Tuesday, January 31, 2012

and…she’s back.

Well, this is a first. This post comes to you from my shiny new iPad. To back up a minute, after ten days on Kauai, we flew to Honolulu for a couple of days. I had visited the Big Island and Oahu for a week apiece in '99, but Kevin had never been to Hawaii at all, and he wanted to see the Pearl Harbor Memorial. So off we went.


One of the stranger and sweeter aspects of this particular visit was noticing how many visitors were Japanese. I just wanted to hug everyone. It’s a place that inspires reverence – not necessarily the same flavor of reverence as the innards of a flower inspire in me, but reverence none the less.



We stayed in a three-star hotel in Waikiki. If you have never been to Waikiki before, it is a major, major shopping emporium. In fact, from what I can tell, the whole city is a shopping emporium. (But what do I know? We live in Vermont.)

Best part of the hotel? The electronic toilet. It was great! It had buttons for washing AND drying your tender bits. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out how it worked. I couldn't even figure out how to get it to stop beeping a happy little chirrup every time I either sat down, or got up. Quite disconcerting. I mean, I so get how someone got the idea for a hands-free bidet (think of the uninterrupted reading possibilities!), but what purpose could that little beeping serve? Baffling.

We also had an epic adventure finding the Niishodo candy factory, on an errand for a friend who used to live in Honolulu. Oh, the fun I had being excited taking pictures in the sales room while all around me, folks in the know laughed at me.

DSC_0096 DSC_0097

The things you can do with rice flour: unbelievable. Also, just a tip, world travelers: a box of these spongy little delights does not fare as well in checked luggage as you might hope.

Anyway. Where was I. Shopping emporium. There was an Apple store. One thing led to another. Did you know that Apple Store employees walk around with iPhones on lanyards around their necks, and they can process your purchase, down to swiping your credit card, using said iPhone? Not a cash register to be seen. Waaagggghhhh. Please bear in mind: we do not have smart phones – we’re a little behind the curve here. So, when the dude in the store showed us how you could use an iPad as a GPS/navigation device, and explained how you could get a simian card (simian? perhaps he said SIM) that would enable you to access the interwebs from other countries…I’m glad the device is drool-resistant, let’s just put it that way. No regrets thus far.

Then what? We took the red-eye to San Francisco. I puked upon arrival. Note to self. Red-eyes are a little beyond me at this point. We breakfasted with a dear friend, who kindly let us nap, as neither of us had gotten much rest on the flight.

And then we headed down the peninsula towards LA. Check out our wheels:


Turns out that’s what you get when you get a one-way rental car. A sweet, sweet, minivan.



Here’s Big Sur. Turns out there is a place along here somewhere that served for the natives of this region, what that spot on the western side of Kauai served as for the folks there: the jumping off point for spirits to enter the next world. This makes eminently good sense to me.

We did the whole 17-mile drive around Carmel. Full of slurpy goodness.



And, further south, we stumbled across a simply magical place I'd been to before with family – Nepenthe, a restaurant right off PCH.


Around here is when we learned that there had been a landslide, and the rest of the Pacific Coast Highway was closed. We backtracked and cut inland, arriving that evening at the house of...my aunt Jen! Yay!


Put me up as a houseguest and this is your reward. That’s Morro Rock in the background, over my left shoulder. I believe it’s the plug of a dormant volcano. What I don’t know is if it’s where it always used to be, or if was blown sky-high and that’s where it landed.

The day after that, more driving south, and more time with family. Double yay!


Being a tree-hugger apparently runs in the family. That’s my cousin and his three “…AND A HALF!” year old daughter.

And the day after this? We flew home. I spent a couple of days unpacking, dealing with the piled-up mail, and adjusting myself to the cold…gray…bland…Vermont…winter. Hopefully we’ll get some serious snow at some point, and I can re-adjust to the whole New England thing again.

Oh right – like getting up early to go to work. Good night, world!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

kauai: is there such a thing as too much of a good thing?

Greetings, world! Much catching up to do. We have left Kauai – we are now in the surreal shopping mecca that is Waikiki, Honolulu. We have a red-eye to San Francisco tomorrow night.

Trying to write a coherent post about our time on Kauai would be difficult. Two words apply: sensory overload. On one of our last days, we were hanging out on a lava outcrop at the beach, watching the waves thunder in, and my inner Park Ranger kicked in, so we warned a bunch of people off the rocks who did not realize the danger they would be in. We got to talking with a woman from Chicago about her time on Kauai, and she said she felt wasted – she couldn’t keep track of everything she had done, or what she did, when. We felt the same way.

We spent our last couple of days on Kauai hanging out on the North Shore, in and around Kilauea and Hanalei. We hung out at possibly the loveliest beach either of us had ever been to: Ke’e Beach, the end of the road, where the trail along the Na Pali coast starts.


As usual, we were warned about not swimming. Actually, that’s just the stash of signs the life guards use as conditions warrant. In our case, we were lucky: the seas were calm…


…meaning the coral reefs were doing their job, protects a swimming area from breaking waves. Kevin activated his inner hippopotamus, and bobbed up and down contentedly in the water, while I played with the Nikon and lusted over the trees fringing the beach. (At this point, Kevin would like to point out that he has killed fewer people than your average hippo.)


That’s the life guard station. Yeah, those roots….mmmm….


Trunk of the tripod tree. (My name for it. In a minute you’ll see why.)


Beetle calligraphy.



I also stalked a rooster on the make through people’s abandoned towels and beach paraphernalia. Kauai is positively infested with wild chickens – liberated from their coops by a hurricane some years ago, they’ve never looked back. Kevin and I got into a running joke over it, exclaiming every time we encountered one in, say, a grocery store’s parking lot, “Oh hey! Look! A rooster! Wow!”  Kevin is convinced there are really only two or three of them, who just move around a lot.



View of the Na Pali coast from about a half mile up the trail. The Kalalau Valley is some 10.5 miles in from here – that’s the one we hiked up to the headwall from the interior of the island at Waimea Canyon, several days ago. Feels like ages ago.


Kevin commandeered the Lumix, meaning that there now exist photographs of yours truly using the Nikon.

In our waning hours on Kauai, we also revisited Secret Beach. It’s flanked on one side by the Kilauea lighthouse, and on the other by Ben Stiller’s house. Ben: I’d love to housesit. Really. It would be no trouble.


We dared walk right along the water’s edge, and actually had a startling moment when a wave came out of nowhere and soaked me up to my knees. They reallllly aren’t kidding when they tell you to watch it in these waters. More experienced souls were out surfing and I amused myself filming them, but I can’t post any of those videos here because I am so astonished by their skill that many, many bad words came out of my mouth.


Oh, here’s one of those tripod trees I mentioned earlier.

As for plant life? Completely ludicrous.







Today, we visited the Pearl Harbor Memorial, and tomorrow we’re heading up to Oahu’s north shore. And then, the aforementioned red eye to SFO.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

wreaking havoc on the botanical garden

I’m getting used to the Nikon.

I started today – at the botanical garden, as promised – with the 85mm lens (the macro), but conditions were too windy. I couldn’t get anything in focus for long enough, even on auto. It would have even challenged the Lumix. So I swapped out for the 18-55mm lens and tried to content myself with bigger picture stuff.


Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


Nearby was the blossom of the rare Twizzlestick. Or something. I am not even attempting to learn anybody’s name – let’s see if I can just not pass out from the variety.


This would be considered in scandalous taste back where I come from. So much lushness, you can afford to make holes in your leaves? *!*


Ah! Familiar territory. Fern spores. Some were round, as above.


While others looked like donuts. We thought the non-donut ones looked like those apocryphal LSD tabs we were warned about in grade school – those cute little candy dots! – but as we are both children of sunshine and utterly innocent, we weren’t sure.


Said spores. (This is one of the few 85mm shots. Notice how relatively little of the overall scene is in focus? This is the blessing, and the curse, of the 85mm.)


A gratuitous shout-out to the color. This is un-retouched. Yes, it’s not in focus. Grrr.


Speaking of gratuitous, and speaking of gorgeous, this is the rainbow Eucalyptus. Does it come in wallpaper? Can I live in this house? This may be its actual name – I was chatting with another photographer about it. Deepest layer down = the light green.


Plumeria! Just coming into blossom.




Plumeria tree. Never would have guessed. I guess I’ve seen them in Lamu (off the coast of Kenya) in blossom…with full leaves. When this party gets rolling it’s probably quite something.  

And for the day’s mind-blowing, staghorn fern. “Not a true fern, I think” according to a park volunteer.


Little. (These baby, and others its size, were tucked inconspicuously just off the trail – turns out they’d established themselves all by themselves. Go, team, go!)


Bigger. (Same as above – self-started.)


They get to crazy sizes. Those leaves cup falling whatnot and use it as soil. Can you imagine the fun of getting to know one of these day in, day out? The one above and the next one were established by the gardeners: set up, and tied to the tree with either plastic or twine. They’re epiphytes – they don’t harm the tree.  I have no idea if they are native or introduced. Hm.

So there you have it: Kauai. Crazy.

Tomorrow: a kayaking trip up the Wailua River.

Monday, January 16, 2012

this place is kicking my butt

Honestly, I thought – after a solid two years of sabbatical in which I did, no kidding, nothing I didn’t want to do all day every day, with only the wee distraction of a part-time job for the the past few months – that I had the whole kick-back-and-relax thing down cold.




What do I know of chilling out? I am a mere amateur.

How long do you think Kev and I watched the surf pounding the shore yesterday? Psshhh, I dunno. An hour, according to the time stamp on the photos. We were sitting on a lava promontory on Secret Beach – North Shore – that was not receiving the brunt of the waves, due to whatever variables: the nature of the rocks and coast just a few dozen yards offshore, perhaps? Next to us, similar promontories were getting hammered.



The rule of thumb is, don’t turn your back on the ocean, and don’t hang out on wet rocks. Waves have a rhythm worth paying attention to, and if the rocks are wet, that means they’re contemplating sneaking up on you, grabbing you by the ankles, and hauling you off to sea. No, really. Our buddy and host actually warned a family off the shelf pictured above – they were from out of town, and didn’t know the dangers.


This guy was playing his guitar on the beach to his lady friend, and I could not help, as I walked by him, singing “I gave my love a cherry…without a stone”. I am a bad girl.

In other news – here’s a shot from the other day’s foray up Waimea Canyon – look, it’s Mars! Mars has water!



As for today, we went to a different beach just a stone’s throw from where we’re staying – each beach its own marvel, completely different from the last one.


This one featured a magic c'mon-on-in zone – a zone of dunes shaded by some type of ancient-looking…conifer?


The needles are segmented. What’s even crazier is I’ve seen this species of tree pruned every bit as aggressively as plane trees in France, shaped into boxy-looking hedges. Wacky.



Anyway. I digress. Kevin lolled around in a swimming lagoon for a while…



…while I lusted over stupendous chunks of rock and coral.



Here we have a grove of upside-down trees (can’t remember the name just yet), complete with giant rope swing.



And massive loads of whatever seed pods these are.

Happiness prevails. Tomorrow I’m entitled to extra doses of goofing off, since I started this morning with a 7.5 mile run. I plan on wreaking major havoc at a nearby botanical garden.