Monday, March 13, 2017

Questions, Always With The Questions

When you volunteer to be a campground host, you must be prepared for all sorts of questions. We just hope when these questions are asked, we have the correct answers. We’re always prepared for things like, “ how do I get to campsite #___” or “ how much is firewood”. We’ve even become pretty good at directing people to the Ranger’s Station and to the trailheads in the area. But, the other day, we had a couple of not so routine requests.

On Thursday, a car pulled into the campground parking area. The occupants, 2 adults and a child of about 8 went for a walk towards the lake. When they returned, the mom came to the camper door and asked in a decidedly southern drawl, “Y’all got a pen I could borrah. The boy’s got a splintah” I was ashamed to ask her to repeat her request and eventually figured out she needed some type of sharp pointy thing to dig out said splinter. I handed her my mini sewing kit which included safety pins, common pins and needles. Several minutes later, she returned the kit and wanted to know if I had any peroxide or alcohol. I only had wipes which she had already used. She glanced back at the car where her husband and child waited for her and wondered if I had any Tylenol ’cause she had a whopper of a headache. That I was able to help her with.

A few minutes later the car left the parking area for points unknown and we went back to washing the bathhouse floors.

Just before dark on Friday, a young man approached the camper asking if he could rent a site for the night. We suggested he take a quick peek and choose one and before 10 minutes had passed we were filling out the paperwork for him to stay on site #4. He bought a bundle of firewood and left us, we thought, for the night.

There was a knock on our door about an hour later and I opened it to find Mr. #4 Camper wondering if we could render a bit of first aid. He held a wad of paper towels around one of his fingers. He told us, with no small amount of embarrassment, he had sliced his finger trying to free the firewood from it’s restraints. He added rather tongue in cheek he considered his knife to be pretty sharp.

We invited him in, waited while he washed the affected area and then gave him some more paper towels to dry off the finger. I grabbed my first aid kit  ( thanks, Mom for buying us a first aid kit ) and asked him to sit down at the table. It was then I got a look at the camper’s finger and with that brief glance I realized he needed more medical attention than I felt comfortable giving.

I called the Ranger On Duty, Jamie, who arrived about five minutes later. I won’t list each and every first aid measure taken from that point but I do want to mention Jamie, with his EMT training, did exactly what I was prepared to do. He just has the training certificate which I don’t. I also want to mention my decision to call Jamie could have had future ramifications. Jamie used nitrile gloves and I didn’t even think of it. I’m going to add some gloves to our first aid kit. ( thanks Jamie for suggesting I add gloves to our kit )

The predicted weather has slowed the arrival of reservations. It seems most campers don’t find 20 degree temps with snow as optimal tenting weather. Maybe winter will quit soon and we can continue with spring. I know the daffodils will be happy.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Forecasting Change

The weather changes quickly and often in March. Yesterday, the sky was a deep blue with cotton like billowy clouds lazily floating by. It was about 75 degrees and Carl and I worked up just a bit of a sweat when we walked over to the office. An hour later, the wind picked up substantially, the sky turned a steel gray and off in the distance, an occasional faint rumble of thunder could be heard. Within an hour, the camper was being buffeted with 40 mile per hour winds and we watched as a wide curtain of rain rushed across the lake towards us.  Within moments our parking area had standing water two inches deep.  The storm raged over the next two hours before exhausting itself in the Charlotte area. All we were left with were the high winds which blew all night creating a utilities nightmare in populated areas. Sometime after midnight, the cold front arrived, the winds dropped significantly and we woke this morning to 35 degree temperatures. Tonight, there is a possibility of a hard frost.

This morning, we received our daily report which tells us of expected arrivals, what sites will be occupied, if they owe money, the number of people in their party and it also includes a contact name.

After lunch, we’ll do a walk through to check for downed branches. But right now, I have to confess, the photographer got caught without her camera. Carl spotted a small deer walking slowly across the parking area and my camera was in the truck. Bad on me!      

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Traveling South

Our route south to Nebo, NC covered most of the same roads we traveled last year and because we have traveled these many miles before we approach the roads with an eye towards what had been fixed, changed or improved. It’s not exciting but it does pass the time and is classified as idle chatter in the much grander scheme of communication. So what was different?

 Well, we found the roads to be generally less rough. Many states have large construction projects in the works. Some are clearly in the beginning stages with surveyors bravely measuring and marking while traffic whooshes by at 70 mph which seems to be the legal limit in more and more places. Sadly, we must report Pennsylvania has the dubious distinction of the worst roadside litter. It also appears the least expensive gas was in Virginia while the highest prices at the pumps are now reserved for NY and NJ.

Because of freezing temperatures in NH, the water remained off in the camper during our trip. I found it easier to just eat our meals out while on the road which meant our stops in Cedar Knolls, NJ and Harrisonburg, VA  were anticipated for what they had to offer in the way of food. It was Chinese at both places but we did look for possible alternatives should we find ourselves traveling this way again.

We were told by the Ranger Supervisor they are experiencing drought conditions and the fire danger is borderline extreme. We were both surprised when he told us the park had to be closed for a month while employees spent 16 hours a day fighting a fire nearby.

After setting the camper on the host site at Catawba River Walk In Campground, Carl went about his responsibilities which included getting the water connected, lines flushed and securing the satellite dish on the roof. If it were left to the old style antenna on the roof, we would have 6 channels, 3 of them public education.

This year, unlike last year when the campground was closed for renovations, we will have people oriented responsibilities such as collecting money for firewood and assigning an overnight campsite if someone arrives after the ranger’s station closes. We are required to check sites, clean as needed and to generally be here to answer questions day users of the area might have. We are also in charge of the bathhouse.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Not Like It Used To Be

I’m either getting old or we’ve been to Kauai so many times, it’s become common place. Consider this. When we first came to the Garden Island, we were given directions to our resort. The lady said” Go to the traffic light and turn left, follow the signs for Poipu until you reach the gas station, turn left and travel about 2 ½ miles.

Well, it’s not that way anymore. There are countless gas stations, traffic lights and shopping areas. Hundreds of thousands more people come to sample this little gem in the Pacific bringing with them traffic jams, pollution and the inevitable trash along the roadside. The song says “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” and that’s just what they’ve done in a manor of speaking.

Anyway, the northern end of the road is a mere 30 miles from where we are staying and the beach there is a beauty, photographically speaking. So, we picked a day that was sunny but with a high surf warning on the north shore. After two hours of red lights and slow lanes, we were still only about half way. At this rate, with the narrow roads and one lane bridges ahead of us, we wouldn’t return home until well after dark. It was at this point I suggested we head back to the unit.

On the right was an interesting looking Botanical Garden, named Na Aina Kai so we decided to stop. We were greeted but then told unless we had a reservation for a tour there would be no way to view the grounds. They gave tours Tuesday through Thursday and the tours were full for this week. We wandered through the gift shop, beautiful in it’s own way and then left through a lovely courtyard manicured with all sorts of flowering plants and lush greenery. If that was a sample of what we missed, we missed something truly beautiful. So I mentally added this stop for another visit to the rapidly crowding island.

Tomorrow Carl will be going fishing even though he’s come down with a cold while I pack the suitcases. After lunch we’ll be moving from Lihue, near the Cruise Ship Harbor, to the south side of the island and our time share unit we own at Lawaii Beach Resort.

On Monday, we’ll be headed out on a snorkel / sightseeing trip to an island called Niihau, which is privately owned and only native Hawaiians and their invited guests are allowed there. It’s called the forbidden island and that makes it all the more desirable to go there. The reefs are pristine and the snorkeling and fishing is said to be second to none. We’ll spend the day watching for whales, taking photos of Na Pali coastline and avoiding a sunburn during the 7 hour trip.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Wow Just Sums It Up

One of the top 5 items on my bucket list was to see red hot lava running in some shape or form during one of our trips to Hawaii. We were so close in 2008. We drove the Chain of Craters Road, walked in to the furthest point allowed and stood there peering into the distance for some hint, a glimpse of red to indicate there was lava flowing. If there was, we never saw it and returned to the car with our hopes dashed.

Pele didn’t wait long to show off her colorful display to the world. The plane was on the taxiway when the announcement came from the cockpit about an eruption in the Kilauea Caldera. I looked at Carl and he at me, just shaking our heads. Just our luck.

Fast forward 8 years and you can well imagine my excitement when Carl returned from the lobby a few days ago with the news of another collapse of the partially cooled lava bench. You may remember hearing of a 26 acre piece of new real estate collapsing into the ocean on New Year’s Day moments after Park Officials convinced people to move from the area. Now, a steady stream of lava called a fire hose, by the media, had begun to flow. The most in years one reporter claimed. From the moment I saw the video, with mouth agape, I knew what I had to do. Web search for lava boat tours coming up and then 15 minutes later, I was booked on Lava Ocean Tours for Saturday, the 4th at 4:00.

On Thursday, the media talked about the geologists who narrowly escaped injury or death while trying to set up cameras to monitor the formation of other cracks.  Those cameras captured footage of the latest bench collapse and at that moment, it was believed the lava had all but stopped flowing. Just my luck again. It was as if Pele was torturing me for some slight. I even thought about buying a nip of rum as an offering. My religious beliefs frown on that sort of thing but, hey, when in Rome… right?

Cut to Saturday, the 4th, at 4:00 PM. Captain Shawn arrived to call the roll, give a mandatory Coast Guard briefing and to explain how the trip would go. He also called all 60 + aged people together, gave them a warning about back, neck and leg injuries before allowing us to board.

The boat, situated on it’s trailer measured over 40 feet long and it was 10 feet to the gate in the railing. All of us boarded by way of a 10 foot step ladder while the boat was still on the trailer in the parking lot. The crew of 40 did a once around the park and arrived at the boat launch with a fair number of spectators lining the shore to watch as the truck backed us down into the narrow harbor.

And then we were off,  running parallel with the shore line and fairly skimming over the waves, each of us strangers wrapped up in our thoughts. Questions plagued all of us. Would the boat ride be too rough, how wet would we get, will the electronic equipment be safe, would we really get a chance to view one of natures most spectacular shows?

45 minutes into the trip, we began to see steam ushering forth from the ocean’s surface. 10 minutes after that, we saw a red glow through the clouds of moisture and then we began to feel the heat from 200 feet away.

And then we were there no more than 50 feet from the almost surrealistic site. A  glowing fire fall of 2100 degree molten lava endlessly cascading from the miniscule appearing vent, a pipeline the Hawaiians would say came straight from the goddess herself.

All of us, as if we were one, began snapping photos with cameras, recording various lengths of video to try to show those who were not there just what it was like at the bottom of the ever changing stream. At times, the flow would be bright orange and full as it cascaded into the ocean while at other times, the white hot ribbon narrowed and as the gases within mixed with the overly warm sea water, it sent ejecta outward, sometimes the height of the falls.

It took some effort for me to stop taking photographs with both my cell phone camera and my Nikon D200 but I forced myself to sit quietly and just watch. Every once in a while I would hear myself say, “wow!” That was about the only word that came to mind. And still is.

I sat for hours afterwards, studying each and every image,
watching the videos over and over with that very same word
 coming to mind. We were back at the harbor about 7:00,
 home by 8:00, but unable to sleep until almost midnight.
Even now, I have to pinch myself and say, “that was real
and I was there first hand. Wow!”  

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Tidbits And Trivia

Europeans brought sugar cane production to Maui in the early 1800’s but due to economic reasons, plantations have been closing in recent years. Hawaii’s Commercial & Sugar was the last company to produce sugar in the islands. Sadly, it too closed in December of 2016. Diversified agriculture will take its place.

Maui pineapple industry started in 1890 and that too has been phased out over the years. The mainland receives pineapple from South America at a lower cost.

From the beach across from our resort you can see the island of Lana’i just 8.8 miles away and the island of Moloka’i a mere 8 miles away. On a clear day you can also see the island of Hawaii ( the big island ) 32 miles away.

Ka’anapali is the first master planned resort in the United States. The first hotel opened in 1960.

Lahaina was the original capital of Hawaii. It was moved to Honolulu in 1845. A major fire in 1919 destroyed most of Front Street. The fire was started when Bubonic Plague was discovered amongst the Chinese section of town and it quickly got out of hand.

There is only one tunnel on Maui. It was deemed to be too environmentally destructive to blast the mountainside away so the construction of Rte 30 went through instead.

These are some of the fun facts we’ve learned this week. Today we visited the aquarium I mentioned and then took a sunset dinner cruise on the Quicksilver out of Maaleaa Harbor. The sunset was a flop, the meal was only so so, the crew was great and we saw whales.

After the cruise, we headed home to pack. Our time on Maui is up and we head to Hilo tomorrow to stay at the Kilauea Military Camp inside Volcanoes National Park.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Road to Hanna Once More

Today, we decided the weather looked pretty good so after lunch, we headed over Route 36 towards Hana. This time, with Carl at the wheel, we were able to stop several times to take photos.

Some of the photos are of the bridges, most of them built between 1910 and 1920 while others are of interesting trees and foliage. But the real reason we traveled the fifteen miles to Ke’anae Point was the waves. On Sunday, the surf was roiling and crashing on the huge chunks of lava piled up in the bay. Sadly, the rain kept me from really being able to enjoy the scenery.

Today, thanks to three days of high winds, the waves were much higher. Much more dramatic and my only complaint, photographs do not show the power and magnitude of what God produced before my eyes. Even a video pales in comparison to what was before me. We saw evidence of much stronger surf and erosion as much as 15 feet from the shoreline. The power of water is sadly ignored. It can move mountains, wash away buildings and erase roads. The Hawaiians have a piece of information for us tourists, “Never turn your back to a wave”. It’s a valuable piece of advice.

There was one other piece of information passed to us by Tom, the driver. He told us there was only one snake on Maui to be concerned about, the Maui Black Arrowhead. It wasn't long before we spotted one.