Monday, November 23, 2009

Back at Mac

What a strange and interesting life I have. Six weeks ago I left McMurdo, for a period of wonderful traveling. Seems like the blink of an eye, and here I am-- back again. It is so much warmer than it was when I left, and it's light all the time. The work will be quite a bit different, too. A lot of flying around in helicopters, installing and maintaining mountaintop repeaters and stuff. It'll be a nice change after the relatively mundane wintertime work routine.
I wasted no time in contracting the McMurdo Crud. There are always a lot of viruses making the rounds on the ice, and it's pretty much given that we will all be exposed to them, until we gain our immunity. I felt funky right on arrival, and it has escalated into the strong sensation of having a colony of rabid prairie dogs inhabiting my lung tissue. I went to the doc to get some cough medicine this morning, and he recommended that I take a couple of days off of work. There really isn't much to do in the daytime, so it's not a big treat to play hookie. I've been reading a good book about Lewis and Clark's expedition, which has helped to pass the time. Fingers crossed that the germs will subside, and I can go do some work.

(The first picture is Conan at his new/old home in Helena. The other are taken in the C-17 I took to the ice.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dog Parkin'

After leaving Kauai, I headed to Oahu for a couple of days. I stayed in a big, funky backpacker on the north shore (near Sunset Beach). On my way out, I decided to have another little urban adventure. I stayed at the Honolulu YMCA. It was old and funky, and very cheap for Honolulu. I don't think I'll stay there again, but it was a fun experiment. I had a single room for something like $42.
My plane leaving HNL had mechanical problems, so American footed the bill for a nice room on the 19th floor of the Waikiki Beach Marriott. Not bad! I hung around on the beach for a while and nursed a bad sunburn from Kauai.
I came back to the states, and picked up Conan right away. We've been hanging around at dog parks near my dad's place in Louisville, Colorado. This morning we're back in Helena-- I'm sadly dropping him off at his parents' house for another few months. I got an offer to do a short summer contract back on the ice that I just can't pass up.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

More Na Pali Pics

These were taken by the "first mate" on our Zodiac.

Na Pali to the Big City

I was so thrilled by my brief (but painful) hike up the Na Pali coast on the north shore of Kauai, that I thought it would be worth another day to take one of the cruises that see the coast from the ocean. There are different kinds-- sailboats, catamarans, helicopters, and some that use small rubber Zodiacs. I picked the last one-- sounded like more of an adventure. It was-- holy cow! We loaded about twenty of us, plus the captain and the first mate up at the boat launch (it isn't really a harbor) at Waimea. We had to blast through 5'-6' surf for about an hour to get around to the north shore, which was calmer. It was so calm, in fact, that we got to go into many sea caves that are almost always inaccessible due to high surf. I estimate we entered ten sea caves, including two that had a separate entrance and exit. I can't put in to words how awesome (and scary) it is to drive a boat into a pitch black cave with the surf surging up and down, navigating around to a separate exit. At one point Chris, the captain/pilot pulled in to a very cool cave with a waterfall splashing down through a "skylight" in the top of the cave. We took some pictures there. Chris said "this view was the photo that was on the cover of National Geographic’s special book on the most beautiful places on earth. I believe it. We then backed out of the cave, and proceeded back up the coast, where we entered a pitch dark cave. Turns out it was a "U" shaped cave, and we came back out where the skylight waterfall was. That was one of the most awesome moments of my life. You can see photos and videos at their web site: In addition to the cool caves, the peaks and cliffs of the Na Pali coast are some of the most awesome geological features anywhere, and the clarity of the water is completely amazing. It is the color of Windex, and you can see the bottom through forty feet of water as though it were a bathtub. We went snorkeling with tiny Spinner Dolphins, and stopped at one point to tie up, bait some fish, and snorkel around them. Never having worked a snorkel before, it was a little frustrating for me. I haven't figured out the part of not drinking a gallon of water through your sinuses yet. It'll probably be more fun when I master that part.

After Na Pali, I explored some more of Kauai by land. I drove my slick rented Mustang convertible all over the place. The surf at Hanalei was very weak, or I might have spent more time there. I'm no surfer, but I love watching huge waves crash. It stayed dry for my entire visit on Kauai until the last day, when it rained almost all day. I used that as an excuse to explore by car some more. I spent my last night in Lihue to be close to the airport, and flew out without incident. Because of the way my tickets lined up, I was forced to spend a couple of days in Oahu, which I didn't really relish. I pictured hanging around all day downtown, trying to evade the tourists. What I failed to take into account is that these Hawaiian islands are TINY. I drove all the way up to the north shore of Oahu in less than an hour. I stayed at a big, funky backpacker at Shark's Cove, adjacent to Sunset Beach, and the famous Banzai Pipeline. I spent a little too much time on the beach yesterday, and I resemble a lobster today. A local bloke struck up a conversation about surfing and dirt bikes, and I stood around in the sun like a brain-dead lizard for an hour and a half chatting with him. When I got home, I was the color of a pomegranate. I checked out of my backpacker this morning and drove down to Honolulu, where I scored one of the strangest berths yet. I'm staying at the Central YMCA, right next to Waikiki. It's a dingy, ratty old building, with peeling paint and a lot of funk going on. I didn't see any bugs or anything, though, and the price is right-- $42 a night. Sometimes I like to take these little adventures-- get away from the tourists and hang with the locals. Plus, I can soak my lobster bod in the cool pool...