Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Magic of Hawaii

Aloha! My recent Hawaii trip (1. big island-Kona and 2. Molokai) with my good friend Aya was magical. Traveling with Aya enhanced the adventure with her carefree spirit and enjoying every little moment. This was one of the best trips and it's hard to condense 9 awesome days in a blog, so bare with.

We couch surfed with a very thoughtful and helpful guy, Ivan. He lent us his camping gear and joined us last minute. We camped 2 nights on the big Island and did a 4 hr volcano crater hike. The power and inspiration on this island is unavoidable. We then made our way to a small hippie, clothing optional, beach where people were playing drums. The water was so thick and can tire one out easily. Aya felt that power within 10 mins but we made it to shore ok; she was just a bit shaken up.

After 2.5 days we flew to Molokai where we made a new friend on the plane, Kawika. His family let us stay for a nite on cots in their outside garage; we woke up to the sound of roosters and slept to the sound of a big dog snoring. We got a delicious home cooked seafood (octopus and god knows what else) dinner and woke up to homemade granola bars. We rode in the back of a pick up truck to see Helwa bay and the forest reserve. Great off roading expeirence.

Aya had a friend who took us fishing on a boat. We were fortunate to have dolphins swimming right besides us. I was able to lay down by the bow to take amazing pix. They also caught lobsters, which we ate by the beach watching the sunset and hearing cultural music being played. They taught us how to catch fish with a net. I was told my first throw was a perfect circle. Aya got to scale a fish with a seashell and I squeezed coconut shavings to make a cream to dip the yummy breadfruit.

After 4 wonderful days, we were back in Kona. Ivan, taught us how to surf. I got to stand on 2 small waves. Trying to stand was not as hard as I thought but staying up is tricky. My legs were a little shaky, but I was able to keep the balance for a little bit. It was the best sport I ever tried and would luv to get into it some more when I move out there in 1-2 years :)

Watching the stars sparkle at nite after seeing so many various sunsets while hearing the waves will be missed. The waves are so captivating, I can watch them for days. Ended the trip with driving to the top of Mauna Kea, 13,796 ft, which just got snow! Here for more pix.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Snow Camping at Mt. Hood

Just had my first experience camping in the snow at mt hood during Thanksgiving weekend. When my friend, Greg, and I developed this plan earlier in Nov, I didn't think it was a big deal. As it got colder and darker in Pdx, I started to worry a little. Co-workers and friends thought we were nuts and started to warn me, just added to my concerns. How will we keep our water and food from freezing? How will we cook and clean in the cold, dark? Can we make a fire? And more importantly I thought, how in the word am I going to pee in the woods in the cold night?

Well, thankfully we had two things going for us: 1. Greg has done this before, he's a tough Mt. guy and knew what to do, like level out the snow with a shovel before tenting. 2. He also had the gear. But I learned that a 0 deg sleeping bag doesn't mean u will be nice and toasty when it's 15 out. I still had to wear tons of layers. I stuffed my sleeping bag with some food, camera, and clothes to keep them warm. It was kinda hard to get a good night's sleep.

We got to snow shoe on 3 different trails in 3 days. At first, I thought my legs would be sore and tired, but it was not bad at all. One was a 5 mile loop around Trillium Lake; the other two were 3 miles out and back hikes. You actually get very warm snow shoeing even when it's flat. Once I had to take one of my extra leggings off during the hike. Me warm in winter, who knew.

We snow camped for two nights, which was just right. After that I looked forward to a warm shower, a real toilet, and laying down on something soft and warm. I'm glad I tried out my toughness on this small, local, accessible trip and glad Greg was there to guide me through it. The poor guy even had to shovel snow from one of the tires for an hr to fit a snow chain on it. Man what a hassle for him :( Thanks Greg!  Click here for more pix

Friday, November 19, 2010

Going Up?

In mid-November, I took an intro to rock climbing class at the Portland Rock gym, which is a few blocks from home. I wanted to test myself and know so many people who do this. It was only $50 and you get to come to the gym for a week. We learned how to tie knots, safety of it all, how to belay someone when they are coming down, etc. I was the first to try in my class. I made it mid-way through and then did the silly thing of looking down. I am not usually afraid of heights but even with a harness and ropes, I got a little scared. It was scarier than tree climbing b/c there's no branches and leaves to hide the ground. I asked to come down, which is definitely the fun part of climbing.

On my third attempt, I made it to the top, barely. Mid-way, I needed a break as my fingers were in pain from gripping so tight. Your hands also get clammy, which is not comfortable and makes it hard to climb. It's also exhausting so it's nice to take a break and chill in the air while you friend holds you up with the rope system. My friend Jason encouraged me to continue up. It seemed so impossible and I can't figure out why we put ourselves in these crazy physical challenges. I looked up to figure out a good route and pushed through. It's definitely a physical and mental challenge and fun to try out. I love to try lots of new activities as you will soon read, but I don't think this will be the hobby I commit too :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Monkeying Around - Climbing a Tree

In early November, my friend Chris and I went on our first tree climb with the Pacific Tree Climbing Institute. We had two guides set it all up for us and take us up a 250 ft, 500 year old Douglas Fir tree in Willamette National Forest, which was 30 mins east of Eugene . We lucked out with having a rain-free climb. The climb was neither too difficult nor scary. All the tall trees here average 300 ft. The redwoods in Cali can be 390 and Australia has some of the tallest trees in the world!

How did we climb? Well, that's hard to explain. There's a 600 ft cable rope that can carry an elephant (so I was told), under our feet there were individual stirrups and we were in a harness. There's two ascenders (moving clips) on the rope. You push one ascender up then push your legs down to stand up and pull yourself up and slide the other ascender up. Basically you inch upwards on the rope. My arms were sore the next day. But not too bad, if you ask me.

When you near the top, you really see the difference between the old growth trees and the new ones. The newer ones are so much shorter. We also got some nice sunshine up there. We chatted for a bit while enjoying the view. Then we slid down, which was super fun, but you need to watch out for those branches. Sometimes it was a bit of a tight spot getting through. The guides set up two "tree boats" hammocks, where we had lunch. When we finished the guides instructed us to just jump off the hammock. I of course listened and swung out and around. I felt like Indiana Jones! They said that was the best exit they have ever seen as no one ever jumps off. We raced back down and was on our way to a nice camp spot that Chris and I had all to ourselves. Unfortunately, we heard the rain all night long.

I realized that this was a mild form of eco-tourism in the U.S. Eco-tourism is responsible travel to fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas that strives to be low impact and (often) small scale. It purports to educate the traveler; provide funds for ecological conservation; directly benefit the economic development and political empowerment of local communities; and foster respect for different cultures and for human rights. Our trip was local, it's attracts tourists, you get to be in nature and actually learn a lot about trees. It may not be helping the poor, local people as eco-tourism strives to in under developing nations, but it's a good start to have in our very own country. More pix at