My friend Javier took me out paddleboarding on Mill Creek. It was a great upper body workout, especially for my spaghetti arms. Here’s a picture of me fiddling around with the GoPro camera.
The last day of my vacation was spent in the Portland, OR area. I drove over to the western coast and grabbed a burger at Highway 101 Burger in Lincoln City. I then drove 30 minutes north to hike Hart’s Cove. A fellow hiker had mentioned Hart’s Cove to me when I did the Preserve Head Preserve trail on the first day of the vacation. This was a pretty easy 5 mile hike although the trail was pretty steep for the first half mile.
The end of the trail overlooks Hart’s Cove. Here’s the best picture I took from this area.
I arrived back to Portland that evening and simply relaxed for the last few hours of my vacation. Overall, the trip was definitely one of my favorites. The scuba diving definitely made up for the lack of hiking (due to a closed trail and an overgrown trail). Hawaii was beautiful and the access to such amazing wildlife is unequaled in all my other trips.
This will be the shortest summary as I spent most of the day on a plane. My flight was at 1pm so I did not have much time to get into anything too serious for my last day. I ended up driving up and down the coast of Kona just to check out some of the remaining beaches I had not visited yet.
For most of the flight, I continued to read The Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb. Even though I haven’t finished, it is a great read and helped pass the 6 hours crammed into coach. I arrived in Portland after 9pm
I arrived back at the marina around 8am to do another two dives. After listening to most of the same instructions from last night, our dive boat departed the bay. On the way out, we saw another boat returning with a huge fish onboard. Although I could only see the tail, one of the dive guides said it was a huge marlin – so huge that the boat had to drag the tail off the back of the boat as it would not fit on the deck. After exiting the bay, we came across a pod of spinner dolphins. I captured some video of the dolphins as they swam next to the boat, which is included toward the bottom of this post. There were a few baby dolphins that were maybe 3-4 feet in length that would jump and spin out of the water. They seemed to be enjoying life. The captain also spotted a large tiger shark in the area but I never saw it.
We continued to our dive named Suck Em Up, which was named for a lava tube that can suck the diver upwards toward the surface if the current was sweeping into the shore. When the dive guide first told me we were going though a lava tube, I worried that I wouldn’t handle it well as the thought of not having the surface above me seems weird but I was very comfortable in the lava tube. Here’s a video of my group going through the lava tube.
The dive profile and temperature are shown in the following plot. Notice how warm the water was at even the deepest sections (74 feet at my deepest spot). I also was in the water for 57 minutes which was also a record for me (although I broke that again in the next dive).
After arriving back on the boat, we were treated to animal crackers, pretzels, watermelon, and water by the dive company (Kona Honu Divers). During our surface interval, the captain took the boat to the next dive site named Naia Cove. As we were suiting up, the captain spotted a large tiger shark under the water but again I never saw it. It definitely made me a little nervous but I jumped in the water anyway. Our dive guide took us to a lava tube. Just prior to entering the lava tube, he gave the sign for shark. I promptly gave the sign for I shat my wetsuit (just kidding, there is no such sign). As we entered the lava tube, I got a few glancing shots of the white tipped reef shark. You can see these shots in the video below starting at around 1:30.
For the remainder of the dive, we swam around the corals and I tried to get some video of the different fish and eel that were around. I think my favorite fish were the Moorish Idol and the Ornate Butterflyfish. Here’s the depth and temperature profiles for the dive.
At the conclusion of the dive around 1pm, we returned to the marina and I started driving around the island looking for photo opportunities. As I was navigating around the island, I saw a marker for a green beach on the Google Maps app. When I arrived at the parking lot, a local told me that I needed a four wheel drive to drive the remaining 3 miles or he would drive me down there for $15. I decided to pay the money as I was wearing flip-flops and a 6 mile hike may be pretty tough in flip-flops. After waiting for about 15 minutes (he wouldn’t drive just one person down as it wasn’t worth it), I decided to go ahead an walk as I feared I may be the last person to show up for the day and I didn’t want to miss the beach if this were true. So I ended up hiking the 3 miles to the beach in flip flops. This is how the hike looked.
When I finally got to the beach, I had pretty much the whole place to myself. The following is a panorama of the beach and surrounding ocean. You can see how the sand does have some shade of green due to the minerals, although it isn’t an obvious green.
I got back to the car just after sunset and drove a half hour to the southern most point in the United States – South Point Park. Unfortunately, it was too dark to take any good photos but it was nice to check this off the list. Now I have to get to the northern most point in the US.
To start the fourth day of the trip, my initial plan called for hiking the 1.9 miles down to Kealakekua Bay and do some snorkeling. I expected the hike to be pretty tough so I brought a lot of water and snacks for the journey. I started the hike but quickly found the trail to be overgrown with tall (taller than me) grass. I tried to bushwack my way along the trail for a quarter of a mile but after being scratched and itching from the grass, I headed back to the car and decided to try my luck at some of the beaches surrounding Kona.
I first stopped at Kiholo Bay. I had the rocky shoreline almost completely to myself. I did see a sea turtle feeding in the shallow bay and waded out to get some shots. Although I tried to keep some distance, the turtle had no fear and drifted closer to me, which was find because the turbulent water was rather murky so the pictures turned out better. The turtle is included in the video posted at the end of this post.
Next I drove a little south and visited the Kekaha Kai State Park, which had a nice white sand beach on the edge of Kua Bay. I initially did some snorkeling near the beach but there was nothing to see but the white sand. I stopped that after a while and just tried to body surf the waves. The waves were pretty large and I was getting completely obliterated each time I tried to bodysurf – getting tossed into the sand and sucking saltwater up my nose. I kept trying to perfect my technique for almost 2 hours but I never got the hold of it. I think I still have a pile of sand in my sinus cavities from that morning. To add insult to injury, I also got a horrible sunburn on my back.
Early in the afternoon, I drove back to Kona and had a burger back at the hotel. I spent some time working on the photos and videos I had collected. Around 3:30pm, I organized all my scuba equipment and then headed to the marina to catch my dive boat for the evening. We left the dock around 4:30pm. Shortly after exiting the bay, some spinner dolphins swam in front of the boat as we headed to the dive site. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any good footage of the dolphins but luckily they were around for the boat trip on the following day.
We completed our first dive called the Garden Eel Cove early in the evening. The dive is named for an area of eels that populate the bottom. From a distance, the eels look like seaweed but as you approach they slither back into their holes, as if the seaweed draws back into the sand. We saw some of the manta rays here as well as many tropical fish species. Here’s the dive profile and water temperature from the dive.
We then returned to the boat where the dive company (Kona Honu Divers) provided sandwich wraps, animal cookies, pretzels, and water. I snapped a picture of the sunset from the boat during this surface interval. We also saw a pregnant monk seal around this time. This was exciting because there are so few monk seals remaining with estimates suggesting only 1100 remain in the wild. They are classified as critically endangered.
During our approximate 1 hour surface interval, the dive guide also talked to us about the manta rays. The idea of attracting the manta rays by light bays happened accidentally when a hotel in Kona lit a bay for guests and found it attracted a large number of manta rays. The local dive companies figured this out and started offering night dives in the area. Unfortunately, this hotel shut down and the new one removed the lighting so most dives now occurred in the bay we were in this evening.
The night dive was performed at the same location as the Garden Eel Cove although the name was changed to the Manta Night Dive. A large number of other dive companies also showed up in the bay for the dive. I believe the guide said there would be over 150 snorkelers and divers in that bay this evening. A glow stick was attached to each of our tanks so the dive guides could keep track of us. Then we essentially dove to the bottom and stayed there. We directed our flashlights upwards above our head to attract the plankton and the manta rays. Initially it was pretty difficult as the current on the bottom was pushing me and nearby divers around but I eventually wedged myself next to a large rock on the bottom to help out. Approximately six manta rays showed up during the evening. It was a blast watching them swoop in the light and then exit just a foot or two above my head. One manta ray almost hit my hand – I had to lower the flashlight at the last second to be sure I didn’t touch the ray. We were told that touching the ray can remove a slimy film that protects the ray from infection so I didn’t want to cause any harm. Here’s one pass of a manta ray.
Each manta ray has a unique black and white pattern on their belly which is used to identify them. I think the dive guide said there are over 120 manta rays that have been identified in the area. There is a website you can visit to try to identify photos of manta rays you saw. If you happen to find a new manta ray, you get to name it. I didn’t bother trying to figure out which manta I was seeing. Here’s the dive profile and temperature from the dive. You can see how I just dropped to the bottom and stayed there for about 45 minutes before rising back to the surface.
At the conclusion of the dive, our guide gave us a signal to return to the boat. We removed the equipment and got dressed for the ride back to the marina. I really like Kona Honu divers and they offered to take my equipment with them back to the shop for the night and have it back on the boat the next morning which freed me from having to lug and deal with my equipment that evening. We arrived back at around 9:30pm and I was in bed around 11pm in preparation for the 8am boat trip the following morning.
I pulled video clips from the dive on the 4th and 5th days and put them into one video.
On Monday, I had planned to spend most of the day hiking a long and steep trail at Waimanu Valley. The trail was 16 miles long and had over 7200 feet of elevation gain so it was going to be draining and take most of the day. I took off before sunset to arrive early at the trailhead on the other side of the island. When I arrived there, a sign announced the trail was closed. No explanation was given. I decided to hike the first portion to the beach as I could see surfers down there. The narrow road to the beach had a 25% average grade, which is crazy steep and I didn’t try to do it in my rental car. It was another 0.5 miles at the bottom of the hill to the beach.
After hiking along the beach, I figured out why the trail was closed. Due to the large amounts of rain the island had been receiving over the past week, a large river was pouring into the ocean and was pretty much impossible to get past. Even if I could get across it, there was likely to be more rain in the afternoon meaning I could be stranded on the wrong side of the river if my timing was poor. I decided to change my plans and headed back to the car to explore other areas of the island. On the way back, I crossed the path of some wild horses. I read that there ancestors were tame horses that survived a tsunami that wiped out the nearby valley in the 40s. I was able to get pretty close to them and snap a picture.
After the grueling hike back to the care (really steep), I drove along the east side of the island toward the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Along the way, I saw a sign indicated a scenic drive so I turned down that road. I stopped at one of the pulloffs on this road, hiked a few minutes to the shore, and snapped this photo.
I eventually made my way to Hilo before heading up to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Before it started to rain, I was able to take a few pictures of an active volcano. Unfortunately, you can only see the crater and smoke. It smelled faintly of sulfur, although not to the same degree as Yellowstone. You could occasionally hear rocks crashing together from within the crater, indicating something dramatic was happening in there.
After walking around the park, sometimes in the rain, I returned to the car and drove to the southeastern shore via the Chain of Craters road. As I approached the coast, the rain stopped and the sunshine appeared. The views from the end of the road were awesome. I think I got my best shot from the trip from this area.
After exploring the area a little more, I headed back to the hotel for the night.
After departing Portland, OR at 7am, I arrived in Kona, Hawaii at 1pm local time. After getting my rental car and dropping some stuff off at the hotel room, I drove a couple of hours to the Pololu Overlook near the northern tip of the island. I drove through some strong rain showers along the way but the weather was only overcast at the overlook. Once arriving at the parking lot, I hiked the trail down to the black sand and rocky beach. Here’s a view from the trail to the beach.
This wasn’t really a swimming beach although there were a few surfers leaving when I arrived. The waves were breaking hard and there were signs warning of dangerous rip currents. Plus the beach was often rocky – not the best for laying out.
I explored around the beach and then walked along a stream running down from the mountains. Here’s a photo looking from the stream back into the mountains. There are some cows grazing in the back of the meadow. I stayed around the area until about dusk and then drove back to the hotel and called it a day.
The main event for my first day in Oregon was to attend Tim and Karen’s wedding in the late afternoon. To kill some time earlier in the day, I drove from Portland to the coast to do some hiking. I ended up hiking roughly 5 miles on the Cascade Head Preserve trail (link). The trailhead is located in a county park and climbs through some forests before emerging on meadows that overlook the pacific ocean. This was an awesome hike: 5 out of 5 stars. I was really fortunate because I did very little planning – I just woke up and found a list of hikes and chose this one because it was relatively close to Portland. I thought it would be foggy, or at best overcast and gloomy, but the sun was out for a lot of the hike so I was really happy.
Last Saturday, I returned to the Chesapeake Light Tower for another two dives. Unlike the previous trip, the waters were both cold and murky. Fortunately, the top 10-15 feet of water had the worst visibility but the water cleared up significantly at the deeper depths. The currents were also stronger which meant I had to continuously kick to be sure I wasn’t being push away from the tower. I didn’t feel like I was really exerting myself but it was different from my previous dives.
Here’s a video of some moments from the trip. The first fish is called a sea robin or gurnard. I was really confused when I first saw it. The creature had fins like a fish but it also had these little claws, so I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. The second creature is a common spider crab. There are also schools of a silver fish with yellow tail – I have not been able to identify those yet online. I’m sure it is so common that websites don’t even bother mentioning that type of fish. There’s also a barracuda at around 1:15 in the video.
I made some good progress on my New Year’s resolutions in July. Here’s how it went:
I also decided to start another resolution, albeit very late into the year. I want to complete 3650 pushups by 2016. This corresponds to 10 pushups a day for all of 2015. Since I’m starting halfway through the year, I will need to do at least 20 pushups a day. This one might be tough but I will try and get there. Here’s my current progress – as you can see I’m still working through January.
I completed three books in July: The Skull Throne (Fantasy), The Willpower Instinct (Business, Self-help), and The Upright Thinkers (Science, History). Of these three, my favorite is a toss up between The Skull Throne and The Upright Thinkers. In terms of my resolution, I am exactly where I need to be in order to complete the 52 books. However, I need to read a little more or I will fall behind in the upcoming months.
I completed two additional classes in July:
- Initiating and Planning Projects by Margret Meloni at The University of California, Irvine on Coursera
- Open Water Scuba Certification by SSI (Scuba Schools International)
The first class was a general introduction to project management. I took it so I could be better equipped to manage and lead projects for work. I will continue with the next class in that series regarding planning and budgeting in August.
The second class was a combination of classwork (weekend) and training (open dives with an instructor). I am now certified for open water scuba diving!
The recent scuba certification forced me to get off my butt and do some diving at some sites near home. My first five dives were performed in a quarry converted into a lake. These dives were counted towards my certification. Later in July, I did my first ocean dive at the Chesapeake Light Tower. In addition to my first saltwater dive, it was also my first time on a boat in the ocean. I also ran a formal 5km race in July. I was actually 8 minutes late due to the diving taking longer than I expected but I still ran and managed to get a good time despite the late start. I even got a metal but I think it is only because there were 3 people in my age group and so I got 3rd place.
- Diving at Lake Phoenix (July 5)
- Diving at Lake Phoenix (July 11)
- 5km Run at Powhatan Creek (July 11)
- Diving at The Tower (July 26)