Tag Archives: hiking

Hawaii Part I

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Aloha! It’s been a while since I’ve taken a legitimate multi-day trip to get a break from reality. Fortunately, I got quite a sweet deal offered to me: My buddy James Zamora had to travel to a Honolulu conference for work that would last for about a week. He could bring a guest where a good chunk of the expenses would be taken care of. The main cost out of pocket would be the airfare and any miscellaneous entertainment. When this offer was put on the table, I took it in a heartbeat!

To be honest, Hawaii was never at the top of my list of must-see places. Mainly for the cost and the lengthy flight required to get there. There was also the sad realization that I would not be able to drive my own car unless I was prepared to spend the hefty $1,000+ cost (one-way!) of shipping it over. However, I did need to get out there sooner than later since Hawaii is one of three states I had yet to see (other two being Florida and Maine). Let’s get to it!

Flight arrangements worked out quite well. Our first leg was from Albuquerque, NM to Phoenix, AZ, then Phoenix to Honolulu. Total flight time was around 11hrs including a few short delays. It was the longest I’ve been on a plane, but I managed.

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Boarding the American Airline flight to the island of Oahu, HI.

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Mercifully, all seats had their own entertainment units with free movies, live TV and some games.

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Being the odd guy I am, I chose to leave it on the GPS so I could monitor the flight stats. I resorted to Netflix on my phone for shows, music and movies.

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After what seemed like eternity, we finally arrived at Honolulu, Oahu. Oahu is the third largest island of Hawaii and houses about two-thirds of the state’s population. Most of this population in concentrated in Honolulu, the state capitol, which has a metro area population of well over 950,000. It’s the most remote city of its size in the world. We were to stay at Waikiki Beach, an iconic beachfront neighborhood of Honolulu, at the Marriott Hotel at Waikiki Beach.

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Views from the hotel room.

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Some evening exploring on the beach. Weather was perfect at a steady 60-70°F the entire time we were there.

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Dinner for the first night was at Rainbow Drive-In. I opted for the Loco Moco which was a delicious mixture of gravy, over beef pattys and rice. Top that with eggs and a side of Hawaiian macaroni salad and you have one satisfying meal.

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The next day while James was attending his conferences, I took the opportunity to see what trouble I could get into. I’m normally not a big breakfast person, but I needed to try a Hawaii exclusive McDonald’s spam, rice and eggs meal. With the soy sauce packet, it wasn’t too bad!

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Looking around the beaches and downtown areas.

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Checkout this banyan tree. Some of these are historical and one in particular at the Moana Hotel reaches over 75ft and is 114 years old.

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First challenge: I wanted to get some good hiking in while in Hawaii. Though I was on the most urbanized and developed island, there still was a wealth of hiking opportunities. First stop was the Koko Head Crater trail. Koko Head is a dormant volcano which last erupted 35,000 years ago. The trail is made up of stairs…lots and lots of stairs. Old railroad ties mount to the side of the hillside which lead to an old military lookout pillbox bunker used in WWII. The railway (now the ‘stairs’) was used to haul cargo and supplies to the top. All the reviews I could find online said this was one challenging hike. Accepted! I took an Uber (12 miles from Waikiki) over to the trail head and was pleasantly surprised how steep it looked from the bottom.

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Photos don’t do this justice. This is about 1,048 steps and an elevation climb of 1,200ft.

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A good portion of the trail was open like this just waiting to break a few ankles or legs.

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This had to be by far the toughest hike I’ve attempted, but I made it to the top. With high humidity and relatively warm temperatures, I stopped to rest on several occasions. However, the views from the top were well worth it!

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View of the old bunker.

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View of Waikiki in the distance.

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Headed back down wasn’t easy either. Trying to maintain balance on tired legs, and the constant pounding on my knees took a lot out of me.

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Once I rested after the hike, I went back to Waikiki to take in the waves. My legs were sore and trembling from the strain, but the day was not over. I’m not much of a water guy, so I left the surfing to other other tourists. Oddly enough, I ran into some nice folks who where from Los Lunas, NM…that’s only about 200 miles from my home! Small world.

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Second challenge: James was able to sneak away early from his conference and we went to Hanauma Bay there we’d get our first experience of snorkeling! Hanauma is located along the southeast coast Oahu in the Hawaii Kai, not too far from Koko Crater.

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Renting the gear was a reasonable $25 and we dove in. I hadn’t been in the water since my teenage years, and I discovered my swimming skills were a bit rusty at best.

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So with that limitation discovered, I didn’t venture too far from the beach. The clean water offered some cool fish encounters.

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Later in the evening, I got my steps in on my Fitbit (19,000 total for the day) as we wandered around various farmers markets and shops in Waikiki. Of course, we had to sample some of the local food and beverages around.

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I was tempted to buy this as a gag gift!

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Speaking of coconuts…

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Some fresh paella.

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Creamy Japanese Ramen.

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Fresh fruit cup.

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This is mighty condensed, but hope you get a flavor of the fun. That covers Part I of this trip. Stay tuned for Part II in a few days!

 

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Drive to the Switzterland of America — Part II

Let’s begin our travels back home! We did things a little different and took photos of the welcome sign as we departed. Couldn’t when we first entered Ouray as it was too dark.

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Then back down the Million Dollar Highway. This sign just reminds motorists of the dangers (and fun) that they are about in counter.

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Here’s one of my favorite shots of the highway Jouhl managed to capture out the windshield.

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That tunnel there is slanted like to keep avalanches from taking out the road. According to my Dad who does a heck of a lot more research into things than I do, the Million Dollar Highway is one of America’s most expensive roads to maintain.

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The prior night, I was googling a bit and found the ghost town of Ironton to be only a short distance from Ouray. It was a stop we just had to take and much to my surprise, this was a true ghost town where there was no supervision nor was it commercialized in any way. Just some old buildings hidden off the beaten path. This town has an interesting history per Wiki:

“Ironton (aka Copper Glen) was built on flatter ground than surrounding towns. Settled in 1883, within three weeks three hundred buildings were being built. It was a staging area for supplies coming from Ouray. Ironton was a major transportation junction between Red Mountain Town and Ouray in addition to having some of its own mines. Ironton had a peak population of over 1000 and had two trains arriving daily from Silverton. There were many chain stores from the nearby cities of Ouray and Silverton. The town lived into the first part of the 20th century but slowly faded as mining operations declined. The final resident of the town, Milton Larson, died in the mid-1960s. The town site is still occasionally visited by tourists.

Access to Ironton was simple. A narrow road covered in leaves off Hwy 550 takes you to the site. The weather was cold and misty…just the perfect atmosphere for some exploring.

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Here we are.

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Believe it or not, I’ve seen worse bathrooms.

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Most of us split and explored our own buildings. Here’s Jennifer coming down from one of the second floors.

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Alec and I braved the darkness of the second story of this rickety old house.

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Jouhl decided to wait for us at the entrance.

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Nearly all the buildings were structurally sound enough to walk through. Some were quite creepy!

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As usual, wandering around randomly ended up following the Red Mountain Creek for short distance.

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After our toes and fingers couldn’t take the cold any more, we hopped back in the TL and started for home. Last stop before hitting the Interstate, we stopped by Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness just south of Farmington, NM.  This 45,000-acre area is a desolate area of steeply eroded bad lands managed by BLM. “Bisti” comes from the word “Bistahí, which means “among the adobe formations.”

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A 10 mile road layered with corse gravel and bumpy turns made for a rather exhausting ride. I felt for the TL’s shocks. Rumor has it that the Navajo Tribe has gone to great lengths to keep the Bisti and nearby Chaco Canyon remote and not terribly easy to access. This is to minimize the amount of people entering and disturbing the land.

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I didn’t exactly take a defined path to this view point. The AWD system handled the sand just fine though.

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This sure felt like a different planet.

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Despite the wind gusts of 50mph, we set out for some photos and exploring. IMG_6966

Then it was time to run!

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Alec was going crazy taking pictures in every angle he could.

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The Bisti was once a riverine delta that was west of the shore of an ancient sea. This sea covered much of New Mexico 70 million years ago. The waters of this sea washed a lot of sediment upon the shore and then swamps and the occasional pond bordering the stream left behind these large buildups of organic material and odd formations. Amazing!

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There’s only so much wind you can take. We soon hustled back to the TL and began our journey home. That’s a wrap for this trip…thank you all for joining us for this grand adventure. More in store for you very soon!

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Drive to The Switzerland of America — Ouray, Colorado Part I

Nothing beats a nice weekend getaway. Especially when you’re growing bored of the sunny, dry climate of southern New Mexico and want to see some cool fall colors. So, friends Jouhl, Jennifer and Alec all climbed into the TL and joined me in one of my bucket-list destinations: Ouray, Colorado. Let the miles pile on!

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Nestled in the San Juan mountains north of Durango, Ouray was once a silver and gold mining town. Population isn’t much…just about 1,000 according to the 2010 census. It was named after Chief Ouray of the Utes, a Native American tribe and it’s best known for the extensive scenery that’s gorgeous in all seasons.

Total miles: ~1,200

Our round trip was as follows:

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Got the TL all washed up and ready to roll.

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From left to right: Jouhl, Jennifer and Alec. Jennifer and Alec had never been to Colorado so this was going to be quite a treat for them.

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Gas stop in Los Lunas before going through Albuquerque.

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First official stop was in Aztec, NM where we’d check out the Aztec Ruins National Monument. Contrary to the name, these were built and inhabited by the Pueblo Indians. The dwellings date back to 11th century and most are in their original, unrestored state.

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Always have to prep the cameras!

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One of the coolest parts is we actually get to explore within the ruins. Here’s Jouhl crouching down to enter the small doorway.

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Here’s an overview of the ruins. Looks like a video game.

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No time to waste. Back on the road towards Colorado. Clouds formed and threw a few rain drops our way. Just enough to get the TL nice and spotty.

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Stateline!

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Almost immediately, we started to see the fall colors. Man, I miss seeing this!

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The long, winding US 550 took us past the small mining town of Silverton, CO. And when I say small, I mean it as there are a total of 530 residents here. (2010 census) It was raining pretty good by now, so we opted to just take a short drive through instead of getting out and walking around. (Well, I did have to sneak out for a quick photo of the TL.

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Now, one of the best parts of the trip is about to begin. We now were on the “Million Dollar Highway.” Many refer to this as one of America’s greatest driving roads for its scenery and smooth twisty nature. In fact, it was so twisty that I didn’t have many opportunities to pull off for photos.

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This is one of the money shots of the trip. The temperature was dropping pretty quickly to the low 40s, so jackets were in order. The rain kept coming down, but in moderation. It was such a grand experience.

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As we ascended in elevation, we could see the rain was turning into snow at the surrounding peaks. Here’s a cool “selfie” Jouhl took of us.

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Darkness was approaching and this was the last photo of the drive today.

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We got into Ouray fairly late around 8pm and we wasted no time to grab some dinner. Our place of choice, The Outlaws.

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Folks were friendly, restaurant very hospitable, and atmosphere inviting. Food however, was disappointing. Regardless, we had fun.

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The next day was going to be full of outdoor fun. Here’s a shot of the hotel where we stayed. We caught the end of the tourism season, and the hotel was actually going to shut down for winter the following day. Yup, we were a few of the last guests of 2014.

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View from the front door.

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After a quick breakfast in the lobby, I wanted to drive around and see what we couldn’t the night before. Here’s downtown Ouray.

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Most of my “short-drive-around-town” moments end up taking half the day and in some of the most remote and interesting places. Today was no exception and luckily the gang loved it.

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I found this cool looking road leading into the forest.

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I just kept going and going. The fall colors were so beautiful.

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The road came to an end (well at least for us in the low slung TL). A higher vehicle could easily cross the creek and keep on going.

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We got out and just randomly walked around exploring the area. No joke here: this is where I was meant to be.

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Yup, that’s one happy Jason.

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We found a hiking trail, and ran with that for a while. The moss covered rocks caught my attention.

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After a few hours, it was time to head back to town. “BACK TO THA CHOPPA!”

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This is another of my favorite shots.

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Wait, did I make a wrong turn? How did I drive to Switzerland?

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The road back down the mountain had an awesome view of the town.

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Next on my list was Box Canyon Falls.

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The canyon was formed by the vicious rushing waters of Canyon Creek. Over time, they formed a deep and narrow box canyon.

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Here we are walking to the falls.

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The falls were actually somewhat hidden, but they sure made a lot of noise and mist.

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Next we checked out the Perimeter Trail which leads to some more breathtaking views of the town. This is scariest and most dangerous part that has taken lives. You hike along a narrow trail carved into the side of the cliff with only a cable to hang on to.

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The views…

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Now on to browsing the shops!

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Ouray locals claim they are the Jeep capital of the world. Not sure how accurate that is, but there were indeed a lot of Jeeps around. Many locals will even rent out their Jeeps. Never seen that before.

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Then we settled down in the Irish Pub for dinner. Our bodies were sore, tired and hungry. The food really hit the spot. My burger had bacon mixed in the patty and to make an already great burger better, Jennifer order some Guinness based BBQ sauce. Oh man, meat lovers rejoice!

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More to come! Stay tuned for Part II…

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