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A Big Island adventure not to be missed is going to the 13,796 foot Mauna Kea Summit which at night offers the clearest and most awe-inspiring views of the night skies to rival any on Earth. I spent a lot of my time at the summit looking around and thinking “what a fantastic world we live in and I wish everyone could participate in this experience.”

Mauna Kea Summit View from the top of the summit

It’s not required to go with a tour group to the summit but because we didn’t rent a 4-wheel drive (required for the top part of the mountain), we decided to join a tour. We were very pleased with the knowledge and friendliness of our tour guide/driver from Hawaii Forest and Trail . The trip lasts anywhere from 7-8 hours ~ depending on weather conditions and travel time. Our trip was right around 7 hours.

Mauna Kea Sheep Station Logan III

Abandoned Humuula Sheep Station

A picnic dinner is served at the historic (abandoned) Humuula sheep station located at 7,000 feet (half way up the mountain) and allows people to acclimate to the higher elevation. Some people were affected and others not at all. Thankfully, we were in the not at all category.

Throughout the tour, our guide provided a lot of historic and cultural information. Because the temperatures and winds make it downright winter-like at the top, the tour company provides winter jackets.

Mauna Kea John Patti and Logan III

Thank goodness for the jackets provided by the tour company ~ definitely needed.

It was very interesting to be standing amongst the world’s largest collection of research telescopes.

The large dish-shaped structure is one of 10 very long Baseline Array radio telescopes that are spread out across the United States and used simultaneously. Astronomers use the telescope to make detailed studies of space objects. Each antenna is controlled remotely by the Array Operations Center in Socorro, New Mexico, but there are local site technicians at the Mauna Kea summit.

Mauna Kea Summit Sacred Hawaiian site at the top of Mauna Kea

Most sacred part of Mauna Kea and off limits to visitors

The Hawaiians consider the mountain to be one the most sacred places in the islands and it is not without controversy that it is used commercially. There is an area of the mountain which is off-limits and I’m glad most people respect it.

Mauna Kea Sun Setting

A highlight was the spectacular sunset which looked like other-wordly to me especially when the sun was low and in the clouds far below us.

Mauna Kea Summit sunset 25

On the way down the mountain, we stopped at 9,000 feet for delicious hot chocolate and star-gazing and then we stopped at the visitor’s center for a bathroom break and a little shopping in the gift shop. Photos of stargazing will follow in a future post.

Before you attempt traveling to the summit, here are a few precautions: guests should be able to hike on uneven, rocky, wet, and sometimes muddy terrain. Because of high altitude, I would caution anyone who has respiratory, circulatory and /or heart conditions, pregnancy or generally in poor health. Scuba divers shouldn’t make the ascent within 48 hours of diving. Children under 16 are not allowed on the tour. Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes, long pants and a sweatshirt/sweater. Dressing in layers is best.

Interesting Facts  about Mauna Kea:

  • It is estimated to be approximately one million years old
  • Last eruption was about 4,000 years ago
  • It is a dormant volcano but could still erupt
  • The area of Mauna Kea takes up about 28.8% of the island
  • Mauna Kea means White Mountain
  • Snow falls on both Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa

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I had the opportunity to leave the social media realm and see several of my favorite photographers’ works in the real world. It got me thinking about why I follow certain photographers out of the millions who are on social media.

As a wildlife fan, I find myself skimming instagram, twitter, wordpress and snapchat for all things wildlife and nature oriented. But there are only five photographers I follow daily ~ they bring an extra dash of joy to my life with their amazing skills and ability to capture the essence of majestic creatures. All five have one essential quality in common which is required for me to follow them; they are all conservationists.

My most recent follow is @Davidrphoto on Instagram. Of the photographers I follow, he is by far the youngest, currently a student at Stanford and his photos are from his trips to Africa. His “Youth Photographer of the Year” award-winning photo is currently on display at the National Museum of Natural History. The exhibit is titled: The 21st Annual Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards Smithsonian Exhibition. Windland Smith Rice was a nature photographer and conservationist.

photo-david-r

The exhibition includes short videos with footage of the moments the photographer captures the award-winning photo. I was completely enthalled watching the videos and blown away by the amazing talent. I’m especially impressed with the profound patience they possess which is required to capture the perfect shot.

photo-video-of-leopard-and-cub

Video of the “Youth Photographer of the Year” winner David Rosenzweig

If you have an interest in photography, I highly recommend attending the free exhibit when you’re in Washington DC. The current exhibit will be on display until Sept 2017. The museum is located along the National Mall at 1000 Madison Drive NW. The closest metro stop is Archives/Navy Museum (Yellow Line).

There’s more information at the Museum of Natural History and you can view the photos on Facebook. I promise you the images are stunning in person and well worth the trip to the museum.

photo-museum-of-natural-history

Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History ~ Exhibit Banners

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A bit of Hawaiian history: In January 1778, Captain Cook made his first visit to the Hawaiian Islands while commanding the HMS Resolution and Discovery. He and his crew are considered the first Europeans to visit the Hawaiian Islands. Cook named the island chain “the Sandwich islands” after a patron named John Montague, the Earl of Sandwich.

Originally, the crew was welcomed by the Hawaiians who were fascinated by the large ships and the use of iron. While Cook re-provisioned his ships by trading metal, some of the sailors traded iron nails for sex. The ships made a brief stop on the island of Ni’ihau then headed north to look for the western end of the Northwest passage.

A year later in January 1779, the crew returned to the islands and docked in Kealakekua Bay. The Hawaiians were celebrating the fertility god, Lono and thought the English were visiting gods. Unfortunately, the crew spent the next month exploiting the Hawaiians. During that month, a crewman died which enlightened the Hawaiians as to the crew’s mortality and the realization that they were not gods. The Hawaiians were undoubtedly thrilled and only too happy to wave goodbye to the HMS Resolution and Discovery as they sailed out of the bay on February 4, 1779.

But wait…rough seas damaged the foremast of the Resolution and, after only a week, Cook was forced to return to Kealakekua Bay. As the ships sailed back into Ka’awaloa Cove, the Hawaiians greeted them by hurling rocks and stealing a small cutter vessel from the Discovery. Captain Cook attempted to negotiate with King Kalaniopuu but it all went sideways when a lesser Hawaiian chief was shot to death. Angry Hawaiians overwhelmed the 10-man shore party and Cook plus four sailors were killed. Before the two ships sailed back to England, the sailors retaliated by killing about thirty Hawaiians.

Kealakekua Bay Captain Cook Memorial II

27-foot obelisk monument to Captain Cook was erected in 1874. The land under the monument was deeded to the UK in 1877. It’s considered as sovereign non-embassy land owned by the British Embassy in Washington DC and maintained by the British Consul–General in California.

Despite the unfortunate events in Hawaii, Captain Cook is regarded as one of the greatest explorer, navigator and mapmaker of all time. He mapped more of the earth than any other explorer. I try to imagine what it must have been like to travel as far and as wide as he did and in such arduous conditions. I complain about my 10-hour flight to Hawaii. Yet, he sailed for years on his ship.

Many people chose to kayak to Ka’awaloa Bay or take an organized boat tour there but we preferred to hike the Ka’awaloa trail. It’s a steep trek but worth it when you get to the bay and jump in the refreshing waters for a swim and a snorkel.

The trailhead is located off of Hwy 11. Turn toward to seaward side onto Napo’opo’o Road and drive to the third telephone pole which is where the trail begins. There’s limited parking and no shade so go early in the morning.

The signs at the start of the trailhead are self-explanatory. I second all of the “think twice” advice. We ended up on the trail in the middle of the day and there’s NO SHADE for a good portion it. On the way back up the hill, I had no shame and poured water directly over my head just to keep cool. I’m sure I looked frightful to other hikers going down. Can’t stress enough to going early. It’s a two-mile hike from the trailhead to the monument and there’s a 1,300 foot descend. It took me one hour going down and 1.5 hours on the return hike ~ I didn’t stop either way except for a water breaks. It’s not an easy and I would recommend it only if you’re in decent shape. Be sure to pack lots of water, wear a hat, sunscreen and sturdy hiking shoes.

The following are photos from the start to the end of the trail:

Kealakekua Bay Trail Patti walking in the tall grass

Upper part of the trail ~ tall grass

 

Kealakekua Bay Trail grassy part of the trail

Middle part of the trail

Kealakekua Bay Trail Marker 6

Marker 6 means you’re almost there…and the views are spectacular

WP Kealakekua Bay Trail view to south side of island

Beautiful view along the Ka’awaloa Trail (to Captain Cook’s memorial marker). No shade to be found!

WP Kealakekua Bay Trail Marker 8

Marker 8 means “you made it!”

Kealakekua Bay south side IV

Kealakekua Bay ~ Cook’s monument is located on the far side of the bay.

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My visits to the Big Island follows a familiar pattern: land in Kona, rent a vehicle and head to the Volcano Nationals Park for a couple of nights. Many of my mother’s family live on the Hilo-side of the island and it’s always great to see them and catch up with all the happenings.

We landed later than usual (after 8pm), and since the drive to Volcano National Park is about 95 miles from the airport, we decided to stay the night in Kailua-Kona. Kona is probably the most “touristy” spots on the island ~ reminds me of Lahaina on Maui. Lots of shops, restaurants and activities. And traffic.

Kona Parks and Recreation

The Parks & Rec building in Kona


Kona waters and seawall

Early Morning in Kailua-Kona

Kamehameha the Great, the first king to rule all the Hawaiian Islands, chose Kailua-Kona as his home. It’s not hard to imagine why ~ the waters are bountiful with fish, the area is beautiful and, if you can picture it without throngs of tourists, it would be an ideal place to call home.

Here are a few highlights of the town:

The historic sites include Hulihe’e Palace, built in 1838 by Governor Kuakini, is now a museum run by the Daughters of Hawaii. Directly across the street from the palace is the Mokuaikaua Church, built 1820. It’s the first Christian church built in the Hawaiian islands.

Kailua-Kona is the start of the swim and the finish of the world-famous Ironman Triathlon. Below is the swim start:

Kona start of the Ironman swim and end of the run

Every October, about 2,000 athletes compete in the Ironman by swimming 2.4 miles in the rough ocean waters, 112-mile bike ride and to finish it off, there’s a 26.2 run which must be completely within 17 hour deadline. It’s a brutal event and, many years ago, I was thrilled when I had a chance to cheer some of the participants during the running event.

Kailua-Kona is a great stop for a day or two but don’t let it be your only experience on the Big Island ~ there’s so much more to do and see elsewhere on the island.

Kona sailboat on the waters

Sailboat in Kailua Bay

 

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…Aloha Hawaii. It’s rare for my family to veto me when it comes to travel locations but half way into my Tour of France planning, I got the word that neither my husband nor my daughter wanted to spend their vacation on an extended road trip. They both preferred two weeks on a beach in Hawaii. It’s been six years since I’ve seen my Big Island family and friends so I immediately changed my focus to Hawaii.

I’ve booked my first AirBnB! I was very apprehensive due to several horror stories I’ve read but, even though it’s called the “Big” Island of Hawaii, it’s really a close-knit community. Once I found the “perfect” place to rent, I contacted a friend who lives in the same town & wasn’t surprised that he knows the owner. I feel much better about prepaying the entire stay when it’s the friend of a friend.

A few photos from our previous visit to Hawaii to get us into the Aloha-Spirit…

 

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The Kennedy Center is a living memorial honoring President John Kennedy. The iconic Kennedy Center’s history began in 1958 as the National Cultural Center. It was a product of bi-partisan legislation signed by President Dwight Eisenhower, but as a strong supporter of the arts, President Kennedy became the driving force in raising the funds to complete the construction of the Center. He appointed his wife, Jacqueline and Mrs. Eisenhower as honorary co-chairwomen which I find fascinating since they were from different political parties but worked together on this important endeavor. Not something we see much of in today’s polarized political climate in the US. 

In January 1964, two months after President Kennedy was assassinated, Congress designated the National Cultural Center as a living memorial and renamed it: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Congress appropriated $23 million to fund it and fundraising continued with the Friends of the Kennedy Center volunteers. The volunteers worked earnestly across the country, raising money from private support and from nations around the world who respected President Kennedy and wanted to contribute to his legacy. Because the Center is a Federal Memorial, it continues to receive funding each year for the maintenance and operation of the facility but the artistic and educational programs are paid for through ticket sales and gifts from individuals, corporations and private foundations.

President Lyndon Johnson participated in the ground breaking ceremony in December 1964, and in keeping with its historic importance, he used the same gold-plated shovel which was also used in the ground breaking ceremonies for the Lincoln Memorial (1914) and the Jefferson Memorial (1938). The Kennedy Center officially opened in 1971 and the New York Times wrote a rave front page review which stated “The capital of this nation finally strode into the cultural age tonight with the spectacular opening of the $70 million [Kennedy Center]…a gigantic marble temple to music, dance, and drama on the Potomac’s edge.”

I always enjoy going to the Center and had the opportunity to attend several musicals including “Wicked”, “South Pacific” and “Book of Mormon.” I became a member for one year and appreciated their member benefits. As members, my daughter and I were able to watch a rehearsal of the National Orchestra. As a viola player, my daughter loved observing the behind the scenes of a professional orchestra.

Earlier this month,  I finally made it to one of the free performances at The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. We arrived early enough to take the last free tour at 4:30 p.m. I particularly enjoyed seeing the contributions of artwork throughout the Center which had been generously donated by several foreign governments. Click here to see the book listing all the gorgeous gifts given to the Center.

The Millennium Stage offers free performances nightly from 6 to 7 pm. The Happy Hour at the Grand Foyer bar is from 5-6 p.m. Seating begins at 5:30 and you can take your drink/food with you to your seat. The monthly calendar usually comes out the last week of the previous month. Click here for a list of upcoming performances.

Tips for visiting The Kennedy Center:

  • If you’re 18-30, you can sign up for My Tix at kennedy-center.org/mytix which offers discounted and free tickets.
  • There’s a free shuttle between the Center and the Foggy Bottom Metro Station. Departing every 15 minutes from 9:45 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, 11:45 t0 midnight on Sunday, and 4:00 p.m. to end of last performance on Holidays.
  • If you want a good seat for the Millennium Stage performances, be in line shortly after 5 p.m.

Georgetown Kennedy Center
The Kennedy Center

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Attention all bibliophiles, mark your calendar ~ the 16th National Book Festival will be at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (Washington DC) on 24 September, 2016. It’ll be open from 10am to 10pm and all events are free of charge.

A list of authors already scheduled to attend (from the Library of Congress website):

  • Kwame Alexander, Newbery Medal winner
  • Douglas Brinkley, prize-winning historian
  • Christopher Buckley, author of such satirical works as “Thank You for Smoking”
  • Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and author
  • Philip Glass, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer
  • Annette Gordon-Reed, Pulitzer Prize winner
  • Winston Groom, author of “Forrest Gump”
  • Stephen King, best-selling, prize-winning author and literacy advocate
  • James McBride, National Book Award winner
  • Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian
  • Joyce Carol Oates, prize-winning author of more than 70 books
  • Ed Piskor, alternative comics artist
  • Michael Ramirez, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner
  • Diane Rehm, NPR host and author
  • Salman Rushdie, Man Booker Prize winner
  • Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize winner
  • Bob Woodward, Pulitzer prize winner and author of 17 No. 1 best-sellers
  • Luis Alberto Urrea, prize-winning author of “The Devil’s Highway”
  • Gene Luen Yang, Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

More authors expected to sign-on in the coming months.

For those who are unable to attend, but want to follow along, there’s an free app available. Click here.

 

 

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