Happy 15th Anniversary!
Happy Thanksgiving!
Hawai'i with Brother JD!

Life is good...very, very good!

Panorama shots

Life is precious. Celebrate joyfully! We have much to celebrate!

We especially enjoyed celebrating life and Thanksgiving 2004 with brother JD. He was a very gracious host and after living for five years on the Big Island, the perfect tour guide! He introduced us to the Big Island with sunset at 13, 700 feet on Mauna Kea. Just a few days later we were snorkeling at -2 feet with manta rays on the Kona coast. We toured by car, we toured by helicopter, and we'd like to share glimpses of our most excellent adventure with you.

We arrived in Oahu on November 19th and picked up our convertible about 3. We headed for the north shore, in search of the big surf. It was the wrong time of year for the big waves and the afternoon quickly waned, much to our disappointment. But we were in Hawai'i and it was gorgeous. And we managed to get a local treat, shaved ice with beans. We managed to stay awake long enough for an authentic Hawai'ian meal, then crashed despite the karaoke party just outside our room. At breakfast we were introduced to gorgeous views, double rainbows, and a Habitat crew. One crew member was a 1950 Augustana grad. That exciting breakfast was mere foretaste of the marvelous adventures and natural beauty that we were to encounter that day. We toured the windward coast, southern shore, mountain passes, and ridges above Honolulu. We ended the day with a beautiful Waikiki sunset and hula dancers. (Oahu photos)

Early on the morning of the 21st we flew on Aloha Airlines to the Big Island. The views were incredible. Our first glimpse of Mauna Kea, our Big Island sunset destination, was thrilling. JD greeted us with a huge smile and big hugs. Our Big Island tour began with a visit to Hilo and a local park. We kept an eye on Mauna Kea, hoping for the cloud cover to clear. In the early afternoon we took the Saddle Road to the mountain. This road weaves through the valley between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa with dangerous grades and curves. Rental car companies make patrons promise not to drive on it. JD was a seasoned veteran of the Saddle as he is a docent for tours of the summit observatories. On this drive we caught our first glimpse of the barren terrain covered with rough chunks of 'a'a lava. Traveling from sea level to almost 14,000 feet required acclimation at 9,000 feet at the Visitor Information Station of the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station of the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy. We enjoyed informative videos, displays, and a hillside garden where they were successfully reintroducing silversword, a native plant nearly destroyed by roving sheep and other hoofed animals. We traveled up the dusty road to the summit eager for adventure. We toured two observatories, then played in the frigid wind as we waited for sunset. The summit trail beckoned, but climbing observatory steps had been challenging at that elevation, so we had to resist. Sunset was spectacular! What an incredible introduction to the Big Island! (November 21st photos)

We began our second day with a tour of JD's garden. What a tropical delight! His original one acre lot features ti, hibiscus, and bromeliads, spice trees and vines, orchids, ginger, palms, and many other fascinating species, many of which are grown as houseplants on the mainland. The biggest shock was the soil - lava and cinder. How very different from Dakota black dirt and Carolina red clay or sand! We toured his garden expansion into his second acre lot, a lava mound that will feature palms. Looking at this mass of lava and wild vegetation made JD's gardening success even more impressive. It's easy to see why he was quick to qualify as a master gardener. (Tour of JD's garden)

JD's garden tour whet our appetites for touring the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens. What an incredible display! The tropical plants were gorgeous and we were impressed by the layout and design. Unfortunately we forgot to bring our camera. A little north of the botanical garden we hiked the delightful 20 minute loop in Akaka State Park through a lush bamboo forest and banyon trees to waterfalls. We ended the day by visiting some of JD's friends, a delightful couple who shared their impressive garden, her paintings, and a spot of English tea.

Our fascination with lava grew with a visit to Kalapana on the southern end of the island. The small town of Kalapana was once a treasured Hawaiian fishing village. It was also the site of one of the largest and nicest black sand beaches. From April through December of 1990, lava flowed relentlessly from the Kilauea Volcano down the Pulama pali toward the town and subdivisions of Kalapana, burying the town and the Royal Garden Subdivision under 10 meters of molten rock. We explored the pahoehoe lava that covers the area. Though it appeared from a distance to be a solid black mass, closer examination revealed crevices and tunnels. Regeneration has begun as ferns and grasses take root. The lava cooled leaving intricate patterns swirling throughout the landscape and imprints of logs and the fruit of the screw palm. Land owners are reclaiming their property. One lot, covered in cinder and lined with sprouting coconut palms, was ready for construction. Hopeful friends of Kalapana have set out sprouting coconut palms to establish a path to the black sand beach. We walked the path and played on the beach. Not far away the lava still flows into the sea.

Returning on the Red Road that skirts the southeastern shore, we enjoyed spectacular scenery. We did not venture out onto the knife-sharp, jagged 'a'a lava outcroppings. We ended the day with a swim in a seaside natural hot spring near JD's home where Ann learned to snorkel in preparation for a later adventure. We enjoyed a gorgeous sunset, watching in vain for the sea turtles that usually come into this beach. Though night had fallen, we explored another lava anomaly at Lava Tree State Park. Hundreds of years ago, a fast moving flow of hot lava hit this patch of wet 'O'hia trees. The lava forever encased the structures leaving behind vertical, hollow, lava tubes where each tree once stood. (Kalapana, Red Road, Lava Tree State Park photos)

Our next adventure began with a drive up the northeastern shore. JD pressed on, a man on a quest to get a malasada - a cream-filled, chocolate covered donut. After tasting this delicious treat, we understood his impatience. Soon after leaving malasada heaven we passed through the northern town of Waimea. Here we left the tropical landscape and entered the barren leeward side of the island. What a stark contrast! Our first exploration on the Kohala Coast was a hike to the Puako Petroglyth Archaeological site where ancient Hawai'ians left their artwork in stone. We could only imagine what they were trying to record. Next we enjoyed a taste of Oriental culture at the Hilton Waikoloa Village viewing the $7 million art collection displayed in the hotel walkways. Then it was on to Kona to catch a boat for one of the highlights of our trip - snorkeling with manta rays. This was an unbelievable experience. Afternoon snorkeling was pleasant and relaxing. We spotted one manta deep below us. Retuning to the boat for a rest we learned that we had missed an elusive whale shark by one day! Night diving was a bit of a challenge. It's a leap of faith to leave the boat with a flashlight and head for the underwater lights. But what a thrill! Five or six mantas came to feed on the plankton that were drawn to the lights. The divers below got the early close up views. Then the mantas started rising toward us. They would come almost upon us before they turned. We got excellent views of the critters, inside and out. It was a bit overwhelming to have a creature of that size coming toward us with an open mouth! It was difficult to avoid touching them, but necessary to their health. Leaving this "otherworldly" scene was difficult. When we tried to return to our boat, we found that we were totally disoriented and had no idea which of the three boats was ours. We weren't the first to have been lost, and soon found that we were color coded for safe return. When we boarded our ship, we found that the battery had run down. Thankfully the crews watch out for each other, so another boat came to our rescue. After a testy transfer of an alternate battery, they followed us to shore. What an incredible day! (Petroglyphs | Oriental art | Manta ray movie Click on Manta Mania Video)

How do you top that day? ...enjoying Thanksgiving and our anniversary while touring the southwestern shore of the Big Island. First stop...a garden tour of the Amy BH Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden which supports Native Hawaiian cultural traditions of land use and plants and conserves the plant resources of traditional Hawaiian cultural activities. On our next visit we hope to see some of the plants from JD's wish list in his garden. From the lush greenery of the botanical garden we shifted our focus to green sea turtles. They find refuge at the Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park - The City of Refuge. Were we excited to find them grazing in the grasses on the shoreline! Up until the early 19th century, Hawaiians who broke a kapu or one of the ancient laws against the gods could avoid certain death by fleeing to this place of refuge or "pu`uhonua", a quest that was not for the faint of heart. The offender would be absolved by a priest and freed to leave. Defeated warriors and non-combatants could also find refuge here during times of battle. The grounds just outside the Great Wall that encloses the pu`uhonua were home to several generations of powerful chiefs. We enjoyed touring the pu`uhonua, temple platforms, royal fishponds, and several reconstructed thatched structures. After leaving the refuge, our tour guide began to crave malasadas again. We were diverted in our quest for the tasty treat in an attempt to find the most southern point in the US. We could see it, but we could not get to it. Instead we got caught in the maze of Ocean View, a misnomer of epic proportions. This subdivision is a massive, isolated cinder field. When we finally found our way out of Ocean View, we found malasada heaven south and a delightful lunch. Forging on we set out to find black hawksbill turtles on Punalu'u - Black Sand Beach. What a beautiful scene, complete with a turtle snoozing on the shore! Rushing to avoid the clouds and rain that were rolling in, we moved on to Volcano National Park. We got our first glimpse of a crater at the overlook of Kilauea Iki Crater from Puu Puai, then walked Devastation Trail. As the mist was hovering and dark closing in, we moved on to the lava tube. The hike through the tree fern forest was beautiful! Walking in a lava tube was quite an experience. We never imagined that lava flows would leave tunnels! Nothing prepared us for the walk to the Halema’uma’u Overlook. Mist from clouds surrounded us and rose from the earth. We were alone at the overlook in the gray of dusk. Altars adorned the rim and steam vented from fissures in the crater..."otherworldly" to say the least. JD waited in the car and we were most grateful to see his headlight beacons beckoning us through the deepening mist. Our one regret was that we ran out of day before we finished exploring the park. Returning is a definite on our list of "must do's"! The evening's delight? JD tantalized our taste buds with delicious oyster stew. (Garden photos | City of Refuge | Ocean View and malasada heaven | Black Sand Beach | Volcano National Park)

Return to Volcano National Park? Great idea! The next day we flew over the park. It was our first helicopter ride. Ann expected to be white knuckling it with closed eyes, but not so. She loved the adventure. However, looking at pictures taken as we hovered over the active crater of Pu’u O’o and hot spots gives her pause to wonder. It was also fun to fly over Hilo waterfalls, macadamia nut fields, and Kalapana. This was fitting ending to a delightful visit! We took just enough time for two brief adventures on our drive to the airport. Lunch was a barbecue chicken purchased from a roadside vendor. We stopped at the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Farm to eat our chicken, sample the nuts, and top it all off with ice cream. Life is good! Very, very good!

Our flight home was lovely. God gave us one last gorgeous rainbow at the airport in Honolulu and a breathtaking sunrise in Dallas. We were richly blessed with special time with JD, breathtaking scenery, and a myriad of adventures. What incredible memories! (Helicopter trip and trip home)