On Thanks……

A lot to be thankful for this year. Despite larger setbacks in foreign and domestic affairs…..the CI compound stands in good order, ready for the Zombie Apocalypse.

Until then, I’m thankful for having both of our beautiful, smart Princesses home for the long weekend. The home feels whole again.

I’m thankful that I’m not deployed again this holiday season.

I’m thankful for having a wife who is a partner my soul mate and my best friend. One who doesn’t conform to social norms and conventions just for their sake.……and who’s just as ferocious as I am when the dander is up. It doesn’t hurt that she’s still a smoldering hottie.

And I’m thankful for 57 pounds of good-boy puppy (Loki) for us to love this year……after losing our good girl (Molly) last year.

So today brings putting on the hiking kilt for a jaunt up the Appalachian Trail, followed by some custom pizzas and wine.

Round out the weekend with some quality time with my chainsaw and a bonfire……and hoping I don’t have any calls from work.

Life is pretty good. I need to stop and enjoy it a little more…..

Summer Life on the Homestead

Never a day goes by when I’m not happy about moving to my “zombie apocalypse compound”.

The view in front of the property:

And we’re wicked close to several trailheads:

And most importantly, the most faithful member of the family and chief chicken-herder, gets new adventures every day:

Enjoying as much as I can before I have to take another trip to less desirable places overseas again.

Land of Fire and Ice

Back from Iceland, where I took my lovely bride of 20 years for a few days in Reykjavik and a beautiful, challenging 2 day hike on the Fimmvörðuháls pass…which took us directly over the twin craters of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano [last erupted spring of 2010].

It was like walking through Middle Earth. One section your in the Shire….the next, Rivendell….and soon, Mordor. Some photos below.


Damn fine coffee!


Skogafoss – the beginning of the Fimmvörðuháls trail


I actually started losing count of the number of waterfalls along the Skoga River


Yup…another waterfall. Seriously, there’s like 15 of these things….


Near as we could figure, the beginning of the Skoga River…at least where it first peeks out into the sunlight.


Entering Mordor


The two craters of Magni and Móði, from the 2010 eruption.


Steam and gas still coming out of what was the ‘magma waterfall’.


Mrs. CI snapping a pic


This chain and about a hoof and a half track were all that kept us from tumbling down……


…this. This area of the trail was taken out by the Eyjafjallajökull eruption.


One happy hiker getting past that chain


A moonscape table-top plateau


Coming down into the Shire


Just crazy man…..


Finally ending at the Krossá River, to camp a final night and board the 4×4 bus back to Reykjavik.

Schloss Hohenstaufen

Drove to a hilltop town outside of Goppingen, and hiked up to the ruins of Schloss [Castle] Hohenstaufen.

Hohenstaufen castle was built about 1070 by Frederick I of Hohenstaufen—even before he became Duke of Swabia, as a fortress to protect family interests in the vicinity. Until the 13th century, the castle was a possession of the imperial and royal family, the Hohenstaufen dynasty. In 1181, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa stayed there; in 1208, Irene Angelina, the widow of Barbarossa’s son, the recently murdered Philip of Swabia, died at Hohenstaufen Castle. 

Since the German unification of 1871, Hohenstaufen Castle has been regarded as a national monument. The archaeologist Walther Veeck undertook excavations on it between 1936 and 1938, and further excavations were made between 1967 and 1971, uncovering and securing the castle foundations. A Hohenstaufen memorial stele (Stauferstele) was inaugurated in 2002. In 2009 additional work was done to preserve the site. Wiki

Ah….Nature’s Stair Master

I didn’t hit Koko Head Crater last time I was deployed to PACOM, and since I’m working back up to tackling Mt Olympus, Lanipo and Olomana…this was a short trek. But it was up. I mean UP. They call it nature’s stair master……and for good reason. 30 minutes up and 20 down [mostly due to people in my way]. So, compared to others times I’ve seen…not too shabby. I did manage to jog down the last 1/3, once I got around the people crabbing their way down. By that time, my knees needed extended motion.

Koko Head Crater from the parking lot.
View from the top.
And down. Damn slow people…..

Chicks dig Muddy Ruckers

Crunchy chicks* that is.

Hiked the Aiea Loop again. It’s been raining Ppoki’s and `Ilio’s [cats and dogs] for the last week, so I knew my ridgeline hiking was going to be limited. I was going to attempt the Aiea Ridge Trail, but after taking the Loop trail to the branch, and on to the Ridge trail….it was simply to slippery, with high winds and driving rain. So, since the Loop trail is you know….a loop, I decided to go around once, the turn around at the end point and go back around counter-clockwise.

I reaffirmed my trail snobbery, by inwardly chuckling at the ‘pedestrians’ slipping and sliding along the loop trail in all manner of street shoes. I rocked the History of Britain podcast the entire way. Yep, I’m just that kind of dork.

Not a hard trail, but challenging today. It was a right muddy mess, as evidenced below.

* Crunchy chicks – Women who fear neither mud nor sweat; them that can tackle terrain like the hardiest of men; women who are naturally beautiful without the need for mani/pedi’s and makeup; adventurous in spirit, but well grounded and laid back. I like ’em so much, I married one.

Hiking in Memoriam….Trek II

Today’s hike was on the serene Kamananui Valley Trail. An easy trek filled with Hawaiian history for a few miles, and then plunges into the land that time forgot. I’m not even sure exactly how far I made it. I didn’t make it to the summit of the Koolau Range. The trail up the valley wall was simply too wet and slippery. Being solo, I decided not to temp fate. But it was a good, muddy, sweaty hike nonetheless.

I was all set in who I was dedicating this hike to, on this Memorial Day weekend…..but halfway through, as I was recalling memories of my friend Jim Doster…I realized that in the space of time since his death, I had forgotten one of my former Soldiers who had also lost his life. Not while he was in my unit, but in his next. I had forgotten Darrell Griffin. True, we weren’t as close as Jim and I had been, Darrell being a PFC/SPC and I his Platoon Sergeant…..but I felt immediately shitty. Darrell reminded me a lot of myself at his stage of his career…and there is absolutely no doubt that he would have gone on to surpass anything I had done by the time I retired. He was already on that kind of track in the Army. So with today’s hike, I remember two Fallen Warriors, and their families…and I hope you will as well.

Jim Doster was exactly like me in so many ways. I’ve expressed some of it before, and don’t really feel like expanding on it again. Maybe later tonight, with some SMS and some privacy.

I previously wrote about SFC James Doster here and here.

I previously wrote about SSG Darrell Griffin, Jr here.

Please take a few minutes to know both Brothers-in-Arms.

I’ll post a few pictures of today’s hike, but sitting at Starbucks, I didn’t bring my USB cable…and don’t feel like e-mailing them to myself right now. They’re not the point of this blog entry anyway.

Hiking In Memoriam

I decided to log two hikes with the long Memorial Day weekend….and dedicate each one to a Fallen Warrior, who was close to myself or my family.

I dedicated today’s hike to LTC Roy Tisdale…whom I blogged about here.  My wife was a colleague of his, and held him in the highest regard, as a friend and sterling example of the Officer Corps. Another excellent blogger that you should know also wrote about his funeral, and I will link the photos that he chose…when he covered the Memorial for LTC Tisdale.

Blue Skies Sir…..

Something definitely appropriate for LTC Tisdale that I posted last year but can’t seem to embed again.

Today’s hike was on the Kamiloiki Ridge Trail. Not a particularly long trek…but one where I literally had to look down at nearly every step to ensure that I didn’t trip over lava rock in the overgrown grass and tumble down the side of the ridge. This, of course, made it rather difficult to look for the next blaze, marking the trail. The Kamiloiki is not maintained, so it was a bit of an adventure making sure I was still on it.

Climbing the Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Trail

A little over 2.25 miles to the top……not a great distance, but you’re ascending roughly 1800 feet between here and there. Good tree cover most of the way, but precious little breeze. I was sweating more on this trail than on Mt Olympus last weekend, just due to the humid, static air.

Great views at the top, as advertised. One does well to heed the sign.

The views from the top. The next ridge over…..looks doable.

Koko Head Crater in the background.

I did earn my Good Samaritan merit badge on today’s hike. I had passed a group of older ladies as I was trekking up…they were heading down. After my ascent, and probably about a mile from the start/end point, I came across them again. One of the ladies had twisted her ankle pretty badly, and they were making only a few steps at a time before taking a break. Being a good Infantryman and a gentleman to boot, I inquired if she minded that I was drenched in sweat, and piggy backed her the rest of the way down. luckily for me [and my back] she couldn’t have weighed over a buck 20, so it ended up giving me a strong finish to a hike that only took a couple of hours.

I hit the weights back in the gym and am ready to relax and enjoy Single Malt Saturday!

Zen and the Art of Hiking

Between growing up backpacking the Cascades, being a member of Marion County Sheriffs Search & Rescue and spending 22 years as an Infantryman…..it’s fair to say that I’ve spent more time in the woods than the average bear. Whatever your belief system in the creation of this world, there is something inspired and harmonious with the way nature is laid out. Perhaps I am merely trying to channel my inner hunter-gatherer when I go hiking, but I feel more at peace in nature than around my fellow man.

Speaking of my fellow man….props to those who get out there on the trails…but how does one decide to tackle nature, no more prepared than if they were traveling from their barcalounger to the fridge? Last weekend I hiked the Aiea Loop. This is not a tough trail, but the rainy season here in Hawaii had kept me from tackling one more to my liking. Although I maintain a ‘deathmarch’ mentality when it comes to hiking….this is a state of mind, not a desired endstate. Many weekends it’s simply far to muddy to scrabble up and down the knife edge ridgelines on Oahu. So to burn calories and get my sweat on, I head up to Aiea.

Crowded. Easy trail means lots of casual walkers. They all let me pass easy enough, no hard feelings. But towards the end of the loop, I happen across some sort of Explorer Scout troop, or somesuch. One of the adults in the rear was on the trail wearing…..flip-flops [or as their known in the islands…slippers]. Now, as I mentioned, Aiea is not a particularly tough trail, but it IS a trail, with elevation changes and obstacles. And on that day….a right muddy mess.

I realize that I’m a trail snob…and most people tend to not venture outside of their paved world….but this cat is ostensibly a mentor to young boys and girls, and as such, should set some modicum of an example in terms of common sense. I only snapped one photo that I thought was sort of cool from the Aiea Loop, because frankly, most of the trek was green…and muddy.

Aiea Loop overlooking the H3

Yesterday, I tackled Mt Olympus again. On my two previous ascents, it was too muddy to make it up to the very top, and the cloud cover on those days made the really good photos impossible. Damn good workout. Still damn muddy…..but there’s a perverse thrill at scrabbling up a rope on the side of a rather sheer mud face with a long plunge to a certain death, should you slip to one side or the other. Not as many intrepid souls, and not everyone I passed on the trail made it to the top. Some turn around when they reach the first of three rope obstacles. Here again,I see people woefully dressed and outfitted for a climb even halfway up this beast. I saw boat shoes yesterday. Seriously? You’re going to wear topsiders on a muddy/rocky/steep trail along a knife edge ridgeline? Your funereal. And as usual, most people graciously let me pass, or I them….though in some stretches, this led to becoming very intimately acquainted as we both pass along a trail about two feet wide, with zero room for error. Coming back however, there was a couple heading down also, that simply refused to give way when I came up on them. This was in the easy area, with plenty of room. How about a little trail courtesy people?

I’ve seen various reviews and estimates for the Mt Olympus trail, of allowing 4-6 hours for the complete trip. I feel really good about making the ascent and back in right at three hours. I am of course, feeling my age today.

Below is Ka’au Crater, the hike I’m waiting for a dry spell before I tackle it.

The view to the south, from the summit.
That start/end point is a looooong way off.

The Kailua side of the Ko’olau Range