Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Two benches

I promised another bench and after looking at the photos, I realized I have photos of two benches.

 They were encountered on the day we drove from the west sea to the east sea across the big island of Hawai'i, a distance of 77 miles between the big mountains Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. We started at sea level, rose to 9000 feet and back to sea level. And then returned along most of the same path. The target destination was Rainbow Falls, a multi-falls water falls in the city of Hilo. We had a problem or two finding the site, but stopped in a school parking lot to look at the map. A school security guy came up to the car and asked what we were looking for, and we told him Rainbow Falls. He told us the way, but warned that here may not be any water flowing over it, because it had been dry lately. When you live in Hawaii, I guess you don't visit the tourist attractions often, because when we arrived at the falls there was plenty of water flowing over the precipice. Just up the river from Rainbow Falls there is another attraction - Boiling Pots. It's a canyon with rocks over which flowing water seems to bubble and roil in a kind of Hawaiin rapids.  In the parking lot by the Pots the lava benches sat - unused.

There was another similar bench at the same site. Lava rocks and some sort of fungal growth or lichens, perhaps, are evident.

A map of the trip across the big island to visit Hilo looks like this.

Back in the land of icy streets and wind chill, it was another day considered life threatening. It was -9º F. this morning, but has risen to 1º F. I ignored the danger and went off this afternoon to smack tennis balls at Fort Snelling. I had not completely lost my coordination and it was quite satisfying to crunch some forehands after 18 days of self imposed rest.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Orchids and rainbows

The wind chill is below the zero mark and I'm feeling a little cabin bound again, so I'm posting some of my favorite unpublished shots of places seen on vacation. It doesn't take long to get back to normal routines and begin to miss the green and flowering plants of the islands.

Before we left Minne-snow-ta, I promised the Prairie Princess that I'd do a little pool cleaning at Larry and Anne's, as a kind of remembrance of her time there a year ago. There was talk then of pool cleaning being a boring job and not much fun. PP said that she remarked that life must be pretty good if the main complaint is having to clean the orchids off the pool surface. I'd like to be doing that task right now.

An orchid was growing on the façade next to the pool. It seems alone, and not much of a threat to clog the pool drains.

The retired sugar plantation on Kauai that we walked through was very nice and very green. It looks a bit like I picture the garden of Eden - without the snakes. There no snakes in Hawaii.  Or alligators for that matter.

Hawaii is known as the the rainbow state for a reason. There were many days on Kauai when the moisture in the air produced a beautiful rainbow, in this case a double rainbow.

This is what happens when you get too close to the surf on a windy day. A camera full of splash. This was taken on the big island, near the town of Captain Cook.

I guess now that I can revert to blogging about how hard the winter is going.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Painted Church and Peace Garden

Home now, but a few tales to tell yet. It's snowing and 18º in St Paul, but the memories of Hawaii are fresh and warm. A few more photos to share before the photos revert to tundra. Stay tuned.

Nearing the end of our time on the big island, we went exploring. We're more forest people than beach people, and we like looking for out of the way gems. And we had a car. We drove south from Kona, looking for a "Painted Church" mentioned in the guide book. We'd seen signs for it before and thought we could find it. There was also a Peace Garden that sounded to be of interest.

The Painted Church is on a rise of the slope of Hawaii near the town of Captain Cook. It contains large beautiful wall paintings depicting Bible scenes done years ago by the priest of the church. It also has a primitive, in a way, uphill version of the stations of the cross, done in unfinished poles and inscribed with each station's position in Jesus' last days.

There is a white painted statue of Jesus at the top of the hill where the stations stand. NCW for scale.

NCW stands above the stations of the cross at the Painted Church. The view down toward the ocean was beautiful. The inside of the church was nice, too, with Biblical paintings beginning to fade in the tropical heat and humidity.

About a mile down the curving road along the ocean we found the other place we were searching for. Paleaku Peace Garden is a private botanical garden and a tribute to the world religions and, of course, peace. There are displays and statues representing the world's great religions. Plus there is a set of flowering shrubs representing the Milky Way galaxy, designed and executed by a well known astronomer.

A slightly blurred view of the main part of the garden looking towards the big ocean. The blur was caused by some humidity on the lens, but I like the photo and the scene well enough to post it anyhow.

A monument to Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Christian part of the Peace Garden. There were monuments to Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism as well.

I couldn't pass up an addition to my sometime collection of bench photos. We sat on this one in the Peace Garden in the shade of a large tropical tree. Banyan, perhaps.

By this time my camera's battery began to bog and the rest of the trip went unrecorded. It was a good day and one that was unexpected even the day before it occurred.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Kona to Mauna Kea to Hilo

There was a decent sunset a couple of nights ago. The dark area in the foreground is solid lava that flowed to the sea sometime in the last couple of thousand years. The surf in the photo was big enough and strong enough to entertain a crowd of young surfers for much of the day.

NCW waded in a tidal pool on a beach near Kona. The water is salty and the surf rough. It's the Pacific Ocean. This is about the extent of the beach going that we do. I guess we're more forest people.

There is a world class astronomical observatory on the big island. We decided to see if we could get close to it. We gassed up and drove to the mountain.  We stopped at the visitor center about 4000 feet below the Keck observatory on the top of Mauna Kea. The last segment of road to the top requires a four wheel drive vehicle and all I have is a Buick SUV. They had some vintage telescopes at the center, a video about the top and an opportunity to buy souvenirs and warm clothes. It was about 55º and 9000 feet above sea level. Across the horizon I could see Mauna Loa. It had just a tinge of white at the top. Yes, Martha, it does snow in Hawaii. Then we decided to complete the trip across the island to Hilo on the other side.

Rainbow Falls is in Hilo on the west, wetter side of the island. The drive from Kona to Hilo is about 80 miles, on the Saddle Road past Mauna Kea and down again to sea level. I joked to NCW that we had crossed from the Pacific to the gulf side. Of course, it's all Pacific Ocean.

I personally prefer Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis to Rainbow Falls.  It's about the same height, but usually a lot more water flows over the precipice.

There is an abundance of flowers here. All over the place. These, I think, are hibiscus blooms. They are familiar sights here, as well in Florida and other warm spots on the globe.  These were in Hilo.

The big island is a beautiful and diverse place.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Hula Daddy to Volcano National Park

I've had some internet troubles and haven't been able to blog for a few days. I think the troubles may have subsided and I'll try to catch up a bit. We landed in Kona on Hawai'i (the big island) on Sunday and found our way to our rental pretty easily. We're near the Pacific and can hear the roar of the surf from here. We walk about 25 yards to get our feet wet in the salty ocean.

One of first adventures was to find a place where they grow and process Kona coffee. There are lots of little processors around. The coffee processing farm that we visited is called Hula Daddy. They pick, roast, package and sell their own home grown coffee. As we left the coffee tour hub, it began to rain. We learned a lot about coffee, much of which is interesting, but not necessary to enjoy a good cup of joe. Hula Daddy's medium roast was pretty tasty.

Volcano National Park is 93 miles from Kona, but not too bad a drive considering the roads are completely ice free. We took the drive down the coast and up Mauna Loa on Tuesday. The weather forecast was for rain and the guidebooks said to wear warm clothes. The park is near the top of a mountain, but 55º is not much of a hardship and the rain held of until we got back to Kona.

This is a photo from the rim of the Kilauea crater or caldera. That gray surface is magma turned lava from the last eruption of the volcano. It's mostly cooled and possible to walk across. The hike is a round trip 4 miles.

NCW on the hike to the bottom. We took the shorter of the possible options, choosing to forego the trek across the crater, instead going down and back up the same switchback trail.

We made it to the bottom of the 1.2 mile hike, 400 feet or so lower in altitude than the rim.

The bottom of the crater. Hardened lava as far as you can see. It's an eerie sight. We hiked something over 5 miles as the crows fly for the day, but the up and down made it seem longer and made my dogs bark.

We had lunch at the Volcano House restaurant, did some more investigating and then began the long drive back to Kona.

The surf was pretty at all the beaches on the way back, and although the sunset was lost to the clouds, we have time yet to get a good photo of the sun as it goes down across the horizon from the beach by our rental.

Sunday, February 8, 2015


The state bird of Hawaii is the Hawaiian goose or nene, which is native to the islands and is found exclusively on these islands. These were walking around on a golf course where we were looking for the nesting places of an albatross or two. They are a quiet bird very unlike the wild bantam roosters that infest the forests of this island.  They supposedly evolved from the Canada geese a long time ago.

The Kilauea Lighthouse sits on a point jutting into the Pacific. It was built and dedicated in 1913 and was used until the 1980's.  It's not far from here so we had a drive there to see the site and the sights.  It was pretty and pretty dramatic scenery.

There is an island off the end of the point where the lighthouse sits. It's the home of colonies of wild birds who return yearly to nest and procreate. This is the northernmost point of the Hawaiian Islands, about the latitude of the Bahamas. This is a volcanic island like the rest of the chain of islands.  We walked around and found a lot of people looking for humpback whales.  As we watched several - one at a time over minutes - breached and showed themselves a distance off shore, but close enough to be seen reasonably well.

This afternoon we had a trip to the beach.  Here's a pair of septuagenarians after returning from the waters of Hanalei Bay where they had attempted and completed a few rounds of boogie boarding, an easier form of catching a wave without standing up on a board. I admit it was a bit exhausting, but now and then a guy has to step outside the bounds of whatever box he's put himself in. And with the help and egging on of my old roomo it seemed like the thing to do.

NCW and the Hostess From Hawaii (HFH) sitting on the beach relaxing while my old roomo and I were out in the bay pretending to be much younger than we actually are.

We are having fun and eating really well.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Wild bantam roosters

There are few places in the world where chickens run wild and manage to survive predation. This is the only place that I know of, this island in the Pacific. Apparently, some years ago a hurricane came through and destroyed the shelters of a lot of fighting roosters. They were part of an island practice of cock fighting and they were beautiful animals, and quite aggressive. There were other chickens that were released by the hurricane, but the roosters of that variety were severely out competed by the fighting roosters. Thus, the island is inhabited by roosters like this one, who roam around with their families. They, like roosters everywhere, like to greet the day with a good cockle-doodle-doo. They have been heard every morning here, starting at the crack of dawn. They are pretty, but not very polite. They have no predators of any consequence here and walk around like cocks of the walk, which, indeed, they are.

Yesterday we had a nice trek to the interior of this island. The goal was to visit Wai Koa, a place that at one time was a large sugar plantation, and was so for about a hundred years. They stopped sugar production in the 1970's, but the land is preserved as a park. The walk took about an hour and a half, and I took quite a few pictures. There was a dam and some irrigation canals in a beautiful valley.

We reached the turning around spot and took a photo. NCW and I enjoyed the journey and the scenery.  We heeded the sign and went back the way we had come.

The end of the park land for the hosts, too.

The host of this place we are staying enjoys the pretense that he can swing out over the water on a rope and get back to shore. It was just a bit more than a guy with three score and ten years behind him to even attempt.  But he's willing to pose for a photo with the ladies behind him.

We are having a great time and eating really well.

Thursday, February 5, 2015


The flowers in this place are pretty awesome. NCW needed one for her hair. It was and continues to be windy, but the windchill is still in the 70's.

An albatross nests a couple of blocks from here. They apparently mate for life and return here every couple of years to lay eggs and raise a family. They are long lived - as much as 60-70 years - and able to fly prodigious distances. The pair takes turns sitting on the egg until it hatches.  Larry led us to its lair.