All posts by Troy

A Return to the Volcano

It’s 4:27 am and I’m rolling over to shut off the alarm before it wakes anyone else wondering if I really want to get up and drive back into the park for another view of the volcano. After debating for a minute or so with myself I decide to get up and get dressed. Fortunately I had company as my cousin is with and decides to join me on another ridiculous morning adventure. When will we be here again to see this active volcano?

Fortunately one of the priorities of this trip was to witness the glow of lava during the night so we planned a one night stay just outside of the park in Volcano, HI making our early morning journey a fairly quick one. Within 15 minutes of leaving our lodge we were staring at the glowing coming from the top of the mountain. It looked like a large fire was burning off in the distance. Walking closer to Jagger Museum patio while scarfing down the last of a quick breakfast we could see the glow intensify as smoke continuously billowed from the caldera.

The volcano glowing under the moonlight

Over the next hour or so I just kept taking photographs of this almost unreal sight. In the above photo you can see a few stars along with the moon shining high above the volcano although it appears more like a star in this picture. Eventually I realized there was lava spatter erupting just above the rim from time to time. Seeing lava was something I hoped to accomplish while visiting Hawaii but the accessible flows had stopped a few days prior making it unlikely to spot and yet here was actual lava. The whole concept of standing on top of this mountain watching an active volcano spitting out lava seemed almost more of a dream than a fortunate reality. This was something I never imagined I would do during my life and here I was witnessing the continued creation of this island with my own eyes.

Lava erupting from the lava lake at the top of Kilauea

Daylight began to break across the horizon reducing the glow from the lava lake while my cousin and I realized just how much we were shivering as it was quite cool in the night air. It didn’t help that I wasn’t properly dressed for being at a higher elevation for an extended time only wearing shorts and a sweatshirt. Definitely worth getting up a little early to see!

Daylight entering the sky around Kilauea

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

There was one day set aside to explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park so not a great deal of time. Making things a little less interesting was rain at the top of Kilauea making it difficult to see much and decreasing our motivation to venture too far from the car. Still we were determined to do all that we could on this final National Park adventure. Arriving mid-morning our first destination was the Kilauea Visitor Center to learn a little about this area and the active volcanoe we were standing on. Looking over the exhibits explaining what was creating this mountain and the surrounding new land along with plants and animals inhabiting it brought us to lunchtime. There really wasn’t a good place to eat nearby that we knew of plus our plan was for to have a picnic while taking in some amazing views. The rain outside indicated we needed to make other arrangements so looking over the park we found some possible places to sit and eat under dry skies at the end of Chain of Craters Road which was next to the ocean and away from the rain at a lower elevation.

Holei Sea Arch created by the ocean carving out lava rock

After a short break eating, it was time to explore the coast in front of us a little and work our way back up to the summit of the volcano. Just looking out over the ocean was beautiful with the blue water and waves crashing against the shore. Examining the shoreline closer, which is really a cliff plummeting into the water made from a lava flow in 1971 which has been eroding ever since, we discovered a sea arch nearby. An interesting structure protruding from the cliff defying the brutal ocean waves which continually beat against it. Looking even closer the designs throughout this cliff wall made some interesting patterns and colors from all of the different layers of lava flowing at different times binding itself together to form new ground. You can make some of this out in the very top photograph.

 

Exploring a lava flow just under the clouds

A little bit of time to explore this cliff wall and stare into the sea and we began to ascend back up the mountain towards the smoldering volcano summit. Along the way we stopped to explore some of these lava flows just below the clouds more closely finding different types of lava formations. It was some much fun and amazing to see the different patterns and colors created from lava which flowed 45 years ago. Some has smoother edges more like a mud flow might have while other lava created sharper rocks that, from a distance, appear like dark, rich soil to grow crops in. This is not the case as there is almost nothing growing on it still after 45 years of inactivity.

What looks like a great, rich soil is lava rocks created from a lava flow

Returning to the car we continued higher up the mountain and soon became enveloped in clouds followed by rain. We wanted to see the popular Thurston Lava Tube which is a cave created by flowing lava at one time. Bravely we donned raincoats and ventured out into the rain to explore this cave. With soaked shoes we entered this tropical cave feeling like we were entering something out of the movie Jurassic Park. Hoping for a dry place we found water dripping from the ceiling and large puddles across the floor. Fortunately the floor was lit up so you could make you way through this portion of the lava tube avoiding many of these puddles. Still it was an eerie experience to know large volumes of lava flowed through here not all that long ago to make this and this mountain is still an active volcano.

Thurston Lava Tube

Making our way back to the car having been thoroughly soaked by rain and standing water we continued on to the top of the volcano to catch a glimpse of the large lava lake. Nearing the crater there were steam vents all around trying to alert us to the fact that there is hot lava close by. Still we drove on until arriving at the Jaggar Museum which stands at the side of the crater looking into this volcano. The clouds were covering this mountain making it near impossible to see anything so we headed inside to explore more exhibits and learn about this area. After some time looking things over the clouds cleared a little revealing more details of the mountain summit so I headed outside to look around. Shortly after getting outside there was a large clap of thunder. Excited to see a storm I scanned all around looking for lightning but found none. And then another clap of thunder and I decided seeking shelter might be a good idea. Once inside a ranger told us that it was not thunder we were hearing but rocks moving inside the volcano crater. That was kind of cool to hear and yet a little unsettling at the same time that there are large enough rocks moving to create a sound like that.

Top of the Kileaua Volcanoe

Unfortunately there was no erupting lava to be seen on this cloud filled day and the active lava flow had stopped flowing a couple of days before we arrived. It was a little disappointing to go all the way to Hawaii and visit an active volcano and not have the opportunity to witness actual lava with our own eyes and feel the heat protruding off of it. In a last ditch effort to see some lava I did return another time which I will write about later.

The Game is Complete!

A few weeks ago we made our final Monopoly National Parks adventure to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to complete a journey which began almost nine years ago. It’s hard to believe we were actually able to complete this goal of visiting 28 parks in that time frame.

Hawaii Volcanoes Entrance Sign

On the road to this entrance sign it was difficult to pay attention to driving as I often caught myself reminiscing over past adventures that all began at Badlands National Park where our two girls first became Junior Rangers and we all began to see the luxury of our National Parks. Once the final signature had been obtained we were congratulated by those around us in the visitor’s center but the fact that this game was now completed didn’t really sink in at first. In fact I think there was probably more sadness than sense of accomplishment because we are now without plans for another family adventure. It’s a weird, empty feeling that I’m not sure how to grasp. There’s always been another place to plan and prepare for.

The final signature on our National Parks Monopoly Board

While our board of adventures was complete there was a small piece to add in order to make our journey full circle. That was to visit Pearl Harbor. More specifically to re-enter the gift shop there 15 years later with our children to the place where this whole thing actually began. It was in this very place that Karen and I first discovered the National Parks Monopoly board and this idea of visiting each place was conceived. Only this time there were four of us to complete this list of incredible adventures.

Gift Shop at Pearl Harbor

The End!

The Forms of Water

Winter is beginning to lose it’s hold on the North bit by bit allowing water to run freely again. Near this running water, the ice remains showing all of the different layers together which has hidden the lakes and rivers for several months. In some areas this ice is really quite intriguing as you look closer at it. Portions of it are solid white other parts are made up of a combination of ice crystals forming together. A question I have about these different layers is were they formed during the winter or is this the result of spring weather with freezing and thawing working together to form these layers? Soon it will all be gone. Replaced by rain and thunderstorms once again.

Smiling Ice

Planning for Hawaii–The Beginning and the End

In a few short weeks we’ll be making our last trip on our National Parks Monoply board to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It feels like an amazing accomplishment to visit 27 different National Parks all across the United States. These include parks in Alaska, an Island in Lake Superior, and now Hawaii which makes completing this goal we set 9 years ago even more humbling as I plan for and reflect on this last journey for our family in this Monopoly game.

Mountains meet the ocean on Oahu

My wife and I have been to Maui and Oahu almost 15 years ago which is when this whole concept of going to each park on the board began. This is actually becoming a little difficult to write as I reflect back on our last visit to Hawaii and thinking about what we wanted for our children. The terrorist attacks on the United States were still fresh in our minds and the uncertainty to what type of future was in store for the kids. Still we were determined to share as many experiences for Kristy and Lysa as we could to show them this great country and the history which helped shape our nation.

USS Arizona Memorial

It was on Oahu that our future adventures were conceived while visiting Pearl Harbor. The first stop upon entering the National Monument was a gift store as we planned our time here to see the exhibits. While walking up and down the isles of this store we came across a National Parks Monopoly Board. I picked it up and looked at all of the parks portraying each property and saw many that I had heard about and wanted to visit along with many I’ve never heard about. Looking over at my wife I said how much fun it would be to visit each park on this board with our children. She agreed it would be a lot of fun. The board was returned to its shelf with both of us believing we would never be able to actually go through with this idea and we moved on to learn about the horrific events of Pearl Harbor

A stunning hibiscus which can be found growing all over Oahu

With the terrorist attacks fresh on our minds we looked at the events of December 7th, 1941 with sorrow and detest. For the first time these events came alive in my mind and more than just a date I read about in history class. After a few hours exploring Pearl Harbor we continued on to see the Dole Pineapple Plantation and more of Hawaii’s beautiful landscape. In a few weeks, after watching molten lava flowing from the ground at Hawaii Volcanoes we’ll take our children to Pearl Harbor to learn what transpired there and stop once again in the gift shop completing what was once thought of as an impossible idea.

One of the many different types of Pineapple at the Dole Plantation on Oahu

Some Ice Time

It’s about 10 degrees out which means the ice is frozen solid and safe to be on so Kristy and I head to a local pond to practice and play on ice skates. At first you feel the air biting at any portion of skin left exposed in an attempt to freeze it. In a few minutes the warm blood pulsing through our veins fights back. Continually moving back and forth across the ice and we become filled with warmth… almost hot even! The cold temperature no longer matters as a layer or two of winter clothing is shed to keep from sweating.

Skating on the Pond

The sun begins to set on our backs with hardly a gesture to say goodbye as we continue to cut up the ice from the steel blades attached to our boots gliding every which way. We’re having fun out here occasionally kicking snowballs or pieces of ice back and forth in between the twists and turns working to hone our skating skills on this February day which is now turning into night. With the sun fully below the horizon, area lights turn on blasting light across the ice showing us every groove placed on this frozen lake throughout this day.

It's getting dark but that doesn't stop her from practicing

It’s time to leave as dinner will be waiting prompting a plea for just a few more minutes on this frozen surface. We’ve been having so much fun how do you deny a little extra time? Finally it is time to go. Once in the warm car heading home the cold can now be felt on our exposed skin again feeling the heat blowing through each vent. There is a slight burning sensation coming from our cheeks as they begin to warm reminding us of our recent adventures on this cold winter day. Maybe there will soon be another opportunity to skate again.

Continuing to practice in the cold

A Superbowl Depression

This is what many seem to experience the day after the Super Bowl. It means professional football is over for many months so Sundays are now void of this captivating activity. Yes, I understand many are thrilled another season has ended and they no longer have to endure another football game until the end of summer and Eagles fans are in a state of happiness that will last much of the year so will not miss a game being played for awhile.

Crew 52 being deployed along Superbowl Live

For me I’m a little conflicted. Being so involved in the Super Bowl this year has been exciting and exhausting so it’s nice to have this time to rest and catch up on things not done during the 10 days of festivities. This exhaustion came from having additional commitments every day for these 10 days in addition to working. That meant getting to work by 5am, leaving mid-afternoon to either volunteer at Superbowl Live or rehearse for the halftime show usually getting back home around 10 pm and then doing it all over again the next day.

Heading to US Bank Stadium for halftime rehearsal

Do get me wrong, this was a lot of fun and something I’ll remember for a very long time. Thankfully it only lasts a week and a half. So where does the depression come in (more of a let down than I depression I guess) ? There has been so much build up and preparation for months and months before game day and it all stops abruptly after the Superbowl is played. It reminds me of getting married in that there is a lot of preparations and then it’s over. There’s a feeling of emptiness because there is no longer the need to spend time on it anymore so now what do you do with that time? You begin to miss the excitement that comes with all the planning and anticipation for this larger than life event. Conversations with people seem a little more mundane after being able to discuss exciting things happening each day and getting different perspectives on these events.

Players entering the field

After a week or two there will be adjustments and that time will be filled with other activities. The people you’ve come to know during volunteering and rehearsals have all gone back to their lives as well and this common thing you were all a part of has ended. Fortunately there’s email and social media to help but it’s still not the same as putting on a uniform that matches many other people creating this group of people all trying to help or being on the Superbowl field with hundreds of others getting ready for one of the largest events in the world.

Enjoying the halftime show

Super Bowl 52–Getting Ready

Minnesota is almost ready to open Super Bowl Live in downtown Minneapolis but there is still a lot of activity finalizing the numerous attractions available for free to fans. Something Minnesota is able to do, which is nearly impossible for other Super Bowl Hosts, is ice sculptures which give a unique feel to any event.

Conert stage being built

Live outdoor performances could be a challenge depending on the outdoor temperatures but will definitely bring a festive atmosphere to this area at night. Much of this stage is built with a few remaining parts to be put into place. A recent heavy snowfall may have delayed the completion a little but it’s Minnesota and that is to be expected from time to time.

Birkebeiner Bridge and sight of NBC broadcasts

Brought into Minneapolis for this special event is the Birkebeiner Bridge which is used for the American Birkebeiner cross country ski race in Hayward, Wisconsin. Plans are to use this for skiing, snow tubing, and skijoring for those that want to give it a try. This is also the sight where NBC will be broadcasting during the Super Bowl. In the photo above you can see their purple broadcast tent already to go.

Looking down the street where Super Bowl Live will take place

Along with several fun and free activities there will be many food vendors to serve all of those hungry fans. Their temporary locations are being constructed all along the sight of Super Bowl Live. I’m looking forward to seeing all of this in action from my street level view while volunteering with the Crew 52.

Some of the attractions of Super Bowl Live

Super Bowl–Crew 52

A week from now Super Bowl 52 activities will be in full swing in Minneapolis with numerous things to do. Ever since it was announced that the Super Bowl would be in Minnesota I began making plans to be a part of it and one of those things includes volunteering with Crew 52. This is basically a hospitality group, with 1,000’s of people on any given day, during Super Bowl week welcoming fans to the Twin Cities.

Minnesota Host Committee logo

There are those that look at this with distaste saying the NFL makes enough money that people are idiots for volunteering and making more money for this very profitable organization. In reality the NFL has very little to do with Crew 52 and the  places and events we’ll be at. These are Minneapolis and Minnesota sponsored events to welcome and entertain fans traveling here for this epic game. I’m more than happy to support my local area and help those not from this area in order to provide the best experience for them possible. Many people have helped me and my family when traveling to make our visit to their area more enjoyable and memorable and I want to return that hospitality for this Super Bowl.

Pregame Show Super Bowl 26

For me this all started with the last Super Bowl in Minneapolis 25 years ago. I had the opportunity to be part of the Pre-Game crew where my job was to inflate and hold the tunnel for players to run through during introduction. The energy and excitement for a Super Bowl was something I’ve never seen before and it was such a fun experience that I absolutely wanted to be a part of it again this year. To fulfill this I began searching for information and websites shortly after the announcement of Minneapolis hosting this game. Crew 52 hat, mittens, and jacket

I found the Crew52 website before they even had anything put on it so I saved the address and continued to monitor it every now and then until it was live and I could apply for Crew 52. To be a part of this I needed to fill out the online application, go through an in person interview, approve a background check, attend an orientation, and participate in training. This training covered where we’ll be stationed, working with homeless in Minneapolis, child exploitation, and terrorism and what to do in these situations. Ohh ya, we also received shirts, jackets, hats, mittens, and a scarf so we’ll be easily recognizable to visitors to ask questions or have us take their pictures and the number of sights for Super Bowl 52. In addition to this I’m a part of the set up and take down for the half time show which I’ll write about another time.

More Snowflakes

There hasn’t been a lot of opportunities to go out and find beautiful, wintery landscapes to photograph recently. Temperatures have also been staying quite cold so I’ve taken this opportunity to capture more snowflakes under the camera lens whenever a few flakes have fallen and have been having a lot of fun doing it. A previous post with more snowflake photos can be found here.

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Some snowfalls don’t produce much for interesting snowflakes while at other times there are so many to choose from that they can’t all be photographed before blowing away or disappearing. Yes, they disappear even in very cold weather. I can only assume it’s due to the very dry air near the ground causing these delicate ice crystals to evaporate.

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The many different shapes and make up of these ice crystals continues to amaze me with each one I see. Some are so sharp and pointy while others are more rounded. It’s also fascinating to see the different stages of development of different snowflakes in each photograph that surrounds the larger one focused on. In some cases you can see the center of a developing snowflake that has fallen before growing larger. Other times seeing the different fragments that have broken off from a snowflake during its journey to the ground provide some great shapes.

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At times there are multiple snowflakes frozen together such as in the picture above. On the longest branch there is the center of another developing snowflake frozen to the larger snowflake. In addition, the branch next to this one you can see the beginning of the center of another snowflake. One theory indicates these snowflakes collided on their trip from the clouds and merged together. I wonder if it’s possible these centers formed at the tip of these branches. Fun to discover regardless of how they were created. I hope you enjoy viewing these and also find it fascinating to see the different shapes they develop into.

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