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Over the past month, I haven't had much luck with the weather, despite my best efforts to dodge some of the winter cold. In December, I had two and a half weeks of vacation to burn, and I decided I didn't want to spend all of it at home. So, I took off to Southern Florida for six days. I had never been south of Orlando, and it seemed like a good time to go. The weather looked as if it would cooperate, up until the day before I was to leave. The predicted temperatures had been dropping for a while, but quickly it went from sunny to cloudy to thunderstorms. It was raining enough that when my plane got to Fort Lauderdale, we were put in a hold pattern for fifteen minutes to wait for a particularly heavy bit of the storm to pass over the airport. I then had to drive all the way to Homestead in the rain, in Miami traffic. By the next day, it had gone from a storm to a downpour. Miami ended up with fourteen inches of rain that day. I went to the Everglades Park anyway, though I didn't get out of the car much, and I went back to the hotel fairly early. Thankfully, by the next day, the rain had subsided, so I went to Shark Valley on the north side of the park. The wildlife was spectacular, with plenty of birds and alligators. I hit up some other spots on the north side as well, including Fakahatchee and Big Cypress. The next morning, I got up to see some of the south side of the park, including a nice sunrise over Pa-hay-okee.

After a morning in the park, I made my way down to Key West. Unfortunately, it seemed that my bad luck with weather was not over. Though it was sunny when I left the park, it became increasingly cloudy and cold as I made my way south, and I was worried that I might be in for more rain. Thankfully, the weather started to turn around after Islamorada, and I was able to spend some time on a trail in Long Key State Park. The trail went through some beautiful hammocks, with impressive mangroves and other greenery. From there, I went to Duck Key, which looked enticing from the road, so I drove around the neighborhood. I stopped on Big Pine Key next, which also had some nice trails in the northwest corner. Finally, I drove the rest of the way to Key West. By the time I checked in, it had begun to rain. The next day was better; it was dry, but still cloudy. I went downtown to see the sights. I went to Fort Zachary Taylor to see the fort and stay for sunset, but I left early when it was apparent that the clouds were too thick. The next day, I walked to Smathers Beach and spent some time basking, then went back to the hotel to read. Finally, I made my way back to Fort Zachary Taylor, and I finally got my sunset. The following morning, I made the four hour trip back to the airport. I fully expected the flight to be cancelled, as Denver was in a rather severe snowstorm. To my pleasant surprise, my flight left on time, though landing in Denver made me somewhat uneasy. There was plenty of snow flying by the plane, and I couldn't see the ground until we were about a hundred feet from it. To make matters worse, I had to take a taxi home, but I did finally make it. It was good to be back.

Unfortunately, that was not the end of my bad luck with weather. This past weekend, I went to Hawaii with some people from work. The morning we left, the prediction was for 80 degrees, sun, and zero percent chance of rain. While the prediction held for the first day, the second was overcast in Honolulu, and the third it was quite cloudy, and it even rained briefly. Thankfully, it was not bad enough to ruin anything. We went to Waikiki Beach the first day, Chinatown, Pearl Harbor, a Japanese temple, Diamond Head, and a luau the second. The third day we went to Kailua and Lanikai beaches, and spent the rest of the time on the North Shore before making our way back to Honolulu for dinner and the airport.

Posted by nick.steinbaugh at 10:28 AM

It took me a while, but I finally managed to tag all of my pictures from Hawaii, Yosemite, and a night up in San Francisco. I would have had them up earlier this week, but my router froze while I was at work, and I couldn't get to my server. That problem has been resolved, and I finished up everything today. They have now been posted.

Posted by nick.steinbaugh at 12:38 AM

After no less than four flights in a row, I'm back home from just over a week in Hawaii. I took off for Maui on the 4th, just in time for Labor Day weekend. Because the Hilton on Maui is ridiculously expensive (in terms of dollars and Hilton points), I elected to stay at a Sheraton in Lahaina instead, for a slightly less ridiculous rate. Having already been to Oahu and Kauai, I knew what to expect. The hotel was lavish, with plenty of palm trees, hammocks, and beach. The room rate included a very generous breakfast buffet, so I made use of that nearly every morning. In the five days I spent on Maui, I made it to the top of Haleakala twice, once for sunset and again for sunrise. The first trip was made interesting by some faulty Google Maps directions, but after reaching a dead end that Google neglected to take into account, I finally made it up.

I also drove around to the windward side of the island on the beautiful (and winding) Hana Highway, stopping at the end to hike up to the gorgeous Waimoku Falls. I also hiked up the Waihee Ridge Trail, though instead of a lush valley at the top, I was greeted with a sea of clouds. Fortunately, the hike up provided some spectacular scenery. I also made it to Iao Valley, and down the leeward side of the island to visit some of the excellent beaches.

After five nights on Maui, I headed off to the big island. There I was able to use some of my Hilton points, and I stayed at the absolutely amazing Hilton Waikoloa Village. While the Sheraton on Maui was excellent, this hotel was beyond any comparison. The property is over 60 acres, and has three distict sub-hotels; it's so large that it has its own tram and boat systems just to get around. My only real complaint was that parking was an exorbitant $15 per day. The hotel is so photogenic that I ended up staying on the property for most of a day just going around taking pictures.

I did eventually make it out of the hotel, though. I managed to spend a whole day visiting the north Kohola Coast, which has some beautiful overlooks, stunning cliffs, and some of the greenest grasslands I have ever seen. I also spent a day going clear to the other side of the island to visit Volcanoes National Park. Though half of the drive around the crater was closed due to the steam coming from the crater, I was still able to see the volcano and most of the sites in the park, including a lava tube, and the now infamous Chain of Craters Road, which was closed when a lava flow went over the road. That lava flow is still going; I drove the long way around to partake in the nightly "lava viewing." Unfortunately, they keep you a good distance away, so all you really see is the glowing steam created when the lava hits the water. That was the only real disappointment of the day, though. I then had to drive back to the other side of the island, in the dark. Fortunately there were few cars, and the road on the south side of the island is quite straight, so I made good time.

Finally, after nine nights on the two islands, I began to make my way home. This meant I had to make it back to Maui to catch my return flight. Hawaiian Airlines didn't have a direct flight at the time I wanted, though, so I had to connect through Honolulu. After the two short flights, I reclaimed my bags, put them through agriculture, and gave them to the United folks. I probably could have checked them straight through, but the last time I tried checking bags through two airlines, my bags did not make it home with me. Luckily, my bags were waiting for me in Maui, and after making my way through the horrendously slow security line, I was on my way home. I made it to San Francisco early this morning, and then I continued on to Denver.

Needless to say, I took many, many pictures on my trip. I also have a backlog of photos from a day trip to San Francisco. I'm also going back to Yosemite this coming weekend, but I should get around to going through the pictures after that.

Posted by nick.steinbaugh at 7:31 PM