Archive for September, 2012

Kauai horse ride

September 13th, 2012 | Category: animals,Hawaii,Travel

While “the girls” were all out doing things like getting their toes polished, I went horseback riding with my friend Joe, the groom.  We had a great time!

Because I didn’t get my toes polished,, I looked disheveled and ungraceful at Joe & Sara’s wedding; but I’m used to that by now.

We encountered a paradisaical waterfall and pool and went for a swim.

Joe took a few pictures of me.  Gotta love REI desert-weight convertible pants.; they make a good swimsuit in a pinch.

I look like Sancho Panza.

Here, I ride a unique headless horse.  This horse had very distinct ideas about where and what it was going to do.  They seldom coincided with my ideas; nevertheless, I managed to keep the lid on the situation and it never became an outright rebellion, although constant vigilance was required.  After it was all over I thought we did pretty well.  I can’t wait to ride a horse again!  It is a great way to ride across interesting terrain.

 

 

 

 

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The Pihea Trail and Waimea Canyon

September 13th, 2012 | Category: Hawaii,Travel

While Rachel and I were in Kauai to attend the wedding of our friends Sara & Joe, we visited Kōkeʻe state park, among other places.  It is one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Of many spectacular sights, there are two main features: the ridge overlooking the north coast of the island, and the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Looking at the pictures, it looks almost fake.  I felt the same way when I was there – “Is this real?” I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

The sweeping panorama overlooks the Kalalau Valley.

The heavily used trail is difficult to negotiate when it rains – which is definitely was doing when we were there.  Judging by the narrowing of the trail, most people turn back long before the end.  The narrow trail turns into a steep mud slalom; requiring some agility and slots of risky dependence upon overhanging trees, it’s not for the faint of heart.  A hiking staff (or two) would have been a big help.  The splorpy volcanic mud was shin-deep in places, and filled with amazing colors. I was concentrating so much on not slipping that I hardly took any pictures at this point.

Looking inward, you have a view of the Alaka’i swamp, quite literally the wettest place on the planet. It is known for amazing birds and other animals; I have been to this spot twice now and not had time to forge into the swamp.  One day I’d like to walk all the way across the island through this area; it would be an epic trek.

Leaving the northern ridge, we spent some time along the ridge of the Waimea canyon, technically in its own park, but basically the same area as the Pihea trail. We took the canyon trail to Waipoo falls, which you see from the top, plunging almost a thousand feet into the gorge.  There are no rails here -nothing to protect you from yourself.  The trail affords numerous opportunities to wind up temporarily airborne before becoming bug splatter at the bottom!  That – and almost constant, breathtaking beauty, wondrous botany, and occasional boar and mountain goat sightings.  We had the place to ourselves.

The jungle reverberates with bird calls not heard in the contiguous 48.

For images from my first trip here, including wildlife, scuba diving and oceanographic flight images, click here and here.

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Diving in Kauai

September 10th, 2012 | Category: animals,Hawaii,scuba,Travel

Here are some pictures taken on a recent trip to Kauai.  I always meet such great people when I travel & dive, and this was no exception.  Diving sites were Koloa landing, tunnels beach and some boat diving around Sheraton caverns.

You may notice that the collection is a bit turtle-heavy.  I like turtles.  Deal with it.

Sheraton caverns was by far the most interesting, with lots of life and interesting terrain, but not so far off shore that a long boat ride is required.  Tunnels is a great beach, and near some other interesting things to do on shore, but I found it rather barren for the most part.  This is probably due to the violent wave action that makes this site undiveable in the winter.  The cleaning station in the shallows was fantastic; if you find it, stay there – it’s the coolest thing you’ll find there, I think.  I found the tunnels (rock formations with a lot of swim-throughs) marginally interesting.  I’d probably like them better if I went with just one other diver.  Koloa landing is a good practice/reintroduction site, and a great way to start out a week of diving after not being in the water for a few months.  Although not super awesome like Sheraton caverns, there was a lot of life and it was really easy to get in and out, both in terms of diving and arriving by car.

 

Tunnels

Here are some Pacific Green sea turtles being cleaned by tangs off of Tunnels beach.

By the way, they are not called green because of their color – which is not really green – but because of their fat, which is green in color (people used to eat a lot of turtles).  Some green turtles are, in fact, green, but this is because of algae.  In true color, they are yellow/brownish-orange.  The color distortion at depth makes them look green in some photos, but this is misleading.  The next two pictures show this effect.

Here is a non-color-corrected image:

…and here is one taken with a flash, to show true color (and algae growth):

These next few images are close to the surface and the color is pretty accurate.  I’ve never seen so many adult turtles in one place.  Like all reef animals that want cleaning, they hang motionless in a slightly head-up position, flippers out.  This body posture is a signal to the cleaners, who come up to do their job.

Some other sights from Tunnels – my diving buddy that day, Carmen M.:

A little whitemouth moray eel found in the shallows.  they are very common in Hawaii.

What it looks like in the tunnels:

A school of bluestriped grunts.  I love to watch when a stationary school of animals rocks gently back and forth in the current.

What you see when you surface at Tunnels reef:

 

Koloa Landing

This is a rockmover wrasse, but I think of it as the stoned-out-of-its-mind fish:

These nudibranchs (probably Chromodoris vibrata) are mating (I think). They are basically fancy slugs, and they are beautiful and tiny.

Here is another type, the Gold Lace nudibranch.

Here is a rather blurry image of a humuhumunukunukuapuaa (it’s pronounced HOO-moo-HOO-moo-NOO-koo-NOO-koo-AH-poo-AH-ah).

A stonefish.  It’s venomous – very much so, and also common; I’ve found them all over the world.  They are almost impossible to see. Look for the eye, and the mouth to its left.

A flying gurnard.

 

An injured, sick-looking turtle with a completely algae-encrusted carapace.  If I had seen it in Florida, I would have alerted the turtle hospital, but I don’t know who to speak to about this in Hawaii.  Note the crushed portion of its shell near the left shoulder.

Another green turtle.

A green moray eel, which is really green.

A spotted pufferfish.  these guys are hard to photograph, because they move so rapidly and are shy.

Trumpetfish.

 

Sheraton Caverns

This area is so named because a) it’s off-coast of a Sheraton and b) there are some lava caves and swim-throughs in the area.  Turtles (yes, more turtles) like to rest in the caverns.  Drowsily perched on the stone blocks, flippers hanging carelessly, they resemble bored people waiting at a bus stop.  Like many reptiles, they don’t have the necessity to constantly respirate like us mammals; the simply stop breathing when water makes it inconvenient.  Lodging themselves in the rocks, they doze off.  It makes me consider the alien lives of other animals.  Can you imagine an existence in which breathing was more like eating – something you needed to do, but could be put off for long periods of time?

It was pretty exciting to drop into the cavern and find it filled with turtles, none of whom seemed particularly concerned with my presence.

Another of my favorite animals is the octopus.  They are very hard to find, specially in daytime; here is one hidden away in its crevice. This one is called the day octopus, for the simple reason that it is a rare type that can be found out and about in daylight hours.  Can you see it?  It is camouflaged not only by color, but by texture; an octopus can change either at will.  It is in the center right, a brown, rough-surfaced object.

Here it is a little more obvious, apparently menacing a banded cleaner shrimp. By this time the octopus has changed color and texture.

Shrimp is definitely on the menu for the day octopus, but either it wasn’t hungry, or it was scared by me, and it retreated into its lair.

Here’s the shoreline during our surface interval:

Back below, some morays: a yellow-margin and a whitemouth, respectively.

A hawkfish;  they are on every coral head.

At the very last minute, while ascending, some white-tipped reef sharks appear.  I didn’t have enough time to go back down after them.

Back on the surface, while the sun sets, some outriggers set out for a brisk row amidst the dashing surf.

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