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As a family, we’ve hiked in locations around the world and have been lucky enough to hike in Germany, Slovenia, Guam, Hawaii, Virginia, and many more. But I wasn’t surprised when my daughter deemed the Kīlauea Iki Trail on the Big Island as her all-time favorite hike. It’s a fascinating place located within the Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii. Kilauea remains an active volcano to this day.

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At the Kīlauea Iki sign, you can go in either direction but I would advise taking the trail to the right and hike counter-clockwise which will lead you through a rain forest, the 1959 lava lake, steam vents, cinder cones, and large fissures in the lava. Keep an eye out for the native nēnē (Hawaiian Goose) ~ we saw two but they were too fast to get a photo. The nēnē are the sixth most endangered waterfowl species in the world.

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The rainforest section of the trail is well-worn but be careful with the rocks and occasional exposed roots. We started early in the morning and didn’t see anyone else until we got to the lava lake.

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On hikes, my daughter only uses her phone to take photos but while we were on the trail, her college released the dorm assignments and she was excited to learn where she would be living for a year. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the dorm she preferred and it was the only sad part of the hike. But, fast-forward six months later, and she’s thrilled with her suitemates and her dorm.

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The ‘Ōhelo berries are a favorite treat for the nēnē and can be found throughout the trail. It is a hardy plant that even grows on the lava. The plant is a relative to the blueberries and the berry can range in color from dark red to pale yellow.

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The amazing view from the rainforest.

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It was a little surreal to see a runner come through as we walked along the deserted and isolated lava crater but he obviously runs this trail frequently.

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Be sure to follow the Ahu (stacked rocks) to find your way through to the other side of the trail. Please don’t disturb them!

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If you go, here are a few words of advice:

  • The trail is moderate to challenging. It’s steep and rocky. The descent/ascent is 400 feet (122m).
  • It’s a 4-mile (6.4km) loop. It took us approximately 2.5 hours and we stopped for a snack.
  • The trail head is 2 miles (3.2km) from the Visitor’s Center.
  • Once you’re at the Kīlauea Iki parking lot (off of Crater Rim Drive), you may go either way from the trailhead. We preferred to go right which took us through the rainforest first then down to the crater floor.
  • Be sure to bring water, food, hat, sunscreen, camera and rain gear. Be prepared for all types of weather conditions: hot, dry, wet, windy (!). Please remember to “leave only footprints” and bring all your trash and items back out of the area.

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Having grown up in Hawaii, I’m used to the occasional earthquake, big surf, an active volcano and unpredictable weather. And then there’s the ever-present threat of a tsunami. While having dinner with my brother this past week, he recounted his story of surviving a 7.7 earthquake, landslide and the largest locally generated tsunami to hit the Big Island in the 20th century.

In 1975, over Thanksgiving weekend, my older brother and cousins decided to go camping in Halapē which sits at the base of the 1,000 foot cliffs of Puu Kapukapu. There were eight hikers in his party ~ most between the ages 19 to 25 and one brought his dad with him. They also had four horses. This is his account as he told us the other night over dinner:

On Friday, 28 November 1975, they hiked in the early afternoon to fish and pick ‘opihi. Once the fish/’opihi were on ice, they had a campfire dinner. He was still awake when the first earthquake hit in the early morning of 29 November. Actually, it was a foreshock measuring 5.2. The second earthquake, measuring 7.7, is the one that rocked the entire area. It bounced the rock he was sitting on so that it moved in a circle. He tried to hang on but after a few seconds he found himself on the ground.

His group, along with the Boy Scout troop also camping in the area, ran for the trail that would lead to higher ground but there was a horrendous noise coming from the mountainside which they knew was a landslide  ~ the large falling rocks impeded their ascent. They turned around to avoid being hit by the boulders, but someone screamed they saw the ocean rising. There was no time to do anything else, the wave smashed into the cove and swept him away. He was tumbled under the waves until his need to breathe began urgent; he was certain he would die. His thought was “I now know what it’s like to drown.” He swam as hard as he could to get to the surface and, miraculously, made it to the top long enough to take a big gulp of breath before the second, and much larger, wave slammed into him. He was tousled towards the rock and hung onto a big boulder. His ability to hang on to the boulder is what saved him.

Unbelievably, only two of thirty-two campers perished in the tidal wave. The US Geological Survey estimated the second wave was 14 meters high (just shy of 46 feet). This tsunami was caused by the largest locally generated earthquake (part of Kilauea Volcano) ever recorded in Hawaii history and because the epicenter was only 19 miles from my brother’s location, the waves hit within a matter of minutes. Many of the surviving campers were hospitalized for broken bones, concussions, etc. My brother walked away with one or two scratches. He has one heck of a guardian angel watching out for him. It gives me the chills just thinking about it.

tsunami evacuation zone sign

We are currently staying at a beach house right on the water and we see the tsunami signs all along the road. On Friday night (9 July 2016), the tsunami sirens, located directly across the street, jolted us out of bed. We were especially alert due to the story of the 1975 tsunami we had just heard. I’m proud to say the only thing I grabbed was my purse ~ thinking that I needed my license to drive. We headed for higher ground while listening to the radio for further instructions. Turns out it was a system malfunction but I’m not sorry we evacuated ~ better safe than under water.

There’s a scene in the movie Leap Year where the lead male character asks “if your apartment was on fire and you had sixty seconds, what would you grab?” ~ I’m happy to know the only thing that mattered to me was my husband and daughter.

If you’re ever at the beach in Hawaii and there’s an earthquake, don’t hesitate ~ head for the high ground!!

Photos of the aftermath (courtesy of the Pacific Tsunami Museum):

Hawaii Beach after 1975 Tsunami

 

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It’s easy to impress first-time visitors to Washington DC. A lot of people have a negative preconception of the capital city and they are pleasantly surprised when they see all it has to offer. By far, the most common comment I hear from first timers is “We didn’t realize DC is so green and beautiful.” Followed closely by “There are a lot of good looking guys here.”

Last week, I invited a long time Northern Virginian to go into the city with me. Since she hadn’t been to the city in a long time and had already seen all the typical tourist sites, I decided to expand her horizons a bit.

My first suggestion was for her to visit the Madison Building located at 101 Independence Avenue SE to get her Library of Congress Reader ID card.  The free Reader card gives a person access to multiple reading rooms including the stunning Main Reading Room. It’s best to register online prior to going to the ID office where they will take a photo then print your ID card. It takes less than ten minutes. Click here for all the information needed to obtain a reader ID card.

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Main Reading Room at the Library of Congress
Library of Congress the stacks

Once she obtained her card, we decided we should utilize our cards. There are several reading rooms to choose from but, since we’re both interested in photography,  we headed to the Prints and Photographs room. The head researcher was incredibly helpful and we really appreciated her taking the time to explain in detail how to find photos both online and in the reading room.

We then ventured a couple of blocks over to the Russell Office Building  (2 Constitution Avenue) to visit Senator Warren’s (VA-D) office for gallery passes. Both the Senate and House galleries are open to visitors whenever either legislative body is in session. I’ve been to both galleries on a few occasions and find it fascinating to watch our Representatives in action.

The galleries are not part of the U.S. Capitol tour but passes to enter either gallery may be obtained from the offices of your respective Senator or Representative. For International visitors, go to the House and Senate Appointment Desks on the upper level of the Capitol Visitor Center to inquire about gallery passes.

The passes are good for one year (October to October) and when the House of Representatives is not in session, visitors with passes may visit the House gallery on weekdays from 9:00 am to 4:15 pm. The House gallery is closed on holidays and sometimes due to unplanned temporary closures.

The Senate gallery is open during scheduled recesses and visitors are admitted to the gallery weekdays from 9:00 am to 4:15 pm. The Senate gallery is closed on holidays (unless the Senate is in session), and during any recess or adjournment of less than one week.

Both the Senate and House are closed on weekends, unless they are in session.

To get your gallery passes, you’ll need to visit your respective Senator and Representative. If you’re not sure who your elected officials are, please go to League of Women Voters and enter your zip code.

If you’re a local or frequent visitor, you may want to get your own Reader card to do research or visit a Senate session to see you government in action.Library of Congress rain day II

At the United States Capitol

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For the last few weeks, I’ve been hearing a lot about Port City Brewing Company. They recently earned the national title of Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival in Denver. They beat out the other 517 breweries in the small brewery category.
We were welcomed by a friendly, good looking bartender who explained how the flights worked: $12 for six tickets and an extensive taster menu:;
Tidings Ale ended up being my favorite one. It’s a Belgian Strong Blond and has honey, ginger, cardamom and coriander. I mostly tasted the ginger – mild and very refreshing.  
Every Friday night, the Borinquen Lunch Box food truck parks out front from 5:30 to 9 pm. DELICIOUS! I had the arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), tostones (fried plantains) and a vegetarian empanada. John devoured his Cubano sandwich. If you’re looking for some authentic Puerto Rican food, I highly recommend stopping by for a bite (or take away).
This was the first of many visits – I’ll definitely be checking out Trivia Night but will pass on science fiction night. I’ll wait for history trivia. There’s also Beer Yoga and Comedy Night.

Port City Brewing Company is located at 3950 Wheeler Avenue, Alexandria. Give it a taste…

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Philadelphia Common Sense
The marker is located at SE corner of S 3rd Street & Chancellor Street (Thomas Paine Place)

During my recent visit to Philadelphia, I came across the area where, on this day in 1776, Thomas Paine published his 47-page pamphlet “Common Sense“. He sold 500,000 copies which influenced both the political leaders and average colonists in uniting toward a common goal of independence.

The building is no longer there but I was thrilled to see the site where one of the most important documents of the Revolution was produced. “Common Sense” was definitely a game-changer. He wrote:

Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America.  This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe.  Hither they have fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still.”

It’s fascinating to me how quickly Paine became a supporter of American Independence. While he was still living in England, he met Ben Franklin who happened to be at a debate in which Paine was impressing everyone in the audience. It was Franklin who encouraged him to immigrate to Philadelphia in 1774 and within two years he wrote “Common Sense”. After writing his pamphlet, he served in the US Army and with the Committee of Foreign Affairs. He returned to England in 1787, where he bravely continued to write in favor of Independence. He wrote “The Rights of Man” in which he supported the French Revolution. Because he was targeted as an anti-monarchist, he fled to France but was arrested in 1793 for not supporting the beheading of Louis XVI. Thomas Paine was scheduled to be executed himself, but thanks to the efforts of James Madison (who was serving as US minister to France), he was released in 1794. He remained in France until 1802. By invitation of Thomas Jefferson, he returned to the United States and died in 1809 in New York.

Although Thomas Paine was British, to me he was the epitome of an American. To be an American, I think less of where a person was born and more about their state of mind. He was courageous, opinionated, and envisioned what could be, not what was. He also had a positive long-term outlook which I admire. And what an exciting life he led.

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It was three in the morning, completely dark, except for the starlight and the occasional headlamp from a Leadville 100 runner. The only sound was lake water lapping against the shore. We could see the Milky Way and my daughter saw her first shooting star. That became my favorite moment of the summer.

The Boat Ramp at Turquoise is not an official aid station but, at mile 93, it’s the last best area to offer a runner support and we were waiting to see if Jean needed anything or John wanted to bail before completing the last 7 miles.

Our early morning stay at the boat ramp lasted about 45 minutes but my daughter and I only had 10 minutes or so entirely to ourselves. Other support teams came and went. We watched as the runners came by ~ some still running very strong, while others were struggling a bit. I shined my flashlight on the trail letting them see where to continue running as Logan shouted out “Doing great, only 7 miles to go. Two hours and you’ll be under 25!”

Jean and John waved to us as they went by ~ both just wanting to complete the last 7 miles and be done. Thankfully, they didn’t stop since those few minutes would have put Jean over the 25 hours.

Oddly, I did witness cranky supporters who felt since they waited for their runner, the runner was somehow obligated to stop. To me, the best thing was when Jean DIDN’T need anything and felt well enough to continue on. I could certainly entertain myself well enough at all the aid stations ~ the beautiful scenery, people and dog watching and, most importantly, spending time with my family. And then seeing Jean strong enough to continue on at such a great pace made it all the more enjoyable.

I went back the next day to see the boat ramp and it’s a beautiful spot but at night, it’s incredible:

Boat Ramp at Turquoise Lake, Colorado

Boat Ramp at Turquoise Lake, Colorado

It’s been an amazing summer but this is the moment I cherish the most. As I see the leaves turn colors, it’s time to chase a favorite fall moment. Do you have a favorite?

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On September 19 and 20, the annual feast for the eyes King Street Art Festival will be set up from Washington Street to the waterfront in Alexandria, VA. I’ve attended the outdoor art gallery four times and have enjoyed it immensely every time. The variety of artwork and the chance to speak to the creative artist makes for a very pleasant way to spend a fall day.

The festival will feature an impressive amount of paintings, large life-size sculptures, jewelry, photographs, ceramics and more. There’s something for everyone, although my taste tends to run a little higher than my bank account can afford. According to the website, this year’s event will have more $15 million in art on display. Even if you don’t purchase a one-of-a-kind art piece, I guarantee you will have fun perusing the booths.

Throughout the weekend, there will be local activities and live-music performances. Last year, I purchased a bowl at the Art League’s popular Ice Cream Bowl Fundraiser. They have about 1,000 hand-made ceramic bowls and local artisanal ice cream for sale which costs about $15 per bowl. My bowl from last year:Ice Cream Fundraiser Bowl

Alexandria’s Mobile Art Lab is celebrating its first birthday by participating at the Art Festival in a couple of ways: a disco dance party at Market Square on 19 September at 7 pm. At 9 pm, it’ll change to a “silent” disco and headphones will be available for your listening and dancing pleasure. The Mobile Art Lab will be on Royal Street near Market Square both days of the festival.

When: Saturday, 19 Sept 10am–7pm & Sunday, 20 Sept from 10am-5pm
Where: Old Town, Alexandria, VA (Start at Washington and King streets)
GPS: 480 King Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Admission: FREE
Helpful Hints:

  • Park in one of the all-day garages since you’ll probably exceed the two or three-hour street parking limit
  • Plan ahead with lunch reservations ~ it’ll be difficult to get a table between 11am and 2pm
  • If you come across artwork you like, be sure get the artist’s business card. I neglected to do that last year & have been thinking about a photograph I’ve wanted to purchase all year. Hoping the artist returns to this year’s festival.
  • Bring your patience, it’s going to be crowded ~ but worth it.

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