Haleakala National Park

Have you ever thought about the things you have intentionally or even inadvertently done that influence people in your life, especially your children? I attribute my fascination with Hawaii and my love of national parks to my dad. When I was about nine years old, our family of six camped across the country in our modified VW microbus. We stopped at some of the biggies – Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Sequoia, and Rocky Mountain National Park. I loved being in the parks and still consider them high up on my list of happy places.

Bob and I have made this trip with our four children, so we now understand what an undertaking it was and how we probably had more fun than our parents did, though they appreciated it more.

My dad and little sister Linda posing in front of one of the iconic signs. My nine-year-old self took this with my brand new camera.

I think my love and fascination of Hawaii came about a bit more subliminally. Dad made several business trips there and took lots of pictures, which were viewed as slides. That was the choice medium of the day – I don’t know why! Believe it or not, sometimes we kids would ask our parents if we could watch home movies and slides. If you can remember a time before the internet and cable TV, that makes more sense.

The problem was, every time we’d ask him to set up the projectors so we could see how cute we all were when we were younger, the first thing he would show us was Hawaii. He loved Hawaii and communicated that well and often, but when you’re a kid you can only sit through so many landscapes and beach scenes before you mentally check out. Something must have stuck in my brain though, because as an adult, Hawaii was on the top of my list of places to visit.

Fast forward to the year 2000. Bob and I celebrated our 25th anniversary with a trip to Hawaii. My dad was very excited to help with the planning. He had saved every brochure from his trips there in the 1960s. He presented them to us, I’m sure, with joyful memories hula-dancing through his head. We stared at them in only slight disbelief that he saved these black and white relics from over three decades ago. “Thanks, Dad!”

Fast forward another 22 years and Hawaii was calling us again. We had two major things in Maui that were unfinished from the year 2000 trip – both involved the spectacular Haleakala National Park, which we visited then. It’s a big park, and it is famous for its sunrises. People make reservations to be transported to the summit for coveted glimpses of the sun rising and then a bike ride down the mountain. On our 25th anniversary trip, we opted out of this because we would have had to leave our resort at 3:00 in the morning to get to the top on time. Sunrises are not dependable, as clouds and rain can quite literally put a damper on them, so you go with that in mind as well. In that season of our lives, we had four kids at home, and there wasn’t much to entice me out of bed at that time of day – not even Haleakala. We have regretted this decision, so when we booked this trip back in January, we determined to embrace that adventure.

That was before I broke my shoulder in February. Would we embrace the biking adventure? Could I embrace the biking adventure? Could I even keep a good hold on the handlebars? Can we wake up at 2:30 in the morning? We decided to hold it loosely – kind of like I would have to hold handlebars on a bike.

My shoulder was doing pretty well, definitely well enough to ride a bike, but my stamina was another thing. Plus, we would be riding along the side of the mountain road for a few hours and my entire body, much less my shoulder, was untested in this arena. Add to that I was beginning to suspect that Hawaii was trying to kill me as everything was just so hard compared to 22 years earlier. I was beginning to lose my drive.

Could 22 years make that much difference? YES! Throw in the broken shoulder and lack of movement for so much of this calendar year, mix it with altitude and elevation changes, and that could be a recipe for a last meal. Even Bob, who continues to mock me by playing pickleball three times a week, was hesitant on this one. We talked about it for a few days and then opted out. It was the mix of getting up early and riding down the mountain all the while remembering that our main goal of this trip was not to injure ourselves. And, we were tired. We were managing to keep up the pace of this trip only by fueling with coffee and diet coke. So, unlike our anniversary trip, we have no regrets.

Where there are sunrises on a mountain top, there must also be sunsets. We’d simply have to look the opposite way. Yep, we’re sunset people, so we headed to the park late morning to do some hiking and would arrive at the summit in time to get a good spot to relax and watch the show.

Our first stop in the park was Hosmer Grove, which was advised for birdwatching.

There is something special about feeling small in the forest.

After hiking through the forest we came to a clearing looking down on a tree covered valley. The birding here is mainly small song birds so I didn’t get any good pictures, but this place was a real treat. We did see several beautiful, red I’iwi and a few yellow ‘Amakihi flitting from tree to tree. This was a most relaxing hike. Bird watching takes my mind off of what my feet are doing.

Photos are from Hawaii.gov online guide to Hawaii’s birds. These beauties were too fast and small to capture with my iPhone.

Thankfully, driving up Haleakala is relatively easy. It’s a slow drive but the landscape is fantastic. We got out periodically and did little off the road hikes and were afforded breathtaking views along the way to its 10,023 foot summit.

This cliff at Kalahaku Overlook had interesting vegetation popping up from the rugged terrain. I loved how the blue sky gave way to the clouds. Literally one minute later we saw this:

Fogbow – I had never heard of them. Fascinating!

Not only are there lots of paths up mountains, Hawaii likes to throw in stairs, too. I guess they like to mix it up.

We made it to the summit and took in the views while walking slowly as the air was a little thin. Also, this was our moment of truth. Would we stay for the sunset? We arrived here at 4:30, over five hours since this journey began, and people were setting up chairs and blankets. We got one of the last parking places.

Japanese Quail

I think this looks like something out of a science fiction movie. It’s the Haleakala Observatories on the summit.

This picture was taken from the top of Haleakala at 4:50 PM. Doesn’t it look like we’re in an airplane? There was still more than an hour until official sunset time not including the beauty that would follow until dark. But, as had become the norm for us in Hawaii, by this time of day we were very tired. Our resort restaurant was having prime rib night. Hummmmm

The trip down the mountain would be over three hours if we waited until the sunset was over. We would be driving in the dark on roads without guardrails in traffic. We would miss prime rib and probably grab fast food. What should we do?

Prime rib? Beautiful sunset? Prime rib? Sunset?

Well, the prime rib was delicious.

The drive down the mountain was lovely. There was no traffic as everyone was heading up. We stopped and took in some great views. And, like I said the prime rib was delicious.

We drove down to this area and were blessed with more beauty and fog bows.

I was enjoying some final views near the top of the mountain when Bob started heading back to our rental jeep. It’s not exactly walking into the sunset, but it’ll do!

We are Puzzled

Usually summer is a time to kick back, relax by the pool, go to the beach, visit with family and friends, take a vacation, and so much more. For our family it also means game playing and jigsaw puzzles. But this is not the usual summer. While still able to do many of the above-mentioned things, we have done an exorbitant amount of puzzles. In all fairness, though, that began back in March. We took a little break during June as our eyes were glazing over after doing a couple of 1000 piecers with writing on them so small we had to use magnifiers, but the puzzling continued after that short respite.

As I’ve mentioned before, puzzles are in short supply around the country. We have borrowed and lent out puzzles. We have done every puzzle in our closet with the exception of the holiday/winter ones. I have even gotten in a virtual line at http://www.libertypuzzles.com to purchase a single puzzle. They simply cannot keep up. It took two weeks before my name made it to the top of the list and then I had 24 hours to place my order – one per customer. It is due to arrive this week. I’m so excited. Yes, it’s come to that. I’m excited about getting a new puzzle.

Also, my favorite local used bookstore, BrightLight Books, has taken some of my puzzles on trade (or they’ll pay you a reduced price – http://www.brightlightbooks.com). I love that store and they were happy to have the puzzles which caused eyestrain to Bob and me.

Picking out the perfect puzzle to reflect the mood of the day can be challenging. When I saw this Blockbuster puzzle, it took me back to 1975, the year I was married; and people were impacted in such a great way by a single movie that the beaches were a lot less crowded that year.

Of course we had to go birding. This 1000-piece puzzle about did us in. I’m sure someone has bought it by now and is cursing the day they did – unless, of course, they are under 40.

 

Yellowstone National Park and Grand Canyon National Park were on our puzzle travel list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did a quick pass of all the major national parks as well.

 

 

 

Bob wanted to go to the place where golf was invented. No problem.

I insisted on more bird watching.

We really loved our trip to Utah which we took two years ago. It was nice to revisit.

But I don’t know what I was thinking when we did the map of Bryce Canyon. Maps, maps, maps. Sigh… Bob wouldn’t let me quit though, even though the printing on the puzzle was miniscule.

This was as tall as we let our tower of puzzles get. Oh, this is not all that we did, but it is still a fun memory.

 

Enjoy your summer as best you can. We have a lot to be thankful for, and if you’re in my area, you can always stop by and borrow a puzzle.

High in Colorado

The final destination of our Arizona trip was Colorado Springs, where we were going to meet up with family. That was what gave us the thought to go to Sedona and check it off our bucket list, you know, as long as we were in the area. By “in the area,” I mean some place out west.

We traveled via rental car from Sedona to Colorado, thereby allowing us to check off another national park from our national park list. We like lists. Be they bucket, national park, grocery, to-do, birthday, or Christmas – we are very pro list.

We were given a welcome to Colorado which was worthy of any westward-ho band of travelers. I loved their sign and the view in the distance. I wish I could tell you the route we took because it seemed to be off the beaten path, but alas I have no idea where we were. Frankly, I didn’t care. I left all that to my trusty engineer who loves maps almost as much as he loves me.

I wonder if people in Colorado notice its beauty on a daily basis. I hope they don’t take it for granted like I sometimes do the palm trees and beaches where I live. Maybe that’s why it’s extra special for those of us from flat Florida. Any hill is a novelty in Orlando, so those Rocky Mountains almost put me on my face. Gawking at the scenery was a huge part of the trip.

The reason for our specific route was so we could stop at Great Sand Dunes National Park. It contains the tallest dunes in North America. From a distance we could see the dunes lined up along the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. As we drove closer, we could see the clear demarcation of mountainside, dunes, and water.

Dunes in the distance

You have to cross Medano Creek to get to the dunes.

The temperature was still much lower than normal, and the wind was making it feel even cooler. These things combined made the decision to look at instead of hike through the dunes an easy one. We watched children floating along Medano Creek as others waded through it to get (to the other side) to the Dunes. We grabbed our sandwiches and sat at a picnic table shivering and enjoying the view. It was a quick visit, but it counts!

We spent Memorial Day weekend in Colorado Springs, and may I say I highly recommend it. Plus, the weather finally caught up with the calendar and I began to thaw out. The time spent with family and friends there was memorable. The views of the mountains would have been enough for me, but when you add in golf for the guys and spa time for the ladies – it doesn’t get much better than that. Unless you get daring and stretch yourself out of your comfort zone.

Most of our group decided to go zip-lining at Seven Falls, which I believe is now owned by the Broadmoor. Bob and I had hiked around Seven Falls during a past trip with our son and his family, before this zip-line existed. I had zip-lined before, and I thought it might be fun to do it again, but what I did before barely prepared me for this course. This course includes 5 zip-lines, 2 rope bridges (over canyons, way over canyons), and a 180-foot assisted rappel, which felt more like being lowered, but that was freaky enough for me.

Bob and I in our gear

The adventure began with a van trip up a mountain where they pulled off the side of the road and dropped us off. We hiked down to our practice area where we were outfitted with 15 pounds of gear and given a ten-minute instruction followed by a 10-second practice zip-line. Then we climbed the ladder to our first zip-line.

The first three were fun and easy, but they simply prepared you for what was ahead, which was two terrifying-looking rope bridges and two more zip-lines across the canyon above the tree line. These two zips are so far from start to finish that you cannot really see where you are going, but we followed our trusty guides (one in front and one behind).

New zip line adventure awaits at Seven Falls in Colorado Springs

photo credit: gazette.com

At the bridges there is a point of no return. We lost three of our group at that point (not the tragic type of loss). They were happy to have done the three zip-lines and happy to take pictures from below so they turned back.

Surprisingly, I was not one of the three. I maneuvered across the rope bridges even stopping to look down at the canyon and do some bird watching from the bird’s point of view. I cannot say enough good things about our guides. They really put me at ease. We were told to maintain three points of contact across the bridges at all times. No problem!

After the rope bridges came the two main zip-lines. The guide would take one of the lines which was attached to us, remove it from where it was hooked on the center post of the platform (which has no railings, by the way), and attach it to the zip-line. She repeats the process with the second line so we are always secure. The first guide soars across the canyon and waits as one-by-one we leave the security of our elevated platform to soar across the canyon. The second guide follows the last person.

This takes a bit of time as they recheck all of our equipment and send the group of 6 or 7 of us across individually. When I was waiting on the platform, I was pretty calm but I did become best friends with that center post to which I was attached.

The final zip-line is a quarter of a mile long. It takes about 45 second to cross it and it was exhilarating! I loved it.

The most awkward part was the rappel. You had to kind of step and lean out off of the platform before you (slowly) plunged to the ground. It wasn’t bad once I figured it out. But it sure felt strange.

Fins Course

The rappel down. Photo credit: gazette.com

I’ve included about 17 seconds of the 45 second glide that was the last zip-line. That tiny spot with the greenish/blue shirt is me. By the way, you’re traveling about 45 mph on this course. Did I mention it was awesome? It was!

 

Thanks for coming along on my adventure!

Another Public Service Announcement for Fans of Florida

It’s a little bit safer to traipse around in the swamps in South Florida today. A 17-foot python was hunted and killed down in Big Cypress National Preserve in the Everglades a few days ago. I try to keep abreast of things that can squeeze the life out of you, like The I-4 Ultimate Project, phone solicitors, and big snakes. I know how you depend on me for just such information!

The problem with this invasive species is huge, like the snakes themselves. Interestingly, the increase in this snake’s population in South Florida is linked to Hurricane Andrew, which struck in 1992. Along its path were several exotic pet stores. When they were leveled, the pets found a suitable home in the swampy jungles of South Florida and have continued to devastate our native species while increasing their presence in the way that birds and bees and snakes do.

Florida is aggressively fighting this problem. There are even Python Elimination Programs, but in case you’re wondering SFWMD (South Florida Water Management Department) is not currently accepting applications for new participants.

They are getting very scientific in their battle against the Burmese Pythons. Tracking devices are implanted in male pythons (another job I wouldn’t want) to lead the trackers to breeding females. This 17-foot mama had 73 developing eggs inside of her.

 

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Photo credit: Big Cypress National Preserve/FaceBook

Despite the possibility of being strangled by a python, attacked by an alligator, injured by venomous toads, swarmed by mosquitoes, or literally driven crazy on I-4, I still find Florida a pleasant place to live. As they say though, I live in Florida under one condition. Air condition. If you come to visit, please leave your exotic reptiles at home and enjoy your stay.

 

This is Post #10 in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.