Wednesday, September 10, 2014


My good friend Chris works for this really cool non-profit called KaBOOM! which pairs communities in need of a playground, with funding partners, and then plans and oversees the building of a playground for that community. Each project is a massive undertaking which culminates in a 1-day fast-paced  playground build, with hundreds of volunteers.

Many hands make light work.

This particular build was for the Ethiopian Community of Seattle’s - Community Center. It was a very cool experience. It was a fun way to give back to a random community of Seattle that I otherwise had no connection with, but now feel somehow connected to. Ethiopians are super nice people.

After a whirlwind day, a playground rests, as its concrete cures.

Chris wanted Tess and I to work on something called the “Shade Structure”, because he knew we were up for a challenge.

Tess and Dagne discuss how to turn that pile of wood into a shade structure.

Most of the other playground components, it seemed, were just bolt-together stuff that looks like they could be Ikea furniture: just follow the instructions, and assemble.  The so-called “Shade Structure”, on the other hand, was a legit construction project. It entailed serious construction skillz, problem-solving skillz, persistence, dedication, and on-the-fly trouble-shooting skillz. There were a lot of people working on it, including several dedicated, hardworking volunteers, but I would say we played a vital role in motivating and directing that piece of the project through rough times.

And  KaBOOM! …… a Shade Structure!

All in a (1/2-ish) Day's work.

I spent almost no time really taking it all in, and appreciating how insanely-much was being accomplished around me; I was too busy running around, trying to build our part of the greater picture. But it is amazing when you think about how much was accomplished in such a short amount of time.

The Mayor showed up  (after the work was done) for the ceremonial ribbon cutting, and deemed August 23rd “as the day of play in the Ethiopian community of Seattle.”

Chris and Seattle's Mayor Ed Murray at the Dedication of the finished Playground.

It was great to see Chris, and it was fun to see him in the capacity of motivational KaBOOM! project leader. I was a fun day of hard work and I was tired the next day. I thoroughly recommend that anyone should volunteer for a similar playground build, should one happen in your community, or in the neighboring community!

In a week the children of this community will get to enjoy this cool playground!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Backpacking at North Lake

We went camping with Matt, Arielle, and Sagan up at North Lake along Mountain Loop Highway,
in Mt. Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest. It was a great weekend of hiking, camping, and swimming in mountain lakes.

If that sounds familiar, its because we did this hike before. It is awesome up there.

Here are some pictures.

We drank snowmelt. We filtered it mainly because Matt got a new filter. :)

Dog was tired.

We collected fiddle-heads and cooked them. Fairly tasty.

the end.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Tess and I went on a little vacation to Kauai, "The Garden Isle".

It was the first time for both of us in Hawaii, and it was an amazing vacation. Here are few things from the trip. Also see the 2 following posts, which cover our hike on the Kalalau Trail and a visit to Allerton Garden.

We stayed at an AirBnB place on the first and last nights of the trip. The first night we stayed at this really cool geodesic dome, known as the Epic Dome.

with an outdoor kitchen

This outdoor shower is the kind of lifestyle I can get used to.
This little amazing creature was our roommate.

The rest of the trip we camped. 

Beach camping at Anini Beach

Our beach home
We ate a lot of these Hawaiian pancakes.
Tess cookin breakfast in her new favorite poncho,
which we have dubbed the "Clint Eastwood".

Kalalau Lookout
Looking down on the Kalalau Valley, which is the terminus of the Kalalau Trail.

Wailua Falls

Tess at a heiau, an ancient Hawaiian temple

The island is overrun with wild chickens

Tess tried to buy some papaya and coconut at a roadside stand.
Before we knew it the lady grabs a whole coconut and hacks the top off with a machete and sticks a straw in it.

Spouting Horn

Our 1st Shave Ice. with vanilla ice cream. SO good.

beautiful sky      #nofilter.  
We did a very little bit of snorkeling. We should have done more snorkeling, and hit up the better beaches on the island, but we burned up a snorkeling day by staying an extra day on the Kalalau Trail, which is a decision that I do not regret.  [see the Kalalau Trail post].  

I also unfortunately had a laceration on my hand (from before the trip) which made it difficult to swim, because I was supposed to not let it get wet, (which is impossible). Anyway snorkeling is unnatural and awkward. It must be better and more fun once you get used to it, but I don’t really like breathing under water. Its unnerving.  

This dude was just chillin on the beach.
More shave ice

Some glass we found on Glass Beach

Kauai is beautiful and wonderful. I highly recommend it. 

The Kaua'i coverage continues in the next 2 posts: The Kalalau Trail and Allerton Gardens

The Kalalau Trail

At the end of a very arduous and extremely treacherous 11 mile hike, there exists a utopian paradise the likes of which I have never experienced until Tess and I hiked the absolutely breathtaking (in more ways than one) Kalalau Trail, along the Na Pali Coast.

The absolutely breathtaking Na Pali Coast

Our guidebook gave us very little insight into this hike or what exists at the end. Had I known more, I would probably have gone a lil’ overboard on the planning and possibly psyched myself out of even doing it in the first place. I also would have planned a longer stay at the end, possibly…6 months?

Kalalau Beach

The Hike

These plants are awesome.

Look at that trail.

Where does the trail go?

There are a few helicopter landing spots for rescues.

Entering the Kalalau Valley.
That is Rich in front of us, (mentioned later).

The Dangers
There are quite a few dangers on this trail, highlighted here by the plethora of warning signs.

What makes this hike particularly treacherous are the narrow passages along and around some of the bluffs, such as the infamous Crawler’s Ledge, where any slip will lead to a brief tumble down several hundred feet of rock-face and terminating with drowning in the sea below. To make these passages more terrifying, there are unpredictable and forceful gusts of wind blasting around these cliffs. That sucks when you have a large and cumbersome pack strapped to your back. We ran into some forceful and unnerving gusts while on Crawler’s Ledge.

Here is a video of Crawler's Ledge, shot by someone else.

Other dangers include loose crumbly soil which turns relatively harmless sections of the trail into death-traps for the non-sure-footed. When it rains (which luckily we didn’t have to deal with), you can imagine how the danger level escalates; the rock becomes slippery and the soil turns into extremely slick mud.
On the return trip there were times where we had to take breaks to overcome vertigo caused by a combination of tunnel-vision (from staring at the ground while hiking) along with the ebb and flow of the waves (far below, but in our periphery).

After passing up and down several valleys, around several rock faces, and across 2 rivers, the trail terminates at the pristine Kalalau Beach in the absurdly beautiful Kalalau Valley. If you have seen Jurassic Park, you are familiar with the scenery along the Na Pali coast (atleast from the vantage point of a helicopter), as the landscapes of the Jurassic Park island were shot there. 

The backdrop of Kalalau Beach

The Creatures 
lil' salamander 

We ran into a family of goats.
Luckily I could smell them before I saw them, b/c the dad-goat was nothing to be messed with.
These softball size toads came out at night.

10 inch centipede!

The Beach
During the days we spent time chillin on the beach, soaking in the sun’s powerful rays, and cooling off in the pristine (albeit irradiated by Fukushima) water. But mostly I spent my time staring at the absurd and incomprehensibly beautiful scenery, trying to convince myself that it was indeed reality; that a place this perfect does in fact exist.

The water source.
Since the lifestyle is so laid back, the beach so secluded, and the mentality so carefree (with the savagery of dwelling in a tropical paradise having pervaded the mind), clothing seemingly becomes less of necessity and more a society-mandated encumbrance. In most places/situations, this would likely take away from the beauty of the surroundings, but here in paradise (of course) everyone one was young, fit, and irrationally attractive.

The Residents
In addition to the many hikers who make the journey for a temporary visit, there is also a population of unpermitted and illegal residents in the valley. Although the native Hawaiians left the valley in the early 20th Century, there are now an unknown number of hippies entrenched up in the forest, who subsist off the land and raise their families in this paradise. While they mostly keep to themselves and go about their own business, they are seen around; at the water source, on the beach, and traveling around the valley. They are each living out there for their individual reasons and interact to different degrees: some are loners, but I get the feeling that many are very community-oriented.

To provide for themselves and their families they grow vegetables (among other things) in secret gardens hidden up in the valley, gather food (prawns, muscles, etc), I assume some of them hunt (wild goats and feral pigs), and occasionally they make the long trip back to civilization to buy necessities.

We talked to this nice dude on his way back in with his supplies.  I decided to make him anonymous, since he was nice enough to let us take his picture. He has been out there living on his own for ~4 months.

Don’t think that just because the locale is remote and the living primitive, doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t interesting and civilized things to do!  

Blood Moon
On the 1st night we watched the lunar eclipse at an ancient heiau with a mix of valley locals (“valley people” as they are known) and hikers. When we arrived at this gathering, we were each offered a piece of peanut butter cake, which we were promised was not spiked and which was served to us with a machete by a mysterious cloaked individual in the dark. Now, as tempting as it was to trip-out to the Blood Moon at a late night séance held in an ancient Hawaiian temple with a bunch of forest-dwelling recluses, it had been a very long day, and we had grown far too weary for such an adventure, so we pretended to eat it and chucked it into the woods for good measure. The whole event actually turned out far less exciting than its potential, as the eclipse was somewhat obscured by clouds, and the gathering had far less fire, dancing, and/or sacrifices than I had assumed. Perhaps if we hadn’t retired early, and had eaten the peanut butter cake it could have been more epic(?), but all in all, not a bad night.

Movie Night
On the 2nd night we caught a showing of Wolf of Wall Street. This guy Rich, (who has hiked the trail “hundreds of times”, knows most of the locals, and has the most interesting stories I have ever heard)  packed in a micro projector and a speaker for the showing. The only thing better than the novelty of seeing a movie projected on a tarp deep in the woods at a hippie camp, was watching that specific movie with that specific community. It was an interesting dichotomy to watch a movie that glorifies extreme greed, with people who reject most everything about modern society. A few of them left during the movie due to moral objections to the content. The awkward silence was painful at times.

We ended up staying an extra day in the Kalalau Valley by rationing our food and mooching off new-found friends.

Our new friends Billy and Jess
An awesome dehydrated meal that they gave us to help us survive.

Dinner Date
On the 3rd night we had a dinner date with two super nice/friendly people (naturally Canadians) who we met on the trail and who offered us food so we could stay longer! They were Kevin (who has hiked the trail 7 times over the last 15 years) and Moya (who is one of the top female foosball players in the world!). They prepared a multi-course feast fit for a king, featuring freshly-gathered Opihi (which are kinda like a cross between an oyster and a barnacle)! And then we spent the evening admiring the constellations, which I have never seen so clearly.

Our friends gathered Opihi for dinner.

cooking up the Opihi

Anyway, I think this hike was by far the most strenuous, dangerous, and rewarding thing I have ever done. An absolutely amazing experience. It was the best part of the most refreshing vacation I have ever taken. Just like everyone who has made this journey, I vow that I will one day make it back.

There is one more Kauai post: Allerton Gardens.