Sunday, October 4, 2015

Hiking the Hanging Lake Trail, Colorado

In 8 years of living in Colorado, I hiked many trails, but never Hanging Lake.      

Maybe it was out of sight, out of mind since the trail head is in Glenwood Canyon,  about 10 miles before you reach Glenwood Springs.    My last stop on I-70 many times was Beaver Creek.   

This trail is another 50 miles past that.  

Now that my sister and I have made the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Experience a Labor Day tradition three years running, we pass the trail head along the interstate.     On the weekends, the parking lot fills quickly and the electronic signs on the highway will let you know before you attempt to exit.   

We opted for Friday afternoon hiking before all the holiday weekend hikers arrived.  

Hanging Lake is not a long hike, roughly 1.2 miles from the trail head.   And the trail head is about a quarter mile of sidewalk from the parking lot.      

I'm going to put it out there:  short hike does not always equal easy hike.  

We were warned.    More than one sign between the parking lot and the start of the trail reminded us that the trail would be difficult.  

If it's on a sign, it must be true

What makes it difficult?    
It's steep.   There is an 1,000 foot elevation gain.     

But the hike is not a race.  It's well-marked.   Enjoy the journey.  
Over Labor Day weekend, the waterfalls along the way were beautiful and lush.   

If you've hiked this trail, these sights will be familiar.    
If you haven't hiked it yet,  enjoy!

Gorgeous Glenwood Canyon

Lush Waterfalls

After those last steep steps, we arrived!

What to Know Before You Hike

  • There isn't an exit to the trail head on Westbound I-70
  • Take the Grizzly Exit on Westbound I-70 and get on Eastbound I-70 to reach the trail head and parking
  • Summer 2015 - there was construction in Glenwood Canyon, so the Grizzly exit wasn't open.   We went into Glenwood Springs and checked with the visitors center and they gave us the update.
  • The sign isn't kidding, sturdy shoes are a must.   The trail is rocky in parts and other parts are dirt-packed, which can get slippery if it rains.
  • There is 1000 feet of elevation gain over the course of the trail
  • You know you're almost there when you see the railing - that's the last section climbing up before you reach the lake
  • Bring your water and your snacks
  • No swimming in the lake...sorry

Have you hiked Hanging Lake?     What's your favorite Colorado hike?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Hiking the Pipiwai Trail, Maui

Waimoku Falls
Pipiwai Trail
Happy August to you!

I'm not a parent, but I feel that back to school starts sooner and sooner.    Friends of mine here in Maui had students starting last week.  In July!

There are pros and cons of being a working adult.   Keeping my summer mindset past July is one of the pros.   

Back in May, almost 3 months ago now, I put together my summer fun list.   I've made some progress, including trips to Kauai and Wisconsin, as well as my first attempt at Stand Up Paddling (SUP) and enjoying an alcoholic hibiscus iced tea at Frida's Mexican Beach House.    

I recently added two more to the list:  Driving the Back Road to Hana and Hiking the Pipiwai Trail.   
The trail was the destination....the back road was the journey.

Last year when my family was visiting, we drove the official road to Hana, going from Paia to Hana Town.    If you want to be entertained, read Trip Advisor  reviews about the road to Hana.   People have so many  feelings.  It's their favorite part of their vacation.  They never want to do it again.   They do it every time they  come Maui.   It was a wasted day of their trip.  

The road to Hana, or the back road to Hana, isn't about Hana Town.   However, if you go to Hana, don't miss the Huli Huli chicken stand on the beach.  

The chicken in question

Yes to Aloha

The road to Hana is a journey.  It's an exploration of the beautiful island of Maui.    

The back road to Hana is road of mystery and superstition.  Primarily because of rental car contracts and rumors about the condition of the road.   The biggest issue with the back road is that you're far away from any towns or tow trucks if you have an emergency.     There are about 5 miles of on again off again paving with gravel and another few miles with really bumpy blacktop.    

What does the back road to Hana look like?

Windy roads...sometimes one lane
The other Maui wind  turbines that no one knows about
St. Joseph Church
They only hold services on months with 5 Sundays
Dramatic cliffs and black sand beaches
It's about a 2 hour drive from Kula, in upcountry Maui, to the Pipiwai Trail, in the Kipahulu section of Haleakala National Park.     You can buy a Hawaii annual parks pass for $25.  Otherwise, the private vehicle daily pass is good for three days and you can use it at the summit as well as Kipahulu.

The Pipiwai Trail sometimes gets the name of Bamboo Forest hike, since you're hiking through....wait for it...bamboo.

However, where I work, we refer to this hike, at mile marker 6.5 on Hana Highway, as the Bamboo Forest hike.   So you have options for your bamboo hikes.   Options are good.  

The Pipiwai Trail is 4 miles total, out and back.   The trail is well marked, and you can tell where you shouldn't go based  on the red signs that say "don't go past this point."  

The first waterfall we came across on the trail wasn't in full steam here in July.   In fact, we saw some people hike this far, then turn around and go back.  

 If you go back now, you miss the bamboo, bridges, boardwalk and Waimoku Falls at the end.

Bamboo and boardwalks

Maui, as always, is No Ka Oi (the best).    I'm glad I had this hike on my list.    I look forward to hiking it again.  

Do you have a favorite Hawaii Hike?   

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Where I Went on My Summer Vacation: Door County, Wisconsin

This pint glass, full of Summer Shandy, has a fine map showing off Door County

Aloha Friends!

It's so nice to have the holiday weekend to recover from my vacation.   I got back a week ago, jumped right back into work for 4 days.    I knew I could handle that, jet lag and all, because the weekend was coming soon and had a bonus third day.    Now, of course, I'll have to work full weeks all the way until September.   Two whole months.   Crazy.

Living in a major tourism destination like Hawaii, it's always interesting to hear where people are going when they leave the islands for vacation.     For me, it was up north to Wisconsin to relax with my family.     A beautiful 10 days of sunny weather, cheese, frozen custard, summer shandy, family and zero alarm clocks.   

Fun Things We Did

In a highly unscientific self-survey, I realize that I have seen Kenny Chesney in concert every other years since 2003 in Indiana,  Colorado, Wyoming and Wisconsin.    Kenny was at Lambeau Field again this summer and this seemed like the perfect way to start vacation.     It was 7 hours of music from Old Dominion, Cole Swindell, Brantley Gilbert, Jason Aldean, and Kenny Chesney.   
So.  Much.  Fun.   

If you're fan, definitely go out and catch a show this summer. 

Any excuse to pet goats and cows or to climb on a tractor is worth a stop.  Plus, more ice cream.  
This time at Schopf's Hilltop Dairy.  

In Sturgeon Bay there is an exhibit of...surprise, sturgeons!  At the end of the summer they will be auctioned off.  
Wine Sturgeon, a kindred spirit
While perusing the Door County visitor brochure, we discovered the Trolley Ghost Tour.    
Where you can consume adult beverages.     And there might have been a sing-a-long.  

We look ready to find ghosts, don't we?

Still looking...

Family fun continued by riding the fireboat through Sturgeon Bay and out to Lake Michigan.

Fireboat and cocktails - good times!

We also visited the roof goats in Sister Bay.   I had no idea that we had narrowly missed the goat parade.   I like whale parades, so I know I would like a goat parade.   In fact, it is a BYOG parade.   Got a goat?  You can walk it in the parade.    

Hello roof goat

Do  you want to see the goats right now?   Check out the goat cam!  

Delicious Things Consumed

It's called America's Dairyland for a reason.  First stop after leaving the airport in Milwaukee was Kopp's.   I've got to say my sister and I have quite a collection of ice cream cone photos at this point in our life.   

We might have gone out for custard again on our way back down towards Milwaukee.   This time at Culver's.  

There was also our annual pilgrimage to Renard's Cheese.   Yes, cheese came home in my suitcase. No shame here.

Other places we ate, sampled or purchased included:  Door County Coffee,  Wood Orchard, Sonny's Pizza,  Holey Cow Ice Cream,  Door County Creamery,  Buchanan's (Wednesday Rib Night) and The Cabin (Fish Fry).    

Last but not least

Blowing bubbles with my niece before going out on the pontoon boat.   Gotta say it's been a while.

Since I didn't have a fishing license, I caught some rays instead.    With an adult beverage.  

Where are you going on your summer vacation?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Aloha Sunday Update

Happy Aloha Sunday!

Summer seems to be flying by, and it isn't even officially summer yet.  

Looking for a little distraction?  You've got it:

I just started watching How the States Got Their Shapes on Netflix.   This is the kind of bite-sized trivia that I really enjoy.     I learned all about the Hatfields & the McCoys,  Forgottonia, and why Bostons roads are so crazy.   It also makes me want to take another big roadtrip, complete with National Parks and random roadside attractions.    

Keeping in that map theme....this buzzfeed video that shows that if we think countries are big or small based on how they appear on a flat map,  we really don't know anything after all.   Those maps that show Greenland as about the same size as the continent of Africa?   Just a wee-bit distorted.

#Distractinglysexy - every little thing that happens now has repercussions in social media.   Power to the women in science!

The Everywhereist has been cracking me up recently, including her posts on truth in exercise classes, things in women's magazines and the horror of raisinets.

June 1 marked my second summer of completing the #100happydays challenge.   You can do it!

The Uptown Funk video for dogs looking for adoption.  Yes.

A hilarious infographic about all the uncomfortable seats that you can get on the plane.   Why am I always sitting in Economy 2:  The Reckoning?

I made you mango lemonade.

 I've checked two things off my Summer Fun list so far:  visiting Kaua'i and enjoying Hibiscus Iced Tea.    Wisconsin and my first concert of the summer are on deck for later this week!

Hanalei School,  Kaua'i

Have a joyous week!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

72 Hours in Monterey, Family Reunion Style

So Otterly Cute

In 2011 we went to the wedding of a cousin we had never met in Illinois.    We sat at a family table with other cousins we had never met.   It could have been all kinds of awkward.

Instead, it ended with us making a human pyramid in the reception hall.  
Nothing awkward there...just the beginning of a beautiful family-ship.   

In 2013 we decided to do it again.  No one was getting married...just a straight up family reunion in Colorado.      

Was there another pyramid?   Yes, there was.

It's the building blocks of a tradition.   All traditions have start somewhere.   And sometimes you have to be the one who starts them.   

Like no time has passed, it's 2015, and it's time to reunion again.   We continued our western leanings, this time celebrating on the California Coast in Monterey.   And for the cousins who couldn't make this trip?    We put their heads on sticks and took them with us to the aquarium and the beach so they didn't miss the fun.  

Hello cousin!
For me it was a whirlwind trip across time zones:  taking a red-eye flight from Maui on a Thursday night and returning on Tuesday morning.  

Here's what I did:
  • Visited the renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium   
  • Fish & Chips at Coopers Pub
  • Bonfire & BBQ on the beach in Carmel
  • Family Breakfast at the hotel followed by a structured (read: boring) family photo, followed by one where we deliberately didn't pay attention to the camera (read:  classic)
  • Drive down Highway 1:  hiking at Andrew Molera State Park,  photographing the iconic Bixby Bridge,  seeing Seals, Otters, and Sea Lions in their natural habitat at Point Lobos State Natural Preserve
Bixby Bridge
  • Sampled all kinds of clam chowder at Monterey Fisherman's Wharf before deciding on a restaurant for lunch
  • Watched pelicans, seals and otters from the window while eating said lunch
Cocktails and Pelicans.  Of course.
  • Sampling all kinds of flavored almonds at Stewart and Jasper before deciding on Key Lime and Orange Creme Brulee
  • Rented a bicycle surrey from Adventures by the Sea and tried not to crash into any pedestrians
  • Hit up Trader Joe's and a couple other places that we don't have on Maui

What are your favorite things to do in Monterey?   
If you have family reunions, what is your tradition?


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Summer Fun List 2015

I didn't know that summer bucket lists were even a thing, but as I've been catching up on all the good things the internet has to offer, the lists are there.

After seeing Edward Readicker-Henderson present at TEDxMaui "Kill Your Bucket List", I've decided that I'm opting for a fun list instead.   Last summer I was all about the #100happydays which made me focus on something happy and good every day.  

What is it about sending a message in a bottle that people want to put it on their list?  I've read quite a few lists and it showed up twice.   Hmmm.   I live on an island.   No way am I throwing a bottle of any  kind  into the ocean.   Not gonna happen.  

Now s'mores on the other hand?   That can go on every summer list.   I had s'mores last weekend at our family reunion in Monterey and, as always, they were delicious.   All three of them.   Maybe four. You can't have too many s'mores?  Right?

Before the thought of a list had crept into my brain, I'd already planned things that definitely fall into my Summer Fun List.    So now, I'll have two categories:  Confirmed Fun and Opportunities for More Fun.

Confirmed Summer Fun

In my 18+ months living in Maui, I haven't made it to Kauai yet.   I was there 10 years ago, and next weekend, I'll fly over to enjoy approximately 54 hours on the Garden Isle.    I don't have many plans other than lounging by the pool and going out for ice cream.    


Wisconsin is actually a hotbed of summer fun.   Much more fun in the summer than in the winter.   I'll be catching up with my family in Door County and the Milwaukee area.  Cheese curds, cherries, Leinenkugel''s all there.

I'm mainland bound twice this summer and concerts are tied into both trips.    I've seen Kenny Chesney every other year since 2003, and this summer will be the second time I'll seen him perform at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.   My sister and I also started a tradition (we're in the third year, so it must be a tradition, right?) of going to the Jazz Aspen Snowmass music festival over Labor Day weekend.     The lineup this year includes Hozier, No Doubt, The Fray and Lenny Kravitz.  

In addition to quality mountain and music time with my sister, I'll have the chance to visit friends and fave places in Denver.    Has my blood thinned out after living at sea level?   I'll find out.

Opportunities for More Fun

Big Island
Ever since I moved to Maui, I've been thinking about visiting Big Island, only a hop away, to check out  the volcano.   Time to make that thought a reality.  

I haven't gone stand up paddle-boarding yet.   Hard to believe, especially since I can walk down to the beach and rent a board easily.

Take a Surfing Lesson
Another opportunity that I should take advantage of here in Maui.  

Hike the Pipiwai Trail
Famous for bamboo forests and waterfalls at the Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park.   It's past Hana, so a bit of a drive from where I live, but I know it will be worth it.  

Drive the Backside of the Road to Hana
I've driven as far as Kipahulu on the road to Hana and I've been as far as Ulupalakua in the's time to connect the dots and see the whole road.  

Take a Tour of the Hali'imaile Distilling Company
I love food and beverage tours.  Even better when I get to sample something.  

Snorkel at Ahini-Kinau Natural Area Reserve
I've been to the end of the road twice.   The first time I didn't have my snorkel gear, and the second time the water was too choppy.  

Enjoy the Hibiscus Iced Tea (with alcohol this time) at Frida's Mexican Beach House
Last time I was at a work function, so had the virgin version, but next time....

I feel like there's more to come, but for now, at least I have a start!
What are your summer fun plans?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Welcome to Maui 48 Hour Tour

Aloha Friends!

Today we're talking about the things you could do in a little over 48 hours in Maui.  I recently had friends visiting Hawaii for the first time and had lots of fun planning what we could do that would be a good introduction and taste of Maui.   They could enjoy different parts of the island for their first few days without having to make any plans - just enjoying the adventure....and I did too.

I like to to pick people up at the airport.   If you've never been to Hawaii before, you may have an image in your mind of an arrival in paradise, complete with palm trees, tropical breezes, live music and a fresh flower lei.  Palm trees and breezes are a given.   Some days there is arrival music too.   In reality, if you'd like a lei greeting at the airport, you often have to arrange it yourself   How unfun is that?    

When I go to pick up friends or family at the airport, I park the car and meet them in baggage claim with a fresh lei.   I pick out leis different than the standard purple orchid lei, since odds are that my visitors might get one of those later on, at a hotel or a luau.   Tuberose leis smell amazing.   And while everyone looks exhausted standing at the baggage claim and is dreading the wait at the car rental desk, you've got a lei around your neck and a smile on your face.   You already look and feel like you're on vacation, even if you're still wearing structured pants and shoes.  

Break into that luggage.   Trade your shoes for slippahs (flip flops) and get ready to jump in Maui!

Our next stop is Iao Valley State Monument.     It's a quick ride from the Kahului airport, it's lush and green complete with a waterfall.   You can get out, stretch your legs, soak in a view that doesn't involve the ocean,  and get ready for the 45 minute drive to Lahaina.  

So we're sipping on Passion Orange juice and cruising the highway, listening to some island jams on the radio - on the way we stopped at the scenic overlook past Ma'alaea.    It's still late whale season, would we see any?    It was our lucky  day.    Even if whale season is over, it's a great spot to pull over and look at the's what you came here for, after all.

The time difference is real.   It's only early afternoon or evening in Hawaii and you feel like you've been up for days, staying awake until 8pm is going to take willpower.   So let's go have some  pau hana (literally, work's done) drinks by the water.

Dirty ono

I really like Aloha Mixed Plate in Lahaina.   It's right along the water, super casual, the drinks are cold and the food is tasty, fast and at a good value.    No need to change clothes or shower, just roll into town, find a place to park and grab a Dirty Banana or Mai Tai  from the bar.   By the time dinner and cocktails are done and the sun has gone down, it's time to head home.    

Full Day 1

You like to hike and explore?   Let's get muddy, wet and climb waterfalls, shall we?   You'll really feel like you're in Hawaii.    We headed over to the other side on the beginning of the road to Hana to do the Bamboo Forest hike.   Some guidebooks mention it, some don't, and none of them call it Bamboo Forest - but that's how the hike was introduced to me, so it will always be that way.  

Waterfall #4
After the hike, we rolled down to the Twin Falls Farm Stand for some smoothies and coconut candy.   I  had never checked out the falls there, so we walked around the grounds while enjoying our treats.   Getting ready to head back to Paia for lunch, we stopped at Ho'okipa Beach to check out the big waves, kite surfers and to see if there were any sea turtles sunning themselves.    It was an epic day for honus - there were 20 on the beach!

All the honus

After that, we're sunned and hungry - it's time for some lunch at Milagros in Paia.    The ahi burrito is my favorite, along with a happy hour margarita with a  li hing mui rim.  

On our way out the door in morning, my friends suggested we stop at Goodwill to look for some Aloha wear - they were going to be in Hawaii for 2 weeks, why not get something new for their stay.   Poppin' tags was a success, and we all walked out the door with something to show for our efforts.   I am now the proud owner of an insulated mason-jar style mug that says Let the Shenanigans Begin. As a friend on Facebook reminded me "Jenni, didn't the shenanigans start a long time ago?"   Yes.   But they begin again each day in my heart.

Then we reached a crossroads.   We were full from lunch, but 24 hours in Hawaii had elapsed and my friends haven't had shave ice yet.  Not an option.  Off to the new Ululani's location in Wailuku introduce them to the wonders of shave ice.   There's always room for shave ice.  Always.

Last stop of the day was to pull off at airport beach in Ka'anapali to crash on the sand and enjoy the sunset.  

Full Day 2

Time to get out on the water!   We headed out  with the Pacific Whale Foundation on their Lana'i Snorkel and Dolphin Watch half-day  trip.   Not even halfway to Lana'i, we see a mother and calf humpback whale who were enjoying an extended stay before heading back to the chilly waters of Alaska.   The dolphins were bow-riding the boat, we saw bottle-nose dolphins on the way over to Lana'i and Hawaiian spinner dolphins on the return trip.    The snorkeling off the cost of Lana'i was beautiful and the boat even had a slide.    Did we slide?  Of course!    A bbq lunch and mai tais on the cruise back to Lahaina Harbor put us in a relaxed mood for the afternoon.

Proof that we saw dolphins
We enjoyed the shade of the Banyan Tree, looked at the crafts, and checked out some of the shops.   And we might have had more shave ice.

So many flavors, so little time.

And then to rest, shower, and prepare our stomachs for an exceptional meal at Japengo.    Everything on the menu is great, from the curry dusted calamari for a starter to the malasadas for dessert.  

What do you think?    What are the first things you'd like to do when you come to Maui?
Do you have a favorite restaurant or site that you like to share with visitors?


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