Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday up on Hualalai

Today, the day I chose to hike up in Kaloko Mauka, was the first day in a week or so that the mountain wasn't clear in the morning. The fog rolled past and kept the temperature down, but no rain. A day to enjoy the mountain, like this ohia/fern forest:

and this pit crater:

You can see the bottom in this one. It's lush and green, greener by far than the vegetation at the rim:

This pit crater is a mile or more away from the summit area that Puna Geothermal is supposedly looking at for, uh, geothermal energy, although the article was confusing. The Puna G spokesperson said that they weren't interested in going up near the summit, but that's where the hotspot is. Most likely just another idea that will go nowhere.

I'm also not worked up about the Lingle/Ledge proposal to raise the gas tax. It seems like a more responsible way to do public works than what the feds are going to do; borrow tons of money and spend it reckessly (to solve the problems caused by excessive, reckless borrowing and spending). And I liked Obama's plan of sending $500 to every taxpayer a little more last year, when Bush sent $600 each, plus $300 a kid. That sure stimulated the heck out of the economy in 2008.
In the meantime, deep breaths. Enjoy the forest.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Saturday Morning in Kaloko-Honokohau

These five Ae'o (Hawaiian Stilts) were taking advantage of the low tide to feed. Their legs seem impossibly long:

Catching the first rays of the day, this first-day Maiapilo is perfect:

This flower was fresh and white yesterday morning. By noon the hot sun had wilted it. This morning it's a pink shadow of its former self, but still graceful. Like a Georgia O'Keefe painting. Not that this image reminds me of anything, because it doesn't.

Finally, another beneficiary of our recent rains, a Puakala, the endemic poppy:

Monday, January 19, 2009

How Cold WAS It?*

Last night and this morning seemed especially cold in Kona, and apparently in Puna also, as Tom attests. Well, it wasn't just our collective imagination, because this morning at 9:30 at 6100' in Kaloko Mauka I found these ice crystals in the road:

*referencing a running joke by the late Johnny Carson, who hosted The Tonight Show way back before the turn of the century.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mixed Plate

From yesterday, a panorama of the Kona coast from south of Keauhou to north of Kailua:

A'ali'i seed pods, from 6000':

Weird fungus, from 5500':

Hiked between the two playoff games today. At midday, this stretch of trail, through a lava field, is nice and hot. It's like a walk and sauna in one:

Finally, roadside native plants. This alahe'e, the native member of the coffee family, is about 20' off Queen Kaahumanu Highway. Like many of our dryland plants, the alahe'e blooms after rainfall, not by season. It's a fragrant plant, too. Kudos to Kona Commons for planting alahe'e as part of its landscaping:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Another Hawaiian Monk Seal at Honokohau; Where are the Bees of yesteryear?

This isn't the same monk seal I saw in November. This one is smaller, greener, and has writing on its side. It was lying close to the path, so I walked makai to get by. Its eyes were closed, but when my shadow crossed its face, it put its head up and gave me something between a grunt and a snort to warn me off, even though I was already moving away.

A more disturbing observation: there are no bees in the park. The Hawaiian caper, Maiapilo, opens its flowers at sunset. Just last year, the bees swarmed the flowers as soon as they opened, and even tried to pry them open before sunset. The scene looked like this:

Last year, every night, each new flower had at least one, and usually more than one bee after its nectar. Tonight, at sunset, a few Maiapilo were opening, but there were no bees. Not one. This can't be good. I'll call the park biologist tomorrow.

UPDATE: The park biologist said they haven't noticed any fewer bees, and that they hadn't taken out any hives, but that they appreciate getting feedback from cranks crackpots concerned citizens like me. And I did see a couple of bees this evening, so maybe it was just break time for them the other night. Also, the writing on the monk seal was done by an authorized professional, with bleach, not some kid doing a prank.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Post-Storm Photos

After yesterday's brief, but intense, rain and wind storm, I headed up Hualalai, hoping for clear weather. I found it. Maui, West Maui, Kahoolawe, Lanai, and (briefly) Moloka'i were visible, although not clear enough to photograph with my point and shoot. I did get, with help from Hugin, a panorama of Maui and Kohala:

Kahoolawe is visible just behind the small tree at left center, then, moving right, are West Maui, Haleakala, and Kohala, stretching out towards Maui.

And, of course, the obligatory snow-capped Mauna Kea photo. The green bulge at lower left is the backside of Pu'uwa'awa'a.:

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Catch-up; Kaua'i, Babies and Police Photographs

As I posted here, I spent the past week on the island of Kaua'i, visiting my daughter and her new baby (my first grandchild) Marshall Rush Ho'okela Agena, who in my 100% objective opinion is the cutest and smartest baby in the world:

I have to admit that my first thought when my daughter called to say she was pregnant was not unbridled joy; I want her to go back to school, and so on. But after visiting with her, holding and caring for Marshall, and seeing how loving she and Marshall's father are with each other and with the baby, my joy has, so to speak, slipped its bridle. A new baby is such a treasure, and they know it. My heart soars like a hawk.

I lived on Kaua'i from 1972-74. I cast my first presidential vote (for McGovern) at the Kapa'a Armory. Back then, the sugar plantations were still in operation. Now, the sugar lands sit mostly idle, growing weeds. Traffic is fairly bad, even in the middle of the day. Back then, the only department store on the island was Kaua'i Store, in Lihue. Now they have Wal-Mart, K Mart, Costco, Borders, Starbucks; the full compliment. But even with that, Kaua'i is still beautiful, lush and green, with clean air, blue skies, and white puffy clouds rolling by, compared to arid, brown, voggy Kona.

Not wanting to leave for too long, I only took relatively short hikes. The first, up to the top of Nounou, aka the Sleeping Giant, was supposedly easy, but the trail was very muddy and slippery and I found it quite tiring. Here's a vista from early in the trail, looking towards Lihue:

Here's a view from near the top (I blame my tiredness for the fact that none of my summit pictures were sharp):

So I made it to the top, but I was beat. Next I tried the Powerline Trail (Kaua'i differs from Kona, in addition to the greenery, clean air and blue skies, in that it actually has trails that are marked and maintained by the state! Amazing!) Powerline trail goes from the back of Wailua to Hanalei, over the mountains, and offers, even a short way in, views of surpassing beauty:

Detail, bordering on the sublime:

But because of the large amounts of rain Kaua'i has recently received, the powerline trail also featured something else alien to Kona: standing water and deep, deep mud. The hike would not have been difficult, in the absence of the aforementioned water and mud, but as it was, it required carefully making my way along the edges of the deep 4-wheeler ruts, filled with water and frogs. About a mile in, mistaking a small leaf dangling from a spider web for a hornet hovering inches from my face, I took a small step backward, into a foot of brown water and brown mud. My other foot, and my butt, soon followed. My boots, my socks, half of my lower leg and my backside got a thick brown dripping coating. I walked on a little further, but soon retreated to the car, beaten and muddy. I was so muddy that I stripped off my boots, socks and pants, put them in the trunk, and drove back to my daughter's house in my underwear.

Because my boots were still wet after being hosed off, my next hike had to be in my sneakers. My daughter recommended the Marriott, and I did get a nice 4.5 mile hike around its grounds, but there was no indication that the hotel welcomed, or even allowed, walking around. I suppose if the employees had thrown rocks at me, the hotel could have appeared more hostile to walking, but barring that, not. No sidewalks or walkways, so I walked on the road to the golf course and made my way on the golf cart paths. The one pleasant surprise were the large number of nene I saw. Here's one that walked alongside me for a ways. Its tongue is not sticking out in a friendly greeting, I'm pretty sure:

This was not the first time I've been attacked by an endangered species.

Finally, my thoughts on the great "Damon Tucker gets in trouble for taking pictures of a police officer" controversy (Here, here, here, and here). IMHO, the question of whether Damon is a "blogger" or a "journalist" is irrelevant. The police, like all public employees, are paid by money forcibly taken from the citizenry, or at least taken with the underlying threat of the power of the government. Any citizen should have the right to photograph, or otherwise document, the actions of any public employee at work, in the absence of a very specific reason why not (example: military operations that need to be secret for security reasons). A police officer, engaged in doing the people's work, doesn't have a legitimate privacy interest. When off duty, it's different, but on the job, the public is entitled to know what they're doing.

Back to Business as Usual for County Council?

This article in West Hawaii Today is entitled "Council shuns CDP in zoning action." Basically, the council gave preliminary approval to a development in Kona by Kona Heights LLC. Council member Brenda Ford proposed an amendment, claiming that the development without the amendment did not comply with the Kona Community Development Plan. Apparently the corporation counsel ageed with Ford. The Hilo-centered majority rejected the amendment. In the most revealing detail of the story, Council Chairman J "it's my name, not an initial" Yoshimoto said he voted against it because the developer's attorney said that Ford (and the corporation counsel) were wrong. After all, who needs the Corp Counsel? Is it credible (or likely) that the developer's attorney would exaggerate or misrepresent something like that?
Unfortunately, because the State Campaign Finance Commission's online records are up to date only as far as 2006, I can't play "follow the money."
Will the new Hilo majority return to the days when ordinances and zoning were enforced in direct proportion to the development's distance from the County Building? Are we back to "who cares, it's in Kona"?
Probably too soon to tell. But it's not a positive development (get it?).

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Kona - a pedestrian view on Kaua'i

It's an anomaly! Because my first grandson made his debut 2 weeks early, I'm in rainy Lihue for a week. See you all when I return.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Global Warming is Going to Cause an ICE AGE???

I left a comment to this post on Tom's blog about how frustrating it is for a non-scientist to weigh the conflicting claims about climate change, aka global warming. Here' s the latest example where I just say "WTF?"

"Greenhouse gases could have caused an ice age, scientists claim" is confusing enough - I mean, is carbon dioxide going to cause catastrophic warming or an ice age ( or split the difference?). But then I read this sentence, which makes my head hurt - "Such glaciation could happen again if global warming is not curbed, the university's school of geography, earth and environmental sciences warned."

Wait. Wait. Global warming is going to cause an ice age?

The atmosphere getting warmer is going to cause more glaciation?

I can only conclude that one or more of those words doesn't mean what I think it means.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Dry Forest at Pu'u Anahulu

About 4 miles past the "A" on this map is a trailhead that connects to the firebreak roads bulldozed to control the fires that result when an idiot tosses his cigarette out the car window during the dry season. This is necessary because fountain grass was introduced here in 1914 and now covers a good portion of the West side. Fountain grass burns at a hotter temperature than native grasses, so it's a destroyer of native forests. This Mamane tree is in the middle of fountain grass:

Close-up the flowers are pretty nice:

One of the most common trees in the dry forest is the endemic Hawaiian member of the persimmon family, the Lama:

The red fruit are only a little sweet, like persimmons. Not great, but not bad.

Walking back South about a mile and a half, and leaving the trail for about a quarter mile, you run into the old Waimea-Kona Road. Here's a panorama of where it crosses the 1859 Mauna Loa flow (the one that crosses Queen Kaahumanu Highway just north of Kiholo Bay):

Finally, as requested by Keahi Pelayo, here's a yellow lehua:

Dick Clark crawls out of the grave to welcome 2009

I suppose a Memento Mori is appropriate for New Years, but watching the re-animated corpse of Dick Clark mumbling his lines with that ghastly smile isn't my idea of a "Rockin'" New Year.