Friday, January 11, 2008

P-3 squadron in Afghanistan, Pearl Harbor, Kuliouou Hike, and Hanauma Bay snorkling

I'm sitting here in Adam's studio apartment in Kailua on the west side of the island of Oahu. We don't have air conditioning, so all the windows are open and a cool breeze is blowing through. I'm looking out the back windows at the plants growing up higher than the windows and the geckos scooting up the back wall. I just got back from the Marine base where Adam works - Kaneohe. I was getting a tour of a P-3 and Adam's squadron. P-3's are Navy reconnaissance planes originally developed to hunt for submarines, but now they are also used to support the troops hunting terrorists in Afghanistan. This is a picture of Adam's squadron in Afghanistan with a P-3. We started calling it Dirka-dirkastan (ever seen the movie "Team America"??) because when he first went on deployment there he couldn't tell anyone where he was. Maybe I'll tell some more stories about Afghanistan later on, but this post is more about our Hawai'i adventures!
Here's another one of Adam eating cookies in the hotel room I was staying in at Pearl Harbor. Yes he ate the whole bag. And he's still trim. Jealous, right? I swear the boy has a tape worm.

Here's Adam looking cute in his flight suit outside my hotel room. As I mentioned before, I was staying literally RIGHT on the submarine piers. You can see some of the warships in the background! We're not supposed to take pictures of them so I don't have anything better. The building I was staying in, Lockwood Hall, was built back in the 1930's. It's really interesting to walk around the grounds by the submarine piers because they have placards that tell you the historical significance of different buildings. Lockwood Hall has a huge indoor ballroom and an outdoor lanai party area. I loved the lanai - if you go at dusk and squint your eyes, you can just imagine a party there in the 1940's with a brass band and the dancefloor full of handsome, clean-cut sailors in their uniforms and pretty girls with coiffed hair and a-line skirts dancing and having a good time -- getting a much deserved break from the war. Maybe I'm just a romantic!

Another of our grand adventures was hiking the Kuliouou (pronounced Koo-lee-oh-oh) trail to the summit. It was a really cool hike that passes through a rainforest into a pine forest and then up onto craggy boulders that spits you out right on a cliff overlooking absolutely breathtaking 270 degree views of the ocean. It was definitely a strenuous hike though! We ascended about 2,000 feet in just an hour, after we got out of the rainforest it was pretty much a straight shot up! It had been raining for a few days, so the pictures are not as pretty as they would have been in the sunshine, but it was also not as hot as it could have been either! Which we were thankful for! You'll see how drenched we were from the pictures! Here's me at the trailhead.

And in the rainforest as the trail begins to ascend. These pictures don't do it justice at all - that's one of the disappointing things about having all these adventures is that there is no way to capture it on film!!

Here's a picture of Adam as we broke out of the rainforest into the pines. This is looking back on the valley we came from - Diamond Head and Waikiki are just on the other side of the hill on the right.

Here's what it looked like as we passed into the pine forest. You can't tell from this picutre, but the whole entire hillside was covered with a thick blanket of dead pine needles. It was like a big hairy cushion! It was kind of weird, but really fun coming back down because the paths were wide here and the footing was soft and we ran down this section of the mountain just feeling like we were flying! When this pic was taken though we were still sweating it out on the way up.

After ascending gradually through the pine forest, we came to another group of really green pines that led to a very steep climb up a muddy, slippery, hill covered in tree roots and pine needles. The footing was difficult on the way up and downright treacherous on the way down. It took twice as long to get down as it did going up it.

You can kind of get an idea of what the footing was like from the picture below where you can see the exposed tree roots and mud. Once we made it up the steep portion, we passed this strange set of trees that seemed like they were made up entirely of above-ground roots all knotted and entertwined! This tree formed a little gateway we had to walk through to get to an even steeper part of the trail leading up to the summit!

You can see how drenched Adam's shirt was by this point! This hike was pretty relentless!

Here's me passing into the open, rocky portion and getting a little taste of the view that was to come at the top.
The last and steepest part of the trail was really muddy and thank goodness there are makeshift "stairs" bolted into the ground or we wouldn't have been able to get up without a rope. Just like before, going back down was harder than the ascent. But it was totally worth it. At the top of the steps we found the summit, and the sharp cliffs where this sign is posted at the "end" of the trail. I think this sign is there because the trail actually continues on to the true summit and highest point of the Koolau mountain range, but it's too dangerous for the layperson to tackle. We did see one guy up ahead of us climbing up a rope on the next summit, but Adam and I ended our hike here!
This is a view looking off to the Southeast. You can just imagine how beautiful it would be on a clear day - the water looks turquoise even in these gray, hazy pictures.

This view is toward the Northeast, where Lanikai and Kailua are. The inlet on the edge of the right of the picture is Bellows Air Force Station where Adam and I spent Christmas.

Another towards the South. You can see how folded the mountain range is. The Hawaiian myth is that the grooves in the mountains were created when the gods pulled their canoes out of the water and up the moutains. And this is on the way back down. This picture doesn't do justice to how steep this climb was. You can see the "stairs" - just boards nailed in to catch the mud erosion. It was really slippery with all the mud.

When we made it back down - a three hour trek total - we actually went straight over to Diamond Head and did that hike! We're rockstars, what can I say?! LOL. Diamond Head is really touristy and not really a "hike" like Kuliouou, although the views from the top are worth the short, steep jaunt up it. We didn't bring the camera because it was raining and didn't want to get it wet. Maybe we'll go back before I leave and take some pictures.
Last weekend we went to Hanauma Bay to go snorkling. It was super fun. Adam had never been snorkling before. We rented equipment and headed off into the bay to see some fish. We even saw an eel!! Adam was a little freaked out by the eel haha! It was mean looking.

And that's it for now! Stay tuned for the next installment of our island adventures!!

MetRx and Myoplex Addiction

Since I was here helping him unpack all his stuff, Adam couldn't hide the fact that he hoards protein powder. Two full boxes of Myoplex in his shipment plus that huge box of individual packets he brought back from Afghanistan - where evidently they give the stuff out for free on base. That's not even all of it!! There was MORE Myoplex we uncovered later on after taking this picture! Another big box! I said, honey, I think you have a problem and I'm staging an intervention...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My boyfriend is hot.

Seriously. How hot is this guy?! I'm definitely the lucky one in this relationship! ;)

Sunday, January 06, 2008

USS Cheyenne

One of the coolest things I've done since I've been in Hawai'i is getting a tour of a submarine at Pearl Harbor. Last Friday after work, Adam and I walked over to the submarine piers from my hotel room on Pearl Harbor Naval Base and asked for a tour. Since there's always a crew standing watch on Navy ships and boats (a.k.a. submarines), there were a bunch of guys standing around on deck and they were happy to show us around. We couldn't see everything because some of the areas on board are classified.

This is an aerial image of Pearl Harbor Naval Base. Right to the left of where it says Pearl Harbor are the submarine piers.

The submarine we toured was the USS Cheyenne. Here's a picture I got on google - you can't take pictures of the submarine piers so I don't have any of our visit. We got to walk right onto the deck where those guys are standing. It was a little scary! I thought I might trip over a rope or just slip and fall off into the water. I kept thinking, please don't fall... do NOT be that girl who fell overboard who had to be rescued!!

The second picture shows basically what the sub looks like docked at the pier. The propeller is classified so it can never be above water.

I looked but couldn't find an image on google to show what it looks like below deck. It was pretty cramped quarters. There are 160 men stationed on the Cheyenne - pretty crowded! They "hot rack" which means there are not enough beds to go around so they share - when one guy is working, another guy is sleeping and then they switch. They work six hour shifts. The bunks are pretty small already, with three piled on top of each other. There were even mattresses in the torpedo bay - guys end up laying them right across the torpedoes and sleeping down there! The handful of officers on board, including the commander, have somewhat better living conditions. The enlisted guys - probably at least 130 of them - share only a couple of toilets, a few urinals and two showers!!

There are three floors - the first deck down housed the commander's quarters and the bridge (where they do all the driving and monitoring and launching of torpedos). The second deck down was mostly bunks and more equipment. The third deck down housed the missile bay, the mess (dining area/kitchen) and more bunks. They had a couple of big screen tv's in the mess where they could watch movies, but our tour guide told us they also spend time reading, playing video games or listening to music. It smelled pretty rank when we were down on the third deck, since they were "pumping" (sewage) - yuuuck.

We learned all about the sonar and how they drive around underwater, and how they launch the cruise missiles. The missiles basically come out of the silos in a pocket of air and don't even get wet at all!! They shoot up from the sub and once they break the surface the engines ignite and they fly towards their target. The sub we toured is an SSN - a fast attack sub that carries cruise missiles as well as torpedoes. These subs are smaller, more mobile, and have a different mission than the larger ballistic missile submarines - the "boomers". Boomers are huge in comparison and can carry the nuclear armed Trident ballistic missiles. Those are also vertical launch by the same means the smaller missiles are. Pretty amazing technology. I'm hoping to get a tour of one of those while I'm here too!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!!

Yesterday, I had to go in to work for a few hours and then Adam and I ran some errands and bought a bike and other things for his apartment. When we were at the grocery store, my contact was bothering me, and it got more and more painful as we made our way out into the parking lot. It felt like a chunk of cement in my eye!! Turns out the damn thing RIPPED IN HALF. IN. MY. EYE. It was horrifying. The pieces were stuck on my eyeball waaaay up in the corner where I couldn't see them or feel them. It took about 30 minutes and help from Adam to pick the pieces out. OMG it sucked. I've never had that happen before. My eye was so irritated I didn't want to put a new contact in, so I wore my glasses all night. I never do that so it felt strange walking around with them on my face!

After we recovered from the Trauma, we headed out to Waikiki and had dinner at the Hale Koa hotel in a nice little outside cafe on the beach. Then we walked down to Waikiki proper, window shopping and wandering on the beach down to the statue of Duke Kahanamoku statue.

There was a huge fireworks display over the water - one of the best I've seen. Adam and I stood in the sand with all the other revelers to watch, then made our way back to the car and home.

We've got bowl games on right now (yawn) and I'm trying to rally the troops for the gym. We're trying to decide if we should go lay on the beach or go hiking or what.... ah decisions!

I have lots more pics to upload and stories to tell, but I'll save it for another post.

Happy New Year everyone!!