This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Red and Green.’ See more responses here.
Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) have been associated with Christmas for centuries in Mexico and Central America, where the plant hails from. The plant was introduced to the United States in the 1800s, but it wasn’t until the last century that the Christmas link really took off. This was mostly due to savvy marketing tactics by the Ecke family, which had a monopoly on the poinsettia market thanks to their discovery of a secret grafting method which produced a denser plant and wasn’t duplicated until the 1990s.
The red ‘flowers’ are actually bracts, which hold the fairly insignificant flowers. On the Big Island, their brilliant displays are quite common on the west side of the island, where they can be seen as bushes and trees.
This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Unique.’ See more responses here.
I’ve posted photos of the benches at Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo before (here and here), but realized I had some others available, so here they are. I don’t know whether they’re unique or not, but I’ve never seen anything like them elsewhere.
Top photo is the Namaste bench, Namaste being a white Bengal tiger, the zoo’s star attraction, who died in 2014. The middle photo shows a couple of birds, though I hesitate to say what kind! The bottom photo represents the zoo’s ring-tailed lemurs.
The zoo is currently closed, in part because of the Covid virus, but also for construction required to make the zoo compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s scheduled to reopen in early 2021. For more information about Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens, go to hilozoo.org.
This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Thankful.’ See more responses here.
This theme seemed an appropriate time to feature my most recent hike in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I’d been wanting to try some backcountry trails for some time, but the road to Hilina Pali Overlook had been closed since the 2018 eruption. A month or so ago it reopened so off I went.
I hadn’t hiked the backcountry there before so, to get a feel for the area, I decided to do the hike marked on the map. (For an overview map of the park click here. Ka’aha Campground is the westernmost campground on the coast.) From the overlook I’d go down the pali (Hawaiian for cliff) to the coast at Ka’aha, then take a connecting trail to the east to link up with the Hilina Pali trail again, and back up to the overlook. At somewhere around 8.5 or 9 miles it sounded simple enough.
The first section of trail switchbacked down the very steep, 1,500-foot high pali. It looked like it doesn’t get a lot of use and recent rains had caused the grass to flourish. Following the trail became an exercise in spotting cairns to see which way the trail headed, and then carefully making my way in that direction. Underfoot, it was rocky and uneven; an easy place to turn an ankle. On the plus side, the views were wonderful, up and down the coast.
After a while, the grass thinned out and the trail became clearer, though still steep and rocky. A couple of brave trees clung to the side of the hill and I thought, ‘those will give me a bit of nice shade on the way back up.’
As I got toward the lower part of the pali, the trail angled into an area of tumbled rocks, big and small. A landslide, this one from Kilauea’s 2018 eruption. Traversing this section involved clambering over whatever rocks were in my path. I kept hoping I wouldn’t step on a loose rock, causing it to slip and trigger another slide. It was a bit depressing to get through the area only to see the trail zag back into the danger zone. However, soon enough I was through the rocks, down at the foot of the pali, and on to the first trail junction.
Thus far, I’d been following the Hilina Pali Trail, but now that trail bore away to the southeast. I took the right fork, going south to the coast on the Ka’aha Trail. The area between the pali and the coast is all lava and scrubby grass and the trail was again hit and miss, but well marked by cairns. The most interesting feature was how close the trail passed by several caves, which are lava tubes where the roof of the tube has collapsed. These collapses are an illustration of why it’s a good idea to stay on trails. Lava fields are riddled with tubes and the roofs can be quite thin and fragile. One wrong step and you could be lying in a dark hole with a broken ankle or worse!
The caves tend to be shady, cool, and relatively damp. Ferns and other plants grow there, sometimes including trees. Birds and insects also frequent them for the moisture, so it was no surprise to see an abundance of spiders waiting in webs across the entrances.
I reached the second trail junction and headed down the slope to Ka’aha Campground and the coast. The campground, which consists of a covered shelter and a composting toilet, sits inland from the coast. Down by the ocean there’s more vegetation including some trees so people often camp in their shade. I didn’t see any sandy beaches on this part of the coast, but there were areas of protected water for taking a dip. Since I had the long, uphill haul back still to go, I didn’t linger.
Back at the second trail junction, half a mile inland from the coast, I was roughly halfway through my hike. From here, I walked east on a little used trail that would link up again with the Hilina Pali Trail. This was the start up the uphill return and when things started to go downhill for me. This part of the island is often cloudy, wet and windy, but this day was a scorcher with the sun out and only the occasional hint of a breeze. Now, in the middle of the day, it had become very hot.
The trail was rough and the cairns not so evident, so it was slow going. I made the mistake of thinking this leg, to the third trail junction, was a shorter one, but it wasn’t. Consequently, this section took longer than expected and, the longer it went, the more I wondered if I’d missed the next trail junction. Trail junctions in the park are usually pretty well marked, but it was always possible that in this less-traveled area one might have been knocked down so that I missed it. I could see cairns ahead and hadn’t seen any off to my left, but my stopping and starting and looking for the next trail was getting wearing.
Eventually, I spotted little wooden signs ahead and reached the junction with the Hilina Pali Trail. By this time I was pretty hot. I had water, but I was frying in the sun. Still, the next section of trail was largely on the level and I hoped to make steady progress back to the foot of the pali. I was also encouraged to see clouds building up over the pali. Tackling the hill back up would be much easier in the shade.
Alas, it was not to be. I slogged my way over the rough ground toward the pali and, as I did so, saw the clouds recede. By the time I got to the foot of the trail up the pali, I was fried. Had there been any shade in the area, I might have hunkered down and waited until either the clouds came back or the sun became less ferocious. But there was no shade so I decided I had to just take it steady up the trail until I reached the lower of the two shade trees. It was around this time I started singing “Put One Foot in Front of the Other” from the old Christmas special, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town!
One positive was that I was now back on territory I’d been on earlier so I wasn’t worried about where the heck the trail was. Perhaps I should have been. I was trudging through the jumble of rocks marking the landslide area, putting one foot in front of the other, and when I looked up I realized I couldn’t see the trail ahead of me. Turning around I couldn’t see it behind me either. Obviously, I’d missed a switchback in the slide area, but I wasn’t sure how far back that might be. I really didn’t want to go down again, giving up precious elevation I’d gained, so I decided instead to angle across the slide until I found the trail again or reached the shade tree. The downside of this plan was that it meant scrambling over all these loose rocks in the worst possible spot for it – the slide area I’d hoped to traverse as quickly as possible.
It seemed like forever before I found the trail, just above the shade tree. I trudged down to it and slumped onto a rock, finally out of the sun. I had a drink, dumped some water on my head and rested for a while. I don’t know how long I stayed there, probably 10 minutes or so, but it was a huge relief. Finally, feeling somewhat refreshed, I got to my feet again and clumped on up the trail. I repeated this process at the second shade tree, before tackling the last stretch to the top. Luckily, the clouds did return and this last stretch was a bit cooler. Even a light, but steady onshore breeze filled in.
It was still a haul up the final slopes, and I was happy and relieved to see the shelter at the overlook. I sat at the picnic table and enjoyed a cold drink from the cooler in the car. This was the closest I’ve ever come to getting heatstroke while out hiking and I was very thankful to have made it back in one piece. When I changed out of my hiking shoes, I realized my feet were in bad shape with a couple of huge blisters and several blackened nails. With all that was going on, I hadn’t even noticed my feet were hurting.
I certainly got the feel for the area that I’d been looking for, but I doubt I’ll do that hike again. The views were great and the coast quite lovely, but in between – not so much. It was a grind. As we say in this household, a learning experience!
Also posted in response to this week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme of ‘Whilst Walking.’ See more responses here.
For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to nps.gov/havo/.
This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Two Ways,’ the idea being to show a photo processed in different ways or to show two photos of the same thing taken at different times in different conditions. (See more responses here.)
I’ve gone with a photo taken yesterday morning showing it before and after processing. In the water, I use a basic point-and-shoot camera in a waterproof case. I don’t use lights or a flash so I shoot mainly on auto, because if my big fingers started pushing little buttons, my subject would be halfway to Japan before I got a photo. This approach can lead to some erratic results, including the image appearing somewhat murky, but usually this can be cleaned up during processing. On this day, the visibility in the water was cloudy, but not as bad as it looks in the before photo.
For photo processing, I use an older version of Photoshop Express (PE), which is a stripped-down version of Photoshop. Using the full version would be like me driving a Ferrari to the local store – way more power and features than I need. My version of PE has a ‘haze reduction’ feature, which is a sort of automatic one-stop processing step, but I prefer to do my own adjustments.
While the two versions look quite a bit different, the change is mainly down to simple adjustments in ‘shadows and highlights’ and tweaking the tones and colors in ‘levels.’ Besides that, I removed a few of the little red flares that often occur in these underwater images, and bumped up the sharpness a hair. That’s it.
Since I follow the same routine when processing all my photos, it goes very quickly. This one was all done in 5 minutes, and the result was worth it.
This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Dreams.’ See more responses here.
A couple of weeks ago, I was out walking along the coast and saw a monk seal I didn’t recognize. As I usually do when I see monks seals, I took photos in an attempt to identify it. Many Hawaiian monk seals have numbered red tags in one or both tail flippers. Some have been bleached with an identifying mark, though this lasts no more than a year as it will disappear when the seal has its annual molt. Some have scars of one kind or another that help with identification. This seal had none of those things.
Its most distinctive feature, apart from being a bit on the small side, was that it was restless. As soon as I saw it twitching and rolling and flexing its flippers I thought it looked like the seal was having a dream of some kind. It finally rolled over completely, in the process opening its eyes and noticing me, up on the cliff, taking photos. No matter. The seal ended up on its belly and found a good spot to rest its chin and drift back into slumber and that rather good dream it had been enjoying.
I sent some of my photos off to Lauren, the Response and Operation Coordinator at Ke Kai Ola, who keeps track of the whereabouts of monk seals around the Big Island. She said the seal was most likely Hiwahiwa (meaning a person or thing greatly beloved). He was the only monk seal pup born on the island this year, back in April. Because of the Covid virus, the shorelines were closed at that time, so access was very limited. This also meant that the pup didn’t get tagged, which explained his lack of identifying marks.
I haven’t seen him since, but a week later I saw another seal I didn’t recognize. That one turned out to be Hiwahiwa’s mother so maybe they bumped into each other again somewhere along the coast.
This surfer made it look easy, but it’s not easy. It takes practice, lots of falling off, wiping out, and getting dragged across the sand. Practice or not, it’s the kind of activity that would have me in a body cast in no time.
Posted in response to Becky’s October Squares challenge theme of ‘Kind.’ See more responses here. Also posted in response to this week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme of ‘Practice.’ See more responses here.
Blennies are the kind of fish that it’s hard not to like. They always appear to be smiling and their willingness to stay put when being observed is appreciated. This one is a female and its behavior is typical of spotted coral blennies in Hawaii. Here, they often sit out in the open, but elsewhere in the Pacific, they almost always shelter in branches of coral.
Posted in response to Becky’s October Squares challenge theme of ‘Kind.’ See more responses here. Also posted in response to this week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme of ‘Smiles.’ See more responses here.
I was out snorkeling with a friend when I noticed her taking photos of a small clump of floating debris. When I headed over to see what was so interesting about the debris, I saw a host of tiny fish swimming around and within the clump. This was a small example of how fish, particularly smaller fish, will use floating objects to give them some cover and security from predators.
Most of the fish appeared to be sergeant fish, probably Indo-Pacific Sergeants, no more than half an inch long, but with their dark bars quite distinct. There were a couple of other species there, too, in smaller numbers, but I’m not sure what they were. (Update: The slightly larger grey fish are freckled driftfish. Thanks to John Hoover for the ID.)
The second photo gives a sense of scale and shows how small this little world was. It also shows the fish migrating across to check out whether this new clumpy thing might make a good new home. They did this with both of us, but returned to the floating debris, figuring wisely that it offered better shelter for them.
Posted in response to this week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme of ‘Quiet Places.’ See more responses here.