Thursday, December 23, 2010

Final Post, with Aloha

Ah, I suppose I should create one final post before this semester seems even more like a distant dream than it already does...

I've been home for a few days now, and, of course, it is freezing here. It is nice to be at home with family, cozy and piled under heaps of blankets, but I'm missing Hawai'i constantly.

Fortunately, I squeezed a lot of fun and adventure into that last week! Lists are better, I think, so here's one for my final 7 days of Hawaiian excitement:

1. Friday night alternative. Despite having exams hanging over my head, I still managed to have a fantastic last weekend in town. League was canceled Friday due to rain, which was incredibly sad and pretty lame. So, instead, I spent the night with the Sunday Funday ladies. Here's a pretty great picture of all of us, in my room at the dorm:

2. Outdoor-study Saturday. Even though I had piles of notes to go through, the re-emergence of the sun was too tempting to ignore. So, Merete and I went to the beach-- my final trip to Waikiki-- and I studied there. In the afternoon, I couldn't pass up the offer to go rock climbing with Merete and her friend Alex at Makapu'u:
The view:

Me climbing:

Afterwards, we had a fantastic home-cooked meal, and I went home, still with loads to review about Astrophysical Techniques...

3. The final Sunday Funday! (Which I called the "Land-legs/Sea-legs edition.") We woke up very early, and headed into town to see the finish of the Honolulu Marathon! We were able to watch my friend Lauren, who I met on the first day coming off the airplane, finish strong in under four hours!

From here, we proceeded to the "Sea-legs" component of the day, where we returned to Electric Beach-- the site of our very first Sunday Funday-- for some snorkeling. The water was a bit murky, but we still saw a TON of fish, and one great sea turtle.

4. Study first, dance later. We returned from Sunday Funday in the early afternoon, so I still had plenty of time to study and feel fully comfortable with the material for Mondays exams by evening. This allowed me to feel good about going out and seeing Passion Pit in concert!
It was a great concert-- lots of dancing, fun music, great company... I'm so glad I decided to go instead of staying at home with the books...

5. Academic success! All of my exams went well! I felt as prepared as possible for my astro exams, and the rest went smoothly too! I finished on Wednesday afternoon, and spent the rest of the day with the boys, going into town and buying souvenirs and Christmas presents. We all hung out in the evening, too, just relaxing and celebrating being finished with another academic semester.

6. Ka'au Crater. Thursday, I went on the most incredible hike of my life with Aubrey. Words can hardly describe it, and so I'll mostly show pictures.
Step 1: the first waterfall. We played here for awhile.

Step 2: The second waterfall, and then a third... Is this all just a giant train of waterfalls?

Step 3: The hike becomes a vertical climb upwards, along the side of the waterfall system.

Step 4: Above the water, and overlooking the Crater

Step 5: The hike doesn't end! More vertical climbing upwards to the very top. Finally, we get to the spine of the ridge, so high up we can see the entire Island...
(You can see Honolulu on the left, and the windward side to the right.)

7. A final bonfire with friends. Because so many people were leaving the island, either for the holidays, or for a permanent move, a few of the Ultimate folks threw a little bonfire party Thursday evening. Too dark to take real pictures, but this was the fire...

8. TRON. I went with the Haverford boys to the midnight showing!

9. Final trip the beach. Friday, the boys and I spend the day at Diamond Head beach, relaxing and soaking up the last bit of sun before leaving paradise...

10. Last night at league. I actually came down with an incredibly annoying 24 hour stomach flu, and couldn't play... (except I stupidly played a few points anyway, because it was the last night, and I couldn't stand the thought of never playing in Hawai'i again...) The Haverford gang came up with a cheer for everyone, too, to the tune of "Teenage Dream" by Katy Perry. A video exists somewhere, but it's probably better that it stays off the internet.

11. Saying goodbye. It's never easy, but I have a good feeling that I'll see many of these wonderful people again. And, hopefully, I'll make it back to Hawai'i too...

It was an incredible semester, and I wouldn't have done it any other way.
Mahalo for reading!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Making up for lost times

With only a week to go, I feel pretty badly that I haven't been keeping up with this blog in the last month. So, I'll try to recap a bit, and mostly give pictures of the great things I've been doing...

One week after Hopu, my PARENTS came to town for Thanksgiving! In their time here, we did a lot of hiking and island exploring. Sunday Funday was dedicated to them, as the girls met us at Hanauma Bay for some snorkeling:

We then headed up to the North Shore, watched some very skilled child surfers, and then made our way to a wonderful beach for sunset. While there, we saw this INCREDIBLE mother sea turtle nesting and laying her eggs. Micki made sure we gave her a lot of space, but we did get this photo:

Thanksgiving day itself was spent hiking here, which was pretty incredible:

Overall, it was a great trip. I am feel so grateful that they were able to take off work and make it over here to see the Island and see what I've been up to. (I even took them to Ultimate a few times!)

Since they've left, I've been trying to make the most out of my remaining time here. The following Sunday Funday, I went with the girls, to Ka'ena point, which is at the northwest point of the island. Here are some pictures, although it was pretty difficult to capture the beauty of the place on film...

It's such a stunning place! It's also an albatross sanctuary, so I got to see this lady, also nesting and laying her eggs, probably:

This Sunday Funday was especially great because Emily Shaw, a recent Haverford grad and friend, was in the area and was able to join us! I'm glad we were able to have a full and beautiful Sunday with her there, too!

Since then, I've had a lot of photo-less adventures. Last Saturday, I woke up and rode my bike to my favorite beach right below Diamond Head. I had never biked there, let alone biked that far in Honolulu, so it was a bit of an adventure, and I got a bit off-track. In that detour, I stumbled upon a huge farmers market, and bought the most delicious local tangerines. It was excellent to have a whole morning to myself, being outside and having my own personal adventure.

Now, classes are over, and I just have to battle my finals next week. I'm feeling pretty sad that I have to spend this last weekend and last week caught up in academic endeavors, but it looks like it might be a grey and rainy weekend, so I won't be too tempted to play outside...

The goal now is to manage my time well enough to get all my studying done, conquer my finals, and still squeeze out a few more adventures... Hope to post a little more before leaving, too!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Yo Ho Hopu!

(I wrote this post a long time ago, but I guess I forgot to hit the "Publish" button...)

This past weekend (Nov 12-14), we went to quite possibly the best Ultimate tournament I've ever attended. It had all of the key elements to make a tournament great: A great level of competition, a lot of spirit, games, costumes, excellent weather... Plus a few bonus elements to make it just incredible: the mountains, the ocean, a pirate theme, camping.

Here are some pictures:

Our team: the Electros!

Camping at the Waimanalo Beach Park across the road. 5 Minute walk to the fields, and 30 second walk to the ocean.

After each game, we'd "Walk the Plank".... harder than it looks.

Couldn't resist the urge to take a panoramic of the fields. It was just too beautiful.

The Honolulu Ultimate community has two tournaments like this a year-- a co-ed in November, and a men's and women's tournament in February. Goal: Have enough funding in the future to be able to come back to Hawai'i and play, bringing more Sneetches and Donkeys with me, of course!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Head in the Clouds

This is how I watched the sun rise yesterday morning.

With school off for Veteran's Day, we decided to hike the Haiku Stairs, known by most as "The Stairway to Heaven." These stairs were once used for military purposes, but were closed several years ago because they were broken down and deemed unsafe. After about $900,000 in repairs, the state of Hawai'i decided to keep the stairs closed because the tenants living near the entrance didn't like the hiker traffic.

Now, the stairs are repaired, sturdy, but still off limits. It's still one of the greatest and most popular hikes in Oahu, but the trick is to get there before the guard in the morning. (He doesn't mind seeing you leave, but won't let you in...)

So, Thursday morning, after waking up at 4:15am, The Haverford Boys, Micki, Merete and I all piled in a car, and made it to the site. It was absolutely incredible. The stairs are essentially just bolted into the side of the mountain, and we could see EVERYTHING (well, at least, until we got into the clouds and couldn't see anything but...)

Enough words! PICTURES:

3,922 stairs in total!

The whole group-- Isaac, Rudy, Aubrey, Me, Merete, and Micki!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Happy Hiker

Hiking! Finally! After weeks of rain, interrupted only by a few sunny days spent at the beach, I was able to hike non-stop this weekend. It felt good to be both active and outdoors, exposed to some of the real and natural beauty of Hawai'i.

Saturday morning, I went with my friend Merete over to the windward side of the island and hiked the Makapu'u Lighthouse trail... or at least hiked near it. After the long bus ride to that part of the Island, Merete and I were eager to hike up this beautiful mountain, overlooking the ocean and towns below.

We couldn't quite find the trail, so we instead just hiked straight up the face of Makapu'u, which was a great deal of fun all on its own. It was great to be climbing and putting effort into our ascent rather than taking the very tame and paved "trail" on the back side of the mountain.

Merete making the climb up!

We also passed some actual rock climbers! We have friends from frisbee who do this climb-- I'm hoping maybe they'll bring me along before I leave!

The views from the top were stunning. Makapu'u must have been an old military lookout post, because there were several of these pillboxes at the top.
A view from inside one of the pillboxes

Merete and I at the windy top!

The vegetation too was breathtaking and incredibly interesting. The wind and dry air reminded me of the climate on Koho'olawe. With time, and more work, I hope that Koho'olawe will be able to retain the moisture of the winter rains to a point that life like this can flourish there as well.

This last photo was my favorite one I took of the day. This rock structure could possibly mark a haeau, or a sacred place.

From the top, we took the trail down the backside of the mountain, and switched extremes from the windy heights of the top of Makapu'u, down to the ocean where the crashing waves caused these deep tide pools, and also this blow-hole:

I'd like to go back and spend more time at this spot on a warmer day and swim in these pools. They were actually extremely deep!

After an incredible day out with Merete on Saturday, the next day became Sunday Fun-day: hiking edition. Kristen, Merete and I went to the Judd Memorial Trail, which was more of a jungle-type, muddy hike as opposed to the dry, seaside hike from the day before. The scenery was incredible, and constantly changing. We started out in a thick bamboo forest, and continued through pines and then Guava trees as we ascended to the ridge.
Kristen and Merete climbing through the bamboo
A "waterfall"? Water trickling down over rocks from a stream up-mountain.

This was the most incredible Banyan tree I've seen since being here. We spent a long time climbing it, hiding in it, and exploring it. Banyan trees are incredible as they have branches shoot straight down and re-root into the earth, causing more braches to grow upwards. Over time, the tree becomes this endless network of growth...

Hiking with these women felt effortless, despite the steep, muddy incline. Between good conversation and stopping frequently to admire the natural environment around us, the day and hike went extremely fast!

Kristen is a biologist, and frequently was able to tell us about different plants we saw, like these mushrooms.
A view from the top!

After hiking back down the muddy trail (many slips occurred along the way), we looked for the swimming hole located nearby. After getting a little lost and doing some bush-whacking through the forest, we finally found it! I didn't get a picture here, but it was a beautiful (slightly crowded) spot, complete with a small waterfall and a rope swing to use to jump into the stream.

Overall, it was a fantastic weekend. I'm a little bumped and bruised and mosquito-bitten, but of course, it was worth it! I'm excited to do more hikes on the island in the weeks to come!