Belated Happy Holidays to All!

Christmas and New Years have past, and I took some much needed time to see family and close friends. For this trip I literally traveled all the way around the world. My butt and back aren’t very happy about it, but it was a great time to gain some perspective and get fat on good ol’ American Christmas food.

I started my travels in lovely Fayetteville, to catch up with a good friend and acclimate back to the US. I’ve never experienced really bad jet lag before….until now. My first few days I was in and out of sleep, which made for no productivity. On the plus side, I had some great southern food and had time to just decompress.

From NC I headed to the West Coast of Florida to see my parents and grandparents. Obviously this was the highlight of my trip and ate/drank my way through the visit. I was able to catch up on all things “American” and it was exactly what I wanted. Steak dinners, lots of wine, ocean, seafood, and family (of course). We spent the day on Caladesi Island, went to a Tampa Lightening hockey game, and a lot of hot tub time. My parents are pretty great and even brought down a small Christmas tree so it was almost like home. It’s not the same without the New England snow, but it was close enough.

After sunny Florida I did my annual trip to DC for New Years. Pam and I have been doing this for years and I wasn’t going to let living in Cambodia stop me from seeing that lovely lady 🙂 It was a great time getting mani/pedis, Wawa, Dunkin Donuts, and the friends I’ve made in the city I should call my 2nd home. It was damn cold, but still had a great time. One day I swear I’ll move here, just waiting for the right job to open up.

Our New Years crew looking all festive in DC

Before heading back to PP I had a quick layover in the Pacific Northwest to see my brother, sister in law, and the adorable munchkin Emma. Due to some airline crap I only had about 40 hours on the ground, but was able to enjoy the PNW with a run, brunch, and playtime with Emma. It’s always fun to see these guys and hopefully we can all get together in the same place for the holidays. Redhead shenanigans were missed this year, but hopefully next year will be different 😉 😉 😉

So after destroying my back on a 13 hour flight from Seattle to Taipei, then to PP, I am back and in the swing of things at my SEA home. One of my resolutions for the New Year is to be better connected to the ones I love, and to do more things that make me happy…..which probably means more blog posts about fun stuff!

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Adventure out to Oudong

Work has been insane, but yes, I am still alive, and yes, I sometimes give myself time to experience my new country. Today I went with a few wonderful people out to explore Oudong, which is 40km north of Phnom Penh. During one of the kings’ rules, it was a the capitol of the country. There are a lot of stories associated with this area and the images commonly found. Oudong is on a hill and looks over the majority of rice fields across the Phnom Penh area.

First, we went to Oudong Temple, which is relatively new because it is currently being rebuilt. There is an ancient Buddha that survived bombings, so the significance is enough to establish a practice around it. Throughout the hills of Oudong there are many temples and stupas. The best tale is that there is a dragon that lives until the Oudong hill and the temples are maintained to block the entrance so a dragon living inside the hill doesn’t escape. There are even holes in a couple temples so you can feed or give drinks to the dragon. Also included: library of Buddhas, and over-the-top temple decorations.

After the hill of stupas, we walked down a different way and visited a meditation center with the most expensive Buddha in Cambodia. It’s made out of jade, and after we woke up the monk on duty then he lit it up like it was a laser light show. Just when I was about to take a Buddha seriously it became a disco haha.

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The meditation center was really spectacular to look at but almost no one was there. It was kind of nice because we could wander around freely and say everything up close. There is a massive laying Buddha, and also a statue of the lady, Phra Mae Thorani, and the alligator. It’s my favorite Cambodian story about Phra Mae Thorani and it is a common topic in shrines and Buddhist temples of Burma, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos. According to Buddhist myths, Phra Mae Thorani is personified as a young woman wringing the cool waters of detachment out of her hair to drown Mara, the demon sent to tempt Gautama Buddha as he meditated under the Bodhi Tree.

Overall, great day and a beautiful place to visit. Cambodia is a wonderful country with some really great folklore and historical sites. I’m looking forward to getting out into the provinces more and seeing what this country is all about.

Work trip to Koh Kong

Since moving to Phnom Penh I hit the ground running and haven’t had much time to explore (I work for a startup, this is to be expected I guess). Thankfully the company also realizes that a break is good for morale from time to time so we had a short work trip to Koh Kong. This is a coastal area that isn’t too far away, but because of bad roads and traffic it took us around 5-6 hours. Definitely a great change of pace to get out of PP, but of course I’m still a manager and couldn’t let my normal redhead side fly free 😉

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Waterfalls in Tatai

We started with a boat ride to waterfalls in Tatai. It was a little rainy to start, but a beautiful area with no development. This is definitely a local place but a nice little break on the road.

From there we made our way to the coast and had dinner on the beach in Koh Kong. Everything was casual and hung out bbq-ing and socializing. I kept the camera in the bus just in case any shenanigans happen haha. It was a cool place and I collected a lot of capiz shells (still figuring out what to do with them). I also found beach cats. Of course I find cats wherever I go.

The next morning we explored some mangrove forests. Since flooding and severe weather is a problem here, mangrove forests are wicked important so this entire area is protected. The walkway and bridge quality was questionable at best, but I survived! The jury is still out on if there were alligators/crocodiles.

We were able to take a boat ride out to some sand bars in the bay. Definitely not the same kind of sandbars that I would spend the day on at the Eastern Shore of VA, but still nice to explore and experience the glorious fart smelling sand.

Unfortunately it was just a one night trip, but hopefully I’m able to come back to the coast and do some more exploring of the islands. So many options and plenty of time to do it!

New Chapter

I’m sorry for those of you who are getting a little tired just keeping track of my current mailing address, but I’m relocated (yet again) and it’s finally going to be for more than a year. Two weeks ago I arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and immediately started my new position as Manager of R&D for an agricultural startup. It’s an exciting opportunity and I’m even more excited to try to settle down a bit and finally see projects through from beginning to end.

I haven’t had much time to explore since I’ve been trying to find an apartment, fill apartment to make it livable, and also jump in head first with work. Today I took some time off to look around a bit and get out of the city. I went to Phnom Baset with some other folks living in the city to explore some temples and get sweaty.

The original temple in Phnom Baset was built in the 8th century, so it is a historical area with a lot of temples. Unfortunately, the majority of temples in the hills here are new and aren’t historical themselves. They are still great to wander around and take a look at local architecture. Unlike some of the other temples I’ve visited in other countries, the temples here are community places where people come to relax with family, picnic, and get some blessings. You have to take your hats and shoes off, but aren’t as restrictive as when I was visiting Bhutan.

 

The week of Kate!!!

It’s my last week on Kauai and the festivities started with doing one last backpacking trip on the Kalalau Trail. My friend Serge is in town so we continued the fun with taking an evening catamaran ride along the Napali Coast. I’ve done this a few times with family and friends in town as a day sail, but thought the evening would give some different views….we were not mistaken.

The skies were clear and the light was perfect for the afternoon. We started out of Port Allen and head west along the coast, past Barking Sands and Polihale.

We got close to some sea caves and saw the Kalalau Trail from a completely different perspective. If you noticed, I have a picture of the same beach and coast line in my previous post, just from the sand instead of the ocean!

The boat motors us along the coast and after turning around near Ke’e Beach the sails were opened up and we got to enjoy even better views and some wave action.

As the sun was setting the bar opened up and Serge let his lady’s man side fly haha. Obviously he had to befriend everyone, and even got a selfie with a couple by saying, “you guys are beautiful, can I take a picture with you?” Fun times.

I rarely get to see sunset since I live on the east side of the island so I was more than excited to see a beautiful sunset out on the ocean. This is definitely something I’ll miss about living here.

If you are interested in the same cruise I did or the afternoon snorkeling cruise, I HIGHLY recommend Captain Andy’s. They have been amazing every time and have the best and most fun staff any tourist and local could ask for.

 

Last time on the Kalalau

If you weren’t aware, my contract is coming to a close on Kauai, so obviously I had to hike the Kalalau one last time. I was incredibly lucky to share one of my last weekends here with 2 lovely people who have helped shaped my experience in Hawaii.

In the past I’ve had beautiful weather on this hike, but I was nervous that my luck would run out. Fortunately, this was some of the best weather I’ve even had, and thankfully made the 11 miles each day more bearable.

Serge, Caroline, and myself started out strong and in good spirits. We started out a little late bu made great time and even got some sweet pics along the way. The river at mile 6 was a much needed break because your feet get tired really quick on this hike, and a nice soak cooled us right down.

There have been a few washouts and rainstorms since the last time I hiked the trail, and so I’m pretty sure the mile 7 stretch was much more gnarly than I remember. (This is the bit where everyone gets injured because there are steep cliffs, loos gravel, and nothing to hold onto). Thankfully we got through just fine, even though Serge wasn’t happy I stopped to take a pic mid-way through the narrow cliff area haha.

Obviously the high point of the hike is the view at mile 8.5. Always beautiful and always takes my breath away.

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We ended the hike fairly early and had plenty of time to swim and hang out on the beach. It is insane how clear and blue the ocean was so we spent plenty of time soaking it all in.

Serge convinced me to cook on the fire, so we somehow were able to light a fire with green wood and have some steaks. I was skeptical, but everything turned out great. Also, Caroline found a cat. Obviously the vet gets attached to a stray 😛

Beautiful sunsets and drinks by the ocean were the perfect way to end the evening. It’s so easy to fall asleep with crashing waves. And cats mating at 2am 😦

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The weather on our return trip was great, because our motivation was pretty low after realizing being old sucks! This isn’t an incredibly challenging hike, but the recovery time for the return is probably more than 12 hours. We smelled horrible and probably looked worse, but we made it to the end! As always, I had an amazing time on this trail and it may be my favorite place on the island.

 

 

 

It’s been a while…Happy Easter

Within all the chaos of the last few months, I want to wish everyone a very happy Easter. Near and far, you are all my family and I think of you all on a day like this.  A lot has been happening here on Kauai, which is why I haven’t had the time to update this or catch up on my life. Today I celebrate Easter by myself and for myself, and trying to get on top of everything I am currently juggling.

  1. My job’s funding was cut with University of Hawaii. Yes, there are many reasons at play and I realize they don’t have anything to do with me, but it is just another thing that shows Hawaii isn’t valuing the important positions that can make a difference. For this reason I’ve been flying around completing interviews and generally spending all my waking time trying to figure out the next step after June 30 when my contract ends.
  2. Rat lung worm outbreaks have been occurring regularly on the Big Island and recently 15 cases reported on Maui. Kauai has yet to get cases, but I am the only researcher monitoring for it here. They claim the most effective slug that vectors the parasite doesn’t exist on the island, but I recently collected a large number of them. So now I have been going 100%  down this research path, trying to survey for the pest and parasite to ease our residents’ minds. People are starting to get nervous and our local agriculture is going to suffer greatly.
  3. I’m organizing the Hawaii Invasive Pest Conference here on Kauai and somehow all other faculty have dropped the ball. If you know me, you know I love planning a good party, but it’s a lot for one person. Again, a sign that maybe it’s good I’m moving on at the end of June.

Yesterday I finally went hiking for the first time in a couple weeks, which definitely raised my spirits. I haven’t been to the Alakai Swamp in almost 10 months so we thought it was worth a shot.

The Alakai Swamp is the wettest place in Hawaii, one of the wettest places in the world, and also one of the highest elevation swamps in the world. It’s an incredibly unique ecosystem the is highly protected and has a lot of conservation efforts to keep it intact.

The views at the beginning of the coastline were beautiful, but as we got further up to the plateau it became more and more hazey. While in the swamp we were in the clouds, and could have made a great location for a Hawaiian horror movie.

Not much of any views at the overlook, but if you can really stretch your imagination you can see Hanalei Bay back in the distance. haha no you can’t, we were in a cloud and you can’t see anything. Still a really cool ecosystem to experience and it was nice to not be sweating constantly. It’s a beautiful hike and worth every mile of it, even if you don’t get the view at the end.

Happy Easter!

Waimea Canyon and Lonomea Campsite

It’s been a year since moving to Kauai so I thought it was about time that I did an overnight into Waimea Canyon. I’ve spent countless times hiking along the rim or starting at the top and going out to the Napali Coast, but with a friend in town who is down to backpack I made it a point to explore.

Our initial goal was to head to Waialae Campsite but a forgotten map and little trail maintenance, it was clear that we were just going straight up the Waimea Canyon Trail to Lonomea campsite. The trail starts at the southern most point of Waimea Canyon and within the first mile is a great swinging bridge. We weren’t even going to attempt more than one person at a time because, well, it was just a board and a few wires. Definitely Hawaiian engineering at its finest.

The trail had many river crossings and eventually we got good at them. Because of some backtracking and other nonsense, I think we did about 12 river crossings on the way up. We learned better and just wore sandals on the way back to save time and our sanity. Thankfully it’s been a dry winter because these crossings were tricky enough, I wouldn’t advise attempting them unless you had a horse if the river was even just a couple inches higher.

The hike wasn’t challenging at all, and our estimate was that it totals about 10 miles if we didn’t double back at one point. There are some amazing river and canyon views throughout the trip that are really not impressive in a picture, but I did my best. We had to keep reminding ourselves that we were in Hawaii because a lot of the vegetation and landscapes were not what you’d expect here.

We finally got to Lonomea campsite and it was a great little spot in the middle of a dramatic canyon. There is a spillway that, when full, could be an awesome swimming hole and I’ve seen people tubing down it. We did some exploring around the surrounding woods and came across a lot of goats, and tons of other animal paths. We would have explored more but we were tired and wanted a drink.

Because of the wide clearing and the tall canyon walls we had AMAZING views of the night sky. It was a perfectly clear night and barely had any light pollution so we could see more stars than usual, so many that we couldn’t really make out constellations (not that we really knew any). If I had a better camera I’d show you, but instead I get to keep that moment in my head forever. In the morning we got to see the canyon slowly wake up since light didn’t come down until 8:00 in the morning. We were greeted with another day of perfect weather and tons of sunshine. Because the sun didn’t hit the canyon right away, it was pretty chilly and I ended up needing a jacket over my tshirt and longsleeve first thing in the morning! On our way out (which was much quicker since we actually knew where we were going), we made great time and were in better spirits. Near the end we even found some tunnels!

All in all, this was a great overnight and I can’t wait to take more friends up here. It’s really a great spot to unplug, while still not being an intimidating hike. Just let me know when you want to come along!

Kalepa Ridge Trail vs Superbowl

If you didn’t notice, I live in Hawaii. This makes the timing of things weird, especially during events like the Superbowl. This is even more of a problem that the Patriots are playing and I’m originally from Massachusetts, so I have to support them even though I haven’t sat down to watch an entire football game in years. So instead of compromise, me, my hiking friend, and her husband went for an early morning hike.

Our first choice was closed and blocked off, with a sign that specifically said “no hiking”. Oh well, we will try that one out later 😉 We settled for Kalepa Ridge Trail, but the one in Lihue that is used for mountain biking instead of the one in Koke’e. I was skeptical but this was a great hike with a lot of rolling ups and downs. It’s the eastern ridge of the massive crater that includes Mount Waialeale on the other side. It goes from Lihue, along the east side, and ends at Opaekaa Falls, with great views of the island.

The interior of the crater is all farm land managed by Grove Farm, which I’ve never even seen before. (Grove Farm is the largest land owner on Kauai). There were a ton of peaks that gave some amazing overlooks to both sides of the island.

The down side of all the nice view points are the uphills! It is mostly packed clay with rough gravel over top. This makes for some serious footing issues because it would feel like you’re walking on top of marbles. All of us fell on our butts more than we’d like to admit. And seriously, who enjoys uphills?! There were a lot of them, including this beast that I wasn’t happy about.

We made it though and thankfully there were some serious breezes on the east side today so there wasn’t as much sweat as normal. Though there was still a lot of sweat. The hike is a little under 8 miles round trip and is a great hike that could even pass as a good trail run besides the loose bits. There were a few different options going up and back so you can see some decent scenery and take different sides of the ridgeline. It’s also really easy to get to and is close to home so I’ll be taking this again.

Now I have to prepare to hear EVERY JOKE ABOUT TOM BRADY EVER because no one on this island likes the Patriots.

 

I’m baaack (in the woods)!

Sorry it’s been a while, my family probably assumes that I’m dead in a ditch somewhere. With the holidays and work I just haven’t had time to sit down and breathe. Thankfully I have a whopping 5 hours until I have to do anything this evening so I thought I’d update this.

Thanksgiving: Went to New Zealand, had a blast.

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Queenstown, NZ

Christmas: Went to Florida, met my niece Emma, saw my family, then went up to see my besty Pam to spend New Years in Washington DC.

Back on Kauai now and hit the ground running. I have new workshops I’m putting on, and starting some interesting new projects that look at pathogens to control invasive trees. Very exciting stuff. I had a friend in town visiting for most of January so I got to go hiking and exploring some areas I haven’t been. Of course the one day I bring him to Waimea Canyon is the shittiest weather since moving here so he scurried back to the north shore and will probably never leave that side ever again.

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I also met a friend! And she likes hiking! So this weekend we explored Makaleha Falls. It was so fun, but still challenging with an insane waterfall at the end. If it was warmer out I would have definitely gone swimming. This was similar to Blue Hole/Weeping Wall in that it was a tricky trail to follow and we got lost regularly. The flora was beautiful and very much like a tropical jungle that I would expect in Hawaii. We also found this crazy big Albezia tree that had roots all over the place that were bigger than my torso. There was also a nice view of 4 other waterfalls on the left side of the mountain range.

I’d highly recommend this hike, it’s a lot of fun and only 4-5 miles so you can do it in a half day. There are few hikes that allow you to use your whole body and make you think about where you’re going, so I got excited about this….and mostly since it’s so close to my house.

Until next time!