Laysan Again

Three weeks to cover hear! Or something. A week of it was on a boat, so that will save us some time.

One week after my last post, I hopped on an airplane and spent a day traveling to Honolulu! Luckily, the time difference was pretty easy that way and I arrived with a beautiful afternoon and evening ahead of me without much to do. I made sure that my buckets were packed for the trip, met some of other workers who would be going (turned out I did know the one who I thought I might, he went to Tern Island at the same time I went to Laysan before). I got a bowl of poke (poe-kay) because I couldn’t wait. (As you may recall, poke is a chunks of raw fish tossed in some sort of sauce.) It was so great to get some fresh amazing fish (obviously went for Ahi – yellowfin tuna). And octopus (or tako). Cruised down to the beach by Waikiki to see a good sunset and film a snippet of yoga for Flex Yoga’s class video of everyone rocking their favorite poses. Then it was early to bed because I’d been up since the equivalent of midnight!

Next day we got the boat loaded (the same boat we took last time! With the same captain and cook and engineer!). To start the day, I bounced over to Leonard’s Bakery and grabbed a dozen absolutely delicious Malasadas (Portugese donuts). Didn’t take long with ten people. We also ran around to a couple places on Oahu to collect seeds (Sandalwood and Stink Banana) to plant when we got to Laysan. Thai food for dinner on land, a night on the boat, and the next morning we were headed northwest!

Oh. My. Gosh. Were the seas amazing. So calm! Ridiculously, nearly eerily calm. But only nearly. And thankfully calm. No repeat of my return trip last time, and no inability to land. There were times when the water looked darn glassy. Not like a lake where the whole thing looks like glass, but to the point where the undulations of swells are smooth. Never more than a couple feet of swell, which in a 100’+ boat is nothing. Plus, the food was at least as amazing as last time. Eddie always takes care of his guests. Unfortunately no fish were caught on the way up. But boat days are simple days. Lots of sleeping – in your bunk, on a chair on deck, just on the deck – and reading and eating. That’s about all their is to do. Resting up for the work ahead. With the help of good weather and no stop at Tern, we were at Laysan in three and half days – earlier than expected!

We got on Laysan that night, got moved in, and briefly began some reconnaisence of the work ahead of us – construction and Pluchea indica removal, primarily, but no real work until the next day, “Day 1”. While there was P. indica on the island, there were to be long, hot, busy days. We split into teams with loppers, pruning sheers, packs of poison (herbicide), and our bare (or gloved) hands to tackle the bushes which wish to take over the island. In the teams we would go out to the various GPS’d zones and plots and diameter points to search for and destroy all of the P. indica that we could find. All of it should be inside the plots, which were set up around where it used to be found before we began removing it. The small plots make it easier to ensure TOTAL coverage by way of line sweeps. Some zones and plots had a lot more P. indica than others.

I spent the morning of Day 1 pulling weeds in Zone 3, which turned out to be a pretty bad zone. One plot in particular was super dense with the invasive. by “morning”, I mean 7a-1p. We have to get as much work in as we can before it gets hot because, unless it is cloudy and windy and hopefully a little rainy, from 1-5 or 6p is very rough. After a morning in the field, those working relatively near camp (<25minute walk, or so) returned to it for a couple hours of lunch and a swim (those down south would stay down south for the same, where there is very unfortunately zero shade). After break, I was switched to construction work in camp, where I replaced the thermometer for the solar powered fridge (it had not been working recently, turned out it was low on the cooling gas. I also moved a bunch of trash and checked some wires to make sure they were still conducting electricity well. With work done, it was into the ocean to cool off more, relax, watch the sunset, have dinner, look at the absolutely beautiful stars, listen to a sea bird colony. Good stuff like that. Then go to sleep and be ready to do it all over again.

Day 2, like I said, do it all over again. I started in Z3 again, continuing the nasty plot they had started the previous afternoon. There were a lot of plants that needed to be pulled, or cut and poisoned. In addition to the weeding, there were some “Wetland Monitoring Plots” (10x10m) in the zones which needed to have their ground cover assessed by percent of each species present. Wee. By the end of the morning, despite drinking a few liters of water (it was a super duper hot day) and another gallon or so during the lunch break, I had a heck of a headache working on me, so I worked the afternoon in camp again so I could do a duck survey just before sunset. My in camp job was to add support to one of the struts on a the kitchen tent. The strut was obviously made of metal. Part of the 1964 Wilderness Act does not allow us to use motors (except in a super emergency) to do things. This, apparently, includes power drills. So, If you’ve never used a hand drill to punch a hole in 1/8-1/4″ steel, I highly suggest it. Its a blast. Plus some more trash moved, got me until it was time to leave to walk around the lake and count ducks. Oh! The Lake! its super super low! The summer was crazy dry (it rained more in the first few days of our time on the island than it had in the last six months or so), so the lake was in three sections, with large areas that were easy to walk across (hooray short cuts) as long as you look out for super squishy areas. I may have been up to my thighs in lake mud once. It was very different, but really cool to see it starting to get much more wet as the rains arrived. My duck survey started at the south end of the lake. Which is lame because its really far from camp. So, I had a long walk from camp, then a walk around the lake while counting ducks and trying to see their bands, then a long walk back to camp in the dark. Its a good thing I like walking. And what a great time this whole week was for being barefoot! My puppies were so glad to be in the open air for so long! I found 283 duckies (the Laysan duck, endemic, endangered – most endangered duck on the planet! – species). Then, back at camp I got to have dinner and go to bed, pretty much. Missed out on an evening swim…

Day 3, do it again! This day started me in Z1, right by camp. We realized we had been cruising through the plots faster than expected (woohoo! that probably means our control methods of P. indica are probably working!), so instead of pounding in small groups, we split into only two, with the plan for one group to finish the east side of the island and the other to finish the west (leading to a very lengthy discussion between two PMFs – gov’t internship-ish program – comparing and contrasting east and west rap). The worst of the P. indica was located in the south – Z5, primarily, so we would save that and attack it all as a whole group the following days. And between the morning and afternoon sessions, we finished up all of the zones but 5. With enough time left over to enjoy the beach – definitely the best thing about working on a small, deserted island. It is quite nice  that a couple hundred feet downhill from camp, there is a beautifully clear ocean at such a relieving temperature after a hard day of work. We even use it for bathing. I learned the joy of a sand bath this time around. Jump in, rinse off, crawl on the beach, rub sand all over yourself, rinse the sand off, shake the sand out of your shorts. Hooray abrasion! Feels great.

Day 4 brings about a lot of hard work in the south. The fun thing about the south is that there is absolutely no shade. Zero. I mean, there is no shade on the island besides the camp tents, unless you want to sit under the ironwood and end up covered in bird poo. But, in the south, you are too far away to make walking back to camp for lunch worth while, so you gotta stay out in the sun the whole time. A float with lunch helps, but without much wind or clouds, it is a lot of sun. But we got work done – a bunch of densely Pluchea’d plots cleared out – however not all of it. As I mentioned, lunch included a float in “the swimming pool”. A ledge of rocks blocks the hard hitting waves about 100′ from shore, creating a very calm bit of water which has a little sideways current – like a river! Use some floating marine debris, and you’ve got a lazy float. Helps to cool down between work sessions. Even with the help of this float, we were pretty beat after lunch. Got another plot or two done, but it was time to recover. Back to camp, more swimming, some time in the shade, and data entry!

Day 5 took us back down south to wrap up, and we did! Even before lunch! So, because we got our main goal accomplished, we got to have the afternoon off to relax, rejuvenate and be ready to finish other tasks. You see, we had been working about 7a-7p, with a couple hours for the lunch break. So, it was pretty nice take a step back and just enjoy the island. It is a nice island to enjoy.

Day 6 was for native vegetation and out planting mapping. Walking around, using GPS to locate out plantings, searching for other uncommon native plants, and examining the ground cover and the condition of the plants. I worked with one of the PMF’s around the Northeast part of the lake and had a great time finding palms, goosefoot, and sedge. Great things about day 6: being done with P. indica meant we also weren’t as aggressive about getting up, and we could just chill and watch the sunrise – which was awesome and beautiful and calming.

Day 6 sunrise

Day 6 sunrise

Plus, we found some beach morning glory which was in full bloom.

Beach Morning Glory in bloom

Beach Morning Glory in bloom

Great day to walk around. Back to camp for lunch, swimming, then work around camp – moving trash down to the beach to stage for offloading and data entry. It was also my night to help cook. Luckily my cooking buddy was the one to take charge of the situation – so we made orzo salad. And a NIMI girl made Chia Seed Pudding (mix chia with a non-dairy milk, whatever flavors you want, and let it sit for several hours). Other days of our stay there we had spaghetti, chili, stir fry, curry, grilled chicken, and more. One night I made chocolate chip walnut cookie bars and another chocolate chip cheesecake with nutella graham cracker crust (neither with eggs!), and one morning I made pancakes. Plus there were scrambled eggs some mornings. Only showing up for a week we got to bring plenty of  frozen vegetables and such. Tasty foods.

Day 7 was focused on making sure we did everything we meant to do.  Checking through the data for any plots or spots we might have missed, then going out and taking care of them. I spent the morning on wetland monitoring plots and got up to my thighs in lake mud in the process. The afternoon was spent around camp again, moving stuff the beach, starting the shut things down, holding staff meetings in the ocean. By this point, the Kahana was back circling around the island, but staying around for the next day. That night had a delicious cook out – grilled chicken, plus more curry, cheesey-broccoli rice bake, and the cheesecake. For some reason I felt motivated to give out awards (like from camp) to everyone who was there. Used a couple other people to come up with ideas, then we decorated marine debris to make the awards and presented them over dinner. It was a good choice.

On Day 8, we left the island. The morning was allotted to finishing packing, and offloading from the island to the boat. Using the small boat, we sent all of our trash and things out to the Kahana, which was a lot of stuff. Filled up a container. Mostly with trash. After everything was on the boat, we got a couple hours to enjoy the island one more time and say goodbye. I went for a walk into the Northern desert – mostly to see the marine debris field and the out plantings I helped with up there. We found some great looking tires, a very reflective light bulb, a motorcycle helmet, and all kinds of shoes, not to mention so freaking many floats. No glass balls, sadly. Some cool pics, though. And seals. Then, it was back to camp, one last swim, moving the last of things, screwing doors shut (no one will be there for sixth months), a picture by the sign, and another last swim. Then we were on the Kahana and heading southeast hoping we hadn’t forgotten anything.

Another three and half days on a boat with calm seas, sunshine, and great food meant sleeping, eating, and reading. Somehow on the first night I ended up telling the story of the Metacrine. The fun about telling stories to adults (without laying out expectations) is that they will question EVERYTHING. It helps to eventually fill the plot holes. Even added a new character – Tome. The page’s unbelievably strong, but nearly brain dead, companion. An excellent and logical addition, it turned out. So, that resulted in story time every night, and I went through all of my camp stories. No songs or skits, though… It was a delightful ride back, especially now that we were even more comfortable and friendly with each other.

We got back to Honolulu late at night, so basically didn’t because we couldn’t leave the boat. The next morning we got up and moved everything except trash and personal stuff off of the boat and back to the bunkhouse. In the evening, we went and hung out around the boat going out to eat and drink. One of the locals took us to the REAL a gastropub which had good food and a large selection of beverages for those who were interested. After appetizers there, we went and got some Thai food, which we managed to get spicy and delicious (always ask for “Thai spicy”, and even at a tourist spot, it’ll be a little spicy). Back to the boat to hang out before bed and play games.

The following morning, we dealt with our trash from the boat, of which there was plenty of (including a fridge, not the one we fixed). After trash we went to bunkhouse to inventory all of our things in buckets and action packers and tubs, and pack it away for future use. Grabbed one last poke bowl (spicy ahi and shoyu tako on brown rice) before going to the airport and heading back to Ohio. Flight times made for an extremely long day. Left at 3:30p in Honolulu, landed at 6:00a in Atlanta. Slept like a rock for the hour and a half flight to Akron-Canton. I wasn’t even sure I was in Ohio when I woke up, but then the sky was cloudy and it was in the 40s, so I was pretty sure I was. A neighbor very kindly picked me up from the airport and brought me back to Wooster. We took the scenic route by going a little bit further south than we meant… gave me a good chance to practice talking about my trip. Haha. Back in Wooster, went to lunch at the Eatery (so yum). Then went with Raccoon to see the Mid-Eastern Farrier’s competition, which was pretty neat. They were beating out draft horse shoes in 90 minutes. Those are some darn big shoes. Then a nap. Then it was off to be social – a Fall/House warming party with a yogi, food at the Farrier’s award ceremony, feed the yeast, and meet up with a couple Woo-lifers at the Jaol. Long day. Lasted… 35 hours from waking up to going to bed, besides a couple naps – both hard naps.

It has been great to see Max again. He has been very cuddly.

Sunday, I was up early to work! Getting right back into the swing of things. Didn’t making anything too special on Sunday, but today I took my try at Malasadas today. The first recipe I tried didn’t turn out the way I hoped. Luckily there are more to try! Big week ahead – bread class on Thursday night!

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This entry was posted in Food, Laysan, People, Prince Maximilian, Spoon Market, Summer Camp, Uncategorized, USA!. Bookmark the permalink.

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