30 July 2011

Roving the Big Island (Hawai'i)

I am loath to leave Montana in the summer: perfect temperatures of 80 deg F day/40 night; excellent trout fishing & backpacking; clear blue skies; and when rain does come it's usually in the form of a rousing thunderstorm. But daughter Emily has been in Kona, Hawai'i, since May working on her graduate research, so Mrs Rover & I wanted to see her work and have a good visit.  It's a wonderful amazing place, and we are grateful for the adventures Emily has led us on through competitive swimming, college in Boston MA and now Vancouver WA, and research in Hawai'i.

Yellow Tang Research

Syd Kraul of Pacific Planktonics generously shared his facility as a place for Emily to set up her research. She is studying the collection and treatment of Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens), the "most popular saltwater aquarium fish," in order to improve conservation/fishing practices and reduce mortality (Mila Zinkova pic of Yellow Tang on Kona Reef):

She went scuba diving with a local fisherman several times to collect fish, set up three pools with cages and plumbing to supply a flow of seawater, developed feeding techniques (fresh leafy algae), and is performing various tests to monitor parasites and stress etc. Here are the pools:

And here is feeding time:

Life is a beach,

and we visited a bunch of them from Pololu (north coast) to Punaluu (southeast coast). A big surprise: Hawai'i is relatively uncrowded. Easily reached places with exellent snorkeling such as Two-Step Beach (photos to come, as they are from an underwater film camera) are full of popular, but even some of the sandy, good swimming beaches near Kona are fairly empty on weekdays:

For sheer strangeness, a trip to Punaluu ("Black Sand Beach") was well worth the drive:

Be sure to enjoy the local bread after an hour or two of snorkeling:

And for sheer remoteness, take the hike to a place like Pololu. Heed the warning signs (lots of lawyers in Hawai'i?):

Enjoy the view on the trail down:

Enjoy the mist as it blows in from the wild Pacific Ocean:

On the beach, watch for exotic sea creatures like these tiny Portuguese Man o' Wars:

And even stranger, the creature that hangs with (and feeds upon) venomous Portuguese Man o' Wars, the nudibranch Glaucus atlanticus:

Green sea turtles are doing extremely well in Hawai'i, and they are a common sight while snorkeling or hanging out on the beaches:

Watch where you put your hands around rocks, coral, and tidal pools. Sea urchins are abundant, and there are other dangers such as this 5-foot+ moray eel:

Island creatures are famous examples of Darwinian evolution (see e.g. "Darwin's finches"), and Emily pointed out the way these Hawaiian crabs have evolved to perfectly match the color of the dark lava:

Like Montana's rivers, the Hawaiian shoreline is all public, with access points well marked (a good guide book such as Hawaii The Big Island Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook is essential):

Pele, the Volcano Goddess,

created the Hawaiin Islands, and no visit is complete without seeing Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. We lucked out with an exceptional park ranger/guide, a high school science teacher and Hawaiian native, who mixed his informative tour with animated stories that Grandma told and even a traditional prayer-song of thanks for the beautiful day. He explained the process by which vegetation colonizes lava flows:

And told us about the active Kilauea vent:

Hike around the rain forest of the park and enjoy the exotic vegetation:

We visited many of the lava flows, including the relatively new Mauna Ulu that flowed to the sea:

The massive Iki caldera:

And other sites along the Chain of Craters road. At the end of the road is the Holei Sea Arch:

Where the coast is lined with formidable cliffs:

My favorite site along the road was a hike out to Pu'u Loa petroglyphs, carved into the rocks by generations of First Hawaiian People over hundreds of years:

Kona Coffee's

reputation (and cost) is well-deserved given the unique weather that produces its tremendous flavor and the intense labor it takes to grow and process the beans. Many of the coffee farms, like this co-op, offer informative tours, samples, and of course merchandise:

In addition to coffee beans:

Every farm seems to have the obligatory donkee:

As well as macadamia nuts (again, with free samples--crack your own!):

Food and Drink

Well, Mai Tai's on the beach at sunset are a no-brainer, of course:

But there's also my favorite ("Go figure," sez Mrs Rover), the Kona Brew Pub:

Superb beer in a friendly setting:

Also good food and a very smart merchandising plan--you wait for a table next to the t-shirt shop:

For fresh fish, cook your own! We enjoyed ahi tuna, black marlin steaks, and this lovely filet of ono ("wahoo")--the tastiest fish I've ever put in my mouth (well, maybe it's equal with bluefish grilled fresh from the north Atlantic). Buy it fresh off the boat at the Bite Me! market just north of Kona:



Skywatch Friday: Hawaii and Montana

We visited daughter Emily who is doing research in Marine Biology near Kona on Hawai'i ("Big Island"). Lots of good memories (see separate post): snorkeling, hiking to remote beaches, touring the volcano/lava flows, and visiting the coffee farms. Ah, and the sunsets, whether from the rugged north coast:

From our hotel beach:

Or from the local Mai Tai bar with daughter Emily and Mrs Rover:

Still, it was nice to back home in southwest Montana, where I headed to the mountains, backpacking in the Highlands just south of our home in Butte. High elevation, crisp clear air, snow cornices, and the view of Red Mountain from Table Mountain:

And hanging out on Table Mtn with MollyTheDog for lunch and soulful contemplation:

14 July 2011

Skywatch Friday: Hot Montana Rainbows

I love my fellow Butteians and their sense of weather. No complaints on the -30 deg F day when the air is calm and the sky so bright it hurts your eyes. No complaints on the 15th consecutive day of cold June rain. But, but but but: first July day it hits 80 deg F and everyone you meet complains about the unbearable heat.

The heat also lifts moisture into towering, photogenic clouds. And whatever goes up, must come down. Some as "dry rain," properly known as virga:

But the rains have also blessed us this past week with more rainbows than you could shake a stick at. Here are a few:

"Sure hope it cools down. 's been over 80 every day for more'n'a week, just too darned hot..."

12 July 2011

One Last Hike (before Hawaii)

Mrs Rover & I leave for Hawaii tomorrow on a visit with daughter Emily who is doing her graduate research/field work there. Before leaving, MollyTheDog & I got out for one last hike in the Montana hills. I was glad to find this field of gold:

Heartleaf Arnica (Arnica cordifolia), an excellent healing plant (external use only!) with sesquiterpene lactones--bio-active chemicals that are anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory:

I crushed a plant's flower, leaves, and stem and rubbed it on a "barked" shin that would not heal. The plant juices formed a protective film over the wound and by that evening the inflammation (bone bruise) had subsided and the skin began to heal. I don't have a before photo of my wound in its "weepy" state (lucky you), but here's my shin some hours after the arnica treatment:

In the shade of the lodgepole pines, I thought I made another great find with a huge patch of morel mushrooms, but a closer ground-level view proved them to be toxic false morels (Gyromitra esculenta). Dang:

Back out in the meadow, this lovely field of pink:

Turned out to be Parrys Lousewort (Pedicularis parryi var purpurea), a flower that is usually white or yellow but has a local "purple" variation:

Sulfur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum) is also blooming under the hot July sun:

Well, just a short hike in the hills north of the house and then it was time to get back home as I wanted to get the new toilet set in the downstairs bath (yes, that new kitchen/bath renovation is nearly complete) before bringing MollyTheDog to puppy camp. Hope to be checking in from Hawaii soon, Aloha!