Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Spring Break in Skaha

We spent Spring Break in Penticton this year, climbing at the Skaha Bluffs. For various reasons we wanted to stay close to home and Penticton fit the bill perfectly. It's an unsettled time of year for weather, but in four weeks we only had one full day of rain which is pretty good by Squamish standards. We rented a small house downtown and enjoyed being away from home and relaxing in a different (and dry) environment.

View down Skaha lake toward Penticton. The Skaha Bluffs are visible on the right side of the photo above the water.

As the weeks went by, multiple flowers started to bloom. Desert shooting star is one of our favourites.

This is the small house we rented on Carmi Avenue. It had three bedrooms, a fish pond in the backyard and a ping pong table in the basement. It was well equipped and worked great for our needs.

Elise painted a small bird feeder and hung it in the backyard. We had lots of different birds visit, including a family of quails and a heron, although I think he was after the fish in the pond...

Elise made these critters out of clay with her bare hands while sitting at the kitchen table. I think she possesses a true skill in this department.

The climbing area is very user friendly with good hiking trails and signs to point the way. Here Elise approaches Red Tail Wall.

The desert comes alive in the spring with this flower, arrow-leaved balsam root. It's everywhere and really adds a splash of colour to the forests and hillsides.

We saw a large gopher snake and a rubber boa, but sadly I did not get a photo of either. This shot of a curious garter snake will have to do.

More pictures, Dad?

We drove up to Apex for an afternoon and Elise tried tubing in their tube park. She had a good time!

One of the cliffs in the northern part of Skaha Bluffs has a series of slots and caves that take you underneath. Our friend Kris and his son Eric joined us for a subterranean adventure. The kids had a blast!

Elise was very excited for Easter and counted the days. She had a good egg hunt at our house and the next day we went to the Penticton community Easter celebration where she had a second egg hunt, posed with the Easter bunny, went on a high ropes course and won an egg rolling contest!

For Elise, Eric's visit was a highlight of the trip. They really enjoyed playing together.

Spring beauty, another pretty flower that came to life during our visit.

We really enjoyed our time in the Okanagan and were sad to leave, but I'm sure we'll be back. We are now settled back in Squamish and missed both the fire AND the big rockslide during our time away. We arrived home to beautiful weather last Sunday. Summer is in the air...

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Hawaiian Holiday

After two weeks of procrastination, I finally sat down and sorted the pictures from our recent trip to Hawaii. We spent 10 days on Oahu visiting Pam's parents, who graciously hosted us for yet another Christmas visit. We had a great time and squeezed as much into the trip as possible, despite a bit of challenging weather.

The trip started out with some seriously damp conditions. We made the most of it and did some stormy beachcombing and wave watching on the North Shore, and finished with a trip to Matsumoto's Shave Ice in Haleiwa, a North Shore tradition.

More showery days followed, but we nabbed a quick weather window at Waikiki so Elise could try surfing again. She did great! I pushed her into about 10 waves and she actually stood up and rode three. This was a vast improvement over two years ago. Look at the size of that board!

The Honolulu Aquarium is always good for a showery day. We enjoyed watching the monk seals outdoors, one of which is blind!

One of the most engaging activities we planned for the trip was a dolphin excursion, so we waited for a sunny forecast and booked the trip. We choose the 7:00 am option (the other was 10:30 am) in hopes of having calm water and good wildlife viewing. It worked out as planned, but the morning was unseasonably cool, which became a problem once we were out on the water. We didn't see any dolphins initially, so we went to a sea turtle zone and snorkeled. But we all got very cold so when we did find the dolphins, few people were keen to get back in the water, Elise included. I braved it and swam near the pod, which was quite a unique experience, but got very cold and had to come aboard and bundle up to stop shivering. The highlight of the morning was seeing a humpback whale breach not far off the bow of the boat in the early morning light. That alone was worth the price of the trip!

After the dolphin excursion, we hiked out to Ka'ena Point and saw monk seals basking in the midday sun, a common sight in that area. We also saw albatross nesting and enjoyed a beautiful swim at Yokohama beach at the end of the afternoon.

Pam's still limited with her hiking so we had to choose objectives that aren't too rugged. We repeated the popular walk up to the Makapu'u lighthouse, one we'd done before. The seas were rough that day and the wind was powerful up on the ridgetop. We had good views of Rabbit Island, and Elise and I hiked up to explore some "pill boxes" at the summit, remnants from World War 2. A bit of tree climbing on the descent kept things interesting, too!

Sunset from Ron and Sharon's apartment balcony.

On Christmas Eve, we repeated another popular walk we'd done before, this one to Manoa Falls, not far from downtown Honolulu. It's a lush valley and the vegetation was very interesting - lots of pretty flowers and big plants, including bamboo. An orange cat greeted us at the entrance, but he was in very rough shape, which was sad. Regardless, Elise petted him... a lot.

Christmas morning was a hit as usual. Elise is really enjoying her Lego these days and couldn't wait to tear into the Heart Lake City Mall she got from Santa.

We planned to spend the afternoon snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, but it was closed so we had to go to Plan B. Elise and I decided to do a five-mile beach hike on the northern tip of the island, and the weather was beautiful. I challenged her to a shell finding contest, which made the hike more interesting. She raced ahead of me in key areas, trying to find the shells on the sand before me. It worked and she won, which delighted her. And to top it off we found a monk seal sleeping in the warm sand as we approached Turtle Bay, the beach where Pam met us.

Eventually we made it to Hanauma Bay to snorkel and Elise had a grand time spotting large fish close to shore. She requested a sand burial afterwards, and I happily obliged!

We rented kayaks for a day, an activity we'd not done before. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but in retrospect we should have chosen a more sheltered location for our maiden voyage. Our objective was the Mokulua Islands off Kailua, a very popular boating destination with a nice beach. The problem was, we paddled into a fierce headwind going out, which made progress very strenuous and slow. Once we reached the island, we encountered our second problem: waves that were wrapping around the island and colliding right in front of our landing spot. We made it to shore but got tossed around on the sand by a wave. However, launching the boat to head home looked far more challenging. We hung out on the beach with the other boaters for an hour or so and then decided to make our exit. Without shame, we asked one of the resident kayak guides to push us out between waves and he thankfully obliged. We made it out and and rode the wind back to shore, a much easier exercise than before. It was an adventure, but one we'd not repeat anytime soon I think...

As we neared the end of the trip, I did a solo hike up Wa'ahila Ridge to Mt. Olympus. It was moderately long and strenuous so not appropriate for Pam at this point. I didn't get the best light at the summit and waited for close to an hour for some clearing, which never really came. Regardless, the terrain was really interesting and I saw some good options for future trips. The upper part of the route was very muddy and the ruts worn into the trail were significant. Ropes protected the steeper slopes since wet mud could make the terrain impassible. Interestingly, the wind on top of the ridge was very cool and strong and I ended up wearing my Gore-Tex jacket to stay warm, in Hawaii no less!

It's been quite busy transitioning back to our normal life at home. Ski season is not anything to write home about on the West Coast at the moment so we hope some good snow falls in the alpine in the coming months. Until then, we're making the best of it and climbing at the indoor gym!

Over and out,