Saturday, November 21, 2020

Fall in Vermont

The view from Jeffersonville during sunset
  It was a magical fall season here in Stowe, Vermont. A long dry spell leading up to the changing colors of the leaves meant that we were in store for spectacular colors. The lack of wind and rain to knock off the vulnerable leaves as they change colors meant more leaves stuck around for longer before falling off. There was a noticeable lack of tourists this year with the pandemic, which made witnessing the phenomena even more special. We felt like we were able to experience the peak of the fall colors before heading south for some time with the grandparents in Savannah. 

Long exposure in Smugglers Notch

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Exploring Stowe, Vermont: Sunset Rock Trail

  Continuing my series during the Covid 19 pandemic semi-lockdown, today Catalina and I explored the nearby trail to Sunset Rock, here in Stowe. Even though she is getting to be a much better hiker, I still carried her in the hiking backpack for about 4/5 of the time. She is rocking her new trail runners and as you can see by her outfit, the weather has turned cold. We woke up the temp in the upper forties today...and it is still August. It was quite refreshing though, as it means we can turned on the fire here at the Stowe treehouse and sip coffee in front of the heat producing flames. We'll see how it is when the temperature goes negative, but this is quite doable, and just downright pleasant.

   To get to this trail we had to park right in the middle of the 'downtown' old town part of Stowe. The buildings actually butt right up to the base of the mountain where this trail starts. Cute little inns and b&bs dot the side road, while the church bells of the main chapel in Stowe keep all informed of what time it is.

  The trail is well maintained and rises steeply for about 100ft in eleveation before you get to sunset rock. This was a well known spot for locals to go to even before the Stowe Land Trust aquired this land back in 1999. There is an interesting kettle hole just beyond the sunset rock, which was formed back when glaciers were melting all around and carving out the landscape. The trail heads up from here another quarter mile to a higher overlook and popular picnic spot. It seemed to me that the trees in this area have grown enough were the overlooks didn't look much different than the rest of the trail. In fact, the two of continued on for another mile or so down some side trail because we though we hadn't gotten to the overlook yet.

  It was a lovely hike in the woods, complete with a magical deer encounter and a tree rope swing out in the middle of nowhere. The sounds of town were never totally out of earshot but we got that great feeling that you can only get when you are surrounded by nature.

 Another Stowe hit.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Exploring Stowe, VT: Moss Glen Falls

My 2yr Old Hiking Companion
 Another waterfall hike on our to-do list was Moss Glen Falls. From my research it sounded like a fairly simple hike from the parking lot to the view of the falls, but I was excited to see what it had to offer. I was not disappointed.

  Even though the hike to Moss Glen Falls is located off Randolph Road, on the other side of the town of Stowe, it still took under 20 minutes to get there. I took my two and a half year old daughter with me. She and I have been checking out all the surroundings of Stowe since moving in a little over a month ago.

  The trail immediately offered some fun challenge with old plank boards formed a boardwalk through a wetland boggy area. The foliage was very dense on both sides although you could see some beaver ponds to our left and you could hear the river to our right. The beaver ponds were the reason for the muddiness it seemed. This area also provided a few berry surprises in the form of wild rasberries and the very first ripe wild blackberries of the season. The beavers handy work could be seen farther up the trail in the form of downed trees across the trail.

Below the Falls
  Past the boggy section there were multiple places to scramble down to the river's edge. It was a beautiful mountain stream with lots of eddies, pools, and rocks of all sizes. I did take note that this was another place to come and swim sometime.

  After only a half mile or so we came to a big uphill scramble in the trail. This led to a beautiful overlook of the falls. The trail continued from here but I read that it only leads to a dead end with no viewpoint so we decided to spend more time down in the stream itself. We would have needed better wet clothes/shoes to make it up closer to the waterfall via the stream. But we had a great time splashing in the shallows, looking at some beautiful rocks, and soaking in another Stowe gem of nature.

Moss Glen Falls from the lookout
Holding a freshwater crayfish

Friday, June 26, 2020

Exploring Stowe, VT: Wiessner Woods

The old Sugar Shack
  The hiking action here in Stowe is really starting to impress me. The options for fun family hikes seem to abound at every turn. After taking to the Stowe Bike Path for a beautiful 7 mile ride during the kids midday nap, Heidi and I grabbed Catalina and Fisher and headed to the Wiessner Woods.
  Filled with great trails, the Weissner Woods had a few surprises in store beyond the beautiful trees. The old sugar shack still stands, although it is locked up now. Catalina had maple syrup for the first time a few days ago so it was fun for her to put together that this was a place where it was made at one time.

The Gnomes
  The big surprise came in a small form. It seems a bunch of gnomes have made a corner of this forest their own. Catalina really enjoyed walking around the 'gnome home' and finding all the different little statues. It is true what people say about one of the great joys of being a parent is being able to see the world through the eyes of a kid again. It is pretty amazing.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Exploring Stowe: Sterling Falls Trail

   There are numerous waterfalls around Stowe, VT, and the expansive trail system means some of them are easily accessible. Catalina and I recently checked out the beautiful Bingham Falls trail, and today we set off again to experience Sterling Falls Gorge.

  The drive took us high above the town of Stowe, off into the farmlands and forest. We had great views of the surrounding mountains layering off as far as we could see. I will need to come back up here for photography at some point. The way turns into a winding, up and down graded dirt road. There is a nice little parking lot with an informational sign. The trail seemed to go along the river here but we ended up on a network of cross country skiing trails which would be an absolute dream in winter time. We ended up doubling back and finding that we needed to go back to the road, walk across a bridge, and find our trailhead there.

  The trail had a line up and a 'closed' sign, but it seemed to have been put there for the winter season due to dangerous winter weather conditions. We made the call to jump the line and explore the trail anyways which was definitely the right call in the end. The trail has wonderful geological information placards placed in strategic spots. The river cascades way down below in a beautiful gorge. Finally the trail descends enough to meet back up with the river. This was great for Catalina because she wanted to play in the water.

  We ended up rock hopping and river walking our way back upstream to some of the bigger cascades. It was beautiful and we had the entire place to ourselves. I scrambled back up the hillside, carrying Catalina until we hit the trail. Then we descended once again along the trail to pick up our hiking backpack and have a little more water time. We even practiced our pondering which Catalina learned in a new book of her's called 'Little Hoot'. It was another wonderful outing for the D-DAC (Daddy Daughter Adventure Club.)

  I imagine there will be a lot more of these in the future.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Exploring Stowe, VT: Bingham Falls

 As we get settled into our summer life here in Vermont, Catalina and I headed out into the surrounding wilderness to do a bit of exploring. Our first place to explore was the Mill Trail, which heads out through the woods to a waterfall known as Bingham Falls. 

  The trailhead was only a five minute drive away from our house. The first part of the trail is through a hardwood forest protected by the Stowe Land Trust. There is an old mill, cabin, and other relics from farms in the 1800's. The stream has multiple entry points that will be good for picnics and swimming as the temperature warms up during the summer. 

  Then another fifteen minutes over Smugglers Notch State Park land takes you to a series of cascading waterfalls which fall a total of 90ft over 5 cascades. This is Bingham Falls. We found some beautiful swimming holes under some of the cascades. I decided I would come back with Heidi sometime to check these swimming holes out. 

  Other than a steep decline to the best waterfall view and swimming hole, the trail was quite easy. On the way back up I could hear Catalina saying, "you can do it, you can do it", which was all the help I needed to make it to the top. 

  When I asked Catalina what she liked about the trail she emphatically said, "i liked seeing the waterfalls!". 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Sea Turtle Snorkel in Maui, Hawaii

  I took advantage of the kids syncing up their mid-day nap schedule and bolted down to Turtle Town in Makena. It is a quick 20 minute trip from our house, so I was in the water in no time. The entrance is picture on the left, and it was quite serene with a little ebb and flood of the ocean. However, just beyond the safety of the rocks the conditions got wild. Luckily for me the view underwater was pristine and clear, so I was determined to get some photos, despite the huge waves crashing overhead.

   Two long lava 'fingers' stretch out from a cove here at "Five Graves." Sea turtles tend to be numerous here so they were my target for today. The clear water gave me the opportunity to photograph some impressive coral bommies on my way out. It turns out I wouldn't have to go very far before seeing my first turtle.

   It is all green sea turtles here. They feed almost exclusively on algae that grows on the underwater rocks. The waves crashing overhead wasn't detouring these aquatic reptiles from venturing into the shallows where the algae can be found. The conditions actually made for some pretty interesting pictures with the reef underneath, the turtle in the middle of the frame, and waves crashing above. I just had to make sure I didn't get dashed over or onto the sharp rocky reef myself. The turtles have thick scales and a thicker shell protecting them so they don't mind being bounced around in the shallows.

   I always try to get in the perfect position for wildlife to be looking at me in my photos. I was lucky to have multiple opportunities today to do just that with these turtles. In the end I swam with five or six different turtles. Some were more interested in others. Here are a couple of my favorite photos from the day. Not a bad mission for a quickie during nap time. I was back before the kids woke up.

  Check out some of my favorite sea turtle photos here: Dai Mar's Sea Turtle Prints

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Last Swell of the Season at Honolua Bay

  Whenever there is a big swell at Honolua I get a bit nervous. There can be some very big waves there, and some very good surfers. This time was no different. The surf forecast was calling for 5-7ft waves, which could be well overhead at a place like Honolua Bay. The nerves usually give way to excitement, or stoke, as us surfers like to say. This is especially true after I catch my first wave.

  It has been a while since I have had the chance to surf 'the bay'. I wrote about one of my last surf sessions here on this blog which you can check out thru this link: Surfing Honolua with Ben. This time the waves were bigger, but it was still early swell and long periods...which meant long waits. Add about a hundred or so people there to surf and I wasn't sure if I would get any waves. Luckily I snagged a few fun ones before having to leave.

Honolua perfection
  I wasn't sure how the crowd would be since there are almost no tourist on the island now thanks to a mandatory 14 isolation for anyone flying into the state. However, almost everyone who lives here is out of work, and it turns out they all came out to surf. I guess I wasn't the only one keeping an eye on the swell. All in all, Honolua remains one of my favorite places in the world to surf. The backdrop is stunning, the walk down through the forest cliff is amazing, and the waves have perfect form. The only thing that could be better is if it was a left handed break instead of a right.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

It's Good to Be Home

Rocking the sea kayaking
Our lanai awaits!
Afternoon walk with the family
  It took almost a month to find a way back home to Maui and to my family from the expedition cruise ship I was working on thanks to this crazy coronavirus pandemic. Everywhere around the world started shutting their borders, including their ports, which made it very difficult to repatriate the crew, myself included. But I finally made it to Maui, and then entered a 14 day in house lockdown quarantine that all incoming passengers must do. Luckily I could do it in my home, which is way better than being stuck in a hotel room like tourists are currently.

   But now I am free! I out and about, while safely social distancing, but I get to enjoy Hawaii with my family and without a bunch of tourist and boats zipping around. To celebrate I grabbed my surfboard and headed out to one of my favorite secret southside breaks and scored it all to myself. Conscientious social distancing indeed.

The Future?
Fisher's First Kayak Outing
   Then we waited for a light wind day and took the entire family of four out on a kayak. We went right off the beach in North Kihei near our home, and found some wonderful coral to snorkel around, plus a few sea turtles popped up to say hi to the kids. It was Fisher's first time out in a sea kayak and he did just fine. Catalina dipped her toes and was excited to see the turtles at the surface, but also the coral below the kayak since the water was so clear.
   I wouldn't want to be anywhere else right now than with my family in my arms.