Maui 2015 – Snorkeling and hanging loose

As a substitute for my originally planned whale watching trip on Maui1 I had booked a snorkelling trip supposed to take me to Molokini and Turtle Arches. No turtles, though, since we stayed at Molokini the whole time. Captain’s decision because the weather was a bit choppy that day and we wouldn’t have seen much at the second stop.

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The trip was booked via/organized by the Pacific Whale Foundation in Maalea Harbour and I have only good things to say about them. They were focused on safety and relaxation, gave us fruit and other stuff for breakfast, plenty of water, even a lunch and drink was included. The part that impressed me most and which made me tip generously: a choice diving masks with various diopters for the nearsighted. Like me. No additional surcharge. And they offered wetsuit tops to rent out for an additional tenner, which was totally acceptable. And is a good idea to avoid getting sunburned or cold from staying in the not that warm pacific for more than an hour. While the more experienced snorkelers dove off the various options of the boat, the captain himself offered a short lesson, introduction to snorkelling, covering tips and tricks, how to effectively use the equipment, how to be safe so that everyone would be able enjoy the swim with minimum hassle. Just brilliant.

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And that’s pretty much all that is to say. We enjoyed snorkelling, diving, swimming, paddling, looking at fishes we could even see from above the surface. Here’s a digest of pics from the half-day cruise!

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That of course only covered half the day. The other half I enjoyed exploring Whaler’s Village in Lahaina, within walking distance from my hotel. I took pictures of birds, went to the whalers’ museum and had a burger at Leilani’s. Yum!

 

 

 

Footnotes
  1. pro-tip: no humpbacks after mid-may, no whale watching trips on maui []

Maui 2015 – Road to Hana

I guess after leaving the continental states, the roadtrip title format won’t work anymore. And yet on my first day after arriving on Maui I did what? The famed Road to Hana trip. Staying at Kaanapali Beach I had to cross the island first, or I probably would’ve had to take two days for this thing.

Word of advice for everyone planning this trip: Leave early. Really early. Also don’t do it on Memorial day or any other holiday. It (probably) was more crowded than normal, and not being able to stop at some of the beautiful places, because the turnouts are already crammed with cars, will put a dampener on your mood. Still, driving almost all around Maui is a fun thing to do, and rather pretty. Especially the part after Hana, where the road gets adventure-y in some parts, and maybe not all that advisable with a non 4×4 car, depending on the weather. Even when it’s full of tourists, there’s plenty of places to stop, do a brief hike or check out a waterfall, beach or park like the Garden of Eden Arboretum where you might even find something you’ve seen in Jurassic Park.

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Oh. And when on Maui, rent a Jeep. Because sometimes the road can be…adventurous.

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You might also be persuaded to turn off at Brudda Hutt’s in Hana, for a traditional plate lunch cooked in a food truck. If you want cheap food, and lots, and have a robust stomach, go for it. If not, well it’s not something I would go out of my way to eat. At least I didn’t feel bad about eating an expensive steak at the hotel while watching the sun set that evening.

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So that was kinda nice….

Roadtrip 2015 – Yosemite

While Cairn’s cat continued to shun meEosRoadtrip 755 I got a big dose of hospitality today. After starting the day with a berry big breakfast at the Black Bear Diner, my awesome hosts drove me all the way to Yosemite National Park to take pictures of rocks and waterfalls and squirrels and stuff. We had tons of fun on this road trip within the roadtrip even if the weather wasn’t ideal at times. Vanity Plates and bumper stickers provided some entertainment as well, but the main attraction was the quite beautiful scenery of the national park itself. And some of the fattest squirrels I’ve ever seen, darting around between the visitors protecting their sandwiches from them at the visitor center. I didn’t take a picture of those, though. No fatshaming squirrels.1

As you’ll see in the slideshow below, Yosemite is worth a look even when it isn’t bright blue sky all around, so here’s what we saw gallivanting about the park itself!

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After seeing all that we drove back Sacramento-wards, only stopping to pick up our well-deserved dinner at this place:

EosRoadtrip 898“Wait, what?” the non-US ones of you will say. Wiener Schnitzel? In the States? As fast food, by the looks of it?

Nope. It’s a hot dog chain.

“So what?” the Americans not “in-the-know” will say.

Let me explain.

THIS is a Wiener Schnitzel.

click me

 

Footnotes
  1. also my camera was in the car at the time []

Roadtrip 2015 – Smokejumpers and Redwoods

Today started with the most adorable surprise. I decided to have breakfast at my motel, because…well, it was included and I was hungry AND curious. And I wasn’t disappointed. Nothing special, not at all, but they did have waffle makers and batter. I made my waffle, stabbed at it with my plastic fork when one of the more native people indicated to me that using a waffle stick would probably be easier. Yay, waffle stick!1

Disappointment followed! No butter! Eh, whatever. I grabbed some syrup and made my way to my table. Munching happily on my waffle I probably made a rather funny face when a little kid, 6-8 years old walked up to me and said something not quite comprehensible to me. I can understand a lot of English accents across three or four continents, but kids often elude me. He repeated twice and pointed into the general direction of buffet. Well, table laden with foodstuffs. At that moment a women, I assume it was his mom said “He says there’s butter again.”
I thanked him and went to grab some, overhearing assumed mom saying to her kid: “That was nice of you.”

Yup. That kid, barely out of kindergarden, decided to be nice to this random stranger without being prompted to.. Lady who had breakfast at the Super 8 Motel in Grants Pass on May 16th of 2015, you are raising your kid right. While there’s people like you left in this world, not all is lost. I salute you with the oddly specific waffle stick of respect and admiration!WP_20150516_08_30_43_Pro

 

Thusly invigorated I made my way South towards Cave Junction, home of Great Cats world which I didn’t visit. I did pull off at the Siskiyou Smokejumper Museum because it looked like something to do with planes and I’m kind of a nerd for those.
If you ever are in that general area I can only recommend you do the same. After I got out of my car and looked at the sign to see what this place was about, an elderly but very alive looking man came out of a building and asked me if I was interested in a small tour of the museum. Of course I was.2
He asked me if I knew what smokejumpers were and I admitted that I literally had just seen the sign and randomly pulled off to check it out.

Let me paint you a picture. It’s the mid 50s. Someone spots a column of smoke rising above the forest in the distance. They radio it in, the column is triangulated. At the same time a siren sounds, phones ring. Men in their 20s rush to the base, suit up, grab food for 3 days, a few tools, no water and board a plane. They parachute out of the plane in the middle of nowhere, no roads, no GPS, no cell phones. They look for the fire and maybe a cargo drop. Before the fire spreads they cut fire lanes around it and save thousands of acres. Those are smoke jumpers. The man who gave me the tour and told me stories? Donald Thomas, veteran, used to be a smoke jumper in 1957, loved every second of it until he got married and his wife would rather not have him jump out of airplanes. He told me about their gear, procedures, planes, special incidents and his second training jump ever. When he got dropped over a herd of cows, tried to evade and practically landed on top of one. He could hardly move, there was a bull, his buddy tried to literally just “shoo” it away before he made a beeline. Then his instructor (I forgot that one’S name) literally kicked him in the ribs, screaming “You’re not in pain, get up and run!”
He also took a picture of me in front of the plane that got donated at some point. The same model as one of the later smokejumper planes, not an actual one, though.

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After this unexpected but actually really awesome3 stop I made my way towards the coast, right through the Redwood National and State Park, following Redwood Highway. I made a few stops to hike a short trail, take a few pictures or just look at the scenery. Have you ever been in a place that is so breathtakingly beautiful that it’s almost physically painful not being able to stop at a particular spot? That place is just like that.

Also the corndog at that one rest stop was rather tasty. Here’s a gallery of the few times I actually managed to stop on the way to Eureka, California. Particularly bad and odd was the Trinidad Scenic Drive at the end of this day’s trip. A road…well, no a street or actually a path that felt barely wide enough for my small rental car, cliffs and the Pacific ocean to one side, winding along…suddenly turning a corner and you see those large birds, a dozen of them, hanging around in a tree. Remember how happy I was to see those two turkey vultures I saw on Rogue River? There was a dozen taking flight there and I just slammed the brakes excitedly. Then watched helplessly as they took flight before I even thought of grabbing the camera from the passenger seat. Anyway, here’s the pics, enjoy those!

 

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Later that day I arrived at the Motel in Eureka, and the less we say about that, the better. The steak at Adel’s steak house was okayish, the Sierra Nevada Ale was good, there was no free wifi and the rooms and location where subsubpar compared to the other motels I’d stayed in on the trip. But hey, one night, who cares? In retrospect, of the days I spent driving along the coast (and on Maui), this was the most beautiful and interesting day of the whole trip. I had fun, and a corndog!

Footnotes
  1. you guys have the weirdest specific tools []
  2. It would’ve been rude to just say no, also I WAS interested []
  3. please check out their website []

Roadtrip 2015 – Going to Crater Lake and beyond

After doing some research before my road trip I’d decided to make Crater Lake a destination, because, well…it’s absolutely gorgeous! Going there from Eugene, Oregon, via the west entrance, supposedly takes three hours, so I got up at around 2am, because hey, might as well try to catch the sunrise, right? And if the sky was clear, maybe some stargazing/taking pictures of a star-filled night sky? Armed with sandwiches and two large energy drinks I made my way Eastward and upward. Turns out google maps had lied. When you’re driving in the dark, in rainy-ish weather, and a totally unkown route, those 171 miles stretch to about six hours. And, the rain did come from clouds, so no pretty sky either. I did make a few stops for a couple of minutes each, at possibly pretty scenic stops out in the middle of nowhere. Clearwater falls was one of these stops, and even in the rainy twilight of 6am it’s pretty, so the detour was far from being a waste of time. EosRoadtrip 370

I also count myself very lucky that I did NOT hit that deer that tried to tackle me maybe 20 minutes later. It jumped at my rental car, I slammed the brakes and it passed maybe a foot or two in front of my car. I probably had a minor heart attack back then, but thankfully nothing else happened. I doubt I would’ve had cell signal up there, I was far away from every where and waiting for rescue and repair would have seriously messed with my schedule. Driving further along past weird signs I finally arrived at Crater Lake, marvelling at the snow that was still piled up on both sides of the road, and, up at the top, nearly everywhere. EosRoadtrip 383

Sadly I somehow messed up taking pictures when being at the actual crater rim. Even though I couldn’t so much as guess where the actual lake was for all the fog, the snowy slpes and trees where rather pretty. So here’s a view from the visitor center parking lot, up to the snowy crater rim.EosRoadtrip 394I did stay up there for 20 minutes or so, hoping it might clear up, but decided to turn back when it started snowing. No sense in getting stuck up there. I quickly grabbed a few postcards from the now open visitor center (seriously, who commutes here? wow!) And made my way further south stopping at Rogue River Gorge and a few other scenic stops along Rogue River Scenic Byway, where I spotted a pair of Turkey Vultures, and at one point I THINK a Bald Eagle carrying a large branch. Didn’t get a picture of that one, though.

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At some time in the afternoon I arrived at Grants Pass, where I took a stroll from my Motel down to the River to see if there was anything I could tonight. But after kind of a long day I just ended up getting pretty good food and service at a Thai BBQ place. And asked to photograph the wedding of a local woman’s daugher by the end of the month.

Folks, if you see someone with a DSLR taking panoramic pictures of a bridge, the chances are pretty slim they’re actually a professional photographer looking for jobs. Here’s a few impressions of the town:

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Roadtrip 2015 – Breakfast, Baldies, Burgers

After those fun past few days in Seattle it was time to move out and get the road trip on the actual road. I threw my stuff into the rental car and drove South, stopping at a Denny’s for breakfast, because: Hey! I’d never eaten at Denny’s.

 

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Yeah, it probably wasn’t the healthiest of all choices, but it WAS tasty. A Red, white & blue slam, if you really want to know. Thus fortified I drove south towards Eugene, Oregon. I didn’t really have any plans for this day, so I was quite happy to see a sign on the Interstate, telling me there was a wildlife refuge nearby. I didn’t pause to think, I just pulled off at the next exit and drove to that dreamy little bluff called Ridgefield, Oregon to drive through and hike around the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge.

Driving around that place, stopping when there was interesting scenery, a short hiking trail or birds to look at, I actually saw a few interesting things, most notably a Bald Eagle. Yeah, I’ve seen them up close in zoos, at falconry displays, etc. But really, seeing one in the wild was way more spectacular even though it was a bit away. Enjoy those pics!

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After that I pretty much drove straight to Eugene, checked into my Motel, did a little research and went out to get dinner. There was a Five Guys a bit up the road, and. Yeah, I’d say underwhelming, considering all the praise they got at some point, when I found out they existed. But hey, another Roadtripfood bucket list achievement. I also got a few energy drinks and sandwiches for the next day, because the plan was to get up in the middle of the night and drive up to Crater Lake! Woo! I wonder how that’d go. We’ll find out on Monday!

How an eagle ruffled my feathers…

I got to use my new photographic toy last weekend! And it was awesome.

Ok, if you missed it, I swapped out my about 9 year old 70-300mm USM lens for the current model. That is, for the one with the added image stabilizer. Then I suggested a local predator bird refuge as this weekend’s entertainment, the weather held and we went.

One of the self-proclaimed goals of the show, apart from educating about predator birds, is having the audience leave with a different hairdo than they came in. So I’ve had my hair and face brushed by eagles, hawks and owls in fly by, which also accounted for awesome pictures, if you know how to take them.

Apart from a fast lens and camera and knowing how to handle the focus settings, you have to anticipate some of the movements of the birds. That, and a lot of luck, I suppose.

So here’s some of the results.

This is pretty much the only decent picture I got of the saker falcon inflight. No wonder, considering they can achieve an airspeed of about 180mph1. I guess I was lucky he hadn’t built up his fitness from winter break yet.

Emma, the female bald eagle, was among the most impressive bird they had. Especially when flying so close over or next to your head, that wingtips or tail ruffle your own feathers. Repeatedly.

Same would happen with a turkey vulture or with this great gray owl.

They also had a great horned owl that didn’t fly that day but instead enjoyed neck and chest scritches.

 

 

Footnotes
  1. unladen []

A fun weekend

A fun weekend is what I had a few days ago. I did what I Like doing best. Among other things. I took Friday off work1 and drove to some friends’ place where I spent the weekend. With my friends.

We ate tasty food, annoyed2 their cat, took pictures of said cat, let the cat annoy us in the wee hours when it was hungry but we were still tired. We went out for food and drinks, bought and drank Scotch and took pictures of Dinosaurs and animals3. Oh, and we went out for brunch on Sunday.

We spent loads of time just catching up, watched a few movies and in general had a bloody good time.

Here’s a few picutres from the weekend so you can all be jealous!

Warm kitty, soft kitty, not so little ball of fur…sleepy kitty…stu_2014 016

Alert kitty

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The following we dubbed “Quasimeowdo”stu_2014 031

As you will see I always was that little boy who was into dinosaurs and stuff…

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This one was kind of a weirdo, though…stu_2014 086

 

Excuse me Sir, do you have a moment to talk about our lord and saviour John Hammond? Cue Jurassic Park theme.stu_2014 059

 

And here’s one for the hedgehog nation! stu_2014 115

 

Oh my god! WOLVERINE! WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOU?stu_2014 120

 

I suppose this is art.stu_2014 106

 

More Jurassic Park like stuff.stu_2014 080

 

This one looks like a very weird Romeo & Juliet adaption.

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Another Weirdosaurus!stu_2014 064

 

And a shark!

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Take your time, check out a museum of stuff you are interested in, go there with friends!

Footnotes
  1. that’s always a doozy []
  2. and petted []
  3. of the fake and taxidermied or petrified persuasion []

Hiking and taking pictures

The title says it all I suppose. I did both things last weekends. AT THE SAME TIME!

 

ISN’T THAT EXCITING?

Sorry, got a little carried away here.

There’s this socalled Eifelsteig hiking trail here which has – I think – 14 stages, the last one practically passing through my back yard. I’ve walked, climbed, scrambled and huffed my way through it twice this year1 and taken pictures along the way. Once in February and once in October, taking two different cameras with me. Because well…I had to get a new one recently.

The full stage is about fourteen miles, the part from the train station to where I live about ten, so that’s where I stopped. The last few miles are boring anyway.

The elevation change is about a mile, half of it going up, the other half down, thankfully not all of it on one go. You pass through forests, past boulders/cliffsides, a castle, a creek valley with bridges and stuff, it’s actually really pretty and kinda challenging, too. Footing can be tough sometimes, especially when it’s slippery or full of leaves, so take care.

And here’s the pictures! Woo!

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Footnotes
  1. yeah, I should be more active []

photography friday – the light arrived and opened like a rose garden

Hey everyone!

Yes, I am INDEED back from my vacation and ready to resume the photography friday schedule which I started and abandoned before going on vacation. Good, right?

So this week’s prompt, which you can review at 52 Photos Project, is what you can see up there as title for this post.

Light. Roses. Reading this immediately brought my vacation in Denmark a few years ago back to my mind.

So yeah, this is a little more literal, because hey: wild roses around sunset!

wild rose at sunset

wild rose at sunset