Sunday, April 13, 2014

Voyage au famille

Chris and I attended a Jasper family trip to Nuevo Vallerta in February. It was my first trip to Mexico so I was excited to see a bit of that country, but the main purpose of the visit was to spend time with the other 22 Jaspers in attendance.

What stood out more than anything else to Chris and I was the level of virtue we observed among the average residents. Folks we met in local, not just touristy spots, seemed friendly, even when they were not trying to sell us something. All the areas were visited looked clean and felt safe, even places where some level of poverty was evident. In one instance, we went out on a pier and watched several people who were fishing. They left no trash on the ground, were not cussing, drinking or smoking pot. It was a compliment to the area, and a contrast to Hawaii where plenty of locals give us stink eye even though we've lived here and contributed to the community for years, pakalolo (pot) is regularly smoked openly in public areas, and there is plenty of litter that was not thrown out by visitors.

Highlights of the trip included boogie boarding with the kids, forming a giant flotilla of 24 family members in the resort's lazy river, and just getting out of the resort to see more local areas. We stayed at the Grand Mayan, a gorgeous, upscale resort. It was a treat to be there, but since we live in Hawaii, we have seen an ocean resort or two. Sitting in a pool all day and swimming up to the bar for another $12 margarita will never be our type of vacation, and I am happy we spent a lot of time away from the hotel.

One day the entire family took a boat tour to a snorkel spot, then to a remote village that is inaccessible by car, where we had lunch on the beach. There were tons or tourists taking a hike up to a waterfall, but seeing the young, local kids rent horses for the trail, and people selling coconut and pineapple and boys playing super old video games in a small arcade gave us a glimpse of this genuine, Mexican town. We also had a blast swimming by the waterfall where Johnny climbed up a cliff and hucked it. This was a great day.
We spotted a crocodile sleeping in a drainage ditch just outside the resort.

Dinner with 22 people is an exciting and chaotic affair.

Several family members pose for a photo after zip lining.

Johnny hucks it off a cliff.

Too bad we couldn't translate the labels on all the containers. This fascinating store sold in bull grain, dried goods, tree bark and who knows what else. It was really fun to look at.

This booth at the market sold da kine: kitchen utensils, tools, blank video tapes. It was very random.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Jaspers: 1  Mauna Loa: 1

Chris and I just returned from a 2.5 week camping and hiking trip in southwest Utah. You'd think we'd spend our first free day back catching up on chores. Instead we went hiking. But it's not just because we can't get enough of the outdoors. There was only one place left on the island that I had not seen and really wanted to - the top of Mauna Loa. At 13,679 feet above sea level the air gets a little thin. Mauna Loa, the largest volcano in the world, last erupted in 1984 and is considered active. I think I have heard that from the sea floor to the summit, Mauna Loa is the largest mountain in the world by volume.

We tried to do the hike once before but failed miserably. We were told it's good to camp overnight at the weather station at 11,000 feet elevation to acclimate for the hike the next day. Terrible idea for those who live at sea level. While you're awake, you can force yourself to breath extra. While you sleep, your body's involuntary instincts kick in and you wake up often gasping for air and with a nasty headache from the lack of oxygen. At least that's my layman's perspective. We got awful altitude sickness, including vomiting, and had to come down the mountain at 2 a.m., me nearly running my husband over in all the light-headed confusion and rush.

So...after having spent more than two weeks camping at around 6,000 feet elevation in Utah, Chris thought it would be our best chance to try Mauna Loa again. We think it takes a body several weeks to produce extra red blood cells to hold more oxygen. When my 67-year-old aunt, Alice, visited from Glenwood Spring, Colo. she ran circles around us on Mauna Kea's summit.

Chris and I began our second attempt at 8 a.m. Saturday after having a full night's rest at home. It was a steep, four-mile hike over a lava trail marked with rock carins to the edge of the giant caldera at the top. We made it! It was 2.5 miles more to the summit on the other side of the caldera. We didn't feel like adding an extra 5 miles to the hike just to say we made it officially to the top, so we had our lunch at a rock shelter near the caldera. For those who take the much longer trek beginning on the other side of the mountain in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, I give you credit! The wind blew hard at the summit and the clouds threatened to close in on us, so we took one last look at the amazing and surreal, volcanic view, and headed down.

Yes, it's me inside all those clothes standing in the caldera at the top of Mauna Loa. It was 9 degrees C when we started the hike, and it got colder at the top.

A rock carin marks the path with a view of Mauna Kea in the background.

The shelter near the caldera where we had lunch.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

White Road Wonderland

One of my favorite hikes was officially "closed" after the earthquake of 2006. We're generally compliant and we don't condone trespassing or breaking the law so I hadn't done the hike since it closed and Chris has never done it. But we kept hearing of friends taking the White Road hike and we needed a cool place to go that wasn't too far to drive, so we finally broke down and headed to Waimea. The trail is clearly being used, we passed several people that day and the rules are obviously not being enforced. I also did not see any landslides or damage the earthquake may have caused that would make the hike more dangerous. There is a small strip of land that is leased by a private family from the state that one must cross to get to the forest reserve where the trail begins. They do not want trespassers, so I don't feel entirely right about doing this hike, but we did, and it didn't disappoint. What good is a forest reserve if it is inaccessible, anyway?

The hike winds through incredibly thick jungle beside the Hamakua ditch, which irrigates farms in the area. After about an hour, hikers find themselves standing on the top of the 2,000-foot high cliffs of Waipio Valley. We hiked at least one more hour to the very back of the valley through mud and thick kahili ginger. On our way, we saw several teens swimming in the concrete ditch and sliding down a crazy steep, slippery section of the ditch.

The jungle is green and gorgeous, and the misty clouds obscuring rugged ohia trees are downright enchanting. There really is no other hike like this, and it brought back lot of fond memories of hiking here with my dad years ago. It's truly amazing, and I just might be willing to break the law again someday.

Bathroom Take Two

I tried posting this a few months ago with before and after video walk-throughs of our bathroom remodel, but the video upload took forever and I gave up on posing this until now.
Back in March, Chris really tore into our bathroom, which needed some work. It felt small, the shower enclosure was tiny, the wall had some rot, the counter top was crummy, etc.

To increase the sense of space, Chris ripped out part of a wall so that it would be a half wall. He removed the small shower and a tiny vanity next to it, removed another portion of wall that was doing nothing besides filling space, then he made a gigantic shower finished in travertine with super nice fixtures and a made in Germany rain shower head. It's really sweet!

Instead of fixing the vanity, he painted the old one, added drawer handles and finished the top in large granite tile and put a vessel sink on top. A lot of work and expense went into the project, but the bathroom is amazing now. We turned one of the home's eye sores into a real selling point, and every time I take a shower it feels like I'm vacationing in a fancy resort.

My husband's skills continue to impress me. My dad and Christoph were also a huge help.
Our old shower enclosure was small, the shower head was broken, and the adjacent wall was rotten.
My dad helps install the shower bladder.

We're really happy with the linear drain.

Three shower heads to choose from, all made in Germany. Christoph helped install them using the German language instructions.

A bizarre blessing

Chis came across an unusual find while doing yard work yesterday. A poor turkey had run into a little trouble while flying through or roosting in our banana trees and it hanged itself. It was hard for me to believe, but there I was staring at this turkey hanging from the tree. It was pretty injured but still alive, so Chris cleaned it and we had a nice turkey dinner with mashed potatoes and fresh green beans from our garden. Money doesn't grow on trees, but apparently, sometimes, free groceries do. I was also struck by how colorful the features were up close.

I never realized how gorgeous turkey feathers are.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

For the birds

The federal government continued this week their efforts to eradicate or at least control the feral sheep population on Mauna Kea. The sheep eat native mamane trees, which the endemic and endangered palila bird rely on for food.

Hunters don't like this destruction of their game, so as a consolation, the government makes the meat available to those who sign up in advance and take the trek up the mountain to salvage the carcasses. Chris and I went up Thursday and got three nice sheep! We could have had at least one or two more, but we knew three would max out our freezer space.

Fifteen trucks showed up Thursday to receive the free sheep and I counted that at least 60 sheep were given out, but we left early, so the number may have been even higher. They shot 44 sheep the previous day. A helicopter rounds up the sheep and shoots them, then drops them off in a sling in batches of 10-15. Then people take turns choosing a sheep.

Chris has done this before, and our fabulous meat grinder was featured in this previous blog post. For the first time I went with Chris just for the experience. I learned a few things about butchering an animal, different cuts of meat and criteria for choosing a good sheep.

If anything struck me, it was how comfortable all the attendees were in the presence of animal carcasses and how they knew just what to do. Some folks I know probably thought it was strange I would take the day off to skin dead animals, but the people there saw the practicality of not letting this perfectly good meat go to waste. After all, it's organic, local, free-range, grass-fed meat. People were planning to make smoke meat, jerky, and one lady saved all of the hoofs to make musical rattles and drumsticks. We packaged ours into steaks, roasts and ground meat. We've enjoyed the meat in the past, and two of the animals we got were young ewes so we're hoping for some good, tender eating.

The helicopter brings a sling of sheep.

These guys brought a wheelbarrow.

Leg of lamb and some sheep steaks.
We are blessed with a full freezer!

Sunday, April 28, 2013


This temporary life

Chris and I recently listened to an excellent sermon by our favorite Bible teacher, Jack Crabtree, in which he discussed this parable from the 12th chapter of Luke:

     "The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."'
     But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
     "This is how it will be with those who store up things for themselves but are not rich toward God."

Jack's sermon said the man's mistake was not in storing up grain, but in making the things of this world important instead on focusing on God and life in His eternal kingdom. When the man's life ends unexpectedly, he is prepared to live many years on earth in comfort, but he is not ready for heaven. Scripture also reminds us to be ready to meet our maker because he will come unexpectedly, "like a thief in the night."

Last week, Chris and I sat behind Willy at church. This week we attended his memorial service. No one knew he would die suddenly from a heart attack, but we all know he believed in the promises of God and was sold out for Jesus. He was ready to die at any time. Chris also lost his aunt, Mary, this week. She died after a short battle with cancer. And yesterday, we rode our dirtbikes up Mauna Kea and explored wreckage of a military fighter jet that, years ago, crashed into the mountain. I doubt the pilot expected the plane to crash before take off. We need to be ready. Everyone dies so this seems pretty obvious, yet it's easy, at least for me, to get distracted by the here and now instead of laying up treasure in heaven. The Bible says, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. God has so many awesome things in store for those who belong to Christ, I hope this post encourages you to chase after God and His kingdom.
Chris inspects wreckage of some sort of military fighter jet we found at approx. 11,500 feet elevation on Mauna Kea.

Chris and Christoph examine the evidence and try to piece together what happened when the plane went down.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Chris and I have gone up Mauna Kea twice looking for the adz quary that we are told lies somewhere near 11,000 feet. Apparently, lava broke out under a sheet of ice during the ice age and cooled very quickly, forming a dense, non-porous rock great for making tools. I am told rocks from this spot have been found throughout the Hawaiian islands. We thought it was be interesting to see the site and evidence of chiseling. We did find pretty dense rock and some evidence of human disturbance, but Chris doesn't think it was "the spot."
We also hiked up this puu near Onizuka Center at around 9,000 feet.

Folks might get tired of seeing dead fish pictures, but I have to show off this nice uhu I shot with my speargun off the Kona Coast a couple of weekends ago. It's the nicest uhu I have ever shot and these fish are pretty wise to divers so they're not easy to get.
I dove down to make my move on the fish and he started moving away, but my husband helped herd him back toward my direction. So I placed a rock between me and where I hoped the fish would swim so he wouldn't see me, and when the uhu came around the other side of that rock I shot him. We ate half of it for dinner and the other half is in the freezer.
Someone asked me if I am sure the fish is a "he" and I am sure. Only "super males" get this color. From what I understand, super males have a harem of red female uhus, and when the super male dies, the alpha female changes gender and becomes the new super male. I think it's more complicated than that, I don't quite understand the details. But you can read all about it in the best Hawaii fish book I have ever seen, Hawaiian Reef Fishes by John P. Hoover.
I really enjoy diving, we go about once a month and pretty much always bring home something to eat. I love seeing all the different critters in the ocean, learning to hold my breath longer and improving my skills as an underwater hunter. It's a great way to spend a Saturday.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The pomellos of Pololu

A few weeks ago Chris and I drove up to Pololu Valley in Hawi and hiked back into the valley through thick jungle. About a mile in we found a pomello tree just loaded with fruit. Pomello is a giant sized Hawaiian grapefruit with a thick rind and light colored flesh. Wow, they were yummy. We hauled a couple home. Two fruit filled our backpack and were heavy enough for the steep slog back up to the car.

This dry creek bed led us back down the valley.

Part way down the trail into the valley we posed for this photo wearing t-shirts from our favorite Lake Minnetonka bass fishing guide.
Midnight Mantas

My co-worker Melanie and I took four YWAM students out to swim with the manta reys last night. The Sheraton in Keauhou shines bright lights on the ocean which attracts plankton which attracts mantas that eat the plankton. Our group had limited snorkeling experience and high onshore winds all day made the water a bit rough, but we went anyway and everyone had a great time, although one girl got a bit sea sick and had to palu. They also used borrowed, unfamiliar and old, untested gear, including the most ghetto wetsuit you have ever seen, owned by my husband when he lived in Oregon 13 years ago and repaired many times.

Mantas showed up at around 8 p.m. and we sorted our gear, jumped in the water in Keauhou Bay and swam around the point to the hotel. It's pretty dark so it was hard to spot our entry point and the ocean was sloshy so instead of climbing out on wana covered rocks, we swam a bit further and got out of the water by walking up the Keauhou boat ramp. One girl exclaimed, "That was a trip of a lifetime!" That made the effort worthwhile!
Our group, before jumping in the ocean. The girl second from the left is wearing our ghetto wetsuit backwards. They photo doesn't reveal just how "prime" that wetsuit is.

One of three mantas feeding in the bay last night.