brent and Rich chatting and catching up, and me meeting friends for the first time.  It was dark by the time we got to the condo, so Brent and I spent a little time in the dark exploring the grounds, the sea wall and the lava rocks in the ocean.  We headed to bed about 11:30 pm.

I was ready for the next day’s adventure!

2017 Ape Cave Hike

Friday, August 11, 2017

In August, I took a trip to Portland with a friend and her son for a long weekend.  We made a stop on the way on the south side of Mount St. Helens, to do the Ape Cave hike!

Shelley and I sign posing

Ape Cave was formed when about 2,000 years ago lava erupted down the south side of Mount St. Helens. As the lava flowed the outer edges of the lava cooled and formed a hardened crust which kept the lava underneath in a molten state.  As a result the hot lava flowed in a lava tube and continued flowing for months during the eruption.  The Ape Cave lava tube is 13,042 feet long, the third longest lava tube in North America, and the longest in the continental United States (for people who pay attention to these sort of statistics…).  A lava tube like this is rare at Mount St. Helens because the mountain typically has thicker lava which tends not to result in lava tubes; instead it builds up pressure which then causes explosive eruptions like the eruption in 1980.

We got to Ape Cave about 1:30 in the afternoon after a several hour drive.  It was definitely time to stretch our legs and get moving.  There are two options to hike Ape Cave, the upper cave and the lower cave.  The lower Ape Cave is about 0.75 miles long with a flat floor and is considered “easy,” appropriate for kids and people that are not up for doing the upper cave.  The upper Ape Cave is 1.5 miles long, with approximately 27 boulder piles that must be climbed over.  When the lava tube finally cooled, the molten lava drained out and the ceiling began to shrink and crack.  Boulders fell from the ceiling, in some places leaving the piles and in others leaving the entrances.  Even where there aren’t boulder piles, the hardened lava is uneven to walk on.  There are also two rock wall obstacles in the cave that need to be scaled too, only one of which was in the website literature we read…

The entrance to both the lower and upper caves

We decided to do the Upper Ape Cave, because who wants to do the easy hike?!?  Pretty quickly we were absolutely alone.  In the dark…  With just our headlamps to keep us company.  We made our way through the cave, climbing up the boulders and then back down the pile on the other side.  Over lots and lots of rock piles…  Over lots of uneven lava floor.  The walls of the cave were fascinating.  There was cave slime and interesting colors on the walls and the boulders.

I mentioned before that there are two spots in the cave that are more than just moderate.  This is where the cave gets its “difficult” rating.  The first spot we came to is about a 7 foot rock wall that you had to scale.  Lucky for us, a ranger happened along at that point and let us know where the two footholds are.  They don’t seem like they are allowed to help by giving you a boost though…  The footholds help you get high enough up the wall that you can hoist yourself over, but you still need some strength to make it happen!  I had strained my knee the weekend before, so I was a little worried about it, but managed to hoist myself up and over on the second try.

It doesn’t look like much looking down, but that wall was taller than me…

The second challenge was a bit different.  You had to use a foothold to get up on a natural step – that part wasn’t hard – but then you had to scoot between the wall and and rock and then scoot your bum up and over the rock to get up to the higher level.  The other option was to just pull yourself over the rock from the foothold, but I wasn’t strong enough for that.  In short, if you don’t have the upper body strength, you have to be slender enough to scoot between the rocks.  This obstacle was the hardest part of the cave for three short weaklings!

Toward the end of the cave you reach a little garden oasis, where the ceiling has fallen in and allowed light and soil to reach into the cave.  There are ferns and other plants growing there.  We took some photos there and continued on, since we knew we were getting close to the end!

A view of the skylight – close to being done!

Due to all the climbing over rock piles, it felt like way more distance than a 1.5 mile hike.  The elevation during the hike moves from about 1,900 feet to about 2,400 feet, but you won’t notice the elevation gain with all the climbing over boulders…  We reached the end after about 2.5 hours in the cave, which the literature says is the expected time.  Admittedly, we took a lot of breaks along the way…  We were tired at the end, but we still had to climb out of the cave using a ladder.

The ladder you climb to exit the cave

 

The exit – we made it out!

Once we were back above ground, we hiked back to the trail back through ashy soil and the remnants of the 1980 eruption all around.

The surface hike back

 

Me! With a really cool dead tree

If you go…  Dress for a 45 degree cave – there’s no sun to warm you up.  Wear pants to protect your legs and closed toed shoes, preferably hiking boots or hiking shoes – trust me on this, you will appreciate the leg protection and parts of the cave are slick.  Bring a headlamp; you will want to be hands-free as you climb over the boulders.  If you can, bring someone tall and strong!  That would have made the obstacles way easier…  And lastly – you can do it, mind over matter my friends!

What a fun hike!

Astoria 2016 – The Last Days

I still had a day and a half left to explore Astoria, and I was determined to make the most of it!   I had already had a great time during my first day and a half – but I had a lot more to do!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Saturday morning I went to the Columbia River Maritime Museum.  What a fantastic place!  The museum covers all aspects of the Columbia River, from the Native American history in the area, to the winter that Lewis and Clark were here, to the various ships that explored off the coast.  The museum also explores the fishing and cannery industry that existed from the late 1800s until recent times.  In 1945, there were 30 canneries operating in Astoria; the last one closed in 1980.  The museum has a wall full of cannery labels; they have a beauty similar to the apple box labels from the same era.  The graphic design on some of the labels is amazing!

Salmon Can labels

 

A historic diving suit at the Maritime Museum

 

A boat at the Maritime Museum

 

The museum also has a lot of information on the Columbia River Bar Pilots and the process of guiding these ships successfully into the waters of the Columbia River.  The volume of the Columbia River and the way that the North Pacific storms come in make this stretch of water one of the most dangerous in the world.  The waves here can exceed 40 feet in height during winter storms, and can easily crash the largest of ships on the sandbars at the mouth of the river.  Ships entering these waters have to be boarded and piloted by a Bar Pilot who is licensed by the State of Oregon.  These pilots complete a dangerous transfer to the ship they are boarding, done either with a pilot boat or a helicopter.  They pilot over 3,600 ships each year into the waters of the river and back out again.  And surprisingly, the Columbia River Bar Pilots have been doing this since 1846.  It was a fascinating exhibit.

 

The Peacock, a retired Pilot Boat

Interestingly, the museum also has a collection of yosegaki hinomaru (the museum used this word order, but there are also references with the name hinomaru yosegaki), which are the good luck flags which were given to Japanese soldiers by friends and family covered in messages and well wishes.  They have a longer tradition, but were most notably given during World War II.  Many American service members took these flags from fallen Japanese soldiers as mementos and over time, they have ended up in museums such as the Maritime Museum.  Here, however, they have been working on a project to find the families of the men these flags were taken from, and send them home to Japan.

 

Yosegaki Hinomaru waiting to be reunited with their families

I ended my visit with a tour of the Lightship Columbia, which is anchored at the dock outside of the museum.  The Columbia served as a floating lighthouse, serving as a beacon to ships between 1951 and its decommissioning in 1979.  It is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.  The work of the lightship was then done by a more modern navigational beacon, which is also now retired.  It is a self guided tour, but there is a docent who can answer questions on the ship.  Exhibits explained that the crew of the ship served between two and four weeks at a time, and had to have everything needed to live for several weeks on board the ship, because winter storms often prevented the delivery of supplies.  10 crew members were aboard the ship at all times, with a total crew of 18.

The museum was certainly worth a visit, and worth the price of the $14 admission (which includes the tour of the lightship).  You can add a 3D film for another $5; the movies change.

After the museum, I had a late lunch at Clementes, along the riverwalk near the museum.  I loved my Salmon Fish and Chips, paired with a Strawberry Blonde from the Wet Dog Cafe and Brewery.  It was a great spot to just relax for a little while before continuing to enjoy the afternoon.

Late that afternoon I drove up to the Astoria Column.  I had been there once before, on a previous tour through Astoria, but it was worth a return visit.  The tower was completed in 1926, and is 125 feet tall.  It has a hand-painted spiral frieze winding up the column; it would stretch more than 500 feet if it could be unwound.  The frieze depicts three historic events: the discovery of the Columbia River by Captain Robert Gray; the end of the Lewis and Clark Expedition; and the arrival of the ship Tonquin.  The artwork is done in Sgraffito (skra-fe-to) style, which consists of a dark basecoat of plaster with white plaster laid over it, into which the figures are scratched or etched.  It really is very detailed.

Climbing to the top of the tower is a huge treat.  There are 164 steps on the spiral staircase, and then you can go outside at the top to see a 360 view of Astoria and the ocean and the river.  Just be aware it can be breezy up there – it is 600 feet above sea level.  It’s amazing!  You can buy balsa wood gliders at the gift shop on the ground for kids to launch from the top of the tower.  I saw several doing this, and it looked like fun!  I stayed for a beautiful orange sunset.  The kind that makes you appreciate life and the blessings you have.

Sunset from the Astoria Column

I finished off my evening with a trip to Buoy Beer Company, a brewery located right on the water in a 90 year old cannery building.  They focus on European style beer, and great food.  I went with the tempura/beer battered cheese curds – wow, delicious and sinful.  And no visit is complete without checking out the window in the floor, where you can see the sea lions who hang out underneath the building!  I loved it!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sunday I had to make the long drive home, but I was proud of myself that I made the most of my solo trip.  The weather was clear on my last morning, so I went for a long walk down the riverwalk once more, and got to see the trolley that delivers tourists to several stops along its route.  Apparently I enjoyed watching the trolley so much I forgot to take a photo…  It is such a cute feature of this small town!  I walked a couple miles down to a viewing platform, and then headed back to the hotel.  It was a beautiful morning for November, and it made me happy.

The rain held off until I got back to the hotel and my car.  Although there had been rain a few times during the long weekend, it never rained much while I was outside wandering!  Success!

What a great weekend…