Monday, April 25, 2011

It's Spring, I think

April has been an unpleasant month. More than half my yard is still covered in snow, and that which is not is either under water or covered with snow mold. This time last year I had a significant amount of garden clean up done. This year, not so much!

Even the birds are late. Robins arrived this past week. There are some raptors around, and the red polls may have finally moved on. The rabbits that have been feeding under the bird feeders all winter are starting to turn color - and they are brown! Not quite the right color of a jack rabbit. I'm starting to think they are escapees from a former neighbors hutch! The porcupines are back, and so are the chipmunks.

Yesterday was actually warm, and we were able to sit outside for an hour or so, checking out the yard, planning where to plant the vegetables this year, and what to plant in the new planter. I still have this idea that we could produce all of our own vegetables, at least a couple of months supply. I've had fantastic gardens at our other homes, but of course the difference has been unlimited access to water for them. Here, since we get water via truck, we don't water quite as recklessly. Note to self: I now remember that one of the things we were going to install this spring was some really large rain barrels.

The other sure sign that spring has arrived is the start of construction (destruction, actually) in the field across the road. Bright and early this morning the rumble of graders and back hoes started. The road is strewn with the parked cars of the workers, apparently a small army's worth. I am of mixed emotion about the development across the way. With it will come city water service to our crescent (I hope) and at the very least, a fire hydrant within workable reach of my home! It should also bring competition for internet and television providers, which should bring me faster connection speed. Building homes in the field should buffer the current 'background' noise of the Henday. A neighborhood will be less unattractive than the plantless expanse of dirt that has been there since the developer ripped the crop out of the field three years ago. The wildlife that used that field for home have been more or less AWOL since. Since it isn't possible to turn back time, it is better to find the positive in the change than to spend too much time lamenting it.

Spring is here, and with it a sense of new inspiration. Time to embrace change; time for new growth.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Maui 2011: Above and below the cloud

After the great snorkel trip Saturday, Sunday was a much more laid back day. We hung around the condo a while, and then headed south to do a bit of shopping, and a bit of beach, ending up at Polo beach in Wailea. Another beautiful beach, and for mid day on a Sunday, there was hardly anyone there. The surf was much, much calmer here than at Big Beach, and there were many novice boogie boarders and body surfers. This beginner caught our eye:

Katie and Daryl spent a couple of hours hanging out in the surf. I, having broken the second swim suit clasp of the trip, had to stay put and hope my bathing suit top wouldn't fly open! At about 2:30 we headed back to Kihei for a late lunch. Word of warning to future visitors - lunch pretty much ends by 2 p.m. and most places close for a couple hours before dinner. Our late lunch habit is not one to emulate in Kihei. We chose the Maui Coast. The restaurant (Spices) was deserted, but we sat out in the shade, and shared their appy platter. Fantastic! Coconut shrimp, Calamari slices and chicken. Something for everyone, well prepared, hot! Yum!

We also decided to go out for dinner Sunday, and chose Cuatro. Katie was leery of the menu - mostly fish, beef or pork. The single chicken dish contained ham! However, she ordered it, with rice instead of potatoes, and was impressed. Everything here was great - beautifully prepped food, attentive service, fabulous experience. I had almost given up hope of a good meal out for the trip. When we quit reading guide books, and just picked places, we did much better.

Monday we headed up Haleakala. Another of the many 'must sees' that we had not managed to see on prior trips. The road up to the top is pretty winding, and I would suggest taking gravol with you. The trip is fabulous and totally worth the drive. We were about half way to the park when I realized that I had left my camera at the condo! Un-freaking-believable! Katie had her little Sony P&S, and saved the day!

From Haleakala, we went to Makawao for some shopping and lunch. Once again, we pushed that 2 p.m. deadline. We walked into Casanova at 1:58, so we were seated and allowed to order lunch. Good thing too, because this was another really stellar meal! Daryl got his t-shirt fix in (bought 5!) and Katie stocked up on gifts for friends. At an art gallery, we saw some beautiful sunset photos from Big Beach and Makena Beach, so we headed back south to pick up the camera and get to the beach for sunset. The sky was full of angry clouds, and the sun not visible for the first hour, but it did eventually break through and gave us a great show. Not having my tripod last night was a problem, and the photos suffered somewhat because of this. I wish that I had been able to have the camera higher (I had it on top of my camera bag, at beach level), and been more mobile to change positions more. But, the display was still awe inspiring, and I won't complain any more than that!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The most amazing snorkel trip ever!!!

I had to give this day it's own post, because it was a really amazing, totally awesome, wonderful day!

We've let KT pick the direction of our activities, and she really wanted to snorkel at Molokini. So I checked pricing for various tours and decided on the Pacific Whale Foundation mostly because I have a soft spot for whales, and conservation societies, and it seemed like a good fit. I could argue in it's favor with D because the Molokini/Lanai'i trip was a really good price to boot, and left from Ma'aleia at 8:30 a.m. (as opposed to Lahaina or 7:30 a.m.)

The trip itself was wonderful - a nice, well maintained vessel, friendly and professional staff, decent food (muffins or bagel and fruit for breakfast, bbq for lunch, drinks after snorkeling). The crew kept tabs on the snorkeling from kayaks in the ocean, rather than from on deck. Floatation devices like life jackets and noodles were included. Wet suit tops were available for $10 each. Bring your own towels, and plenty of sunscreen as well as gravol because the trip across to Lana'i is pretty rough even on a perfectly calm day like yesterday.

Our first wild life encounter was a school of bottle nose dolphins on the way to Molokini. A brief stop to watch them swim, before heading on to Molokini "before the winds pick up".

My preference for a boat trip would have been a whale watching tour. I had never 'successfully' snorkeled. I don't swim, and I am not super comfortable in the water. KT felt very strongly that I should try snorkeling again, so I did. I listened to the captains instructions on what to do if you got water in your mask, etc., put on a floatation belt AND a noodle, and headed into the ocean. My first several attempts to put my face into the water were met with a desire to hyperventilate. I could see fish just below the surface, and could feel them swim past my legs, but I just could not get my face into the water and still breath. Shortly thereafter I found Daryl and KT, and she was able to convince me to get my face submersed. She promised to hold the breathy dealy up so that I didn't have to worry about the water, and I managed to have a look. I found humming to myself helpful, for what ever strange reason.

The reef itself, and the fish, and the beautiful clear water at Molokini, were the most amazing thing I've ever experienced. Many, many different species, colorful, flourescent fish, interesting shapes and colors of coral. Being able to relax completely, float on the surface and just watch the activity on the bottom of the ocean was a zen like moment.

After an hour in the water we were off again, across the 'washing machine channel' to Lanai'i. Not too far along, we spotted a 'competition pod' of humpbacks. As the captain slowed down, the pod actually mobbed the boat, swimming in front, behind and under us! It was amazing. There were 6 or 7 individuals in the pod, and they stuck really close to us for many minutes! I couldn't have been happier! I was able to get some really cool photos.

Once the whales moved off to a safe distance, we were on route again, and at Lanai'i after lunch. The captain found a beautiful spot for us. The water was much deeper, meaning the creatures much farther away. But the diversity was just as good, and the water almost as clear. Katie led me around to see all of the cool things she had discovered. Sadly, D had technical difficulty with his mask, and got out early. Right before the call to get back on board, KT found a sea turtle, and was able to swim after it for some photos.

What's not to love about a beautiful, hot day on the ocean, complete with awesome snorkeling, dolphins, sea turtles and the most impressive Humpback display ever???

Maui 2011: the marvelous middle

Once we had all luggage accounted for, groceries and other 'necessities' purchased, the relaxing could begin. Wednesday morning we headed to Big Beach. Stunningly beautiful, and hardly anyone there. Big surf though, so no water sports for us. Just hanging out, watching the boogie boarders enjoy the waves and getting a sun burn.

Late lunch in Kihei. Ended up at Fred's for tacos. Nothing spectacular there. We watched some humpbacks frolicking just off Kam II as we ate, a sign of good things to come! Headed up to Iao State Park in the late afternoon, and were treated to a light rain shower, and a rainbow.

Thursday was our day to drive to Hana. Beautiful weather, gorgeous drive, spectacular views. Every bit as gorgeous as the hype leads you to expect. We'd started this drive on previous trips, but hadn't gotten to the half way point. This time, we not only went all the way to Hana but also the rest of the way around. There must be a dozen different Eco systems along the route, from lush rain forest to barren desert, all with stunning ocean views. We stopped at one of the road side banana bread vendors, as well as for 'ice cream' at Coconut Glen's, where KT had an interesting chat with the girl running the stand about wanderlust.

We had take out burgers from the Hana Ranch restaurant. They were expensive, not properly cooked, and pretty bad! Dinner out that night at Maui Masala. This is a small buffet style cafe, and not what we were expecting, but the food was good.

Friday's plan was to head into Lahaina for some t shirt shopping and general hanging about. After lunch at Captain Jack's, which was pretty good, we headed further north. On our first trip here, in 1994, we drove this road and giggled at the signs instructing you to honk when negotiating the blind curves in the road. The road is much improved, and an easy drive. The rain rolled in, leading to some very pretty skies,

and when we stopped in Ka'anapali for some beach time we were treated to another rainbow. Headed back to Lahaina for Cheeseburgers in Paradise, got a parking spot right on Front Street, watched the sun set while we waited for our table.

It's been an awesome trip so far, and I'm enjoying the company. I think we made the right choice to not force Alex along, at least from the point of avoiding the petty bickering and general grumpiness of the two kids together! I just hope the house is still standing and not too badly abused when we get home!