Well, after a rest day on Sunday after our conquering of Olomana Trail, it was time for another hike. My destination this time was Mt. Ka’ala, the highest point on Oahu. My guide today is Sarah, who moved to the island a year ago, and is a teacher at a local middle school. She’s tackled this trail twice before, but never yet reached the top.

I’d hoped to change that, but it apparently wasn’t in the cards. This was a tough hike from the get-go. The beginning of the trail is actually a Water Department service road, like what we found hiking to Hamama Falls, only here it was paved. That did not make it easier. The incline was so steep from the start that my calves started complaining less than half a mile in! The road was about a mile (give or take), and then we got to actual trail. It was nicely shaded, and the incline leveled out for a very short time before starting up again for the entire remainder of the hike, c’mon! We moved through some macadamia nut groves and a patch of strawberry guava (very refreshing at this point). Strawberry guava The steep grade meant pretty cool views, though. DSC_3730 DSC_3739 IMG_5655 And clouds coming down the mountain. IMG_5651 But alas, I was struggling up the trail. My legs were like lead. By the time we’d reached 3,600 feet, I was moving in slow motion. Sarah was observant enough to suggest we turn back, since there might not be anything to see through the clouds anyway. Bless her. I’m stubborn enough that my kneecaps could’ve fallen off and I’d still have pulled myself by my arms rather than admit it was too much. That was a real possibility anyway, because anyone who’s had knee problems knows that it’s not climbing up that gets ya, it’s the climbing down. Looked like another dose of ice packs to the knees was in my future. We did meet a friend on the way back down. DSC_3737 I’m not sure what kind of bird this is (if anyone knows, give me a shout in the comments). It kind of looks like a pheasant, but its colors are very dull for what I picture a typical pheasant to be. Maybe it’s a female? Anyway, it walked ahead of us for a bit before deciding it didn’t like being followed and disappeared back into the brush. We made it to the car (kneecaps still attached…barely), and we headed in search of food. One of Sarah’s go-to places on her lunch breaks during the school year is Kaahaaina Cafe, which is actually part of the Waianae Comprehensive Health Center campus. Yep, the hospital cafeteria is one of her favorite eateries. And I totally understand why! First off, check out the view: IMG_5658 And their menu changes daily based on what’s caught and harvested fresh. The catch of the day yesterday was grilled ahi with a sweet chili dressing, rice, and a mixed greens salad with sprouts and a dressing made of, I assume, unicorn tears. Seriously, I got a little misty-eyed as I savored all the different flavors on my plate. My mouth is watering just looking at this picture. IMG_5659 I ordered a lava flow smoothie to go along with it, which is basically a virgin piña colada with strawberry purée. Yum!

And that was my attempt at conquering Mt. Ka’ala. Sadly, I will probably not have time to challenge it again before I leave the island (not that I’d be in any better shape to reach the top in a week). Guess it’ll have to be on the agenda next time I come to Oahu.

Mahalo,

Jen

This past Saturday, Kelsey and I tackled Olomana Trail (Three Peaks) again, this time going all the way to the third peak. It was a challenge! Getting to the first peak wasn’t too bad. I’m in better shape than I was the first time we did this hike, so getting there didn’t take us as long, and the view was as magnificent as ever. Windward Oahu Windward Oahu Getting to the second peak wasn’t too difficult, either. Not too much actual climbing involved. It wasn’t until the top of peak two moving onto peak three that the real challenge started. IMG_5616 Yes, that’s Kelsey rappelling down the side of a mountain with a rope that’s tied to a tree. I should put in a disclaimer here that several of the hikes on this blog are listed as moderate or strenuous. Meaning, if you’re not in fairly good shape (or if you’re not completely insane), then you probably should not attempt these. There were no tragic missteps on the way down the ropes, and we continued on. The ridge was narrow at some points, with sheer drop-offs along either side. We made our way carefully to the next big obstacle, which was this rock… IMG_5619 …which looks like it’s giving a thumbs-up. At first I wasn’t sure if it was an encouraging thumbs-up, or just a sarcastic one. Then I saw that we had to climb down to the left and around that rock, clinging to the side of it because there was nothing but air to catch you. So, sarcastic. In the spirit of adventure, I still managed to hold on and snap a quick photo looking up at the rock. IMG_5620 This, too, we survived, and then had more climbing to do (as you can see in the background of the picture with Kels and the “thumbs-up” rock). Eventually, we made it to the third peak, and I got a view of the first two and more of the windward side of the island. IMG_5623 IMG_5626 We rested for a bit and ate our sandwiches (peanut butter and jelly for me) while enjoying the nice breeze. Ah, we felt so accomplished! Until we realized that we had to do that entire thing again, only in reverse.

What the French toast?!
What the French toast?!

Oh, well. We made it back and I rewarded myself with ice packs on both knees and a nice peppermint-infused epsom salt foot soak, followed by a day of doing not-a-darn-thing.

By the way, Grant, I saved the scary pictures till after the hike so that you wouldn’t worry. You’re welcome. 😉

Mahalo,

Jen

This morning, I dropped Kelsey off at work and decided to check out the lookout park off Pali Highway. Very close to downtown Honolulu, Pali Lookout offers great views of the windward side of the island. When I went this morning, it was still hazy from the clouds that cling to the mountains overnight. nuuanu pali lookout nuuanu pali lookout nuuanu pali lookout, windward oahu

Panoramic view of the windward side of Oahu
Panoramic view of the windward side of Oahu

This weekend, we’re tackling Olomana again, but this time all three peaks will be ours!

Mahalo,

Jen

Our last day in Maui (which also happened to be Grant’s birthday) was another fairly relaxed day. We slept in so that we wouldn’t be exhausted by the time we caught our flight at 11 pm. After a leisurely breakfast, we packed up the rental car and headed to ‘Iao Valley State Park. It was a pretty valley tucked between some mountains, with a view of the ‘Iao Needle. DSC_3398 DSC_3396 After the park, we headed out in search of more beaches (because that’s the thing to do on Maui)! This time, we turned to the southern part of the island, towards Wailea-Makena. We stopped at one beach for a bit before deciding to find some food a little further south at a highly recommended food truck called Jawz, near Makena State Park. Their fish tacos and quesadillas were indeed delicious, and we sat under the shade of a tree and watched and listened to the waves crash on the shore while I read a book and Grant played games on his phone. DSC_3414 DSC_3426 This particular stretch of beach faced more south than west, however, and we wanted to catch one more sunset before heading back to Oahu. So, we packed up again and set out along the highway to find a more west-facing beach. We found one tucked away among some trees and rocks. DSC_3436 Grant hadn’t yet had a chance to really explore the water, so he broke out the snorkel and mask and went for a swim. DSC_3495 He was fortunate enough to spot a sea turtle! He said it popped up less than six feet from him, and it was massive! Grant swam a bit more, then joined me where I’d staked out the best spot for the sunset. DSC_3525 It was a happy accident that we chose a beach where the sun set right behind an island, making it look almost like an erupting volcano! DSC_3540 DSC_3620 And there ends our birthday adventure in Maui. The experience was unbelievable! I’m so thankful to Kelsey and Devlin for sending us on this trip (I don’t know how I can possibly top that gift)! I’m back on Oahu now (Grant headed back to the mainland the next day), and my summer here is winding down. I have a few more hikes I haven’t done, and a special adventure a few days before I head home (I’m keeping it a secret so I don’t jinx it).

As always, mahalo for reading,

Jen

Day three of our Maui vacation started early. Like, “sometimes-I-go-to-bed-this-late” early. We set the alarm for 1:45 am. The plan? Watch the sun rise over the clouds at the summit at the Haleakala National Park. Travel time from the hotel took about two and a quarter hours, so we got there earlier than we needed to for even first light, but we were glad we did. We got a great parking spot right next to the stairs up to the observation deck, and the very dark environment made for some excellent stargazing. DSC_3204

You can see the bands of the Milky Way.
You can see the bands of the Milky Way.

Did I mention it was freezing? Elevation was 10,000 feet (and change), and the wind was blowing. We were above the clouds. Now, being from Florida, the middle of July is not a time to don long sleeves and pants. As such, what with the very little planning time, I didn’t even bring shoes that weren’t flip-flops, let alone a jacket or long-sleeved shirt. Fortunately, Grant had a pair of water shoes in the car. They were mesh, but still better than sandals. There was also a closed-in structure on the summit which was at least 15 degrees warmer than outside because the wind was blocked. We did at least get tips from reviewers beforehand that it would be cold. So we grabbed a couple of blankets from our hotel room, and boy am I glad we did! Here’s a piece of advice to anyone planning a trip to Maui, no matter what time of year: bring a jacket, long pants, and at least one pair of closed-toed shoes! Hiking boots are probably the best, but if you’re not a hiker, then…*shrug*. Layers are also a good recommendation, as it warms up fairly quickly once the sun hits the observation deck. Enough that I was able to shed my blanket(s) and walk around in my short-sleeved shirt.

Back to the photos, though. Once I saw the telltale signs of first light, I went outside the shelter of the observation deck and staked out a spot that wasn’t blocking or being blocked by someone else. I’m glad I brought my tripod, because a) it was dark, and b) I was shaking like a Jack Russell terrier on espresso. I set up my shot to a delayed shutter release, then would quickly hit the shutter button before tucking my hand safely back into the relative warmth of the blanket. It’s times like this I regret not having a remote shutter release (goes to add it to Amazon wish list). Anyway, here’s a shot of the first light preceding the sun. DSC_3214 And here’s an idea of how cold it was waiting for the sun to come up.

You can see the clouds below us!
You can see the clouds below us!

Just as the sun starts peeking above the clouds, it looks like it sets them on fire. DSC_3301 DSC_3317 DSC_3348 And here we are. Grant was very sweet and gave me his blanket before running into the observation booth away from the wind. He told me I was crazy at least 5 times. DSC_3344 Now you can really see the clouds as the sun climbs higher. DSC_3373 DSC_3375 DSC_3376 This is a view from the other side of the crater. DSC_3370 And I found this very interesting plant growing atop the summit. DSC_3378 We drove back down and made it to our hotel around 8 am, at which time we took a two hour nap before grabbing breakfast. The rest of the day was uneventful. Some reading and relaxing in our room and out on our balcony. We did go out to dinner at a restaurant across the street from our hotel. Grant was determined to try the poke, so we got some poke tacos, which were delicious! IMG_5527 That sums up day 3 of our 4-day trip. Our final day in Maui will be up shortly.

Mahalo,

Jen

Well, day one in Maui was exhausting because of the long drive and the very little sleep the night before. So, we decided to sleep in a bit on day two and then go to the beach for water and sunset. Before I forget, here’s the view from our hotel room’s balcony.

Thank you, Kelsey and Devlin!
Thank you, Kelsey and Devlin!

A few different sites recommended Ka’anapali Beach for nice sands, good snorkeling, and great sunsets. Sold! We took the highway along the southwestern coast of the island, and had to stop at this lookout we found. IMG_5472 It’s apparently a great spot for watching humpback whales during the colder months when they’ve migrated down to these waters. Since it’s summer, we just got a beautiful, clear view of the Pacific and some islands in the distance.

We got to our destination (after a bit of driving around trying to find the place), and staked out our spot on the sands (which were very soft, as advertised). I didn’t take many pictures while we relaxed on the beach, but when it got closer to sunset, the Nikon came out to play. IMG_5481 IMG_5478 DSC_3137 Next up: freezing our butts off for a sunrise on a mountain. Stay tuned!

Mahalo,

Jen

Aloha, friends!

I know it’s been a week since I last posted, but I have a very good reason for that! For our birthdays (Grant’s and mine are four days apart), my sister and her girlfriend sent us to Maui for four days! We left very early in the morning on the 10th and came back late at night on the 13th. Have I mentioned that I have the best sister ever?! Anyway, I’m spending the next couple days catching up on the blog. Starting now.

As I said, we took the very first flight to Maui the day after my birthday (which is when we found out she was sending us to Maui), so we had to be up pretty early to get to the airport for our 5:05 flight. Through the windows on the flight, we could see the bold colors of first light that precedes the sun, telling us it was going to be a good day. Sunrise We landed in Maui and went in search of a rental car. While Grant took care of the car, I started looking up things to do in Maui. We couldn’t check into our hotel until 3pm, so we had a good 9 hours to kill from the time we landed, with no access to our room’s shower (for comfort’s sake, this ruled out snorkeling). We decided on the “Road to Hana,” a 50-mile winding highway along the island’s northeastern shore. Along this stretch of highway are an astounding 59 bridges, 46 of which are only one lane wide (meaning you yield to oncoming traffic before crossing). If you’re only driving the highway, it takes an estimated 2.5 hours to traverse. But if you’re me, stopping every 5 miles or so to get photos, then it’s a day trip. After all, it’s about the journey, right?

The first place we stopped was a lookout over a beach park where surfers were taking full advantage of the waves coming in. DSC_2939

Looks like a dangerous place to surf.
Looks like a dangerous place to surf.

And the other side of it was a beautiful rocky seascape. DSC_2943 DSC_2964

This Hawaiian Monk Seal is enjoying the sun.
This Hawaiian Monk Seal is enjoying the sun.

We found a eucalyptus forest along the road.

I can't get over the colors of the bark!
I can’t get over the colors of the bark!

Across the road from it was a serene pastoral scene. DSC_2996 And we continued on our journey, making frequent stops along the way.

I made Grant very nervous standing at the edge of a cliff for this shot.
I made Grant very nervous standing at the edge of a cliff for this shot.

DSC_3043 DSC_3049 We met a couple new friends at a park along the way.

It's Rikki-Tikki-Tavi!
It’s Rikki-Tikki-Tavi!
This little one made me miss my cats at home.
This little one made me miss my cats at home.

And, of course, the obligatory waterfall shot.

Silky smooth!
Silky smooth!

The trip back was definitely faster, as we didn’t have to stop as often for photos. By the time we got to the hotel, we were beat.

Stay tuned for more on our adventures in Maui!

Mahalo,

Jen

 

 

Aloha! Yesterday we all got pretty well acquainted with the water here in paradise! We spent the morning down at the beach surfing and boogie boarding. The waves were much more forgiving this time than they were during my first attempt at surfing. Grant and I decided to try boogie boarding first. Look at that smile. He has no idea what’s in store for him. DSCF4193 DSCF4231 But we still had fun. DSCF4239 Here’s Devlin, paddling to catch the wave. DSCF4251 And Kelsey, riding the boogie board in like a pro. DSCF4254 DSCF4257 After surfing, we were invited to join Kelsey’s commander on a good old-fashioned booze cruise. The boat left out of Waikiki and took us out to a spectacular view of Honolulu and Diamond Head. DSCF4258 They dropped anchor and some people jumped in the water and swam for a bit. We all enjoyed the lovely breeze coming off the water and the partial cloud cover cutting the sun’s harsh rays. After a while, they hoisted sails and took us back in. DSCF4326 It was a pretty quintessential day in Hawaii. I’m even eating some fresh cut-up pineapple as I write this.

Submission for the print contest is still open on the blog. Go to this page and write a comment recommending a hike or day trip for me on Oahu. If yours is voted the favorite, I’ll send you a free 12×18 metallic print from that adventure. Click here to enter.

Mahalo,

Jen

After a very relaxed July 4th, where we went and watched a movie (Man of Steel) and stayed home the rest of the time, we were ready to tackle another hike. I wanted to give Grant a taste of what hiking is in Hawaii. So, we decided to revisit Hamama Falls, which Devlin and I had enjoyed on a rainy morning. This time we had the whole crew. Kels has a 4-day weekend. Hamama Falls is listed as a moderate hike because of the steady incline that really gets your blood pumping. We figured it was enough of a challenge for Grant, but not too much of one to deter him from going out again (so Three Peaks is not a good idea for a first hike). It was a much brighter day than when Devlin and I hiked it last, so we sunscreened it up. DSC_2891 It was pretty brutal. We made lots of short stops in what shade we could find, and dipped our toes into little streams along the way. DSC_2886 But we eventually made it to the falls. DSCF4187 IMG_5402 Kelsey promptly climbed them, monkey that she is. DSCF4185 And Grant took off his shoes and let his feet soak in the cool water. DSC_2896 We passed a handful of people this time, but we still had the falls to ourselves. I think this is a hike best reserved for a cloudy day, because it is pretty exposed for most of it. Grant says he’ll stick to the “easy” hikes in the future. I guess you have to work up to the more difficult ones.

Speaking of which…

I’m thinking of running a contest for my readers. I’ve only got a few more weeks here, and I want to take full advantage of my time, but I also want to engage you all in my trip. I’m going to create a new contest and link it to my Facebook page. So keep your eyes open for that.

Mahalo, as always,

Jen

maternity photographer tampa

Aloha, readers!

I know it’s been almost a week since I last updated you on my adventures. This has been a very unexpected week. As most of you know, my husband Grant did not accompany me on this trip (someone has to work, ya know?). So imagine my surprise when, on our second rest day after Koko Head, Kelsey, Devlin and I went to a local frozen yogurt shop and ran into him! They’d been planning this all weekend! So it’s been a bit of a whirlwind these past five days. I’ll be doing two posts today to catch you up.

Grant had a pretty interesting time getting here, with flight delays and cancellations. So he arrived a day after he was initially supposed to, and he arrived exhausted. But after a good night’s rest, he was ready to start tackling the island on Wednesday. Kelsey still had work, but Devlin decided to sit out the adventures for the day. So Grant and I took the car and headed out to one of Oahu’s most popular tourist destinations: The Dole Plantation. IMG_5389 We went full-on tourist, ’cause, why not? DSC_2878 For those of you who are curious, this is what a pineapple plant looks like. DSC_2876 Of course, we had some Dole Whip (pineapple soft serve ice cream), and a pineapple chili dog (yum!). After the plantation, we were headed to the beach. It was around noon by the time we left the Dole Plantation, and parking was not easy to find. We ended up passing by two of the beaches I liked, and finding one that was tucked away and not at all crowded! We sat for a while enjoying the lovely breeze and making his friends jealous by sending them videos and photos of the gorgeous beach! DSCF4183 We wrapped up our exploration day by getting pineapple coconut shrimp and Hawaiian shave ice on the North Shore.

Stay tuned as I recount my second visit to Hamama Falls, and Grant’s first foray into hiking Hawaii!

Mahalo,

Jen