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

Well, if I thought Saturday’s surfing adventure was a workout, it was nothing compared to hiking the Koko Head Railway! Here’s a shot of the bottom of the path, just to give you an idea. IMG_5366 “But Jen,” you may say, “it looks like it’s just stairs the whole way up.” Well, yes, the steps are actually made of old railroad ties that were once part of a tram system used during World War II to transport supplies and personnel to the Air Force station at the top. It’s approximately 0.8 miles from the base to the top, and the elevation rises 1,000 feet! Of course, you know what that means…spectacular views! This first one is Hanauma Bay. DSC_2856 DSC_2852 DSC_2858 This hike is a popular one for fitness enthusiasts and crazy people. I usually don’t start feeling sore from a workout until the day after, but my legs started shaking (and did not stop) from the moment we reached the top. If my knees had tear ducts, they would have cried the whole way down. Having said that, I could see myself doing this one again, just because I love that sore feeling from doing a really great workout. I’m not sure if that puts me in the “fitness enthusiast” or the “crazy person” camp.

Probably both.

Mahalo,

Jen

Aloha, friends! I know it’s been a few days since I posted, so I’ll do two posts about my weekend. As you may remember, we were planning to hike Koko Railway on Saturday, but Kelsey had a late night on Friday, so instead, they decided to sleep in a little bit then take me out to introduce me to surfing. Now, those of you who know me know that I’m not exactly graceful. Surfing requires a certain amount of balance. I am happy to report, however, that my balance had absolutely no impact on my ability to surf. The constant barrage of waves flipping me over, yes…but not my balance. Apparently, it was a pretty rough day for someone just learning how to surf. DSCF4171 Yeah, we’ll go with that. Meanwhile, Kelsey manages to stay on her board, if not standing, at least riding the wave in. DSCF4178 I did get to see a Hawaiian Monk Seal sunning herself on the beach! Just a warning to those who may not be aware, the Hawaiian Monk Seal is an endangered species, and it is therefore illegal to approach these creatures. I took this photo from a distance with a zoom lens. DSCF4179 Stay tuned for my recap of our Koko Railway hike!

Mahalo,

Jen

Yesterday, Devlin and I headed out to Hamama Falls. The trail leading up the falls is actually a service road used by the Board of Water Supply, so it was pretty easy to traverse, if a little steep at times. The air was heavy with water, so with nowhere to evaporate, the sweat from our exertion was dripping down our faces, even though it wasn’t particularly hot. In fact, this entire valley seems to get quite a bit of moisture, just judging from the lush foliage and the mushrooms growing on trees. DSC_2802 IMG_5333 DSC_2782 Hawaii is a popular place to film movies and TV shows. I found out that Manoa Falls was one of the filming locations for the next Hunger Games movie, Catching Fire. Jurassic Park is another movie franchise that has footage filmed on Oahu, so sometimes our hikes are reminiscent of those films. Then we run into structures like this: DSC_2787 and we’re convinced that we’ll run into a pack of Compsognathus, or perhaps a Velociraptor. Alas, no dinosaurs for us today. Instead we were rewarded with a lovely waterfall. DSC_2805 IMG_5341 No hikes on the agenda today or tomorrow. We need to rest up for Koko Crater on Saturday, which all the reviews say is a beast of a workout. Looking forward to getting my butt kicked by it!

Mahalo,

Jen