Friday, May 31, 2019

Haleakala

Haleakala

Next up on our tour of Famous Maui Places is Haleakala National Park, where I had the singular experience of driving from sea level to the top of an enormous 10,000 foot shield volcano and then hiking down into the mountain's wild, eroded crater. The deal with the hike is that it's downhill into the crater, then uphill to get back out, with less oxygen thanks to the altitude, and no familiar landmarks to help judge distance, plus it's always about 30° F colder at the top than at sea level. The usual advice is to budget twice as much time on the way out as on the way in, so I did that, and chose a point to turn around based on that. It turned out that it took me the same amount of time on the way up, I think because I kept stopping to take photos on the way down, so time & distance budgeting was not the exact science I'd been led to believe. Also the altitude didn't seem to bother me at all; the thing that was a problem was the sun. You'll see warnings about this, explaining that you need extra protection due to both the high altitude and low latitude. I thought I had taken extra precautions, but my SPF 30, coral reef friendly sunblock was no match for the sun here, and I got burned a.) through my sunblock everywhere I had sunblock on, and b.) right through my hair, where I didn't think I needed sunblock. I probably ought to have worn a hat, honestly. Which is not something that usually occurs to me, since I've never found a hat that looks good on me, and some years ago I concluded I just don't have a hat head. I couldn't tell you what a hat head is, but I'm quite certain I don't possess one. Still, an ugly hat is better than sunburn. An ugly brimless hat preferably, since it's also really windy at the top. I'll remember next time, and there's going to be a next time, because this time was amazing. Highly recommended, except for the sun part.

There's more to the trail than endless volcanic ash and cinders, despite what most of the photos would lead you to believe. I saw a bunch of the iconic silversword plants on the way, along with a couple of baby nene (an indigenous goose, the official state bird) that I didn't get any good photos of. Nene are often described as flightless, but that isn't strictly true. They're still physically capable of fligh; it's just that they usually sort of neglect to fly, whether out of laziness or sheer stupidity, even when that means getting hit by a car or eaten by a mongoose. Some years ago I narrowly avoided running over a whole group of them at the other national park on the Big Island; I remember they just stood there in the middle road, staring blankly at me, I suppose trying to puzzle out what sort of fellow nene or edible plant my car was. I don't want to sound like I'm blaming them for being critically endangered, and I'm sure they were doing fine before people showed up on their islands; it's just that -- like pandas -- they don't really give off a vibe of vigorously struggling for survival.

Speaking of cars, it's too bad I don't have any photos of my rental car in this photoset. I used to roll my eyes about tourists of a certain age and gender who came to Hawaii and insisted on renting a Mustang or Corvette to zoom around on whatever tiny island they were visiting. It turns out that's not quite how it works. I though I had reserved a nice, practical, reliable Toyota sedan, but the agency took one look at me and I was issued a shiny new silver Mustang instead, no extra charge (beyond the additional gas it drank, obvs.) They even apologized that they were out of convertibles. I quickly realized the whole island was packed with late-model Mustangs and similar midlife crisis cars, most of which (I assume) are rentals. So now I wonder if Ford hands out Mustangs to Hawaii rental agencies at or below cost and writes it off as a promotional expense. I dunno. Not that it was the world's most practical island car, exactly. It's fast in a straight line, but there are only a couple of stretches of flat, straight, mainland-style divided highway on Maui, and they cross the narrow central part of the island and are only a few miles long. On narrow, windy roads I kept thinking a car that wasn't quite as long or wide would be nice. It reminded me a lot of the old 1980 Mercury Capri (a rebadged Mustang) that I once owned. More rumbly and more gadgets, but still with blind spots you could hide an oil tanker in, I suppose because the classic Mustang look and feel requires it. It all felt a little silly, to be honest. Overall I don't think Hawaii has been well served by importing mainland car culture, eating up valuable land with sprawling car-centric suburbs and short (but weirdly congested) freeways. On the other hand, the islands were also not well served by the previous model, in which you built juuust enough infrastructure to meet the needs of colonial-era pineapple and sugar barons, and then stopped, which is why rural roads around the state have so many narrow one-lane bridges even today.

I don't really want to wrap this up yammering about cars, so let me also recommend the park's gift shop at the ranger station, just beyond the main entrance to the park. I mostly stopped to sit in my car for a while as an altitude sickness precaution, but the shop had stuffed animals of various endangered species native to Maui, enabling me to play Cool Uncle again when I got home. I say again because I did this when I went to the Everglades last August, which reminds me that I never got around to posting those photos. I'll probably get around to doing that sooner or later; I swore up and down that I was going to focus on posting new stuff, and while I've been doing that, I haven't been doing it anywhere close to often enough to keep up, such that I now have a backlog of new photos to work my way through. On the bright side, my current software project wrapped up earlier today, so just maybe I'll have a bit more free time in the upcoming few months, and just maybe I'll devote some of it to Ye Olde Humble Blog, versus all the other things I wish I had more free time to do, like reading actual books, or more travel... although that leads to more photos, and me falling even further behind on them. Oh, well. I do the best I can with the time and attention I can spare, that's all I can really guarantee. For blog posts, or anything else, really.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Hoapili Trail

Hoapili Trail

Ok, next up are some photos from the Hoapili Trail along the desolate and volcanic south end of Maui, just down the road from the Kihei/Wailea/Makena area -- and I think it may be a continuation of that road. The trail is a former royal road from the early 19th century, and where the parts further north were paved and widened and eventually surrounded by golf courses and surf shops, apparently nobody has wanted or needed a better road than this south of La Perouse Bay over the last two centuries, so it's survived in its original form and now serves as a rather unique hiking trail. I was kind of impressed by it as an engineering feat: They managed to build a largely flat and ruler-straight road across an endless lava plain of fist-sized rocks, strictly with manual labor and no modern construction gear. I mean, it's still made with fist-sized rocks; there's nothing that can really be done about that. In several sections of the road to the trailhead, you can see where the state tried to sort of just pave over top of the piled lava rocks, and the resulting road is not fabulous. So expect sore feet after hiking this trail, and expect to not go as far or as fast as you usually would on a flat trail. On the other hand, the trail itself is a unique experience, and it offers great views of the lava fields trailing down from the south face of Haleakala, along with four of the other major islands (Hawaii, Kahoolawe, Lanai, & Molokai) as well as the tiny island of Molokini. The navigational light shown on the trail map is just that, an automated light, not a picturesque lighthouse or anything. It's useful as a landmark to stop and turn around at, in an area without a lot of landmarks, but you aren't going to get a viral Instagram photo out of it, or at least I didn't. I did attempt sketching the island of Kahoolawe on a cool tablet computer I bought recently, only to be reminded I never could draw worth a damn, and I'm not any better at it on eInk than I am on paper. Oh well.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

'Iao Valley

'Iao Valley

Here's a photoset from 'Iao Valley in the West Maui Mountains. It's kind of an amazing place: Lush green canyon, impossibly steep hills, clear rushing stream flowing through it. Apparently if you visit on a rainy day (which is most of the time), there are also a few waterfalls cascading down the sides of the canyon. The only disappointing thing is that there isn't much of a trail system here; there's a short paved path around a small garden of tropical plants, and 133 stairs to a small viewpoint with a view of 'Iao Needle.

Oh, and at the viewpoint there's a fence, a stern sign warning you to not go beyond this point, and an obvious trail leading off into the forest behind it. I've got a few photos of the sign but sadly didn't go any further; it's not that I'm intimidated by official signs, rules, and regulations, and I've hiked enough in Hawaii to know that these signs are usually just a CYA move on the state's part, because they're scared of getting sued if anyone gets hurt. I kind of wanted to hop the fence and keep going, but there were lots of other tourists there, and it seemed like most were there with small children (who seemed to enjoy running up and down the steps, to much adult dismay). And, well... I couldn't quite bring myself to blatantly violate The Rules in front of someone else's kids, being a bad example and corrupting the youth and whatnot. Maybe next time I'll go earlier, to avoid the crowds. Supposedly there isn't that much to see on the "secret" trail that you wouldn't have seen already on the official mini-trails; mostly I was looking to stretch my legs a bit after a 6 hour flight from Portland.

In keeping with my new policy of trying to post new photos sooner, these were taken the day before yesterday; I'll try to get to yesterday's photos (from the Hoapili Trail on the south side of Maui) later, but first I'm off to go drive up Haleakala and see the volcano, and I'll try to get to those photos within a day or two as well.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Angels Rest - Devils Rest Loop

Today's outdoor adventure is a photoset from when I did the Angels Rest - Devils Rest Loop back in late December. The photos are in roughly reverse chronological order because the weather was truly miserable in the morning, the first time I went by the Angels Rest viewpoint. Nothing but fog, wind, and rain then, and that continued for the trip further uphill to Devils Rest, which is a weird pile of mossy rocks in an area of dense, misty forest. More fog and rain on the trip east, and then down the seemingly endless switchbacks down to the top of the Wahkeena Falls area. It may have started clearing up along the lower trail back to Angels Rest from there; I was getting a bit tired at that point, and had forgotten there was another stretch of seemingly endless switchbacks -- this time going up -- gaining 500 feet or so in a fairly short distance, on a trail I had misremembered as basically flat. So that part was kind of... unwelcome.

By the time I arrived back at Angels Rest the weather had finally cleared up and suddenly the view was incredible. And then my phone decided to drain itself from 60% to 0% in a few short minutes, as punishment for trying to share the amazing view on Instagram or Twitter, I forget which. Maybe both. And -- I am not exaggerating -- not ten seconds after my phone keeled over, a huge bald eagle soared right over me, with a pair of (I think) ravens close behind trying to scare it off. I would've led this post with that if I'd gotten a photo of it. Oh well.

Which brings us to the last bit, the way back down from the viewpoint to the parking lot. I'd figured that would be easy and probably boring since I'd done the same stretch of trail in the morning on the way up. But no, even in the dead of winter the trail attracts enough visitors that it gets churned up into a slippery pudding by late afternoon. So I slowly and gingerly made my way downhill and managed to avoid slipping and taking the quicker way down. This was after 3pm and as it was late December, it was getting rather late in the day, so I was surprised to encounter a lot of people heading the other direction. I mean, I'm sure the sunset from Angels Rest that evening was phenomenal. But I have no idea how any of those people got back downhill afterward in the dark. There wasn't anything on the news the next day about rescue/recovery operations in the Gorge, so it must have all worked out somehow. I'd love to know the secret to pulling that off, if there is one. Crawling down on all fours with night vision goggles, maybe? Beats me.

Anyway, the hike was amazing; the view at the end was amazing; the windy and rainy and foggy parts in the middle and even the unexpected switchbacks were amazing; the mud at the end was, ok, we won't discuss that part any further, but overall the whole thing was amazing and I'll happily do it again, maybe next time on a sunnier day with a later sunset.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

keepalive (january 2019 edition)

Ok, so I have 40 minutes to put some sort of blog post together to avoid breaking the at-least-one-post-per-month streak dating back to December 2005. I had meant to post some recent hiking photos (which I have quite a few of), but I couldn't seem to find enough time for the writing part, so here we are. As is often the case when I post these 'keepalive' posts, most of my waking moments are once again devoted to an Important And Very Stressful Software Project, this time one that's supposed to ship in just a couple of weeks if the stars align properly and the river don't rise. If you just come here for the photos and don't like waiting for me to type some words about them, may I direct you to my most recent (or most recently-created) Flickr photosets, where there's plenty of scenery to look at and basically zero complaining. Or at least that's true at the moment. Future photosets will push the current ones off the page and at some point someone will click that link and be mildly disappointed by whatever happens to be there at that point. Can't be helped, sorry. That's why you're supposed to click the links while they're still fresh.

Anyway, I have lots of recent material waiting as soon as I have time to do something with it. This year I'm trying (or I intend to try) to post new stuff ahead of old stuff, rather than sending things to the back of the Drafts queue to wait in line behind forgotten half-finished posts that have been there since... yeah, no, let's not even look at the dates on some of those drafts. Anyway, I'm down to 9 minutes to keep the streak alive, and I can't think of any substantive topics to yammer about that would fit within less than that, and I don't feel up to explaining the one thing I learned today (how to mount a Solaris NFSv4 share to an AIX box, in order to verify how ACLs behave or misbehave there) so I suppose it's time to hit that big orange Publish button again. Here goes...

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018: The Year in Instagram Cat Photos



I had almost forgotten that, per recent tradition, I'm supposed to wrap up the year here with some Instagram cat photos. Upon checking IG I realized that I'd pretty much used it exclusively for vacation photos this year and had posted precisely one cat photo. However the recent tradition specifies photos, plural, so I dug out a recent one and added it a few minutes ago. He highly recommends that particular brand of catnip banana, btw, and he's not just saying that in his role as a globetrotting celebrity and Instagram #brandfluencer.

Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop, July 2016

The previous post showed what the Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop trails look like now. It just so happens that I did the same hike back in July 2016, so here's another photoset showing what the area used to look like before the big forest fire. Granted this is also a comparison of July and December photos, and the latter would seem rather grim in comparison even without the stumps and ashes. Still, this is the closest thing I've got to an apples-to-apples comparison, and I imagine that most viewers will enjoy these photos more than the previous set. I know I certainly do.

Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop, December 2018

Back on November 23rd, several popular trails in the Columbia Gorge reopened for the first time after the Eagle Creek Fire. So a couple of weeks ago I did the 4.9 mile Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop trail to see what the area looks like now. Some parts were surprisingly ok, with signs of a "good" forest fire that swept out underbrush and let the trees survive. Other areas were kind of grim and spooky, notably along the Vista Point trail above Wahkeena Falls. The most positive spin I can come up with is that some parts of the Gorge now look like vintage postcard views of the area from a century ago, around the time the historic highway was built. Back then it was due to logging rather than fire and a changing climate, but the visual effect is more or less the same. In an old post from 2014, I pointed out that rock formations around the Gorge tend to have silly melodramatic Victorian-sounding names ("St. Peter's Dome", "Pillars of Hercules", "Bishop's Cap", "Thor's Crown", etc.), and explained my theory that the names reflect the era when there was the least vegetation around to obscure all the weird rocks. So maybe that should be the tourism plan for the next few years: In our lifetimes there may never be a better time to nerd out over Gorge geology, so come see some cool rocks before the forest grows back. Hey, it's worth a try.

There's one experience I want to relate that the photos don't capture. Imagine placing your hand on a tree for support, at a steep or tricky spot in the trail. You've hiked this trail regularly since you were a kid, so you've likely put the same hand on the same spot on the same tree dozens of times. But this time your hand comes away covered in charcoal. To me this was the most upsetting part, more than any of the images. After the first time, I tried to avoid touching anything scorched, not really because of the charcoal; it just felt wrong somehow, verging on unclean. As in, you don't want to touch it for the same reason you don't want to touch roadkill. Sure, obviously you can't catch a disease from a burnt tree, but that was the visceral reaction I had. It's odd: The very same wood, burnt in a campfire, would be cozy, a source of warmth and happy memories. But when it's burnt and still standing amidst a forest of other burnt trees, and bits of it are rubbing off and marking you as you pass... well, it was more unsettling than I had expected.

Friday, November 30, 2018

some vacation photos

Consider my situation:

  • It's the end of the month, and the rules say I have to post at least once a month, and I've kept it up since, er, 2005.
  • I have a drafts folder full of unfinished posts, none of which are ready to post, otherwise I would have done it already.
  • I'm in this no-posts-yet situation in part because I was on vacation for a reasonable chunk of the month, and spent a lot of that taking photos, some of which turned out ok.

Given these circumstances, I'm going to go ahead and post a slideshow of assorted vacation photos, without researching & writing a whole long blog post about each place I visited. I mean, those will show up here too sooner or later, but I'm not going to give even a rough estimate of when that might happen. So, briefly, here's what's in the slideshow: Everything's from the island of O'ahu, with locations including Makapu'u Point & its lighthouse; Ulupō Heiau, an ancient Hawaiian temple in the middle of suburban Kailua, now weirdly surrounded by churches; Kawainui Marsh, a large & scenic wetland area that I'm told is habitat for native Hawaiian birds, although I don't think I saw any; Waikiki Beach, mostly around sunset; and assorted brewpubs, restaurants, and food trucks here and there around the island. Oh, and Santa Claus riding in an outrigger canoe on a parade float, as one does.

Perhaps I'm showing my age here, but I sometimes wish Flickr slideshows had an option to make vintage slide projector sounds between photos, as if you were looking at these in your aunt & uncle's rumpus room in 1978, trying to stay awake because these have been going on for over an hour. And occasionally a slide is upside down, or there's a slot without a slide and it blinds everyone, and your little brother somehow gets a huge glob of gum in the shag carpet, which will never really come out, and most of the grownups are smoking and it's gross. I can't simulate the full classic vacation slideshow experience, unfortunately, but I did shuffle them randomly and then reorder them a bit, as if Uncle Steve had dropped the slides on the floor partway thru his fourth glass of jug Chablis and failed to reassemble them properly. So with that vivid image, enjoy the slideshow!