Just kidding, I know the Mayans weren’t actually predicting the end of the world, just a start of a new giant cycle, meaning lots of zeros in the date, and we all know how much Americans love numbers with lots of zeros.
Work this week was fairly standard – trap checking, goose watching, vegetation plot analyzing, seed and fruit collecting and processing, and even a little endangered plant out-planting mapping. For a fun twist on the traps we’ve come to know a love, we took the heads and guts from a few Ahi (the pest control guys have started bringing large quantities of these fish bits up for their pig traps and have found lots of large mongeese munching on the heads frequently) and threw them into some of the traps to see if it is more effective than sardine cans with holes in them. So far, no luck.
There were some instances of something different during the week: a fence-line hike on Wednesday to collect leaf packs, a retirement luncheon in Hilo on Thursday, and, of course, Kona beach day a week ago! So, on Wednesday, two guys came up through UH to visit two plots on Hakalau property (lower Honohina to be exact) which are being used to monitor CO2 fluctuations, tree growth, decomposition, and a variety of other things related to global climate change. On this day, they were just collecting leaf packs of Ohia that they had put out six months ago to monitor decomposition of the leaves and changes in carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus concentrations. Getting to these sites, though, was the real adventure. First, we drove down the the Frog Pond (which has neither frogs nor a pond), which takes about 20 minutes from admin, then had/got to hike the rest of the way down to 1500m elevation on a “trail” that I will post pictures of on the Shutterfly when it decides to accept all of my pictures. It started as a road that we couldn’t drive down anymore because cars would get stuck at the bottom when it was wet, which it was. Then, we entered the forest, but still had something that resembled a place people walked frequently enough. Finally, we crossed over a fence and just followed the fence, along which there was ample mud, until we got to the site. Along the way, there were a couple steep inclines/declines that required the help of a rope, thankfully already present, to scale or descend. After doing the 1500m site, we returned up 1600m elevation for the second, and went home. It was about three hours of tromping through the mountainous rain forest to pick up ten small packs of leaves. It was pretty great. And muddy. Mostly muddy.
On Thursday, we were invited down to Hilo for the retirement luncheon and small ceremony of the Assistant Refuge Manager who has been with the USFWS for 35 years, including 15 years here at Hakalau. It was very nice to see all of the Hakalau NWR workers (office and field) in a situation other than work, and just to see all of them. Nice words were said and a good time was had, but nothing terribly exciting. I just really want to take this time to thank Jim Glynn (phew, googling his name does not give this one up quickly) for his years of service to the United State’s environment and ecologly, helping to preserve it for future generations. Everything I have heard about his work is extremely positive and all of my interactions with him have only been supportive of that.
Last Sunday, one of the guys we met in Honolulu, who had been on Laysan during the summer, was kind enough to take us three “Refugees” (what our supervisor has been calling us) over to Kona side for an afternoon at the beach and a visit to Costco. I’ll get the Costco experience out of the way – I didn’t properly prepare myself for walking in, was quickly overwhelmed, and left. So, we left from the mountain early to be able to drive over to Kona and back before we were too exhausted to drive back up the mountain, and it was a very good thing we did, because we got back kind of late. Our friend drove us around the north side of the island, passing Honokaa and Waimea before finally spitting out on to the west coast about two hours later. Our first stop was Makalawena beach, which is their “best beach on the big island”, near Kekaha Kai park, if you have any desire to try to find it some day. You have to walk about a mile north from the parking lot, some of it over broken up lava, to get there, but it was definitely worth it. Beautiful white sand beach, the surf was pretty low, so it was great for just swimming, snorkeling, and shell collecting. The best part, though, was just the sun! We get so little of it up here on the mountain, with all of the rain (pretty constant this week except on Tuesday), and the sun we do get is not as warm as you expect it to be, especially when it is windy. It was windy over at Kona on Sunday, but the sun was warm enough to get all of the way to my bones! It was just delightful. Snorkeling was great, too, saw lots and lots of urchins and a pretty decent variety of fish (goat, angel, needle, trumpet, unicorn, black durgon, puffer, and some others). It was a great day at the beach! Hopefully, I’ll get to do it again sometime in the near future.
You may have noticed that Christmas is right around the corner, and it hasn’t escaped my view either, even though it hardly feels like Christmas time despite the chill. To make up for it, I’ve been making sweet baked goods (cookies and pies!). So, Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays to you, which ever you might prefer. I hope you all find a way to truly enjoy the adventure that naturally is the holiday season, or even go out of your way to make it extra adventuresome!