29 November 2013

A Guide to Gift-Giving for Long-Distance Givers

Here in LA, most of us are transplants from elsewhere in the country. My family is in Virginia, and my wife’s is in Missouri.  Every January, as the holidays wind down, I hear lots of stories about gift-giving gone awry due to the great distance (physical and psychological) between gifter and giftee.  Of course, the gifts are given with generosity of spirit and magnanimity of soul, but despite good intentions, the process of giving and receiving can often miss the mark and cause more stress.  I hope that I can mitigate some of that stress by compiling a small collection of guidelines for long-distance gift-giving.  Follow these guidelines, and the gift-giving-and-receiving process will be more focused on the spirit of the season and less on the stress of commerce and retail.

  • If the recipient will be flying, avoid giving large gifts.  No microwaves, no cases of wine, no bulky sports equipment.  If you want to give something that’s sizable, consider giving them a photograph to open in person. My sister Denise suggests that if you want to give large gifts to travelers far from home, the giver should take responsibility for shipping the gift back to the recipient’s home. Think of the shipping postage as part of the expense of the gift.
  • Unless you are absolutely sure of the recipient’s taste and size, make sure you give gifts that the recipient can return in THEIR hometown, not yours.  National chains (Macy’s, Target, etc.) allow you to buy at one store and return at another.  Or, perhaps there are local boutiques in your recipient’s hometown that you can shop via the internet?
  • Even if the recipient is visiting you, restrain from buying from local boutique in your hometown. If the gift doesn’t work out, your recipient will need to spend time during their visit returning the gifts instead of spending time with you.
  • Are you shipping a gift?  Confirm the shipping address with the recipient.  Many people have different addresses for receiving letters and packages, and if you send packages to a mailbox, they can often end up disappearing.
  • Are you buying for children (grandkids, neices, nephews, etc.)?  Avoid the desire to buy every cute outfit and stuffed animal you see, and instead, focus on gifts that are meaningful.  Ask the child’s parents for great gift ideas.  Says pal Lael Logan:  Many of us are trying to give our kids the joy and excitement of presents while also balancing it with teaching the "true" meaning of this time. Perhaps you could take the kids on a special holiday outing instead - to see Santa, or ride a train - creating traditions and memories is how we'd like to teach our kids about this season.”
  • Make a donation.  It’s a terrific way to give something with meaning for more than just your recipient, and it’s very convenient for weary travelers.  Says friend Katherine Resch: “We're doing that for the adults on my side of the family this year, and we're having a lot of fun choosing a charity that will be personal to each family unit.”
  • Give a membership. Pal Meredith Leonard Morton says that she and her sister “giving annual memberships or admission tickets to a museum or other local attractions.” It’s a gift that you can personalize and can be enjoyed for a whole year!
  • Don’t give crap.  Are you sending your loved one a candy-cane filled with M&Ms?  A bobblehead Santa?  If so, consider just abandoning the gift altogether.  Maybe just send a card, or a gift certificate, which brings me to my last guideline:
  • Gift cards, gift certificates, and cash are always welcome, though some think they’re too impersonal.  You can make them less impersonal by buying a gift card for a specific store that’s local to the recipient.  Was there a boutique that you discovered the last time you visited your sister?  Buy her a gift card for that place, and when she calls to thank you for the gift, you can have a nice time remembering your trip.  See!  Much nicer than a boring sweater from Macy’s.

These guidelines are assembled from my experiences as a long-distance giver and receiver, and those of my friends.  If you’ve got any additional guidelines, feel free to comment, and next year, when I repost, I’ll try to include some of them!

15 September 2013

Late summer garden

S has been renovating the garden recently, pulling dying plants out, putting new plants in. We also picked up a couple of statues on sale, and we've placed them in the shade bed in the side yard.  Check it out:

Ganesh is nestled amongst the shade bed:

A small monk sits underneath a leaf:

The monk and Ganesh must've inspired this mantis:

This bed held tomatoes, lettuce, and zucchini.  Now, beets and more lettuce!

Tomatoes, basil, lemons, and other good things!

26 August 2013

Union Station

Yesterday, my friend C and I went down to Union Station for a mini photosafari. We each brought a couple of lenses (me: wide and prime; him: super-fancy-wide and a zoom) and spent an hour or so wandering the train station and shooting things and stuff.  I don't like a lot of people in my photos, so it was a little tough to find shots.  But, I did get some nice ones:

18 June 2013

Back home

Yesterday, after 9 days of hiking, illness, recovery, friends, food, drinking, and general mirth, S and I drove the long drive home from the Bay.  We got to San Francisco on Thursday and got to see some friends that night at a lovely dinner.  On Friday, S and I hung out in the city doing some shopping before meeting M & E for dinner at their apartment. On Saturday, we took our host into Chinatown for the afternoon. We had a great time in the chilly Bay!

On Sunday, we bid farewell to our excellent host and drove south to Monterey. We hit the aquarium in the afternoon and then headed out for dinner at Marinus.  It was truly one of the most exceptional dinners either of us have ever had! It's not for the faint of heart, but if you get the chance, I highly suggest making the trip.  I'm going to hold back on writing about it because I'm not sure I could do it justice...  Just... go.

On Monday, we made our way home, but first we stopped in Point Lobos at low tide to check out the tide pools.

Then, back in the car to zip down the coast! Home by dark, and back to work today!

Yosemite! Day 6 & SF! Day 1


A mellow day. We checked out of the Lodge at Yosemite and hit the road for San Francisco. As soon as we got into cell phone service, our phones exploded with information (did I mention that we got no cellphone service and almost useless internet in the park?). So, we stopped at a Starbucks for an hour to recollect our digital lives.  Then, on to SF!

Once in SF, we killed some time at Amoeba Records before meeting an old high school friend and her husband for dinner at Beretta, a great Italian place deep in the city. Then, up to Marin to meet our host M, who is letting S and I crash at their place while we're in town. And we slept. A lot.

17 June 2013

Yosemite! Day 5


Up at 7.30(ish), feeling much better after a nasty day on Tuesday. S and I headed back into the valley for our last day in the park. We started with a small hike around the base of Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America (and the 5th largest in the world). The falls are all at their most dramatic at this time of year, and in the next few weeks, as the snowmelt runs out, they'll lose some awesomeness. Fortunately, they were showing off for us that day:

I also finally got a picture of this dark blue jay that I had been trying to shoot all week. 

At noon, we hopped on a tram tour through the valley with Ranger Eric, a 22-year veteran of the park who, as the tram loped around the valley floor, told us stories about the development of the park from geological, biological, and sociological perspectives. We both enjoyed the tour, but I think it would have been something to do on our first day, not our last day.

Along the tour, we saw rock climbers scaling the face of El Capitan!

And, naturally, Ranger Eric took us to some photogenic spots. Here's a shot of Half Dome resplendent in summer light:

After the tour, I was still a little foggy, so S and I grabbed lunch before beginning our last hike. We wanted to hike the Vernal Falls/Nevada Falls trail, which led to two dramatic waterfalls. But, we had been advised that the hike was pretty strenuously vertical (the trail guide says over 600 stair steps). S's back was still a mess, and I was still getting over the cold, but we gave it our best shot. We made it up to the top of Vernal Falls (S counted - 641 stair steps), which was beautiful and dramatic and dangerous, but we decided against going up to Nevada Falls. Best not to push our luck.

The last section of the hike up to Vernal Falls takes you right along the falls. This section is called the Mist Trail, for good reason - we got wet, and saw multiple double rainbows. Once at the top of Vernal Falls, I deshoed and cooled my feet in the snowmelt. My feet went numb from the cold. Excellent.

Back down to the base, then pizza for dinner, back to the Lodge to pack, and get a good night's sleep. So long Yosemite - we'll be back for sure!

16 June 2013

Yosemite! Day 4


The sore throat blossomed into a full-on cold, but I was determined to not let it keep me from the park. S did all the driving today, and I slept in the car as she shuttled us from place to place.

We had spent two days outside of the iconic Yosemite Valley, but now that we were mid-week (with less weekenders around), we ventured towards the Valley. First stop: Glacier Point, a high point overlooking the valley. There had been a hotel/lodge here until a 1969 fire, but now it's just a gift shop and viewing area. You can see most of the iconic images from Glacier Point, including Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls:

There is a hike from Glacier Point down to the valley floor, but I wasn't feeling up to that long of a hike, so instead we took a smaller hike to Sentinel Dome. 

Then, down to the valley floor, where the monoliths rise up around you like gods. The rock faces climb almost vertically, but the valley floor is lush and green. Lots of wildlife: birds, deer, squirrels. Lots of people: lodging, camping, rafting, hiking.  We parked the car and went for lunch at the historic (and outrageously expensive) Ahwahnee Hotel. The Ahwahnee was built specifically to attract well-heeled people to the park, and it truly is a masterpiece: big ceilings, huge beams, beautiful decor. I wanted to experience the hotel, so we lunched there and walked around the grounds afterwards.

After lunch, we tried to hop on a tour of the valley, but they were booked up. Instead, we checked out the visitor center, the Ansel Adams Gallery, and then drove back to the Lodge.  I was still a zombie, shuffling along, falling asleep frequently. When we got back to the Lodge, I laid down in the bed at 5.30 and asked S to wake me at 6. She did, and I refused to get out of bed. I slept (fitfully) from 5.30pm until 7.30 the next morning...

15 June 2013

Yosemite! Day 3


I had some work to do (grading, etc.), so we got a later start today. We headed north into the Hetch Hetchy Valley, another undervisited section of the park. Hetch Hetchy used to be a valley with solid ground at the bottom, but the city of San Francisco built a dam and turned it into a reservoir to provide both power and water to SF. So, San Francisco destroyed Hetch Hetchy, and Los Angeles destroyed Mono Lake. Awesome.

Anyway, Wapama Falls is a 5-mile round-trip hike from the trailhead, and S and I decided to take it on. We were feeling sore from the previous day (and the previous night on very hard beds), so we weren't moving so fast. First step: cross the dam!

The dam crossing has lots of signs and information about how the dam was built, how the water is maintained, etc. It's all very pro-reservoir - it's very clear that SF was in charge of creating their own propaganda.

About a mile into the hike, S bailed on the hike. A bad night's sleep took its toll, and she couldn't go further. I left her behind and continued the rest of the trail by myself.  Along the way, I ran into a guide who said to be on the look out for a mama bear and her two cubs.  I kept an eye out, but I didn't see them.

Wapama Falls was beautiful! The trail was just a few feet over the water level, and there were bridges installed to cross the waterfall. A bounty of mist kept me from taking a lot of photos, but I did get a few nice ones:

On the way back, I ran into a few other hikers stalled on the trail. The mama bear and her cubs were just ahead, munching and playing and blocking the path.  We waited for them to move, but after ten minutes (by which point about 20 more hikers had joined us), we started singing songs, banging pans, clapping hands, and moving past. At our closest, we were about 5 feet from the mama bear, who was completely uninterested in us at all.

Back to the car, the Lodge, a quick shower, and then into Groveland, a city about 30 miles away, to refill the gas tank and get some dinner. We found a lovely little restaurant that served an amazing smoked trout.  Unfortunately, on the way to dinner, I noticed a tickle in my throat. It got worse as the night went on, and by the time I was getting into bed, I had popped some nyquill and chugged some OJ.

14 June 2013

Yosemite! Days 1 & 2

I'm starting this post sitting in a Starbucks en route from Yosemite to the Bay to see some friends and have some adventures.  The internet situation in Yosemite was sporadic and unreliable, so I didn't get to do much blogging.  So, here's Yosemite with a few days of latency:


The week leading up to the departure was mad for us, with wrapping up the school year for me and S's mom visiting for the week.  So, we didn't get quite as packed or as organized before our departure date as we wanted to.  Our 10am departure got pushed to 11, and then to 12.30.  Once we were on the road, it was clear sailing out of LA, through the grapevine, and into the desert. The desert was hot - the car thermometer read 109 for much of the drive, and did pass a nice little median fire.  Once we turned off the highway and headed into the high Sierras, the temperature dropped 35 degrees in one hour.

We stayed at the Evergreen Lodge, a collection of cabins and campgrounds right outside the park. The Lodge is very family-friendly, with a pool, game room, mini-zip line, and other things to amuse kids. Our room was half of a cabin, which was the right size for us. We had an unimpressive dinner at the hotel restaurant and turned in early to get a jumpstart on the next day.


Up early to check out the High Sierra part of the park. We have four days in the park, and we're saving the super-popular-and-crowded things for mid-week, when we're less likely to have huge crowds. The first thing we did was head across the park to Olmstead Point, a lookout with great views of the big rock formations.

From there, we continued off to the east side of the park, out the park through the Tioga Pass, and down to Mono Lake, a super-salty mineral-rich lake (similar to the Great Salt Lake). The lake used to be much deeper and bigger, but when some of the sources feeding the lake got diverted to provide water to LA (thanks Mullholland!), the water level went down, revealing creepy mineral deposits called tufas.  

A quick visit to the Mono Lake visitor center later, we're back in the park, headed towards Tuolumne Meadows, a large plateau of grasses and creek. Lots of hiking there, with some natural springs popping up. This whole section of the park gets less human traffic than the rest of the park, but it was still pretty busy.  We hiked out to Soda Springs, where naturally carbonated water comes out of the ground. Apparently, some rangers like to fill their water bottles up at it, but it smelled bad to me

To the east of Tuolumne Meadows is a 'moderately strenuous' hike to two locations: Lembert Dome and Dog Lake.  The first section of the hike is very uphill, and as we started to climb, it started to rain and thunder. Undaunted, we kept going, and by the time we were ready for the final ascent up Lembert Dome, the rain and thunder had stopped. Here's a shot of us at the top of Lembert Dome (you can see those storm clouds in the distance).

Back to the car to head west to the trailhead for May Lake. One of the guides at the Lodge recommended it, and while it was beautiful, it was a pretty long hike uphill. By the time we got to the top, we were pooped, and S was getting blistery.  Also, there were exceptional quantities of mosquitos.

By now, it's getting close to sunset, so we headed back to Olmstead Point to watch the sun fall off of the rock faces. Here's a nice shot of Half Dome bathed in pink.

By the time we got back to the Lodge, it was well after dark, and we were exhausted. We shared a burger and crashed. Monday would be a lighter day.

12 May 2013

Tinctures, Part 3

Another update on the tincture batch.

The lemon tincture and all of the fruit tinctures that I started a few weeks ago are done.  Yesterday, after capturing a half-dozen grapefruit peels, I started a jar of grapefruit tinctures.  Also, the bittering agents that came as dried leaves (leafs?) or powders are all out and strained.  That means that in addition to the grapefruit tincture, the only ones left are the woody bittering agents (barks, peppercorns, cardomom pods, etc.).

I've tasted a few of the bittering agents, and they're definitely bitter!  All I do is dip my fingertip in and taste it, but still, they make my tongue go numb. And what an intense flavor!

I think I've got another week or so before I can strain the bittering agents, and at that point, I can start experimenting with creating cocktail bitters. Any requests?

05 May 2013

Star Wars/Derby Day BBQ

Yesterday, S and I hosted a cookout at our place.  It was partly in honor of Derby Day, and partly to recognize Star Wars Day (May The Fourth Be With You!).   We had lots of people over for lots of grilled foods (sausages, hot dogs, garden burgers, shrimp, salmon, corn, asparagus, pineapple), salads (potato, brussel sprout/kale, quinoa), cakes (glazed fruit, chocolate), cookies, beer, wine, juice, and home-made Arnold Palmers.  We tidied up the backyard area and set out some chairs and a sun sail.  The grill was on all afternoon, and the Star Wars trilogy (the good ones) were playing in the living room.  A good time was had by all!

Tinctures, Part 2

It's been a week since I started the tinctures, so maybe it's time for a quick update. Every day I shake all of the jars, which, in addition to the functional benefit of encouraging the infusing, also gets me in the room to monitor the process.

The floral tinctures are already completed. The hibiscus was the first one done, followed shortly by the rosemary, juniper, lavender, sassafras, and a few others. There's no easy way to tell when they complete; you just have to taste them every day (taste, do NOT just smell, as the smell is pretty rancid). Then, when they're done, you remove the solids, rinse the jar, and re-jar the liquid.

Most of what's left still infusing are barks and woody bits, though I did add a jar of lemon tincture to the shelf a few days ago. It's already beautiful and yellow!

27 April 2013

Tinctures, part 1

Last fall, I made a couple of batches of bitters, using recipes from Brad Thomas Parsons' great book on the subject. Both batches came out well, but through reading the book in detail, it became apparent that the way to really customize the bitters was to make them by blending tinctures. Simply, a tincture is an infusion of one ingredient into a solvent. Bitters tend to be a blend of tinctures of bittering agents (roots, etc.) and flavoring agents (fruit, etc.). So, for this next step of my explorations, we cleared off a few shelves in the music room and put up some tinctures.

Rosemary, Juniper, Ginger, Orange, Clove, and Hibiscus tinctures.

Right now, there are about 25 jars of tinctures on the shelf. Some are woody (Cherry Bark, Arnica Root), some are leafy (Sassafras, Rosemary), and some are floral (Hibiscus, Rose Hips). I'm using different solvents for different ingredients. For lighter flavors, I use Everclear, but for thicker or woodier flavors (like the Ginger or Clove), I use a high-proof rum or bourbon. I still have a few tinctures to make, but once they're jarred up, all you do is shake them every day and wait.  The floral tinctures will be ready in a few days, but the woodier flavors will take up to a few weeks.

28 March 2013


Last week was final exam week at UCI, but it was also the week of the annual USITT conference. This year, the conference was in Milwaukee, so theatre designers and technicians from around the country converged in the frigid north for four days of conferences, seminars, panels, and socializing.  Here are the highlights of the trip, from my perspective:

  • The Guerrilla Sound Challenge, a 3-hour, do-it-yourself, sound design sprint, which I officiated this year.  You can read all about it (and hear the pieces) here.
  • Me Inc, The Business of Being an Artist.  I chaired this panel, featuring three sound designers of national repute: Toy Deiorio, Jim vanBergen, and Tony-Award winner Rob Kaplowitz. We talked about how to make a career as a designer/technician. The audience was packed for this session, filled with designers of all ilks, stage managers, and technicians. I got a lot of great feedback on this session, and I feel pretty good about doing a good job filling in for pal/chair Brad Berridge, who couldn't make the conference this year.
  • The Sound Commission spent a whole day focused on networking, with John Huntington, Davin Huston, and Ellen Juhlin sitting on a panel. They talked about setting up networks, good network management skills, innovation in networking, etc.  I was really excited to see how big AVB has been getting. 
  • Food and drink.  Ellen was our alcohol divining rod, and she led us to a number of great bars. Distil had some terrific cocktails and a chill vibe, and Stir, while more drab in appearance, had a well-cultivated bar and some innovative bitters.  
The low point of the conference was, for me, a session on video design that I attended. It was hosted by the Scenic Design commission, and it was almost entirely useless.  There were five panelists, but only one of them was a full-time video designer. Additionally, that one designer was the only person on the panel who appeared to have an idea about how professional theatre is done.  Of the other four panelists, three were professors with limited professional experience, and one was a scenic design student at one of their schools.  The discussion was uninspiring, and I ended up leaving halfway through.  

Now, with USITT behind us, Mike, Josh, and I are back at UCI with the rest of the cohorts, in the middle of three days of system training/tuning and mixing seminars with Tony Meola, Richard Bugg, Steve Bush, and Gavin Canaan.  It's part technical training, part storytime, and part art.  Fascinating!

04 February 2013

The Radio Plays comes to a close

The past four weeks have been a blur. As soon as classes started back up at UCI, I went into rehearsals for The Radio Plays, a mini-festival of three pieces of aural theatre. I produced the event and directed two of the plays: Sherlock Holmes: Murder in the Casbah, and Do I Really Sound Like That.  Eli Simon, a colleague at UCI, wrote and directed a third piece, The Wildest Dream Ever.

Our Sherlock was the most old-fashioned of the three plays, particularly in its approach to sound design. Almost all of the sounds were done using old Hollywood foley techniques, including crumbling dried leaves for fire, popping balloons for gunfire, etc. There were a couple of unusual technologic solutions, but mostly, this was a history piece. The one historically inaccurate thing I did was to cast the show using primarily women. Even Holmes and Dr. Watson were women, and it didn't take much rewording of the text to flip the gender of the characters.

Do I Really Sound Like That is a world premiere by playwright Sean Cunningham, and it was the inverse of the Holmes play: very modern, very non-foley (the sound effects were mostly playback pieces) and quite vulgar in places. There were some elements of foley, but most of my work with the actors focused on the text and character.

The Wildest Dream Ever was originally a dream that Simon had, and it became a vocal and percussion score as the cast took us on a dream journey through outer space, the depths of the ocean, and the Wizard of Oz.

Here are some photos:

The stage preset.

In performance for The Wildest Dream Ever.

The cast of Sherlock was surrounded by microphones.

A little manual vocal manipulation in Do I Really Sound Like That.
 The show went up and down in the same weekend, so after four weeks of intense rehearsals, everything is finished.  I'm sorry to see it go; I had a terrific (if exhausting) time working on it. Thanks to everyone who took part!  Now, on to the next project!

05 January 2013

Last Day in Hawaii, Safe at Home

It rained off an on all day on the day we left Hawaii, so the camera stayed in the bag most of the day.  I got up early to take one last short walk in VNP along Devastation Trail, which shows in dramatic fashion how the eruptions changed the landscape.  At the end of the trail, I reached a lookout over Kilauea Iki, the crater that S and I hiked through a few days ago:

Back at the parking lot, I saw some endangered goose creatures called Nene (chicken-like) birds pecking at the ground:

Then, back to the cottage to clean up and move out.  We said goodbye to Katherine, our host, and headed into Hilo for lunch with one of S's friends from Battleship.  M went to high school on the island, and she's been back visiting her mother. We had a nice lunch and then wandered around Hilo, popping in stores here and there. We went to a great little seafood shop to try Lomi Salmon, which was tasty, but very salty. We picked up some snacks for the plane, took M home, and then headed to Ocean Sushi for another yummy meal.  Then, onto the airport!

The flight home was uneventful.  I was asleep shortly after we took off, and we both slept until just before touchdown. Once on the ground, we collected our bags and our car and were home and back in bed by 6am. We slept late, then got up to begin a day of unpacking, cleaning, de-Christmasing, and reconnecting to socal...

Aloha, Hawaii!  Mahalo for the great times!

04 January 2013

Earth, Water, Air, Fire

It's our last full day on the island. We got a late start, but drove up to Waipio Valley, a spot up on the northeast corner that overlooks a stunning and mostly undeveloped fertile valley.  Without a 4WD vehicle or a lot of human desire, we couldn't go into the valley, but that was alright with us - from what we read, there wasn't much to do down in the valley except ogle at beauty (which we could do nicely from high up on the rim:

After seeing the beautiful valley, we stopped off for fresh stuffed doughnuts to tide us over as we headed towards Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain on the island and home to the famous observatory. Usually, the top of the peak is shrouded in clouds, but the visibility was so clear today that we stopped on the side of the highway to snap a photo of all of the telescopes atop the mountain:

We continued up the mountain, our little 4-cylinder rental working its little butt off, and we got to the visitor center in time to catch the sunset:

Unfortunately, the visitor center was our final destination - without a 4WD vehicle, we couldn't make the trip to the summit.  Still, after sunset, the visitor center set out about 10 high-powered telescopes, and the visitors could look into the heavens.  I saw 50+ stars in the Pleaides, and I saw Jupiter AND four moons.  Wow!  It was cold, so S and I took off after a while to head back to Hilo for some supper. We stopped in a little sushi joint called Ocean Sushi, which is completely unpretentious (no liquor license even!) and excellent.  We had a weird roll that featured pickled plum and fermented soybean - yum!

On the way back to the cottage, S and I wondered if the big plume we had been seeing at Volcano National Park in the Kilauea Caldera glowed at night. We decided to duck into the park to check it out. Sure enough, it glows like a campfire!  Remember, this fire is about 1/4 mile wide:

Now, home, to pack.  We have one more day tomorrow on the island, and then we take a red-eye home.  

03 January 2013

Tuesday: Lava old and new; Wednesday: Hilo and waterfalls

TUESDAY was a big day. After falling asleep Monday night (new years eve) well before midnight, I got up and took a nice run through the neighborhood here in Volcano Village, passing by farms and ranches on my way. S and I got started by visiting Thurston Lava Tube, a tunnel formed by lava cooling from inside itself. The tube is fairly horizontal about 15 in diameter, so you can walk right through it!

Then, we backtracked to the Visitor Center and took a few short hikes up and around the main part of the park. We hiked through a field with steam vents, and another with sulfur vents:

And after we went through the Jaggar Museum (focused on volcanic activity and Hawaiian activity in particular), we got a better look at the churning lava pit in the center of Kiluaea Caldera:

Then, it was off to the city of Hilo on the east coast for lunch and a sojourn.  We had some time to kill, so we took the long way down the coast from Hilo, stopping at a few swimming holes to check them out (note: walking around a swimming hole, fully clothed, carrying a camera makes you look and feel like a creep).  Ultimately, our target was a trailhead that would lead us to some hot lava. We got to the trailhead about an hour before dark to start the 2.5 mile trek across the lava fields. Along the way, we saw this drain shape that had formed about 30 years ago:

The 2.5 mile trek took about 90 minutes, and by the time we arrived, the sky was dark. The lava glowed orange. The air around it was warm (as was the rock in some places). We could hear it popping and sizzling. We had managed to maneuver ourselves very close to the coast, so we could see the lava cascading off of the cliff, hundreds of feet into the sea.  It was beautiful.  Just, wow.

After the lava show, we hiked the 2.5 miles back to the car, aided by flashlights and the stars to find our way. The wind had picked up, and there were few lights on the ground to guide us. Thankfully, S could read the stars.  Back to the car, then to Hilo for a light dinner.

WEDNESDAY started with an early rise to get some field recording done. Unfortunately, between the wind and the choppers buzzing in the park, the rain forest beds I was hoping to get weren't quite so pristine.  They'll require some editing.  

After I got back to the cottage, S and I took off for Hilo. We had a diner breakfast, tooled around the Hilo Farmer's Market, and hit the road up the coast.  We hit a few waterfalls (this one took six composited photographs to make into one image):

Then, we found a beautiful botanical gardens where we killed two hours photographing anything that would fit in the frame:

Up the coast some more stops for snacks (a smoothie to go with the coconut buns and apple bananas we bought in Hilo) and more coast.  Laupahoehoe Beach Park is on the grounds of an old school. In 1946, the island was hit by a tsunami, and 21 students and teachers from the school lost their lives.  The  surf is beautiful, but it's severe.

We watched the day turn to dusk at Laupahoehoe, so it wasn't long before we turned around and headed home to Volcano for the night.  We stopped in Hilo for a light dinner.  Tonight, we'll sleep good.