Monday, April 30, 2007

The Dream is Over

Any hopes of Team Nicholson winning the gold medal in mixed-gender kayaking at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing were dashed at 10:02AM this morning, exactly 2 minutes after we entered the water. I always thought that kayaking was pretty easy and assumed that we would blow away the competition at the US Olympic qualifying meet.

I had dreams of standing on top of the highest box with Jessica and having a single tear roll down my eye as the stars and stripes were raised and the band played the national anthem. I pictured the cover of Time magazine and maybe even our own Wheaties box. The odds of these things happening are now less than the odds that Sanjaya is allowed back into the competition and wins American Idol. God I hate that guy. Is he an alien??

Half of the reason that we won't be competing in the 2008 Olympics

But I digress. Jessica and I went on our first kayak trip this morning and we decided to go to the river closest to our house. The Hanalei River is one of three navigable rivers and round trip, you go about 7 miles. It's a good place to start as the other rivers are more challenging. Our eventual goal is to kayak for 16 miles in the ocean along the Na Pali Coast. That my friends, will not be easy.

The Little Civic That Could showing off her rugged side

The trip really wasn't that bad once we got the hang of it. The funny thing is that we started at the point where the river hit the ocean and it felt like we were going against the current for the first hour or so. The book said that the way back should be easier as the wind would be at our back. Since we are now both Nicholson's, the wind hit us dead in the face on our return. It was a pretty strenuous workout and we headed straight for the hot-tub when we got back. We are both incredibly sore and as we all know, it only gets worse the next day. Good times.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Shipwreck Beach and the Makawehi Trail

We live on the North Shore so most of the time we go to beaches that are within 5 minutes of our condo. When we came here for our honeymoon, we stayed at the Grand Hyatt in Poipu, which is a resort town on the South Shore. The funny thing is that even though we spent 6 days on the resort, we never really spent any time at Shipwreck Beach, which is literally just off of the grounds. We were too busy taking helicopter rides, ATV tours and stuffing our faces with some of the best seafood we have ever eaten.

Our good friend Tony decided to move back to the mainland and he had never been to the beaches on the South Shore. We were more than happy to go on an adventure as it allowed us to see the Grand Hyatt for the first time since September. We had an absolute blast that day, visiting three beaches, taking a short hike, going snorkeling and having an awesome dinner. The weather was perfect so the pictures turned out really well.

Jessica looking dashing in her new suit

Conor and Tony looking extremely, extremely tough

Shipwreck Beach is well known for it's surfing and if the ocean is calm enough, you can jump off of the cliff that you see in the back of these shots. Fortunate for me, the waves smashing all over the place so I could say, "Man, I really was going to jump" when in actuality, I was singing "Celebration" in my head.

The Makawehi Trail starts off of Shipwreck Beach and it goes on for a few miles. We weren't in the mood for a long hike but we walked around for about 30 minutes and got some amazing shots. You are literally walking on a small trail made of sand and if you're not careful, you could take a nasty spill.

Thank God this wasn't the way back to our car

I entered this shot for National Geographic Picture of the Year and I fully expect to win

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Albatrosses Dancing

The purpose of this post was to test putting video clips on the blog. But since it's working now, check out the albatrosses as they woo each other with their courtship dance. You can hear all the funny noises they make in the video. Sorry about the shoddy camera work!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Golf Course For The Ages

This is officially my favorite course of all time. The most absurd thing about this statement is that I live on this golf course. I live on the 8th hole of the Ocean Course, which is part of the Makai Course. The Makai Course consists of three sets of 9 and they are all standard length. It costs $175 for a tourist to play 18 holes but for the locals (or imposters like myself), $55 gets you unlimited play for the day.

Obscenely difficult 196 yard Par 3 (from the whites)

I took these shots last Thursday and got in 36 holes in just over 6 hours. It's never too crowded and if you get to play as a single, you can play a ton. The views are spectacular and the holes are challenging because of the cross-wind that comes off of the ocean. My goal is to break 90 in the next month. I shot a 94 and if my putting improves, it might actually happen.

Par 3 on the Ocean Course

Shot of a birdie putt that I missed

Par 3 with a Zen Rock on the left

9th Hole on the Lakes Course

This has nothing to do with golf. I just like the tree.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Lumahai Beach

Lumahai Beach is about 7 miles from our condo. It is an extremely long, golden sand beach. On the western portion, you can drive right up. But the most scenic and best part is the east side, which you get to via a short hike through a tropical jungle-esque trail. Lumahai is famous for being used as the beach in the film South Pacific. It is also the most dangerous beach on Kauai. Because there is no reef, the coast is completely exposed to the open ocean, which leads to extremely powerful waves and currents. Swimming here is almost never safe, and that was the case the day we visited. Still, if you want miles of golden sand almost entirely to yourself and a beautiful ocean backdrop to contemplate the sheer power of the sea, this is your place.

This overlook at the start of the trail gives you an idea of what's to come.

The troops start down the tropical trail. Bug spray is a must!!

Lumahai is known as the most dangerous beach on Kauai.

At the end of the trail, you're greeted with seemingly endless miles of golden sand.

As usual, the responsible ladies set up shop while the men's attention is drawn to the majestic sea.

After all that work, now it's time for some serious relaxation.

Tunnels Beach

Tunnels Beach is probably one of the more popular beaches on the North Shore, and for good reason. It's stunningly beautiful, with a steep cliff of lush green mountains rising dramatically over the sea. It also has a nice reef, which normally makes for a large area of shallow, clear water that is ideal for snorkeling. What better beach to introduce Derek and Christine to the wide world of snorkeling? None, in my opinion. Here they enjoyed viewing the many various colorful tropical fish that populate these waters. Derek quickly became snorkeling's #2 fan (#1 of course being the easily excitable Mr. N).

An interesting factoid: Bethany Hamilton, the teenage professional surfer who famously lost her arm to a tiger shark attack 4 years ago, was born and raised on Kauai. The attack location? Tunnels Beach. I did not share this with C&D until AFTER they had left the water.

Kauai's Beaches

The main reason people come to Kauai is to visit its world-class beaches. Kauai has over 40 beaches, each one unique and boasting its own personality. During Christine and Derek's visit, we were able to take them to several of our favorites.

Their first evening in Hawaii, after a grueling trip, we took them to nearby Hanalei Bay to see the green mountains rise over the majestic bay. This beach is about 10 minutes from our condo. Many new surfers come here to take lessons or practice in the small, forgiving waves. The photos below were taken at the end of the pier, which juts out into the shallow bay.

The second day of their trip, we went to Anini Beach - about 10 minutes from our condo in the opposite direction. Here the sun gods smiled on us and we enjoyed a game of catch football in the shallow, crystal clear water.

Thursday brought us to Secret Beach, walking distance from our old house in Kalihiwai. It requires a 10 minute hike or so down a somewhat steep trail to get there. It was overcast the day we went, unfortunately, but we were still able to appreciate the beauty of this beach with its black volcanic rock scattered throughout. This is also the unofficial nude beach of Kauai, and although public nudity in Hawaii is illegal, Conor and I have seen a few 'natural' types hanging out here on occasion. No such excitement this day for our guests, which I think relieved them!

Their last day on the island, we took out guests to Poi'pu Beach Park, on the south side of the island. This was a more crowded and lively beach, with lots of frolicking children, snorkelers, and surfers. We also saw a sea turtle hanging out on the sand, as well as two Hawaiian monk seals. The monk seals are an endangered species that are occasionally spotted on Kauai, though less than 1400 are thought to exist today. This was Conor and my first time seeing one, so it was pretty exciting (we didn't get photos though).

Stay tuned for more posts detailing a couple of our favorite beaches! Seriously, there are a LOT of beaches on this island.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

"A date which will live in infamy"

We visited the Pearl Harbor memorial this past weekend on our trip to Honolulu on the adjacent island of Oahu. The memorial offered a moving and emotional refresher of US WWII history.

On December 7, 1941, over 300 Japanese planes were launched from six aircraft carriers that had secretly crossed the Pacific during the night. They flew in over the mountains pictured below. Their goal was to take out the US fleet in Pearl harbor, especially the battleships. They also bombed several air fields, where the unsuspecting US had planes parked wingtip to wingtip, completely unprepared for battle. Japan hoped the attack would inhibit the US from interfering with the continuation of their controversial takeover of Southeast Asia. Just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces attacked Guam, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and several other islands in the Pacific.

2403 American lives were lost in the battle, as well as 5 battleships, 188 planes, and several other cruiser ships. Japan, in comparison, lost 64 men and 29 planes. Although seemingly a huge victory for Japan, they were unable to find any US air craft carriers, which were all out to sea at the time. Historians agree that the attack on Pearl Harbor was a strategic blunder. Most of the equipment lost was dated and obsolete, so the US ended up not being as impaired as anticipated. Furthermore, the attacks outraged Americans and served to unify the previously divided country in its resolve to enter World War II. The memory of the attack ensured that America wouldn't be satisfied until complete victory in Europe and Asia was won.

Upon hearing that the attack on Pearl Harbor had finally drawn the US into the war, UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrote "Being saturated and satiated with emotion and sensation, I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful".

Almost half of the Americans lost at Pearl Harbor were seamen aboard the battleship USS Arizona when it sank. The ship remains in the harbor today, still entombing the 1100 men aboard. The memorial was built over the ship, as seen below in the model. You can still see the tall parts of the ship protruding from the shallow water's surface (last two photos).