Aloha, friends! Well, my summer vacation is drawing to a close, but this past weekend I crossed off three things on my “must do” list! Stairway to Heaven was one, photographing a sea turtle was two, and seeing Oahu from the air was the final one! This, boys and girls, is it. I’m glad it was one of the last things on this trip, because I got to revisit several of my previous adventures from 1,500 feet! This is the Cessna we flew in. IMG_5727 We almost didn’t get to go up! The weather was less than pleasant yesterday morning, and this is a small plane. It would’ve been tossed around like a leaf on the wind if the conditions had stayed like that. But we got the call around 10 that we were set to go, but it may be a little bumpy. Here we are preparing for takeoff. IMG_5728 We headed up to the North Shore. Captain Kevin Loughnane, our pilot (and Kelsey’s boss at work), flew over the water so that we could follow the shore. It was beautiful! I cannot get over how bright and jewel-toned the water is! DSC_3963 DSC_4024 This valley has been the location for several big movies, including Jurassic Park and Windtalkers. DSC_4029 Look how clear the water is. You can see everything below! DSC_4046 We also passed the previous day’s hike. You can just barely make out the radar station in the clouds. DSC_4067.1 The water is deeper here, around Makapu’u Lighthouse DSC_4100 And here’s a small island off the coast from Makapu’u. DSC_4090 We flew by the butt-kicking Koko Crater. DSC_4118 And nearby Hanauma Bay, which is a popular snorkeling spot. DSC_4133 And one final shot of the coast before we went in for a landing. DSC_4152 How’s that for adventure? I’m so thankful to Captain Loughnane for offering me this unique opportunity to view the island from the air! And I couldn’t repay Kelsey’s hospitality this summer if I had two lifetimes to do it! But I can keep saying thank you!

Readers, don’t think I’m done yet. My plane leaves on Thursday, so I plan on trying to fit in at least one more adventure.

Mahalo,
Jen

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

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

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

Aloha, friends! Yesterday was an action-packed day for our little group. We headed out to one of several beaches around Bellows Air Force Base on the eastern side of the island. This beach was actually on base, so we shared the waters with several military families. Here, Kelsey introduced me to boogie boarding, which is a very popular activity on this beach on account of the waves being just right. DSC_2621 Now, growing up along the much calmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico, I’d never really participated in water sports. But this was fun, and a fantastic workout! Also, as a bonus, it really clears out your sinuses when you get flipped over by a wave. Or…so I’ve heard…

Kelsey is much more athletic than I, and even showed off some of her skim-boarding skills, which is kind of like skateboarding, but across a thin layer of water. DSC_2623 We had kind of an exciting moment when the lifeguard called everyone out of the water because of a shark sighting a little further down the beach. We didn’t get to see it our own selves, but it was exhilarating nonetheless. We left the beach a short time later for our next planned stop, the Makapu’u Lighthouse trail. DSC_2684 DSC_2641 Our primary goal here? To settle in and watch the full moon rise over the eastern waters. Last night, the moon would be closer than it has been all year, which typically makes for some pretty spectacular views. Unfortunately, it was cloudy. DSC_2664 But I did manage to capture a few shots of the elusive satellite, including this one of the light reflecting off the water. DSC_2721 DSC_2709 It was not quite what we expected, but the walk up the trail was nice enough, and the lighthouse was certainly cool to look at. We even spotted a “friend” on the way up. DSC_2632

Definitely resting today. Who knows what tomorrow has in store for us?

Mahalo,

Jen

Our hike got pushed back from yesterday to today. We got done early enough for me to blog about it anyway! This one was a 4.8 mile loop through Keaiwa Heiau State Park. It rained as we were driving there, which made us a little leery, but in the spirit of adventure, we were still determined to hike this thing. Three days without a proper hike was starting to wear on us both. Here I am at the beginning of the trail, with no clue as to how muddy I’m going to be by the end. IMG_5247

Yes, the rain may have made the trail muddy. DSC_2561 Very muddy. DSC_2587 But these are the things that make hiking fun. Well, that and beautiful surroundings. DSC_2592 DSC_2591 DSC_2608 DSC_2582 DSC_2560 Even the H3, one of Hawaii’s interstate highways (don’t ask me why they have interstate highways on an island), looks serene snaking through the mountains. DSC_2605

And here’s an “after” shot of my muddy adventure. IMG_5264

Until next time, Mahalo,

Jen

Well, yesterday was a very early day for us. I woke up at 3:45, and we were out the door by 4:20 to head out to Kaiwa Ridge in Kailua, on the eastern side of the island. Our destination was the popular “Pillbox” trail, which has apparently been enjoyed by President Obama and his family. I don’t have photos from the beginning of the trail in the dark, because, well, it was dark. Sunrise wasn’t until 5:50. The first ridge was the toughest. Not a lot to hold onto, and a very steep incline. But we made it past that into the first open area, where the day’s first light before the sun helped illuminate our path the rest of the way. You can see the pillbox (World War II bunker) just at the top of the ridge. IMG_5190 We got to the top and climbed onto the pillbox, where we settled in to enjoy the view. I even set up my tripod for some long-ish exposure shots. DSC_2420 IMG_5207

And, because the light was so beautiful (and because I’m putting together a photo book for my dad of our adventures this summer), I even stood in front of the camera for a photo. DSC_2469

And what kind of photographer would I be if I didn’t look all around to see how the light looked on the rest of the island? See how it caresses the mountains behind us? IMG_5209

So that was our first sunrise hike. There’s a second pillbox on a higher ridge that we’ll do some other day. We’ll have to leave even earlier for it, but I’m sure it will be worth it.

Until next time, mahalo!

Jen IMG_5213

Yesterday’s hike was the most challenging—and most fun—so far! Our first challenge was to actually find where to park to get to the trailhead. But after that little bit of frustration, we made it to the start of the trail. IMG_5127 IMG_5126

 

The beginning of the hike wasn’t too bad. The slope was similar to my first hike on Kealia Trail, with ever-increasing pitch. DSC_2302 DSC_2307 DSC_2338

Eventually, we weren’t walking anymore, but climbing. IMG_5147  (Didn’t think you’d see a picture of me, did you?)

It was tough, but fun. And the view was so worth it! IMG_5140 DSC_2342 This is a view of the third peak from the first peak.  DSC_2344 We got too late a start to try and tackle peaks 2 and 3 this time, but I am absolutely planning on returning to this hike to conquer all of them.

Today is another rest day (I think I’ve earned it, n’est-ce pas?), but the plan for tomorrow is a sunrise hike at Kaiwa Ridge (Pillbox) Trail. Stay tuned, friends.

Mahalo,

Jen