Saturday, March 26, 2016

Kip's visit to Maui

Our first visitor!  My brother Kip flew over for a tour of Maui, arranged around a half marathon race we all wanted to do.  It was great fun spending several days roaming around the island, sampling food, running on Makawao trails, and introducing Kip to shave ice.

We even discovered an excellent little hike in a bamboo forest, not far down the road to Hana.  Kip picked it out of the guide book and we both agreed it was the perfect choice.

In the middle of the bamboo on the trail toward the 4 waterfalls of Na'ili'ili-haele:

The bamboo got larger and larger as we went along:

Kip tested out cross-country travel through the bamboo, discovering quickly that the steep, slippery-ness of the side of the valley would be a big challenge, even with large bamboo stalks to hang onto (and also discovered that less-alive ones aren't the best support):

One of the lower waterfalls, very pretty and with a jungle feel (we reminisced about Borneo):

We found out that the next section involved swimming, and we weren't quite prepared for that (clothing and phone-protection-wise), so we called it a good scouting trip and returned from there.

Fun little tour of the Hali'imaile Distillery in Makawao where I learned that I like vodka made from pineapples:

Sea turtles on the beach!  I always enjoy seeing the Hawaiian honu:

Kip treated us to Warren & Annabelle's magic/comedy show, and it was incredible, amazing, hilarious, super awesome.  What fantastic performers, both from the magic and the comedy angles.  Such a treat!

John George caught me taking this picture (from a few rows back, he has an eagle eye):

In return for a little ribbing (John: "I wasn't even doing anything, that was such a boring photo!"), he posed special for this one - thank you John George!

Highly recommend that show in Lahaina.

Time for the main event!  Our Valley to Sea half marathon started up in the Iao Valley, came down the hill through Wailuku, took us past Ma'alaea and over to Kihei where we finished at the Pacific Whale Foundation.  It was a beautiful morning, we all ran well, I even set a PR (?!).

John snapped a pic right near the finish:

Kip looking great:

And the big finish line banner - go Kip!

John won the whole dang race, well now, that was impressive.  The tiki mask is his award for overall winner, the pretty surfboard is for the age group win, and I got a fun coqui frog award (it sounds like a frog when you move the stick across it):

The write-up in the Maui paper, yay John!

Also yay! - our 34th state where we've done a race together:

One more day with Kip, so we filled it with a most excellent drive around west Maui.  It happened to be a day of huge surf, which made all the water features twice as stunning as they normally are.  Which is really saying something, as I've enjoyed that drive immensely twice before.  This was beyond compare.

Kip decided to take a turn at directing the waves, and he took the task full-on.  Quite literally!

That was something to see!  Get a little wet, did you Kip?

We went over to tell John, who had missed the whole thing.  Hey John, let Kip show you how it's done:

A short video of Kip directing the waves:

Here's what happened at that same spot just a minute later (I cut off John's last word, which was "...hosed!"):

Well, Kip, you certainly set the standard on that activity!

The Nakalele blowhole was absolutely huge, and loud, and blowing mist everywhere:

It was a big blowhole day:

Checking out an overlook a bit further down the road:

The sea was churning and frothing, quite a sight:

You can almost feel the surf motion:

Interesting rock erosion:

Bright orange dirt at the base of the mushroom rock, likely related to much-earlier volcanic activity and it kind of looks like it's still glowing:

Hanging out at Mushroom Rock:

Pools and dynamic little waterfalls:

We hiked up to the top of the hill across from Kahakuloa Head for more good views, and a little wind:

Wow, Kip, what a fun few days!  Thank you for visiting, racing, exploring, and laughing with us!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Last part of the Mexico tour

On our last day in Mexico, our tour took us to Valle de Bravo and a nice resort spot.  It was a quick overnight stay, but with plenty of interesting little activities.

The best was morning birdwatching from the walkways of the resort.  There were plenty of colorful, interesting birds and it was easy to see them (through binoculars) across the great expanses of lawn.

Apparently butterflies are easier to capture on film than birds, especially when the numbers favor the monarchs (millions) over the birds (a couple here and there) who just refused to come sit on my shoulder to be photographed:

Lovely early morning walk:

Melissa checking the bird book and wondering why I keep taking pictures of the people (because it's easier than taking pictures of birds):

The pool at the resort:

Hey, avocados!

Next we visited a spot with a couple pretty waterfalls:

Very nice.  And this is the "low water" time of year:

Our fun group taking turns taking pictures:

Birds of Paradise (also easier to photograph than actual birds):

Colorful market in the town of Valle de Bravo:

Love all the fresh produce:

Paragliders above town, cool!

The view of the lake from our lunch location:

Plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, one reason why our food was so delicious all week long:

The entry of the botanical garden in Toluca, with beautiful stained glass:

We had some time for peaceful exploration of the garden:

Reflection of the windows in the Japanese section:

I'm more familiar with the plants in this corner:

A striking panel that Mom appreciated:

Monkeying around with the life-size photo of recent visitors:

Melissa with a high-five!

Yes, indeed, that whole trip deserves a high-five!  Thank you Melissa, Astrid, Nat Hab, and our wonderful fun group of adventurers for the amazing experience!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

My favorite monarch experience

Our final day with the monarchs was pretty special.  Each day had gotten better and better, and we all remarked that it couldn't possibly continue in the trend.  But all be darned if it did!

We returned to El Rosario, this time first thing in the morning when the butterflies were just starting to wake up and move around.  The sunshine invigorated them, making for a different experience compared to our first visit a couple days prior.

Time for morning coffee, as it were:

Patch of sunny monarchs:

Partway up the path we found a stream of butterflies shooting across through a clearing in the trees, following beams of sunlight.  It was mesmerizing and fascinating, we had to stop and watch.  I tried to capture it in video, to get just a small sense of what it was like.

The highway of monarchs:

Kathy and a monarch fly-by:

Every sunlit branch around us was covered in vibrant, moving orange:

When the wind blew, it kicked up huge swirls of "living leaves":

My first new friend of the morning:

The group taking it all in, even the butterfly on Mom's hat seems entranced by the goings-on:

Tags that were found in the refuge, available for purchase so we could report the tag number and help track where each butterfly had migrated from - why yes of course we'd love to do that!  Our # has been sent in, awaiting info on the start location for our tag:

Playing around with something I totally did not expect to work - digi-scoping with my binoculars (no tripod) and little camera.  What?  It's actually kind of a clear photo?  That's a surprise.  Here's one of the "digi-zoomed" images of the butterfly clumps:

Or I can just take close-in shots of the monarchs that hung out right next to us, so beautiful:

Monarchs flying around the trees:

Can you tell I will never get tired of this?

Looks like they are on a march across the land, walking over anything in their way...

And then even more magic happened, as monarchs were landing on us right and left.  They liked Conny's green shirt:

Monarch selfie:

Mom standing by "monarch tree" - with one investigating her nose!  I probably would have sneezed:

Such a neat feeling to have these majestic creatures sunning themselves on my hat and back:

A pair on Mom's white hat:

We couldn't stop smiling:

The star butterfly:

I think we could have stood there all day for this:

Nice couple photos from Piet and Conny, thank you!

Well, our guides finally told us we had to leave, sigh.  No idea how long we were there, but the memories will stay for a lifetime.

Monarchs gathering in the field to bid us goodbye:

Or maybe just to get a drink...

Mom and Conny walking down the trail amid swirling monarchs:

Thank you, butterflies, that was AMAZING!!!