An eclectic last day in Death Valley

March 6th, 2009

Our last day in Death Valley was dedicated to seeing all the remaining sights.  Due to the size of the park it takes a bit of driving to see it all.  We started our day at the Ubehebe Crater, which was created 300 years ago as a result of a violent release of pressure from the earth’s surface.  We got a kick out of the sign.

Our second stop was Scotty’s Castle, a homage to “Death Valley Scotty” from a wealthy friend who built it as a vacation home.  It was a very odd oasis in such a barren wilderness.

From there we headed to the town of Beatty (just outside the park) for diesel and lunch.  We found a quaint little Mexican restaurant in this one horse town, not fancy but very good. 

We wanted to take the Titus Canyon road back into the valley.  Chris had done this on his motorcycle and wanted Kim to see it. He also thought it would be a fun challenge with the truck instead of the motorcycle.  On the way we passed an old mining ghost town called Rhyolite.  Much to our surprise it was the home to the Goldwell Open Air Museum and featured several large interesting pieces of artwork.  The fact that they were in the middle of nowhere added to their charm.  The artist that started this was Albert Szukalski with his “ghostly” shrouded figures also found throughout Antwerp, Belgium.

The final stop on our journey was the Tawny Sand Dunes.  These dunes were not far from where we were staying and we were glad to finally hit them when there was some interesting light.  It was a full day.  Tomorrow we head east, to where, we don’t quite know yet.

Biking and Hiking in Death Valley

March 4th, 2009
Kim polishes the marble in Mosaic Canyon

Kim polishes the marble in Mosaic Canyon

The past few days in Death Valley were quite enjoyable.  Our colds got better and we had fun hiking and biking. 

A view entering Titus Canyon

A view entering Titus Canyon

Chris was excited to explore the park on his motorcycle, as there were riders everywhere talking about the trails.  The riding was much more suited to Chris’s skill level (too much sand for Kim), hence we spent some time apart.

Aguereberry Point

Aguereberry Point

Chris had fun playing on the many dirt roads and taking awesome landscape pictures.  This is a shot from Aguereberry Point on the opposite side of the canyon from Dante’s View.

Charcoal Kilns

Charcoal Kilns

Chris was able to get to some “cool” sights (literally, the temperature on some of the mountains was 50 degree’s cooler than the valley). This is a picture of charcoal kilns built in 1876 to provide fuel to process silver/lead ore. Notice the snow in the foreground.

Kim goes it alone

Kim goes it alone

Kim actually took her first solo hike, and Golden Canyon was the perfect way too start.  Of course, she met a friend to hike with and they chatted the whole way.  He was kind enough to help capture the moment.

Timer shot in Mosaic Canyon

Timer shot in Mosaic Canyon

We actually did spend some time together. The Mosaic Canyon trail was a great canyon hike with polished marble rock faces, some rock climbs, and of course scenic views.

 

Death Valley National Park

March 2nd, 2009
Well, we left Hawaii on Wednesday the 25th after a great 2 weeks.  Travel was smooth and we were back at Kim’s uncles on Thursday the 26th.  We spent the past few days visiting and getting organized to be back on the road.  Grabbed the camper from storage, ran lots of errands, and did a lot of repacking.  We said goodbye to Gary on Sunday morning and headed out in search of our next adventure. 

Panorama from Zabriskie Point

 Our destination… Death Valley…  Believe it or not we both caught colds in Hawaii, go figure.  Our first day in Death Valley was quite productive nonetheless.  We toured many of the highlights by truck and had a good day taking in the sights in a low key fashion (practicing for when we are really retired).  Death Valley is immense.  The views are quite interesting with a dichotomy of having the lowest elevation in the western hemisphere and mountains of extreme elevations.  Other points of interest include painted canyons (Artists Drive), salt flats (Badwater Basin), a creek (Salt Creek known for an endangered species of Pupfish), sand dunes, a castle (sort of), and off road opportunities.  

 

Death Valley is the largest National Park in the contiguous United States.  Only Alaska has larger parks.  It also boasts having the lowest elevation in the western hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level, and being the hottest place in North America with a recorded temperature of 134 degrees in 1913 (second hottest recorded temperature in the world ever).   

 

Unfortunately, our campsite was less than desirable, hence no picture this time.  We would describe it as a parking lot, and not an interesting one like in Volcanoes National Park. Luckily it wasn’t too crowded so we had ample space to crank some tunes.

 

Happy Birthday Dad- Sorry we didn’t call but we have zero services here!

 

 

Kauai, Waterfalls and Whales

February 23rd, 2009
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Opaeka a Falls

We had booked a sunset dinner cruise to the Napali coast for the afternoon/evening so we decided to cruise around the island checking out the sights in the morning.  We found several waterfalls easily accessible by car.  Though not as impressive as taking an 8 mile roundtrip hike to get to one, they were still worthwhile destinations even if they were a bit touristy.

Da plane, da plane. Fantasy Island waterfall.

Da plane, da plane. Fantasy Island waterfall.

The Wailua Falls were used in the backdrop for the opening on Fantasy Island.  Chris did a great job of getting this one!

Off roading in the rental.

Off roading in the rental.

There have been several movies filmed on this island.  We set off trying to find some of the sets for Jurassic Park.  Unfortunately, Kim is too cheap and wouldn’t let Chris get the jeep.  He did the best he could off roading in the Focus.

Kim and Chris on the sunset cruise.

Kim and Chris on the sunset cruise.

It was a beautiful evening for a sail.  We headed out on a 55 foot catamaran for our sunset dinner cruise.  We were dissapointed that we didn’t get to see the Napali coast (the whole reason for taking this tour).  Once we rounded the north shore, the waves were a rockin’ and the captain made the decision to turn around (mind you the other tour boats pushed on).  We made the most of the situation and enjoyed the food, drinks, sun, and frolicking sea life.

Humpback whale breaching.

Humpback whale breaching.

Hawaii is where the humpback whales go in the winter to birth their calves due to the warm sea temperatures.  We must have seen 100 whales in all.  The best part, as we had never caught it before, was the full breaching.  We were psyched to catch this on camera, as it was very hard to time.

Dolphins putting on a show for the boat.

Dolphins putting on a show for the boat.

Not only did we catch the whales, but we had a school of dolphins swimming along doing flips for us.

Kuaui, The Napali Coast

February 22nd, 2009
Napali Coast.

Napali Coast.

We headed to the north shore of the island to check out Hanalei Bay and hike some of the Napali coast.  The only way to see the Napali is by air, sea, or on foot.  We parked at the end of the road which is Haena State Park and Ke’e beach. The morning was a bit overcast but we did capture some of the coastal beauty as we hiked. 

About a mile into the Napoli Coast hike.

About a mile into the Napali Coast hike.

You got me??? Who has you???The climb along the coast was quite muddy and very slippery.  We stopped at several stream crossings to rinse the mud off of our shoes and legs.

The sea was angry that day, like an old man sending soup back in a deli.

The sea was angry that day, like an old man sending soup back in a deli.

The first few miles led to a beautiful rocky beach (Hanakapi’ai Beach) with crashing, loud waves.

When timer shots go wrong, part II.

When timer shots go wrong, part II.

We didn’t have the time to do the whole 11 mile Napali coast trail so after hiking the cost for  few miles we diverted through the Hanakapi’ai Valley to get to the falls. We had some fun taking timer shots along the way. There was tons of mud and several stream crossings. It was quite slippery. As you can see, Chris barely made the shot.
Bamboo stands on the way to Hanakapi'ai Falls.

Bamboo stands on the way to Hanakapi'ai Falls.

The colors and vegetation in the valley were incredible. There were huge stands of bamboo, ancient giant trees, mossy rocks, etc… It really felt like you were in jurassic Park.

The lower porotion of Hanakapi'ai Falls.

The lower porotion of Hanakapi'ai Falls.

After 4 miles of fighting the mud, our reward was this beautiful 300 foot waterfall.  How cool is that?

Back in Kauai

February 21st, 2009
Look at that view!

Look at that view!

Well… We are off the ship and on our own once again.  Travel from Honalulu to Lihue (Kauai) was smooth.  We were checked into our hotel in Kauai by 2:15.  Not super fancy but we had a great 3rd floor oceanfront room with a balcony and efficiency accommodations.  We didn’t want to lose a minute so we headed out pretty quick.  There was an annual festival in Waimea (the oldest town on the island) and thought it would be fun to check out the local flair.  We tried a few local food items and walked around briefly but it was pretty limited.  We decided to hit the Waimea Canyon, one of the must sees on the island.

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon

The Waimea Canyon is known as the Grand Canyon of the pacific (10 miles long and 1 mile wide), as penned by Ernest Hemmingway.  The views were phenominal. It was a great start to our return to the island.

Perched on a ledge at Waimea Canyon.

Perched on a ledge at Waimea Canyon.

We had fun trying to capture the timer shot of the day.  This was very close to the edge of the canyon and Kim was quite nervous.  We will do just about anything for the right shot.

Hawaii is loaded with wild chickens.

Hawaii is loaded with wild chickens.

It’s really bizarre, but there are wild roosters and hens all over the place.  By the way, their famous “cock-a-doodle-do” is not limited to just the morning.  They are actually quite pretty birds.

Waimea Canyon
Even with the panorama, it’s hard to capture the immense nature of the view. 

Cruisin’ Kauai

February 20th, 2009
A view of the Nawiliwili harbor from the ship

A view of the Nawiliwili harbor from the ship

We spent the last two days of our cruise in Kauai. We decided to lay low and do some research since we will be coming back to this island for four days after the cruise.  From our short walks, views from the ship, conversations with other passengers, and our research findings we are excited to explore this island further.

The Fish Pond, a short walk from the harbor.

The Fish Pond, a short walk from the harbor.

We took a few walks to check out the area surrounding the harbor. One of our stops was a scenic overlook of Menehune Fishpond about a mile inland.  This ancient  fishpond is thought to be over 1000 years old.

Cruising by the Napali coast

Cruising by the Napali coast

One of the must see areas of Kauai is the Napali coast.  As we sailed off into the sunset on the last night of the cruise, we floated by the coast for some photo opportunities.  There were several whales frolicking in the surf which added to the atmosphere.  We plan on doing some hiking along this coast when we get back. 

Hanging with our friends in the Gold Rush Saloon

Hanging with our friends in the Gold Rush Saloon

We met some great people during our cruise.  We had fun each evening meeting up in the saloon for happy hour with Michelle our favorite bartender.

The Big Island

February 18th, 2009
Life begins anew in the middle of a lava field.

Life begins anew in the middle of a lava field.

Well, we hit the Big Island on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Our first port was Hilo and we were determined to get to the Volcanoes National Park and see some volcanoes.  As we fly by the seat of our pants, some things work and others not so much… We lucked out in Hilo with a rental car for just $50 bucks (It may have been the last one on the island…).

Akaka Falls

Akaka Falls

We started the day at Akaka Falls, just north of Hilo.  Not Niagra Falls but impressive in it’s height and lush location.

Coast just north of Hilo.

Coast just north of Hilo.

On the way we found ourselves on a scenic road where we captured some nice pictures of the coast. 

Kilauea crater and sulpher vents in Volcano National Park.

Kilauea crater and sulphur vents in Volcano National Park.

From the falls we made our way to Volcano National Park.  We were able to see all of the must see spots in the park.  We walked through a lava tube, saw active steam vents, viewed several craters, and took a 3 mile hike to a cinder cone (Pu’u Huluhulu… Vanna, I think we have run out of “U’s)  and over crazy lava flows from eruptions in the 70’s. 

Lava tube in VNP.

Lava tube in VNP.

Parking lots in VNP are not in good shape.

Parking lots in VNP are not in good shape.

Kim and Chris in one of the many old lava flows.

Kim and Chris in one of the many old lava flows.

When Kim was happy about visiting the southernmost winery.
When Kim was happy about visiting the southernmost winery.

We still had time before returning the car so we stopped at the Volcano Winery, the southernmost winery in the US.  The wines were pretty good and we wanted to patronize their establishment, so we bought a bottle of wine.  Much to Kim’s chagrin, it was confiscated when we tried to smuggle it on board the boat.  We also stopped at Lava Tree State Park briefly (it started raining pretty good).  This was a very pretty little park with lava stacks that resembled trees interspersed thoughout the other lush greenery.

Active lava flow into the ocean.

Active lava flow into the ocean.

That night on our way to the other side of the island, Kona, our ship cruised by an active lava flow.  It was quite impressive seeing the lava flowing into the ocean while enjoying the incredible stars above the Pacific.  The picture really doesn’t capture the moment.

Our chariot today.

Our chariot today.

 The second day on the Big Island we were lucky enough to rent another Harley.  Not our favorite way to travel, but due to the February recess, everything is pretty booked.  We got the last Harley in Kona and headed out to see Waimea Canyon and Wapio Valley. 

Kim and Chris above the Wapio Valley.

Kim and Chris above the Wapio Valley.

Wapio Valley was very pretty.  The black sand beach was a sight.  Unfortunately, it was over a mile straight down to get there and time was limited.  We enjoyed trying to capture the moment with self portraits.  We drove along the coast and worked our way back to Kona.  It was pretty windy and the skies were threatening so we wanted to get back to the port pretty quick. 

Our well deserved reward for a long day on the Harley.

Our well deserved reward for a long day on the Harley.

As luck would have it, the Kona Brewing Company was only a few blocks from the ship.  We finished our day sampling the local brew and plotting our next adventure.

Maui

February 16th, 2009

First stop on our cruise was Maui.  When we have cruised in the past, the ports have always offered many local activities right off the boat.  Not so much here…  When we arrived we had no plans, and there was nothing where we debarked.  The first day therefore, was a little sketchy. We wanted to find something to do without the whole tourist/tour thing.  We couldn’t find a rental car but after hoofing it a few miles and several  phone calls, we found the local Harley dealership, which had  one last rental available for the next day. We were psyched, as we had never been on a Harley and really wanted to get around the island. 

For the remainder of the day, We decided to hoof it to the beach.  We lucked out as the waves were rockin’ and there were about 100 kiteboarders out playing in the surf. We had a great afternoon urban hiking and watching the kite boarders.   

The second day on Maui we rode our chariot up to Haleakala National Park and checked out the crater at 10,00 feet. It got a bit chilly, as you can see by our attire in the picture below, but we made it.  After the volcano we decided to ride around the island and check out the other “areas of interest”. We started to take the road to Hana but the threatening skies turned us back.  We headed to the other side of the island, It’s amazing how different the weather can be. We enjoyed a Cold Stone Creamery ice cream for lunch in Lahaina then took the round about route back to the boat.  The views were incredible, as the road disappeared around 5 MPH corners.  Our two lane road turned into a one lane without much warning.  Chris did a great job of handling the Harley through the blind turns.  We were a little nervous about making it back to the boat on time, as the road got crazier and our speeds decreased.  We made it back to the boat with 20 minutes to spare and a good day was logged in.  We were happy to get away from the crowds and see the true beauty of Maui.

Last day in Waikiki

February 14th, 2009

We enjoyed our stay in Waikiki.  Although the hotel wasn’t fancy, we were happy with it. We usually do not spend much time in the hotel room , so (for us) it’s all about location, location, location… It was half a block from the beach, a few miles from Diamond Head, and close to all of the tourist action (and cheap!).

Our boat is the one on the right.

Our boat is the one on the right.

We wanted to see all of the Hawiian islands, but it was logistically difficult to do it on our own. We figured the most economical way to do it was to do a cruise, so we packed up for the next leg of our journey. We wanted to get to the port early, even though the boat didn’t leave till 8 pm.. Hey it’s paid for! We spent the afternoon getting aquainted with the ship, taking silly pictures, and enjoying the views from the harbor.