Archive for the ‘Vacation’ Category

We woke up early in Jackson, Wy on the last full day of our Yellowstone and Grand Tetons vacation. It had been a quick 3 day visit, but we had seen a lot. We had both visited the geysers and pools on previous trips to Yellowstone, so we spent the first two days checking out the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River area and taking a great hike on the Garnet Trail in the midst of the Tetons.

We really enjoyed Jackson Wyoming and hope to visit this area again soon. Our cabin at the Cowboy Village Resort, was comfortable and authentic. It reminded me quite a bit of the cabin we stayed at that the North Rim Lodge at the Grand Canyon.

cabin-at-cowboy-village-resort

It is a single room, and has a few more modern conveniences, but still a true log cabin.

bathroom-and-kitchenette-in-cabin-at-cowboy-village-resort

We were ready to head back to Yellowstone and have a relaxing day hanging out at the Old Faithful area. We would be driving through Grand Tetons National Park again, and we knew we would be stopping along the way to check out the sights. Because we wanted to see things from a different angle we headed west out of Jackson and turned north on highway 390. This goes by the Teton’s ski area, Teton Village and eventually connects with Teton Park Road. Although we loved the panoramic views we got of the Grand Tetons on our way to Jackson Wyoming, we were hoping to get a closer look than we had coming in on US 191 the first day. We weren’t disappointed. The mountains were definitely closer and in more detail as we drove into the park.

a-closer-approach-to-the-tetons

Every bend in the road gave a different look at these magnificent peaks. All of the views were spectacular, but some were a bit overwhelming.

grand-teton-straight-ahead-on-the-road

We were just one car of many winding our way toward the Grand Tetons that day.

cars-winding-their-way-toward-the-grand-tetons

Our first stop would be Jenny Lake. The views across this lake are well work the stop and a bit of scrambling to get down to the water.

jenny-lake-panorama

We spent a little more time and had lunch at our next stop, the Jackson Lake Lodge. This lodge was built in 1955 and is very impressive. The view out the lobby windows alone was worth the stop!

view-from-the-jackson-lake-lodge

We would definitely consider staying at this lodge on a future visit. It was a beautiful day, but for some reason not many of our pictures really captured the feeling. This one panorama shows a 360 degree plus view and comes closest to what we experienced.

360-panorama-of-jackson-lake-lodge

After stopping at Jackson Lake Lodge it was time to make some good time and make it to the Old Faithful area while we would still have some time to explore. We arrived around 3pm and headed straight to the main show. We grabbed a spot on the edge of the wooden viewing platform and waited for Old Faithful to do what Old Faithful does. After plenty of steam and anticipation, we were not disappointed!

Old Faithful

It was too early for dinner, but just about right for a snack so we headed over to the cafeteria. We just beat the majority of the crowd to line up at the ice cream shop! I took my ice cream out on to the patio facing Old Faithful and Jenny went in to look around and check out the gift shop. She planned to be back in time to see the next big show. We enjoyed the slightly different angle kicked back on a couple of rocking chairs on the Cafeteria’s porch!

view-of-old-faithful-kicking-back-on-the-cafeteria-porch

After the second show we got a little more ambitious and decided to tour the pools and geysers of the upper geyser basin. You cross the Firehole River first. It is obvious that this is not a hospitable place right away!

crossing-firehole-river-to-upper-geyser-basin

It was a partially cloudy, breezy day. A sunny calm day would be the best to get clear pictures that show the pool colors. But I’m not really complaining, we enjoyed the stroll around the pools and geysers, and got plenty of nice pictures. I found the beehive geyser to be pretty interesting.

bee-hive-geyser

I would love to see it erupt, but we only got to see steam. We didn’t feel the need to stick around the 10 hours to 5 days necessary to see the geyser erupt.

beehive-geyser-facts

give yourself plenty of time for this walk. The placards get lots of interesting information about what you are looking at. Although this place is visually interesting, the story behind the formations is even more interesting. Before we headed off Geyser hill to take in more of the trail, I zoomed in to get a picture of this formation.

castle-geyser-from-a-distance-zoomed-in

We commented that it looked like a castle. I guess we were not the first to think so, as this is called the Castle Geyser. We would pass right by the other side of this geyser near the end of our walk through the pools and geysers.

The first pool we came to after walking off Geyser Hill was liberty pool. We agreed this, like most of the area, was not beautiful in the traditional sense, but it was eye-catching. I like the way I got the reflection of the tree line in the picture.

reflection-of-trees-in-liberty-pool

The next feature was the Sawmill Geyser. It was erupting as we passed by. It does not go high, but it puts out a lot of steam and makes quite a bit of noise. You feel a bit concerned passing so close to it as it erupts (although Jenny doesn’t look too concerned here).

jenny-in-front-of-the-sawmill-geyser

Then comes the Spazmodic Geyser, which is much more calm, but it has two small pools and some interesting ground formations.

spazmodic-geyser

There are a few other smaller pools along the way. This is one of my favorite, although I don’t have its name.

clouds-reflecting-off-pool-upper-geyser-area

The last two we checked out before turning back toward the bridge over to the Castle Geyser and the path back to the lodge were the Beauty Pool…

yellowstone-beauty-pool

and the Chromatic pool.

chromatic-pool-yellowstone

I assume these pools change over time, although my pictures don’t do them justice, I’m not sure this was their best day either!

We planned to have dinner at the Lake Lodge and then check in to our room so we felt we needed to start heading back toward the lodge and the car rather than continuing down the pathway even further. There was a shortcut bridge that takes a path past the Castle Geyser. Although I think my zoomed in picture taken earlier from geyser hill looked the most like a castle of any angle, the formation formed by the Castle Geyser was still impressive up close.

castle-geyser

Last pool we passed as we approached a paved path back to the Inn was the crested pool. I liked the way this pool looked.

crested-pool

It was an easy walk back to the Old Faithful Inn from the Castle Geyser area. This lodge is very unique, with a very large and impressive log lobby area.

old-failful-lodge

It is even more impressive on the inside.

grand-log-lobby-in-the-old-faithful-lodge

There are stairs to platforms around the lobby, unfortunately an earthquake in 1959 destabilized the structure of these stairs and other parts of the lobby, so you can no longer climb above the second level.

We decided to have a beer out on the second level deck above Old Faithful and managed to walk out onto the deck just in time to catch a third Old Faithful eruption from yet another angle.

view-of-old-faithful-from-the-old-faithful-lodge-balcony

The drive to the Lake Village area is long, and after dark it is slow. The speed limits go down at night to prevent accidental wildlife strikes. Although we found the slower drive a bit tedious, we soon found out why it was necessary when we came upon several cars stopped in the road. A very large Elk was grazing on the side of the road. I stayed well back from him, and it was very low light, so the picture is not great, but you can tell that this was one big guy!

elk-on-the-side-of-the-road-at-dusk

After a few minutes enjoying the beverage and the view we headed back to our car and drove to the Lake Lodge. Unfortunately when we arrived we found that my memory (or understanding) of where our rooms were was faulty. Our reservations were actually on the other side of the lake at Grant Village. We decided to have dinner at the Lake Lodge, which was awesome, then head to Grant Village.

We would have much rather stayed at the Lake Lodge, it is a beautiful and historic hotel. We also were not looking forward to another long slow drive after dark. We arrived at Grant Village very late. There was no parking near the building our room was in so I had to make several long walks. After getting to our room we were even more disappointed that we were not staying at the Lake Lodge. The rooms at Grant Village appear to be very quickly and cheaply built. It is fairly low quality but reasonably priced. We are unlikely to stay there again or to recommend it. We did not spend any time in the area, so there may be good reason to stay here, but for just an overnight, it was uninspiring.

The next morning we had to head back to Bozeman to catch a flight back to San Diego. We decided to see something new, so we headed toward Yellowstone’s north entrance/exit. Not far before the exit is Mammoth Hot Springs. We stopped near the top of the Hot Springs and walked most of the way around the formation. Like many things in Yellowstone, this place is interesting, and somewhere between ugly and beautiful. The water flow moves around so some parts of the formation are dry and crumbling.

visitors-center-in-the-valley-below-mammoth-hot-springs

The parts with water flowing were the freshest and most attractive.

mammoth-hot-springs-water-flowing-from-formation

The view from the lower southeast corner of the Hot Springs was the most impressive, at least this year. The water was flowing fairly steadily and the pools and falls were in impeccable condition.

mammoth-hot-springs

After the drive out of the mountains the rest of the drive to Bozeman is pretty ordinary. It is worth it to go this way to see Mammoth Hot Springs, but if that is your main interest you may want to find out how much water is flowing for that year/season.

This 3 day trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons had been a quick visit, but we saw a lot. Each day had incredibly different sites to see. I hope we find the time to visit again, especially the Jackson Wyoming and Grand Tetons area. There are so many other things to see though, so I guess only time will tell. If this was our last visit to these areas, I feel like we made the most of it!

pigeon-point-light-house

About 5 years ago I planned a road trip from San Diego to Big Sur.  We ended up going all the way to San Francisco and getting married along the way.  After we were done we knew we wanted more, so this summer for our 5 year anniversary we will head back up the coast for more!

On our last trip we splurged a bit and rented a Volvo convertible for the trip. This is nearly perfect road trip in July with a convertible. We loved it so much my wife’s next vehicle was a BMW convertible. We’ve had the car a few years and just feel like we have not taken advantage of the car, the sun, and the coast enough. This will put that situation back into balance as we plan to do most of the trip up the coast or on back roads through other beautiful areas. Perfect places to put the top down and fully enjoy the drive.

The coastal drive from San Diego to LA is awesome, with both Laguna Beach and Santa Monica being on our favorite places list along this part of the coast.  However, we can do that drive on any weekend, so to get the most out of this trip we will bypass the coast between San Diego to Los Angeles.  We will likely drive up that far the night before we start our trip and stay in the Los Angeles area so we can start our drive along the coast bright and early.

Day 1.

Driving Time:  3.5 Hours
Places to explore:
Beaches from Malibu to Point Magu State Park
Ventura
Santa Barbara
Solvang
Pismo Beach (Cool Dunes)
San Louis Obispo (A favorite local musician Damon Castillo here)
Moro Bay

We don’t go beyond Los Angeles as often, and want to drive through Big Sur and add to our experiences in that area on this trip, so we will stay near the coast north/west of LA.  My wife, Jenny, grew up in San Fernando valley and spent many weekends and summer days on the beaches north of Los Angeles.  On our last trip she shared some stories that driving past this area brought back for her.  On this trip I hope we can make some time to visit at least her favorite beach (probably Leo Carrillo State Park) so we can enjoy her reminiscences again.    For lunch I would like something fun and romantic, but new.  We’ve eaten on Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara several times, so although I’m sure we would love it again, I want to do something different.  I’ve never been to Solvang, so that is an option.  We could do lunch and throw in some wine tasting, but will have to take it easy as we plan to drive a little further after lunch.  If we like a wine we can pick up a bottle or two for that evening.   Some of the best rated (on Yelp) wineries/tasting rooms in the Solvang area are: Carivintas Winery (they donate profits to animal charity, so part of the rating may be animal lovers), Shoestring Winery, Bella Cavalli Farms & Vineyard, or Cali Love Wine.  There are lots of other choices, but these are the ones that jumped out at me when looking at the reviews.

After Solvang we’ll likely be looking for a place to stay, the lodge at Vandenberg is the price winner, but I’ve stayed there a couple times and I’m thinking we could make it a bit further north.  So maybe we’ll look to stay in Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo or what I think would be best, based on the goal of the trip would be to stay in Moro Bay.

Day 2.

Driving Time:  3 Hours (approximately… Google maps would not give an estimate in January 2017 as Highway 1 was closed due to a mud slide.  Hope that is cleared by July!)
Places to Explore:

Moon Stone Beach Park
Hearst San Simeon State Park
Hearst Castle (San Simeon)
Lots of stops along the way at: Elephant Seal Vista Point, Point Piedras Blancas, Ragged Point, Salmon Creek Falls, Willow Creek Beach, Limekiln Falls, and at least 50 view points.
McWay Falls

Hikes:
Partington Cove Trail
and either:
Tanbark Trail loop (at the same trailhead as Partington Cove)
or
Ewoldsen trail (Same trailhead as McWay Falls which would be nice to visit again)

Leaving Moro Bay in the morning we would be driving the final stretch of California Highway 1 before Big Sur. It will be a great stretch of highway to put the top down and enjoy the drive along the coast.

On our last trip to Big Sur we stopped and toured “Hearst’s Castle” or San Simeon. There are multiple tours to do here, but this trip is about doing different things, so again I think we will drive past San Simeon and look for a hike or two further up the coast. We could drive right through Big Sur and keep going, but depending on what the rest of the trip plan is, I think one good option would be to spend the night again, so that we have time to check out some things we missed last time. We stayed at Big Sur Lodge in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park last time. It is a definite option again, but there are several other places in this area worth checking out too, like Deejens Big Sur Inn, Big Sur River Inn, or for a bit of a splurge Glen Oaks Inn, or if we want to spend a huge chunk of the vacation budget in one night… Post Ranch Inn.

With 2 days to explore we’ll have time to see some things we did not check out last time.

Day 3.

Driving Time:  Places to Explore:

High Bridge Falls
Andrew Molera State Park
Hurricane Point View
Bixby Creek Bridge
Rocky Creek Bridge
Point Sur State Historic Park
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve (lots of walking here too)
Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Berwick Park
Casanova Restaurant Carmel by the Sea

We’ll have a second day to explore Big Sur. Many of the sights are quick stops, but I think we will want to spend more time exploring Point Lobos, and possibly bike parts of the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail. I don’t think we will want to go too far up the coast after a full day exploring so our next night could be in Carmel by the Sea, Monterey, or if we are more ambitious Santa Cruz. Since we were married between Carmel by the Sea and Monterey, I think we’ll want to revisit some things there (especially the pretty little cove in Berwick Park where we were married) and explore some new things before we leave.

Day 4.

Driving Time:  3 Hours
Places to Explore:

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Natural Beach State Park
Coast Dairies State Park
Shark Fin Cove
Pescadero State Beach
Half Moon Bay State Beach
San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge
Sausalito
Muir Woods
Wineries near Santa Rosa and Sebastopol

Leaving the Monterey area it would be nice to drive along the coast as far as possible, but even better to take the fastest route past San Francisco to Muir Woods just north of San Francisco to explore. This has been on my list for a while, and I would love to be able to hike some (or all – it’s only about 6 miles) of the trails in Muir Woods. We had lunch in Half Moon Bay five years ago and really liked the vibe of the place. But then there are lots of cool places around here. Sausalito was another favorite on that trip and during our later visit to San Francisco when we bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. Either place would work for lunch before hiking in Muir Woods.

Then it would be good to head up the coast for a ways then turn inland to explore the Russian River wine country. Maybe dinner at a winery and then spend the night on the east side of this area, say in Sebastopol.

Day 5.

Driving Time:  3-5 Hours
Places to Explore:

Russian River Area Wineries (Iron Horse, Gary Farrell Winery, Korbel Winery, and others)
Highway 116 along the Russian River back to the coast
Sanoma Coast State Park
Fort Ross (Historic Russian Compound)
Stillwater Cove Regional Park
Salt Point State Park
Bowling Ball Beach
Point Arena Lighthouse and Museum
Point Cabrillo Lightstation
Westport Union State Beach Park
A beautiful drive by the coast with the top down!
Drive Through Tree Park

Then the next day take California state route 116 back to the coast along the Russian River. There are tons of places here to eat lunch. All of them are rated well, so we’ll just stop somewhere that looks cool once we get hungry. This day will mostly be about driving along the coast but I’m sure we will be stopping to check out some things along the way. That evening it would be nice to get to an area just south of Redwood State and National Parks. I think Myers Flat would be a good stopping point so we can enjoy the Avenue of the Giants drive the next day. There is an Inn and camping available in this fairly small town. Depending on how far we want to drive, we may want to stop sooner, either along the coast maybe Fort Bragg, or at a forest area before Myers Flat like the Redwood River Resort.

Day 6.

Driving Time:  3-4 Hours
Places to Explore:

Avenue of the Giants
Humboldt Redwoods State Park (Humbolt Redwood Hikes)

Del Norte Coast Readwood State Park (Damnation Creek Trail, Mill Creek Trails)

From Myers Flat it is only about 3 hours or less drive to Crescent City, but there are lots of places to explore. I would like to pick a couple easier hikes rather than one tough hike so we can explore different areas of the Redwood State and National Parks.

That night we could stay in Crescent City or continue on through some more Redwoods to Grants Pass Oregon.

Day 7.

Driving Time:  8-14 Hours

The next day the top would go up for what could be a very long drive on I-5 all the way down to San Diego. Optionally we could spend the night in Sacramento to break it in to a two-day trip.

Update (2/22/2017):  Highway 1 through Big Sur is not looking good for the summer of 2017.  So I’ll be updating the plan.    Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge has been condemned.  I’m pretty sure it will take more than a few months to replace that bridge.

panorama-on-the-garnet-trail-grand-tetons

We knew we would be hiking in Grand Teton National Park, but we had not chosen which trail to hike until the day before our hike. I had a list but was still doing research and we wanted to go with one that fit the way we felt when the time came. I’m not sure what source of info I was looking at, whether it was a National Park Service brochure, or some other guide, but the hike that jumped out at me was described as the easiest hike to an alpine meadow in the Grand Tetons. Easy sounded good and getting up high enough to feel like we were actually “in the Tetons” sounded great too. I do recommend Garnet Canyon Trail, but I would not in any way call it an easy trail. It is 8.4 miles out and back and over 2200 feet of climb. It is a very strenuous climb, and for much of the hike you will have panoramic view out over Grand Teton National Park, but you will have very little to look at “up the mountain”. But when you do finally get views “up the mountain”, they will take what little breath you have left away!

We got up fairly early to have breakfast, but we weren’t in a huge rush to get started. The temperature would be very reasonable even in the middle of the afternoon. We met up with Jenny’s cousin Charles to go with him on the hike. He had stayed nearby so we met at our hotel and then headed into downtown Jackson to get a light breakfast and a large coffee at Jackson Hole Coffee Roasters. The service and the coffee were very good.

The drive to the trail head was not bad from Jackson. We stopped at the visitor’s center briefly, then headed to the Lupine Meadows Trailhead. There is plenty of parking and it was fairly clear how to get to the trailhead from where we parked our car. We wasted no time in hitting the trail. The trail starts with a very misleading long flat stretch.

the-start-of-the-garnet-canyon-trail-is-misleadingly-flat

But eventually the trail turns toward the mountain and begins to climb.

trail-turns-uphill

The trail heads steadily straight up the mountain, gently at first and then getting steeper before starting long sweeping switchbacks. I may have under sold the lower parts of the trail in my intro. The trail climbs through the trees for much of the lower part of the trail.

charles-and-jenny-starting-the-climb

If you look up during the start of the hike you are likely to catch a glimpse of the Grand Teton peak through the trees.

view-of-the-grand-teton-near-the-bottom-of-the-trail

As you head up the trail further you won’t be able to see this peak, but you will be much closer to the Middle Teton and Nez Perce peaks. But before you get to that you’ll have lot’s of views out over the park, including some great views of Taggart and Bradley lakes at the base of this part of the mountain.

views-of-taggart-and-bradley-lakes-from-garnet-canyon-trail

After about a mile and a half Charles went ahead of us quite a ways. We were not in the best “hiking” shape we could be in and we were also struggling a bit with the altitude. We kept a nice steady pace, but it was sort of slow. When we got to the 3 mile mark there is a fork in the trail which is well-marked.

trail-junction-at-at-3-mile-mark-on-garnet-canyon-trail

Charles was waiting for us at the junction. The trail heads further up the mountain to some high mountain lakes. We talked to a couple of groups who were backpacking to this area to camp. We would be heading the other direction, more around the mountain than up it, to Garnet Canyon. Charles made a pitch to head back down instead, and decided he would head back either way. Although I was really feeling my lack of conditioning at that point, I was for continuing on. We decided to continue as we knew there would be some great view ahead of us.

After the junction the trail toward Garnet Canyon levels out quite a bit. The hike is easier, but we were pretty tired by this point. As we rounded the corner and headed onto the trail directly above Garnet Canyon excitement replaced fatigue. The Nez Perce peak came into view first.

nez-perce-peak-through-the-trees-on-the-garnet-canyon-trail

There was no one else around so we took a quick selfie with this peak behind us.

selfie-on-the-garnet-trail-grand-tetons-as-the-nez-perce-peak-comes-into-view

We were tired, but happy we had continued. The bear spray we had bought the previous day while checking out the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone River was hooked up and ready on my chest. Luckily we would not need it during this trip!

From this point the views would only get more spectacular. Just a little further up the trail we got a great view of both Nez Perce and Middle Teton peaks.

view-of-nez-perce-and-middle-teton-from-garnet-canyon-trail

Just a little further up the trail we ran into a group of hikers coming back down the trail. They let us know it was not much further to the end of the trail. They also took this picture of us.

eric-and-jenny-rial-on-garnet-canyon-trail

We decided to have a seat and enjoy some snacks around the next corner. There was a nice boulder to rest on…

snacks-and-a-break-near-the-end-of-the-garnet-canyon-trail

with a very sweet view! At this point the line of lava going up the face of the Middle Teton was very obvious.

nez-perce-and-middle-teton-peaks-from-garnet-canyon-trail

I explored a little further up the trail, but it was quickly turning in to just a jumble of rocks. Although we could have continued a little further it was time for us to head back. I got these final shots of a stream going down Garnet Canyon in the distance…

view-of-a-stream-descending-into-garnet-canyon-grand-tetons

and one last view up the canyon at the point I turned around.

view-of-our-turnaround-point-on-garnet-canyon-trail

The first part of the descent was beautiful all over again. I love when you get to see things from a different angle on the way back down a trail.

jenny-pausing-for-a-break-on-the-way-down-at-garnet-canyon-trail

In this shot, the lighting was perfect to see the pines reflecting on Bradley Lake from our angle on the trail above the lake.

pines-reflection-on-bradley-lake-grand-teton-national-park

As we got closer to the bottom though we started to feel it again. Sometimes going down can take it out of you too. I prefer going down hill, but for Jenny it is harder than going up. Hiking poles help, but a good smooth well maintained trail helps too.

heading-back-to-the-car-on-the-garnet-canyon-trail

We were glad to come to landmarks that let us know we were getting close to the end. We woke Charles up from his nap at the car and headed back to Jackson for a light dinner and a well deserved beer!

having-a-beer-above-the-jackson-town-square

I’m finishing this post up on December 31st 2016. During this trip I started to think of myself as “in the worst shape of my life”. I’ve done nothing in the nearly 5 months since this trip to change that. Over the last year I’ve only been in the gym intermittently, I’ve been unable to run, and I’ve not hiked enough to really make a difference either. It is a bit cliché, but I’m going to resolve to change my routine in the New Year. It may be a slow start as I have foot surgery near the end of January, but once I’m recovered from that I’m hoping to be able to get back to running. Before the surgery I plan to get a good start on getting out of the worst shape of my life! I have way too many things I want to do to be “out of shape” any longer.

Update Feb 13, 2017:  I got a good start on getting out of “the worst shape of my life” before my surgery.  It has been 3 weeks since my surgery and today was my first day in a regular shoe!  The foot is healing fast and already feels better in many ways than it did before the surgery.  So glad to have the irritating hardware out of my foot.  I’m hoping to get in to the gym by the end of this week (about a month post surgery) for some weight training and maybe a light elliptical workout.  I have an all-inclusive resort on white sand beach to prepare for!

We were lucky enough to be invited to the wedding of the son of close friends in Bozeman Montana at the beginning of August 2016.  Unfortunately for us we already had floor tickets to Adele in Los Angeles the day before the wedding.  These were tough tickets to get and even tougher tickets to sell or give away.  For better seats Adele had set a rule to reduce/prevent scalping that the person who ordered the tickets had to present a credit card to get into the venue.  There were no tickets to sell.  We wanted to go to the wedding so we checked for flights from the LA area the morning of the wedding.  There were very reasonably priced flights from John Wayne airport to Bozeman early Saturday morning, so we decided to go to the concert, stay in LA, and drive to the airport early that morning. We also decided to add-on a visit to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National park to the trip. It would be a fast 3 day visit, but we would pack a lot of stuff into those 3 days.

The Adele concert was awesome and our hotel was walking distance from Staples Center, but we still got to bed fairly late and had to get up at 4 am to catch our flight. We got into Bozeman early, but by the time we got our rental car we had just enough time to go to our hotel, check-in, change and head to the wedding. The wedding venue was awesome, but there were dark clouds approaching.

Wedding Venue Bozeman Montana

We had a great time at the wedding, but started to feel the long day way too soon. We hung in there, but eventually had to head back to the room and catch up on our sleep. The next day everyone else was heading out-of-town early, so we got up fairly early, had breakfast at a terrific French coffee shop, then heading toward Yellowstone. Originally we had planned to go in the north entry into Yellowstone as it is closest to Bozeman, but later decided to go in the west entrance and leave out of the north entrance on the final day.

So we headed down Highway 191 through the Big Sky area on our way to West Yellowstone. A friend recommended this route and now that we’ve gone both ways, I would definitely recommend this route. It is has very scenic landscape, and we saw both elk…

elk-grazing-in-big-sky-montana

and buffalo along the road. I believe the buffalo was a commercial herd, but still cool.

buffalo-along-highway-191-outside-yellowstone

We only stopped briefly in West Yellowstone, but it looked kind of interesting for a future visit. Our first destination in the park was Canyon Village. Both Jenny or I have been to Yellowstone before, but neither of us had visited the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. We did end up having one unscheduled stop along our route though, Gibbon Falls.

We planned to just stop for a minute to take a couple of pictures from the closest view-point…

gibbon-falls-from-the-lookout-area

but ended up walking on a path for about a half a mile…

trail-along-the-road-to-the-lower-overlook

to get a better view of the falls. The view actually changes quite a bit as you walk along the path to the lower viewpoint. At first there view opens up so you can see the walls on both sides of the falls.

the-view-of-gibbon-falls-along-the-walk-to-the-lower-overlook

Then it opens up even more and there are trees in the view also.

view-of-gibbon-falls-from-the-lower-overlook

We enjoyed the break from the car and the short walk, but then it was back on the road to the Canyon area of Yellowstone. The one advantage of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone over the Grand Canyon, is the much shorter drive from the North Rim to the South Rim.

map-of-the-grand-canyon-of-yellowstone-area

We were able to see the canyon and falls from most of the view points in just a few hours. We did three short hikes during this time. We started with a drive along North Rim Drive. I would actually recommend going to the South Rim first as the North Rim Drive is a one way that takes you back the way you came for several miles. It just makes more sense to do it last. The first stop on North Rim Drive is a trail to the Brink of the Lower Falls. The weather was threatening rain, but of course we had forgotten to pack ponchos. We decided a little water would not hurt and started down the trail. The trail is less than a half mile, but descends about 600 feet. There are switchbacks, but it is still pretty steep. If you look up on the way down, you get a pretty good view of the Upper Falls less than a mile up the Yellowstone River.

view-of-the-upper-falls-as-we-walked-down-to-the-brink-of-the-lower-falls

The rain was threatening and we could hear thunder in the distance so we knew our visit would be a fairly short one. The falls are impressive. We’ve been to Yosemite several times, and the waterfalls are impressive, but the lower falls at the Yellowstone River’s Grand Canyon are right there with any falls in Yosemite. That is especially true this late in the year. The waterfalls slow to a trickle in the late summer and fall in Yosemite. Our first view was from directly over the top of the falls.

view-of-the-lower-falls-from-the-brink-of-the-lower-falls

The view of the water, and the mist, and the green sides of the canyon set against the golden color of the rest of the canyon was spectacular. I can’t recommend visiting this place in strong enough terms, it is my favorite spot in Yellowstone.

I stretched the camera out a ways and got a slightly different angle/shot.

leaned-out-for-a-better-look-at-the-lower-falls-from-the-brink-of-the-lower-falls

This shows how sudden the drop is and how much water is flowing. Finally we went up one level to get a different perspective. This shows the area we had just left, right on the “brink of the falls”.

view-from-a-higher-vantage-point-of-the-brink-of-the-lower-falls-viewing-area

It started drizzling at that point. We were really wishing we had ponchos, but it was a bit late for that. The walk back up was a bit tougher, but it was cool and the threat of heavier rain kept us motivated. There is also a trail from here to the Brink of the Upper Falls, but with the weather we decided to drive further down the road. The next place we stopped on North Rim Drive was Lookout Point. There’s a full view of the Lower Falls from here.

view-of-the-lower-falls-from-lookout-point-at-the-grand-canyon-of-yellowstone

If you look closely in the picture from lookout point you can see a wooden trail heading down into the canyon below. Although the rain had started to fall, we decided to head down this trail to Red Rock anyway. The trail alternates between a steep and more gentle descent. It not only takes you down into the canyon, it takes you a lot closer to the falls. I enjoyed the trail…

along-the-trail-from-lookout-point-to-red-rock

but the view of the falls from Red Rock were even better than from lookout point.

view-of-the-lower-falls-of-yellowstone-river-from-red-rock-in-the-rain

There is something joyful about hiking unprepared in the rain. Sometime it’s hard to contain that feeling so you just have raise your arms to the sky!

jenny-raising-her-arms-to-the-rain-at-red-rock-with-the-lower-falls-of-yellowstone-river-in-the-distance

Jenny seemed to enjoy it so much… I didn’t want to get left out!

eric-rial-raising-his-arms-to-the-rain-at-red-rock-with-the-lower-falls-of-yellowstone-river-in-the-distance

We stayed to enjoy the view for several minutes. I managed to get a picture of this bird (Clarks Nutcracker I believe), resting for a minute in the top of a tree between us and the falls.

clarks-nutcracker-perched-on-a-treetop-in-front-of-the-lower-fall-of-the-yellowstone-river

We waited just long enough to catch the blue sky starting to peek out at the top of the falls. Love the coloring of this picture!

blue-sky-appearing-behind-the-falls

On the way back up I took this picture of the wooden stairs that form the path for much of the bottom of this trail. You can see the rim of the canyon above us.

view-of-the-stairs-as-we-climb-back-to-the-rim-of-the-canyon

I got a couple more pictures near the top of the trail. One back toward the Lower Falls…

one-last-picture-of-the-lower-falls-from-near-the-top-of-the-trail-from-lookout-point-to-red-rock

and the other away from the falls and into the canyon.

view-of-the-canyon-away-from-the-lower-falls-from-near-the-top-of-the-trail-between-red-rock-and-lookout-point

We were soaked to the bone by the time we got to the top. We did take some pictures (evidence), but the smiles could not hide the cold, wet, and a bit worn-out from the climb look. No need to share that look!

We decided to go the Canyon Lodge area for some supplies (bear spray and some ponchos) and to get a bite to eat. Then we headed to the North Rim. Even though the route we took was not the most efficient route, everything is pretty close together here, so we didn’t lose much time, just enough to dry most of the way out!

Our first stop on the North Rim was at Uncle Tom’s point. There is a trail here that leads to a metal staircase that takes you right beside the Lower Falls. The pictures from here were unbelievable. If you are in reasonable shape, definitely go down this trail! The trail is in good shape, but the fun part of the trip is the stairs and the views of the falls.

The first view you get of the falls are some of the best. You are close enough to see the size of the crowd on the Brink of the Lower Falls.

initial-view-of-the-lower-falls-from-uncle-toms-trail

That is near the top of the stairs. There are lots of stairs – 328 per the sign.

some-of-the-stairs-on-uncle-toms-trail

The stairs are impressive mostly because of the spectacular view from them.

the-lower-stairs-and-canyon-on-uncle-toms-trail

You get great views of the canyon down river…

rainbow-over-the-yellowstone-river

of the walls straight across the canyon…

view-of-the-canyon-from-uncle-toms-trail

and of course of the falls.

jenny-and-eric-at-toms-point-grand-canyon-of-yellowstone

Then you get to climb back out! At the top, we debated whether to go on to Artist Point or to hit the road to Jackson Hole, where we would be spending the night. It’s about a 2 and a half hour drive. I’m glad we decided on a quick visit to Artist Point.

From the parking lot at Artist Point it is a short walk to the end of the trail. The difference in the view you get as you walk is dramatic though. At first you catch glimpses of the falls through the trees.

view-of-the-lower-falls-of-yellowstone-river-from-artist-point-trail

The trail takes advantage of a curve in the river so as you walk down the trail the canyon seems to open up and fill your view. At first the trees still dominate the view.

another-view-of-yellowstone-canyon-from-artist-point

But eventually as you approach the end of the trail you can see the full canyon and a long stretch of the river.

canyon-views-open-up-as-you-approach-the-end-of-the-artist-point-trail

From the farthest point you can walk to, the view of the canyon dominates the landscape.

full-view-of-grand-canyon-of-yellowstone-river-and-lower-falls-from-artist-point

I could spend a whole day at this location just taking pictures with different lighting. It is obvious how this place got its name.

We had seen a lot, but not all of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, but it was time to head south. Our route would take us through a big chunk of Yellowstone, past Yellowstone Lake and through Grand Teton National Park. We were hoping there was enough daylight left to enjoy the drive. About a half hour into the drive we noticed a lot of cars stopped in the road. As we approached the area we could see why. There were several buffalo grazing near the road.

traffic-stopped-for-some-buffalo-near-the-road

The traffic was just crawling past this spot and we were at a complete stop several times. We saw the “classic” behavior that can lead to big issues around such big animals. Too many people, too much activity, and people getting way too close. One young lady got to within 30 feet or so to take a selfie. She turned her back on the buffalo smiled big and took her picture. I was afraid to watch!

We took a picture (not great, but good enough for me) from the car as the traffic crawled along.

yellowstone-buffalo-picture-from-our-car-window

We zipped past Yellowstone Lake. We would be back here in a couple days, and we were anxious to get to Grand Teton Park. We got there in time to get some great views of the Tetons. Although we had zipped by Yellowstone Lake, we could not help stopping for pictures of the Tetons across the lakes we were passing in Grand Teton Park.

clouds-floating-above-the-silhouette-of-the-distant-grand-tetons

A few minute later we stopped again with a slightly better view of the mountains.

grand-tetons-visible-in-the-distance-across-a-lake

At this point we were worried about getting to Jackson in time to get a good dinner. We would be back to spend the whole day in Grand Teton Park the next day, so I told Jenny we should not stop any more. Of course a few minutes later I looked over at the mountains, exclaimed “Whoa Nelly” and pulled over again. The full view of the mountains as the sun was setting was too good to pass up. I took a landscape view picture with my phone…

grand-tetons-just-after-sunset

and then this panoramic shot.

panorama-of-grand-tetons-after-sunset

Our reservations in Jackson were at the Cowboy Village Log Cabin Resort. We checked in quickly and got our stuff into our cabin, then walked a couple blocks to have dinner at Snake River Brewing. The service, food, beers, and atmosphere were a perfectly relaxing end to a full day.

We would be having breakfast with a friend, Charles, in the morning, enjoying Jackson Hole for a bit and then going for a hike in the Tetons. We had chosen what was described as the “easiest alpine meadow hike in the Tetons”. But more on that in the next post.

We slowed things down for the last couple days in Maui. We spent both days at the beach and tooling around Lahaina. On Friday we spent most of the day at Black Rock Beach. We got very lucky at the small public parking lot near the Sheraton Resort. Just as we pulled in a car was leaving, so we nabbed a terrific parking spot. We set up our chairs on the beach and hit the water. We headed toward the black rock area. There were several people jumping off rocks there. I was not interested in climbing up there but my friend Dave jumped off a couple of times. I had bought a disposable underwater camera, one of the few things that still uses film. I tried to get pictures of him as he hit the water, but the camera was not that sensitive. In fact I had a really hard time telling when it actually took a picture – no click!

Jenny got one picture of me under the water.

Eric diving under the water

The other pictures we took like that did not turn out. We really have grown used to being able to look at the pictures we take immediately on our digital cameras. At some point I would like to get a good underwater enclosure for my digital camera. Until then I’ll have to go back to hoping the pictures I take are good.

We swam over past the end of the protected area of black rock beach to an area with nice coral. The coral was not the best I’ve ever swam above, but it was pretty nice. The waves “fairly gently” moved us in and back out from the shallows near the edge of the water. I say fairly gently because every so often a bigger wave would come in and push quite a bit harder. I backed off regularly to be sure that I would not be pushed into the rocks.

I love gliding over coral. It feels like you are visiting a different world. I’m very comfortable in the water and could spend hours floating in an area like this. Twice while I floated in this area a turtle passed by. Both times I followed behind the turtle as it swam over the coral. My goal was to get a picture of a turtle and the state fish of Hawaii, the humuhumunukunukuapua’a together in a single picture. I didn’t miss my chance to get several shots of the turtles while I waited. I got a couple good shots of the first one as it passed over the coral.

turtle-gliding

turtle-passing-over-the-coral

I really like the lighting for this shot of the second turtle.

green-turtle-gliding

Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to get the turtle and fish together, but I did get this picture of the humuhumunukunukuapua’a swimming near a bluespine unicorn fish.

humuhumunukunukuapuaa-and-a-bluespine-unicorn-fish

After a couple trips into the water and plenty of time on the beach we decided to get drinks and pupus at the pool bar at the Sheraton. I definitely recommend spending some time there the next time you are in Maui!

That night we had dinner at Kimo’s in Lahaina. I really recommend this place for the food, the location, and the service. The view from our table wasn’t too bad either.

view-from-our-dinner-table-at-kimos

On our last full day in Maui we decided to really go casual. We grabbed the boogie boards and drove away from Lahaina along Honoapiilani Highway until a spot grabbed us. This was the unlikely spot we chose to hangout, swim, and boogie board along Honoapiilani Highway.

The beach was a bit rocky, the road a bit close, and the surf a bit shallow, but we had a great time and managed to slow the day down as much as possible. Although it might not look like much from the road we had a place to set up the chairs without walking far, and without fighting a crowded beach. There was one other family near us, but that was it. We were also able to set up under a tree, so we had some shade. The tree also helped frame some nice shots of the beach.

playing-in-the-water-at-a-roadside-beach-in-maui

getting-some-boogie-boarding-in-on-our-last-full-day-in-maui

But it was more a day for relaxing than taking pictures. Right before we left unfortunately Jenny cut her foot on a rock under the water. It was a pretty bad cut. The only good thing about it was it didn’t happen on our first day! We got some first aid items on the way back to the condo, fixed her up and enjoyed the rest of the night visiting and doing some last minute souvenir shopping in Lanai.

On the last day we had arranged to meet a local man at the airport to get a turtle he carved for us during the week. We had met him on the street in Lahaina. I was a bit unsure of how well the turtle would turn out but we were very happy with the end result.

maui-carved-turtle-souvenir

We decided to give him a nice tip on top of the agreed upon price.

It’s been a year since we went on this trip (yes I’m way behind on my blog posts). I’m really glad we decided to visit all the different islands rather than just going back to Kauai again. We loved Kauai and will definitely visit there again, but our next visit to Hawaii will most likely be to the big island of Hawaii and Hawaii Valcanoes National Park. It may be a year or two before we can put that on the schedule. Until then we’ll have lot’s of good memories from this trip.

To see all our Tropical Vacation Posts go to our Tropical Vacation Posts page.

On day five of our trip to Maui, we had scheduled to do a bike tour down from Haleakalā crater. This had been on my list of things to do since I lived in Oahu in the early 90’s. We had bought a “Things to do in Hawaii” VHS tape with the plan to visit the other islands while we lived there. I hate to admit it, but we never visit one of the other islands. We were there 4 years, but expected to be there a couple more years. Our tour was cut short when my billet went away during the downsizing of the Marine Corps after the first Gulf War. So this was my chance to do something I had wanted to do for quite some time.

The tour company, Maui Mountain Cruisers, got us to the top of Haleakalā well before sunset. Since we all got up very early it was a quiet trip. A few lucky folks even got in a nap. I rested, but was awake for vans sprint up the curvy road. Just before the park the caravan of vehicles pulled to the side of the road to disconnect the trailer with our bikes. We would be returning to this point, just outside the park to start our bike ride down the mountain, after a visit to the crater to see the sunrise. At the crater, everyone got out quietly, stretched and visited the restrooms in the visitor’s center. It was dark and cold, but calm. We had separated with no designated rendezvous location, so it took a few minutes to reconnect. Even though there as a large group of people around, the calm quiet and dark surroundings gave me a sense of peaceful loneliness and other worldly isolation. Once we reconnected, Jenny and I looked for a good place to observe the sunrise. All of the spots close to the crater were 3-4 people deep, so we headed up hill to find a clear view. Although it was very dark around us, the clouds below us were bright with the pre-dawn light.

Haleakalā crater at sunrise

This picture shows some of the people waiting for the sunrise. We had separated from Dave and Wendy. They were likely down closer to the rim of the crater.

Watching the sunrise at Haleakalā crater

After getting several photos of the clouds we decided to move down closer to join the crowd. Just before the sun rose above the clouds was the best time to get a good picture.

Sunrise above the clouds at Haeakala crater

I took a video of the sunrise. A couple of ladies led a Hawaiian chant as the sun rose. The chant definitely added to the experience, so I’m glad I took the video. The audio is much better than the video, so I won’t likely post the video. I did pan around the crowd of people watching the sunrise and happened to find Dave and Wendy finally in the crowd

People watching the sunrise at Haleakala Crater

The video stopped right as the sun rose above the clouds.

Sunrise above the clouds at Haleakala Crater Maui

After the sunrise the glare from the sun made it difficult to get a good picture. This one of the crater was one of my favorite.

View of Haleakalā crater

The pictures I took of people didn’t turn out very good. To much back lighting. This one of Jenny and Wendy with the crater in the background turned out the best.

Wendy and Jenny bundled up after just after the sunrise at Haleakala crater

Once the sun was fully up, everyone took advantage of the restrooms one more time, then we loaded back in the vans to head back down to the trailer with the bikes, just outside the park. Apparently several years ago, the park changed their policy about bike tours and all of the biking companies now have to start their bike tours from locations just below the entrance to the park. Only people who bring their own bikes up to the crater can ride from the top.

There are several options for tour companies. Some allow you to ride down at your own pace, but we chose a company that guides you down. The main advantage of that is that a van with a trailer drove behind the last bike in the center of the road so cars would not be able to pass us without warning. Every few miles we would pull over to let cars pass. This was much safer and let us focus on the road ahead and the view. This arrangement also allowed anyone who was not enjoying the steep downhill curves to opt out and ride down in the van. I can’t imagine doing that, but if you are not sure you will be good with this ride, this gives you the option to at least try.

At one of the most scenic pullouts, we did a few poses for the camera.

Eric and JeJust before the sunrise above the clouds was the best time to get a good picture. nny on the ride down from Haleakala crater

Dave and Wendy on the ride down from Haleakala

Although this was not my favorite thing I did in Maui (snorkeling with the turtles gets that prize), I’m glad we decided to do this tour. It was definitely a unique experience. There aren’t many other places in the world where you can watch a sunrise over a volcanic crater above the clouds and then ride a bike 20+ miles downhill.

To see all our Tropical Vacation Posts go to our Tropical Vacation Posts page.

We had considered going snorkeling at Honolua Bay on day four. The weather on that side of the island was not cooperating so we decided to spend the day exploring the island. We started by heading to Iao Valley State Park.  The weather was not perfect, there were low clouds and an off and on light rain, but the park is absolutely gorgeous! It is everything I expect to see when I visit Hawaii. There were small rain fed waterfalls off the mountains as we drove into the park.

View from the parking lot at Iao Valley State Park

On the other end of the parking lot the iconic Iao Needle rose to the fuzzy bottom of the clouds.

View of the Iao Needle from the parking lot

 

With a light drizzle we hung around the entrance to the park for a while and got some pictures of each other and together with the star of the park in the background.

Rials and Clamans in front of Iao Needle

 

It didn’t seem like the rain would get worse so we decided to explore.  There are a couple of loops of trails in the park. One goes directly down to a small stream that runs through the park. The other takes a larger loop through the park.  We decide to take the longer loop through the park.   The longer loop trail is still an easy walk.  It is paved and only .6 miles in length.  It is a very scenic tropical park.  The loop trail has several views of Ioa Stream.  View of Ioa Stream

 

The trail passes very close to the stream around the middle of the walk.

 

Dave and Wendy ahead of us on the long loop trail Iao State Park

 

One of the best views on the trail is near the end when you have a view of the stream, needle and the bridge near the start of the loop.  My picture does not do the view justice!

View of Ioa Stream Ioa Needle and bridge near beginning of trail

 

It is a short climb back up to the entrance of the park.  Although it is a short trail, the unusual heat and humidity was back again for our third full day in Maui.  We were glad to get back in the car and enjoy the A/C.  We headed up the side of Haleakalā Volcano, not to the crater, that was in the plan for early the following day, but to the Maui Wine company on the side of the mountain.

Maui Wine sign

The winery is in a beautiful location.  It covers a large area and is very well maintained.  There are several buildings so it may take a minute to find the tasting room. Just go to the building straight behind the carved tree trunks.

Tree trunk carvings in front of the Maui Wine Tasting room building

The wine was OK, the tasting was fun, and the location couldn’t be beat. We bought some of the wine to enjoy when we got back to the condo. We also looked around the small store for gifts and ideas. I particularly liked this table.

View of the ocean over the sugar cane at the Ocean Vodka Distillery

I took a picture of it to remind myself when I got home. I really like the style, but not sure where it would fit in our house. Very cool table though. This picture is also a reminder that my camera was broken through the whole trip. In fact it had been broken through both our trip to Maui, and our early trip to the Grand Canyon for a rim to rim hike. I have gotten it fixed since then. It was a warranty repair. However, the camera is not well designed. It’s power button is too easy to push accidentally. It is constantly opening in my pocket and even in the small case we have to keep the dust off it when we are hiking. It is a Nikon S9700. I have looked at the Nikon S9900 and noticed that on the updated camera they put the power button in between 3 other controls that protect it from being accidentally pushed. I’m glad they fixed their design issue, but that won’t help me the next time the camera breaks from opening the zoom lens inside an enclosed place (pocket or case). Hopefully it will last a couple more years and by then it will be likely that I’ll be ready for a new one anyway.

After the winery we went across the street to the ranch store for lunch, they have a pretty good grill/deli. From there we headed back down the mountain and we did a quick stop at the Surfing Goat dairy. No the goats don’t surf, but there are a lot of surfboards around the property and by the table the stand on while they are being milked!

Eight nannys a milking

Vodka Distillery. Unfortunately it was too late for a tour, but we checked out their store and walked around the grounds. Their is a terrific view down the mountain and out to the ocean from a grassy area surrounded by sugar cane. They offer this as a wedding venue. That would be a great place to tie the knot!

View of the ocean over the sugar cane at the Ocean Vodka Distillery

Then it was time to head back to the condo in Lahaina. We didn’t plan much that evening because we had a sunrise bike ride down from Haleakalā Crater. It had been a relaxing day in paradise. I’m definitely ready at this point for some more of that!

To see all our Tropical Vacation Posts go to our Tropical Vacation Posts page.

We decided to hit the beach again on day three in an area that we had not visited yet. We had considered some of the condos available on VRBO for the Wailea area. Wailea is in the southwest part of Maui at the base of Haleakala. This part of Maui has lower priced condos, hotels, and restaurants than Lahina, and the beaches north of there. It is less tourist focused, but still has some terrific beaches.

We initially decided to get a late breakfast at Kihei Caffe across from Kalama Beach Park. However, it’s a popular place and had a very long wait. On the recommendation of the hostess we changed our plans and went around the corner to a much less busy, but still highly rated South Shore Tiki Lounge. Our late breakfast turned in to an early and very relaxed lunch. We drove by a couple beaches that did not quite do it for us. Not enough beach or sun, but still a little bit of paradise.

Small bay cloudy morning Maui

We finally got to the end of civilization as the road started to be surrounded by lava fields and cactus. We decided to turn around and checkout Mekena State Beach park. This was a winner. There was plenty of parking, and a (long) path to the beach. We took some chairs, boogie boards and the rest of our stuff with us and set up on the beach. There were still pretty thick scattered clouds when we got there.

Makena State Beach Park scattered clouds

But it didn’t take long for the clouds to clear away, except a few hanging over Lania. The sky turned a beautiful blue and we settled in for a nice long afternoon at the beach.

Makena State Beach Park a few clouds over Lanai

Of course it was still unusually hot and humid for October in Hawaii. The sun was very bright in the late afternoon.

Bright afternoon sun on Makena State Beach Park

But we had the cure for the heat and the sun right in front of us. The beautiful warm waters of the Pacific Ocean. We went back and forth between relaxing on the beach and swimming and boogie boarding in the water. A classic day on a tropical beach!

As it got later in the afternoon, it was time to head out. Dave and Wendy had wanted to try the Mai Tai’s at Monkeypod Kitchen, so we stopped there on the way home. We had been eating and snacking at the beach so we just ordered pupus. The mai tais were definitely unique with a honey lilioko’i foam on the top. We enjoyed the mai tais a bit more than the pupus, but that was OK, as I said, we weren’t really that hungry. We got one group picture…

Relaxing at Monkeypod Maui

before heading outside to see the sunset.

Sunset as we were leaving Monkeypod Kitchen Maui

Then we drove back to our condo in Lahina to rest up for our next day in Maui. Although we planned to visit a well rated snorkeling place in the morning, the weather would not cooperate with those plans. The nice thing about Maui though, at least during our visit, is that it might be raining hard in one area, but sunny and clear in another. My next post will cover what we did instead of snorkeling.

To see all our Tropical Vacation Posts go to our Tropical Vacation Posts page.

Rain forest blurs by on the Road to HanaOn Day 3 in Maui we got up early to hit the Road to Hana!  This is a tourist must do, so if you’re a tourist… you do it.  It is a road in fairly poor condition.  That is probably because all those tourist keep driving on it and wearing it out!  But it is far from a tourist trap, it is well worth the drive.  It takes you through and to some of the most beautiful parts of Maui… if you’re one of those people who like tropical paradise anyway.

We got up early to head to the other side of the island.  The goal was to get to Paia and the start of the road to Hana before the traffic got too heavy.  We planned to drive fairly straight through to the end so we would have time to hike the Pipiwai Trail.  Then we would stop on the way back if there was anything else we were interested in.  The traffic was not too bad as we headed from Lahaina to Kahului.  There were some low clouds on the mountains, but it was a pretty clear morning otherwise.  We decided we would want to stop at Paia on the way back, it looked like a nice small village with several interesting shops.  We kept driving steadily until we got to the halfway point.  We didn’t stop along the way but we definitely enjoyed the drive!

Nice view from a very wet Road to Hana

There is a sign at the halfway point along the road that is also “conveniently” right beside a roadside stand that sells snacks and different varieties of banana bread.

Near a fruit stand halfway to Hana

 

We got snacks, drinks, and Wendy got some very tasty banana pineapple bread.  We wanted a little longer break from the car so we decided to sit on some picnic tables near the stand.  I got there first and noticed a small beautifully colored bird on a small wall beside the picnic tables.  I managed to get one good picture before he flew away.

Red Crested Cardinal as we took a break halfway to Hana

Then it was back on the road!

Zipping along the Road to Hana

I took a few quick pictures of falls on the way by, like this drive by shot of the three bears falls, but we did not stop again until we were past Hana.

Drive by view of the 3 bears falls on the Road to Hana

The temperature and humidity were big factors in our day again.  It was well over 80 degrees and very humid by the time we started our hike along the Pipiwai Trail.  We took a wrong turn at the beginning… I’ll take credit for that… and ended up on the 7 pools trail.  I realized we were headed toward the water instead of inland after less than a quarter-mile, so we turned around quickly, but it had been all down hill to this point, so it was all uphill on the way back.  By the time we got to the start of the trail we were already very hot and sweaty!

Heading up the start of the Pipiwai trail

The trail continued uphill through the Oheo Gulch.  The first sign I noticed was quite a serious warning.

Warning sign on Pipiwai trail near Falls of Makahiku viewpoint

As I looked up the trail past this sign I saw that my friend Dave had obviously ignored the warning as he was standing right on the muddy edge of the cliff.

Dave looking out at a water fall on Pipiwai Trail Maui

My first thought was, “What could possibly be worth standing there?”.  As I walked up to see what he was looking at I realized it was indeed worth looking at, although I stayed a little further back and still got a great view of the falls of Makahiku.  Although it is hard to put this picture in perspective, the falls are about 180 feet high!

Falls of Makahiku

Next we came to a quite impressive Banyan Tree.  Unfortunately my camera had began to act up.  Between the humidity and sweat it began to have issues focusing and was taking mostly terrible pictures.   I did get one more decent picture that I snapped quickly as we walked by of a double falls below the trail.

Small double falls beside the Pipiwai Trail in Maui

After that picture I ended up taking better pictures the rest of the hike with my Samsung phone.  One of my favorite places of all time came next, it was a huge bamboo forest.  The trail cut through it up the hill, but you could see very little beyond a few feet off the trail.  I really didn’t get as many good pictures as I wish I had, but I’ll share a few.  This one was near the start of the trail.

Jenny and Wendy near the start of the Bamboo Forest on the Pipiwai Trail

I took a ton of pictures on this part of the trail.  The lighting was amazing, but I never quite got the picture I was shooting for, this was one of the trail…

Photo stop in the Bamboo Forest on the Pipiwai trail

and this one looking up, where the best I could get.

Bamboo Forest Pipiwai Trail Road to Hana Maui

This last one was actually on the way back later but I like it because we are all in it and it also shows the wooden pallets that were on parts of the trail.  There were also a couple of bridges.  You can tell we were on the way back because Jenny and I were soaked to the bone.  We were sweating, but not that much… we had decided to take our chances and go under the water fall at the end of the trail.

All of us in the Bamboo

 

After the bamboo forest, the trail continues though a very lush jungle.  It was actually a few degrees cooler in the bamboo than on the rest of the trail.  We missed the coolness as we finished up this last part of the hike up to Waimoku Falls.  We stopped just before the falls to have lunch on some rocks in a small stream.

Having lunch on the rocks in the stream near Waimoku Falls

There was an easy trail to a place to view the falls, but while Dave cooled off in a pool below the rocks, and Jenny and Wendy got the lunch together I decided to explore downstream.  The stream came to a merge point with another stream coming from the direction of the falls, so I decided to head that way.  After a little boulder jumping I got to a place where I could see the falls through the trees.

Sneak peak of Waimoku falls

I was ready for lunch, but my curiosity got the better of me so decided to continue on to get a better view from this angle.  It was a very nice view and worth the effort.  I headed back the same way I had come after admiring the 430+ foot falls for a bit.  It was time to have a sandwich and relax a bit.

Waimoku Falls

After lunch we all headed to the regular trail to the falls.  The trail stopped well back from the falls with a lot of warning signs to stay out of the area below the fall.  I imagine when there is heavy rains this area could fill with water very quickly.  We decided to go “a little” closer.  The path to the falls crosses the stream early then you walk along a very rocky path.  From this angle the view of the fall is not bad either!

Waimoku Falls as we approach on the trail beyond the warning signs

 

I tried using my phone’s panorama mode to get a picture of Dave and Wendy near the base of the falls.  It turned out OK… they were a bit blurry, the falls are a bit distorted, and the whole picture is a bit over exposed, but I still love this picture.  Waimoku Falls is very impressive from this angle.

Dave and Wendy under Waimoku Falls

Jenny and I decided to take a little more of a risk and go in the pool below the falls.  Rocks and branches can come over the falls easily with the water, so I don’t recommend this to anyone.  We definitely cooled off though. Initially we both went under the falls.

Taking a shower under Waimoku Falls

I could not tell if Dave got the picture so I came out to ask. There was definitely no way to hear under the falls.

I came back out to ask if Dave had gotten the picture

Just to be sure I went back under one more time.

Enjoying a shower under Waimoku Falls at the end of the Pipwai trail

We enjoyed the hike back out nearly as much as the hike in, but everyone was glad to get back to the air-conditioned car by the time we finished.  Although we had planned to do more stops on the way back, very few places were open, and we were ready to get back to civilization.  I did get a couple of nice pictures on the way back though.  We all decided if we moved to Hawaii we wanted this to be our front yard!

Beautiful trees and yard along the Road to Hana

 

I also liked this view of this small village just off the Road to Hana.

View of a village by the sea on the Road to Hana

 

We decided to stop in Paia for dinner.  We had heard great things about Mama’s Fish House, but we were definitely not dressed for it.  We decided to go much more casual and eat at the Flatbread Company.  It was a bit warm in the restaurant, but heck it was warm everywhere, but the pizza and cold beer were great.

When we got back to Lahina, we were ready to just shower, hang at the condo, relax, and visit.  We decided to get back to the beach the next day.  Our third day in Maui had been terrific, but it was also quite a workout.  We were ready to do a little more relaxing and there’s no better place to do that than in Hawaii!  I’ll continue in another post soon.  Hopefully I’ll finish this before we go back!  (Dave and Wendy were actually back in Kauai just a couple of weeks ago on a trip Dave won at work… very jealous.)

To see all our Tropical Vacation Posts go to our Tropical Vacation Posts page.

We went into 2015 with the intent to have fewer planned vacations.  I started a new job with fewer vacation days to start.  I would have no vacation days early in the year, so we decided to plan a trip to Hawaii later in the year so I could save up a few days.  We decided to go the week of Columbus day to save even more of my vacation time (I only needed 3 days of vacation time).  Our last trip to Hawaii was to Kauai in 2011 and we had a great time.  For that trip we stayed in two different locations and both of them were right on the water.  We wanted to do things a little differently this time.  We decided to look for a condo near Front Street in Lahaina so we could walk to the shops and restaurants in that area.  We would drive to the beaches but be able to relax and enjoy ourselves in Lahaina without worrying about having to drive home.  We found a condo 2 blocks from Front Street.  The condo was in the Aina Nalu a condo property partially managed by Outrigger and partially privately owned condos. It has lots of amenities but the true appeal is the location. We ended up getting one of the privately owned condos in this property that was listed on Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO).  It was a 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo which was perfect for us and the other couple Dave and Wendy who would be going with us.  We’ve had several terrific vacations with them over the past several years.  Although they live in Boise Idaho and we live in San Diego we actually got together 4 times in 2015; once for this trip, once for my daughters wedding in California, once for his daughters wedding in Idaho, and again for New Years eve and a trip to the Rose Bowl on New Years day.

We had a great time in Maui, but there was one unexpected thing that made Hawaii a little less of a paradise on this trip.  Due to the El Niño in the Pacific the temperatures and humidity were much higher than usual.  Most days were in the 80s with humidity in the 90 percent range.  This is not normal, and not what we expected for October in Hawaii.  Even though we only had a 2 block walk to Front Street in Lahaina, by the time we got there we would be dripping sweat.  I’m pretty sure this is the last time I’ll go to Hawaii during an El Niño year.  Our first day/night in Maui we just took it easy.  On the way from the airport we got some groceries to stock up the frig.  After we checked in to the condo, we walked down to Front Street to get lunch.  We decided on a burger place right on the water called… Cheeseburger in Paradise.  The food was delicious, the service good, and the view from our table was amazing.  We checked out some of the shops along front street which are mostly souvenir shops and art galleries and we spent quite a bit of time under the Banyan Tree at a regular art festival. Got a picture of Dave and Wendy under one of the trunks of the tree.

Dave and Wendy under the Banyan Tree Lahaina

After the long flight and the unusual heat we decided to head back to the condo to clean up, catch-up and take it easy. Jenny and I took a nap for a few hours, then we decided to take another walk downtown after dark.  We walked under the Lahaina Court House banyan tree again.  It is an amazing tree, really hard to believe it is only one tree.

Lahaina Banyan Court night view

Then we walked out toward the pier and I got this image of Front Street lit up from the park behind the Lahaina Public Library.

View of Lahaina Front Street at night

As we walked back toward Front Street I noticed a place that was advertising an old favorite snack – Dole Whip (frozen pineapple juice).  I convinced everyone it was worth the calories!  After wondering around Front Street again for a bit, we gave in to the jet lag, and headed back to the condo to get a good night’s sleep.

Dave and Wendy had arrived a couple days earlier than us to do some exploring.  They found a beach they really loved, Kapalua Beach, so on day 2 we decided to check it out.  We stopped at a snorkeling/boogie board rental place on our way out of Lahaina.  The person working there was a wealth of knowledge and gave us some great tips for how to best do things we planned later in the week, like the road to Hana and a bike ride down from Haleakala after seeing the sunrise over the crater.  Her advice really helped us enjoy the rest of the week, and we got good prices on the equipment rentals and the bike ride reservations.

There were areas of rain just about every day we were in Maui, but luckily there also were areas on the island where it was not raining.  On the way to Kapalua Beach we saw some rain clouds, which were a bit concerning, but it was not raining near the beach.  There is a small public parking lot near Kapalua Beach which provides great access to the beach, but you have to get there pretty early to get a spot.  There were no spots available when we got there, but there was still plenty of parking along  Lower Honoapiilani Road.  Even that fills in fairly quickly so the earlier you get there the closer you will be to the beach.  We were only about a quarter mile down the road, so not too bad.

There are public bathrooms on the way down to the beach, and then you go through a short tunnel and on to the beach.  There were quite a few people there already, but still plenty of room to set up our chairs and beach towels (provided by the condo rental) in a nice shady area.  The beach is in a beautiful cove but it is just a short walk to nearby resorts and restaurants.

View of Merrimans Maui from Kapalua Beach

View of resort near Kapalua Beach Maui

Even in the shade it wasn’t long before we were hot and ready to get in the water. My friend Dave was happy to lead the way by putting his mask and fins on in his chair and then walking down to the water. There are few things in life that are funnier than someone walking on the beach in fins. We all had a great laugh. Luckily I caught the whole thing on a video! I decided to share a screen capture of the video rather than the video. Definitely evokes memories of Charlie Chaplain’s walk as the Tramp!

Dave walking into the water at Kapalua Beach with his fins on

Although we enjoyed the beach and swimming, we wanted to try a different snorkeling spot. We were hoping to see more coral, fish, and maybe some turtles. We had heard that Black Rock was a good place to snorkel so decided to head there. Not really knowing the area or the best way to approach the snorkeling area we decided to park at what we thought was a good public parking/access area at Kahekili Beach Park. That would mean hauling our stuff about .7 miles from the parking lot to an area near the Black Rock area. We had stopped at the Honolua Store on the way back to the highway from Kapalua Beach to get some sandwiches and drinks for lunch, so we were set until dinner. The walk on the path and beach took a little more effort than we expected and it was definitely starting to warm up.

Walking from Kahekili Beach Park toward Black Rock

We set up our stuff under a large tree to enjoy the shade again. After swimming for a bit, Dave and I decided to walk over to black rock area to see what snorkeling in that area was like. We headed out along the large black rocks. There was no coral and not really anything of interest. We decided to go out past the end of the rock and go around the corner to see what was out there. We passed an opening in the rocks and continued on for about another 50 yards. The water was getting deeper and deeper to our right and there was really nothing to see. I started to hear the Jaws theme music in my head, and kept looking into the murky deep water to our right expecting to see a shark coming our way at any point. After a brief discussion we decided there was nothing to see this way and decided to head back. On the way out we had not noticed we were being pushed along by a current. We definitely felt the current as we fought it back to the corner as we headed back. Progress was slow, but steady. As we approached the opening in the rocks, Dave decided to climb up on the rock and take a break. We were both a bit tired after fighting the current. As he was getting out he smacked his knee on the rock and after we both rested for a bit he decided to walk back to the beach over the rocks rather than get back into the water. Now it was time for me to look a bit silly. I have very tender feet. It’s actually a bit embarrassing. I was walking so funny it concerned Jenny and Wendy so they came over to see if we had gotten hurt. We were fine, but my pride was a bit bruised. Luckily no one got a video of my walk of shame!

We hung under the shade tree for a little while longer. It looked like a rubber tree or a magnolia based on the leaves, but as I sat there I noticed a bird fly in and land on a branch. The branch had what looked like nuts on it. Just as I mentioned this to Jenny a nut fell off the tree and landed on her. To avoid getting pelleted by more nuts, we decided to pack it up and to head further northwest toward Nakalele Point and the blowhole. We stopped first at an overlook just past the Honolua Bay, a great snorkeling area that we planned to check out later in the week. We drove out on a dirt road to a parking area not far from the main road. This area not only has great views of Honolua Bay…

Honolua Bay

there is also terrific views of a surfing area near Lipoa Point.

Surfers near Lipoa Point Maui

It was a beautiful place. We decided to come back later in the week to snorkel at Honolua Bay then come up to this overlook afterward to have some wine and cheese and enjoy the view.

The Nakalele Point blowhole was next. As we walked down the path we came upon this very welcoming sign.

Warning sign at Nakalele Point blowhole

It may seem a little over dramatic, but there have been people who have died at this place. Jenny and Wendy were in flip flops and decided to not go all the way down. They could see the blowhole, but Dave and I decided to go a little closer. This area is basically an outcropping of old lava. It is surreal rough terrain, but I think it was well worth the climb down.

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But the best view was not of the blowhole it was back toward the coastline from Nakalele Point.

View back toward the coast from Nakalele Point

Jenny and I braved facing into the sun for one more picture before we headed back toward Lahaina.

Eric and Jenny near Nakalele Point Maui

When we got back to Lahaina, it was very close to sunset. We wanted to see it while we ate, so rather than going back to condo to clean up change we just looked for parking on Front Street. The parking gods must have been on our side because we came on a parking spot only a couple blocks from the restaurant we had decided to eat at – Bubba Gumps.

We definitely had a great view from our table of the sun setting behind the island of Lanai.

Another view from our table at Bubba Gumps Lahaina Maui

View from our table at Bubba Gumps Lahaina Maui

As we ate dinner we decided to do the Road to Hana the next morning.  We planned to hike the Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls at the end of the Road to Hana.  The very helpful lady at the equipment rental business had recommended that if we wanted to do this hike we should leave early and drive all the way to the end of the Road to Hana without stopping, then do any stops we wanted to do on the way back.  So that was our plan at the end of our first full day in Maui.  We were tired, satisfied that we had “stuffed” enough fun into this day, so after dinner we headed home to get some sleep so we could get up early for the Road to Hana!

To see all our Tropical Vacation Posts go to our Tropical Vacation Posts page.