Random

B.E.A.C.H.: Best Escape Anyone Can Have

I’m from New England, so I am quite familiar with beaches.  The movies always talk about the white sands of [insert tropical paradise here], so when my research led me to discover the black and green sand beaches of Big Island, I just had to see them.

Green: This beach is incredible to see, and while locals say it isn’t as green as it used to be, it’s still greener than any other sand I’ve ever seen.  It was a pretty hard hike (marred by locals trashing the desert and wanting to make a quick buck, and lazy tourists taking rentals out), but IMHO, was totally worth it and gives more of an appreciation for the natural beauty.

The hike was 2.6 miles each way through flour-like orange sand, in direct sunlight with gusts of wind.  You could step on what you thought was solid ground and sink in half a foot, something like walking in powdery snow, or you could be walking on hardened sand that felt like rocks.  It took the better part of 60 minutes, which is a glacial pace, but every grueling minute being sun and windburned was worth the view.

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Black: There is one black sand beach near where I stayed, and it was a short drive from Volcano National Park.  The sand is more like large grains of salt than tiny grains of sand, and it shines when you look up close.  It feels like heaven on your feet, and is simply beautiful to look at.

There are sea urchins all over the bottom of the shallow water, and there was a local diver harvesting them with a special tool.  I had the opportunity to look and touch one (“um, if you really want to,” he told me), and yes, they hurt.  A turtle was also hanging out, and unfortunately some Chinese tourists scared him and he floated back out to sea, but it was nice to see natural marine life.

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Volcano National Park

For the last few years, my travel mantra has been, “if there’s a national park, forest, or monument near my destination, I’m going to go there.”  So when I booked the trip to Big Island, a day at Volcano National Park was high on my list.

It’s not for the faint of heart; it’s unshaded, there are uneven and sometimes sharp surfaces, and it’s not a typical national park.  That being said, it’s got its own sort of majesty and beauty, not to mention the crazy and awe-inspiring views of new earth being formed.

The hike out to the lava flow is a long and treacherous one that starts of in the blistering sun and ends in the shivering cold of cloudless nights.  They do rent bikes, but I am a firm believer in walking, as you get to take in the sights slower, and therefore more thoroughly.

One of the most inspiring things is that you can see new growth all along the walk.  This proves that life will persevere, even in the most desolate of times.

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There was a travel group searching for the more dangerous flows, but I chose to wander over decades-old (and sometimes only years-old) lava to a steam vent, which proved only slightly better than utterly disappointing.  By now, my feet were killing me, I was definitely overheating, and I really wanted to see the main event.

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The main event, the real treat, was waiting on a lava cliff as the sun was setting to watch lava flow down from the volcanoes and into the sea.  I got as close as I could, but there were lots of ropes and signs telling us to keep off, due to suddenly falling earth into the sea.

By the time I realized I wasn’t going to get any closer than about a mile away, it was pretty late.  My feet didn’t feel much better, but sitting was a gem.  And  I will say, the sights were pretty spectacular.  I’m pretty sure I’ve exhausted all the words I can muster on the magnificence, danger, and its sheer enormity, so I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

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Life is a Highway, Part 17: Canyonlands National Park

Moab is pretty cool.  No, really.  It’s a bit touristy, but it’s got some decent food, decent beer, and it’s fairly young and active.

The other nice thing is that it’s positioned close to two gorgeous national parks:  Canyonlands and Arches.  I would be spending two days there, and the first was dedicated to Canyonlands.

If you remember the story of “that dude that went hiking alone, and fell and got trapped, and he had to drink his own urine and saw his arm off and now James Franco played him in that movie that was nominated for some awards,”  well, that happened in this park.  Not that I saw the movie, but I knew this place got a lot of attention after it came out.

I was getting a bit more excited because this was going to be the first real park where I got to start the day early and hike till my heart’s content.  I chose a trail that would lead me up and around, and to a canyon rim.  And the view was totally worth it.  Of course, the first thing I noticed was the road….

IMG_20150507_131203712_HDRWhile this wasn’t a terribly strenuous hike, it was pretty hot out on ground level.  But once I got some elevation, there was a whipping wind that I thought might actually blow me off the cliff.  I managed to stand my ground, however, and ended up staring out into the great beyond.  There are a few entrances into the park (something I realized too late), and I ended up at Island in the Sky.  I planned a few trips – I have all day, might as well use it – Upheaval Dome, Whale Rock, the overlooks.

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The overlooks had, by far, the most breathtaking view.  There’s just so much to take in, and it really does look like an island in the sky.

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I explored the Upheaval Dome, a crater made from meteor impact around 170 million years ago.  The curious bit is that there are green points in the middle – there are two theories of how it was formed.  One is that it’s a salt dome, and the other is that it’s an eroded impact crater.  I like to think it’s baby mountains or something.

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I don’t have any photos of Whale Rock, and it’s because I took a lovely tumble down it.  Balancing with camera in one hand, water bottle in the other, and quickly becoming aware of an issue with the joints in my toes in my left foot (as in, with too much strenuous impact they swell to the size of kumquats and make it impossible to walk comfortably), I stumbled, fell, and was mortified.  I tore my jeans and skinned my knee so deep, it ripped through scar tissue I’ve had since 2004, it didn’t heal for almost a month, and I will probably have a scar forever.  The two Italian tourists (both a good deal older than I, and gracefully jaunting down the path) were amused at the little round Asian chick tumbling down the rocks like a tumbleweed.

Anyway, following that, I was a bit less enthused to go scrambling and running down the rocks.  What can I say – blood, torn jeans, and general embarrassment at my inability to walk properly sort of dented my confidence.  Instead, I decided to make use of my small stature and climb into places normal-sized people couldn’t fit.

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Check out my ripped jeans. I’m so rugged 😛

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The canyon rim walk to end my day here was probably one of the best, and most wonderful walks and moments of my life.  Slightly over a mile long, the views were spectacular, and because it was late in the day (6-7pm?) the sun was starting to go down, and the trail was all but deserted.  It’s interesting – I was forced to go slow because of my (still bleeding) knee, and I was able to really get up close and personal with some of the rock formations.  It’s amazing what the elements can do.  I have to admit, I didn’t notice some of the things at first, and it was only on the way back.  I guess what they say is true:  Hindsight really is 20/20.

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When I reached the end of the trail, there was a large flat rock, and I just lay down and took in the vast landscape.  It was the closest to zen meditation I’ve ever gotten, and when I finally opened my eyes, I felt very at peace.  There’s something about being out there, something about being so small, that really makes you realize what’s important and what isn’t, and in that moment, I felt very grateful and lucky.

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Hop, Skip, and a Yelp!

Sometime back in 2011, I used to have this friend named Geoff (check out his photography site!).  He worked at Reuters, and therefore was able to eat his way through Manhattan.  I don’t remember why, but he encouraged me to start reviewing places on Yelp, and so I did, and after just a short few months, I was nominated to be Yelp Elite.

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Somehow, four years later, I’m still at it, and still Elite, which basically means I eat out at random places and end up reviewing them, and I get invited to some kickass events.  It’s been so long since I’ve been able to drink wine that’s been properly paired with food, I could have stayed there if the snacks kept coming.

Most events have great booze – this had local vodka and tequila with local-made mixers.  Let’s be honest – there was a margarita and a cosmo stand.  I barely needed the wine!  The vodka was better than the tequila, but the margarita was better than the cosmo .

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And there was wine.  Seven different types, to be exact.  And they were all fairly good, even the sweet bubbly ones.  But before there was wine, there was FOOD.  And oh, the food!

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Manchego cheese with quince paste and an almond.

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Hot sweet peppers with goat cheese – a weakness!

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They were small, but they were amazingly delicious. And I don’t even really like macarons!


Anyone want to be my +1 next time?

Happy Birthday To Me

I don’t like my birthday. 

I like other people’s birthdays. I like to celebrate with them, and really make them feel special.

But I lash out when people try to do it for me.

I never really understood why till this year. I think it’s because I still resent being born into a world where people gave birth like it was a business, and I was some sort of good to be sold.

 

Yes, Eye Muscle Spasm, I’m talking to you. It’s been….four days now? Since Wednesday night, you’ve been going crazy – what has you so upset? I’ve tried more sleep, less caffeine, more caffeine, more ACV (yes I went out and bought more). I’ve tried no food, lots of food, greasy food, raw food. I’ve tried exercise, sleep, relaxing, hot showers, cold compresses….I’m really not sure what else you want?

I know you’re probably enjoyed your time making me excessively self-conscious, as well as extremely annoyed, but don’t you think that someone else deserves a turn? I mean, I can’t even put my eyeliner and mascara on properly due to your little joking ways. 

Anyway, it’s been fun, but I’d really appreciate a break from you. Soon. And permanently.