.All Trips / Hawaii / North America

“Pic of the Week”, January 30, 2015: Saddle Road, Hawaii

POD 04 Saddle Road Mona Kea

I love a scenic road-trip!  One of the greatest short drives in America is Saddle Road, which crosses between the dry and wet sides of the Big Island of Hawaii, across broad lava flows and the saddle between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, the world’s largest and tallest mountains respectively (base of Mauna Kea is 19000′ below sea level; the part above ocean is 13796′ high).  The drive is best done on a clear day, especially in the morning as it often clouds over in the afternoon.  It’s a windy road but of good quality.  It used to be that not all car rental companies allowed you to take your car rental across it, but the road is so good now …

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“Pic of the Week”, December 19, 2014: Ferns, Hawaii

POD 05a Ferns, Volcano House

The vegetation around the Visitor’s Center in Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii’s Big Island is in a cool tropical rainforest.  Situated at 4000′ above sea level (1220m) there’s a lush growth here including ferns of several varieties.  Some ferns are only inches tall, struggling for survival in the volcanic rock.  Others are up to 35 ft (10 m) in height, the size of a small tree.

While walking to the visitor center, I came across a thick patch of ferns, one of the larger ones including a lot of new growth that we in Canada like to call “fiddleheads”.  I’m not sure about this variety, but fiddleheads can make excellent eating.  Regardless of their culinary value, I’m fond of walking in forests rich in …

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.All Trips / Hawaii / North America

Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii, Redux

00 Volcanoes National Park.  Chain of Craters Road

I’m a huge fan of National Parks, and one of the most amazing parks anywhere is Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii’s Big Island.  When you visit, you’ll know why it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site!  I’ve previously shared some of my experiences here, which you can read at this link if you’re interested.

I recently revisited Volcanoes NP (something about the volcano draws me back again and again).  Kilauea is still active, currently only to a limited extent within the park boundaries itself, although this could change at any time as volcanoes are notoriously unpredictable.  Where Kileau’s lava flows are most active right now is outside the park in the southwestern part of the island near the …

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.All Trips / Europe / Northern Ireland

A Visit to Ireland: Part 9) the Giant’s Causeway

Giant’s Causeway 071  On the Giant’s Causeway

How can you resist visiting a geologic formation created by giants?  I couldn’t!  Situated on a five mile stretch of Northern Ireland’s rugged Antrim coast, the Giant’s Causeway is well worth going out of your way to see.  In fact, visiting it was the main reason we came to Northern Ireland on this trip.

The Causeway is comprised of an interlacing honeycomb of some 40,000 basalt columns of varying heights, mostly of hexagonal-shape but some pieces being five and seven-sided.  These columns are arranged in a stair-like fashion that’s fun to walk on and explore.

Geologists tell us these columns are due to ancient volcanic eruptions some 60 million years ago, with lava cooling under the right conditions resulting in the …

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“Pic of the Week”, December 20, 2013. Iao Needle, Maui, Hawaii

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Iao Valley State Park (pronounced “Yeow Valley!”) is a small park worth seeing not just for its physical beauty but its historic importance.  While the Iao Valley is really situated in the heart of the eroded West Maui Volcano, it can only be approached from Central Maui.   A several mile road winds its way up the Iao Valley from Wailuku, a lovely drive through lush rain-forest.

Iao Valley gets its name from the Iao Needle, a rock pinnacle stretching to 2250′ (just under 700 M) above sea level; it’s the subject of this week’s highlighted photo.  The adjoining small Iao Stream gently tumbles down the Valley in no way betraying that it was here in 1790 that …

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“Pic of the Week”, Sept. 13, 2013. Volcanoes National Park, Big Island of Hawaii

2013-037-Sept 13

I love visiting the Big Island — it’s such an awesome destination!  Where else can you walk on the tallest mountain in the world (Mauna Kea, as measured from it’s base on the ocean floor) and watch lava flow from an active volcano (Kilauea), all in one day?

This photo was taken in Volcanoes National Park on the Chain of Craters road.  Over the years lava flows have completely obstructed what once was a loop drive, but it’s still very interesting to see.  Park near the end of the road and walk out on to the hardened lava shield for a great view — Pacific Ocean on one side, and endless acres of recent lava on the other.

I love …

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.All Trips / Europe / Iceland

An all too brief visit of South Iceland

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Only a single day was left on this visit to Iceland, not nearly enough time but I did want my wife to see more of South Iceland.  Most travelers think the Southern part of Iceland has the country’s best and most dramatic scenery — from lovely waterfalls, recently erupted volcanoes, large glaciers (one with a very memorable glacial lagoon), to vast stretches of people-less space.

Of greatest importance was to get Sylvia on the back of an Icelandic horse and on a trail ride.  The staff at our hotel in Fludir recommended a nearby stable (one of dozens around South Iceland), so we headed there for the morning.  Sylvia had a wonderful ride on these small smooth-gaited horses (which she will …

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.All Trips / Hawaii / North America

The Valley Island of Maui: 2) Haleakala National Park

Haleakala-2013-001 intro

Volcanoes never cease to fascinate me!  Something about their massive size and primal earth shaping power appeals to my sense of curiosity and awe.  So it’s not surprising that I find Haleakala to be Maui’s most interesting place to visit.  There are no lodges or hotels in the park making it truly a day trip destination.  It’s easily accessible and besides a massive crater and awe-inspiring views, offers the chance to see some rare species — namely the Nene (Hawaiian goose) and Silversword (silver-green cactus-like prickly plant).

Some background on Haleakala….

In Hawaiian, Haleakala means “House of the Sun” — a great name for a mountain that stretches to the heavens and dominates Maui’s landscapes!  Haleakala National Park covers much of …

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