June 2017 Diving Catalina Island, CA

Visiting California was the last stop on my whirlwind spring adventures.  After being in Jackson for two days and driving to Big Sky for a few days I was on a flight out of Bozeman, MT. 

Flying into Palm Springs airport and spending the next few days catching up with my friend was amazing.  The best day of my trip to California was diving near the northeast coast of Catalina Island.  

We left Palm Springs at about 3:00 AM and arrived at the pier in San Pedro around 6:30 AM.  Once on The Magician, we readied our equipment and signed all the legal forms, standard boat procedures.  The boat ride to Catalina Island was about two hours, one of which I tried unsuccessfully to nap.  The other hour was spent meeting new people and eating a delicious feast for breakfast. 

As we moored up to the first dive site everyone was putting on his or her gear.  I myself was wearing a Sharkskin Climate Control Top and Sharkskin Paddling Pants underneath a 7mm Henderson wetsuit.  I had to adjust my weight belt for all the extra neoprene.  In addition to the added exposure suit, I was trying out a new Zeagle Zena BCD.  Upon entry, I realized just how much colder the water was, 17C or 63F, from my usual tropical water diving, 28C or 82F. 

The step off of the boat caused my body to go into a natural reaction of hyperventilation.  I quickly opened my wetsuit to let in more chilly water to allow the neoprene to do its job and warm the waters inside the suit.  As I waited for everyone to enter the water I tried unsuccessfully to slow my breath.  As the group was descending I was not only fighting hyperventilation but a cold headache too.  Ouch!!  This new environment and new equipment quickly became a hindrance.  I had to slow my decent from the groups, concentrate on slowing my breathing and focus on the other divers instead of the icy molecules of my brain.  It was 13C or 55F at the bottom of our descent.  I know most scuba instructors will probably never admit difficult situations but I have to say that it happens to all levels of divers.  Engaging a normal breathing pattern calmed me and helped my body relax in the frigid water, which in turn acclimated a short while later and my frozen headache subsided.  I didn’t think California diving would be a challenge to me.  I know now to spend a few extra minutes at the surface to acclimate before I descend.  I also recognize for myself, the need of a hood when diving anything below 20C or 68F.   

Now, once I was breathing naturally and my popsicle head thawed, this beautiful kelp world opened up to me.  According to local divers on the boat, this is the first year in a long time the kelp has been abundant here.  The cause of the copious amounts of kelp is that the water temperatures had stayed cooler which allowed for them to thrive.  Kelp in all its glory is like this fantasy maze that you have to slowly and carefully pick your way through.  My fin strap snagged a few times but it was easy to stop and untangle especially with a helpful dive buddy.  I was happy to see such a picturesque ecosystem and I was able to appreciate a few new sea creatures to add to my list.  

There was a bat ray that was so cute because his face looks like he is smiling at you.  He wasn't very interested in us though and swam off after just a minute or two.  There were tons of Garibaldi, these are part of the damselfish family and are bright orange in color.  On our ride back to the California coast we spotted and spent a few moments with an Elephant Seal, they can reach up to 3 or 4,000 kilograms, that’s up to 8,800 pounds!  His nose was like a short version of an elephant's.  I later read his short trunk is used for very loud roaring noises, and the chambers inside act similar to a rebreather, to collect moisture from exhalations.  Both of these functions are important during the mating season.  It was so cool to see something so different.  I loved California diving and next time I will be better prepared.

The days following diving were spent mostly around a pool and celebrating yet another birthday!  I left my friend and our pool days quite sadly.  I returned to Bozeman then Big Sky for just a night and said farewell to everyone on my way back to Jackson Wyoming to start the summer season.

 

Girabaldi Damselfish
Kelp, Girabaldi, Diver
Kelp Forest

May 2017 Thailand Part I

Thailand Part I

I had to break this entry into two parts because it was overflowing with information.

After Hawaii on the spring tour, was a swing through Jackson, WY to pick up Beth on our way to Thailand.  This trip has been one of her lifelong dreams.  

After about 27 hours of travel, we spent a few days in Bangkok to adjust to the time and meet some of my divers.  When we arrived in Bangkok we headed to The Grand President Hotel.  To be in a foreign place so far away and feel like you've arrived home is the reason I frequently stay at Grand President.  When we weren’t lounging by the pool we were touring the big city.  We ate marvelous meals, went shopping for souvenirs, and leisurely boated down the river.  

My first errand generally starts with MBK Shopping Center.  I like it because it is conveniently located on the BTS light rail at the National Stadium stop.  MBK is known for its wide array of offerings and cheaper prices.  I always come here for cell phone issues and purchases, custom-made business cards, and souvenirs.  If you need or want anything you will probably find it there.  Once the errands were done we took a river tour.  

To get to this particular company we took the BTS to Saphan Thaksin stop (Thaksin Bridge) near Mandarin Oriental and Peninsula Hotel.  Then you can walk, 20 minutes, or taxi/grabcar, 10 minutes, to Jacks Bar.  We had some great spicy Thai food and a beer on the dock next to the boats.  We departed from Jack’s Bar on a low-key river tour.  We took pictures and stopped at one of the temples.  If you prefer to make more stops and view more of the temples and attractions just let them know.

Besides Jacks Bar and the great breakfast at the hotel, we enjoyed two meals in particular within walking distance of Grand President on Soi 11.  One was at Pizzeria Limoncello and the other at Oskar Bistro.  Pizzeria Limoncello offers wonderful Italian food with a decent wine selection and of course homemade limoncello.  This was the first place outside of Italy that I actually enjoyed the limoncello.  Oskar Bistro is more of a social gathering spot with great food, wine selection, and surprising craft cocktails. Well-made drinks are not always easy to find in Thailand.  I always enjoy my favorite signature cocktail, the Spicipirinha, it's a caipirinha with spicy Thai chilies.  After a few well-spent days and meals we headed south to Koh Tao.  

Considering the luggage we had and the adventure I wanted to show everyone, we took the train south overnight and then the ferry in the morning.  The train, although timeworn, is one of my favorite things to show people on a budget.  I have been on trains in other countries and this one is very old school.  It can be cheaper than flying especially with luggage but please do not “save money” and buy a 3rd class ticket.  Get a 2nd or 1st class AC sleeper ticket.  This way you will have a good night sleep on your travel south.  Like I said, the trains in operation right now are not new; do not expect a luxury sleeper.  I think they are comfortable but they are definitely showing their age.  

Koh Tao was hot as usual and had beautiful weather when we arrived.  The following day Beth enjoyed some beach time as I went diving with clients.  The highlight over the next few days of diving was seeing the Whale shark.  These animals are filter feeders and are so big and amazing to watch underwater.  The dive experiences everyone had were great and some fears were left behind.  Another water day spent around the island was snorkeling off of Aow Leuk beach.   The water here is a turquoise color.  On this particular day, visibility was good, and the corals and fish were bright and abundant.  Days of diving, eating amazing food, seeing a Whale shark, and snorkeling on beautiful reefs fulfilled everyone's desires.  After Koh Tao my group of divers travelled to the Andaman coast while Beth and I went north.  

River Tour
The King on a building
Train

April 2017 Hawaii

I never realized how much I wanted to travel until I started doing it.  This last spring I explored many things.  I love the beauty of nature and being in Hawaii in April was by far one of the more stunning places.  It was so amazing to see a young volcanic island with such a diverse array of flora and fauna.

We stayed on the Big Island of Hawaii and explored the volcanoes, had a submarine tour and visited many beaches for snorkeling and surfing.  Hawaii is gorgeous and I can't wait to explore other islands in this incredible archipelago. 

We flew into Kona, which is on the west coast of the Big Island.  We stayed at a timeshare in the Waikoloa Resort, a thirty-minute drive north from Kona airport.  This resort, in particular, had it’s own golf courses, shopping centers, and grocery store.  Everything you need is on site.  We stayed in a two-bedroom apartment.  It was very nice and right on the ground level close to the communal barbecue and hot tub for that complex.  The only downfall of this particular room and on this particular level is that the residents above us decided every night to throw food down to the feral cats.  How Rude!  

Anyway, over the next few days, we checked out some snorkeling beaches and signed my nephew up for surfing.  He went for two days with Kona Mike's Surf Adventures and had so much fun.  I highly recommend this company everyone was very enthusiastic, professional, and safe.  Snorkeling was good pretty much everywhere we went.  My sister, however, loved Kahalu'u Beach Park.  This spot was convenient because the surfers were off to the right practicing and to the left was an easy entry snorkeling area.  It was full of beautiful fish and corals.  This area was great for snorkelers because of its gradual depth change.  Once out of the water there were places to shower off and buy food and refreshments.    

I originally came to Hawaii with grandiose dreams of scuba diving, but the universe had other plans.  I had a bad sinus infection most of the trip and equalizing was not going to happen.  So we did the next best thing and everyone was able to participate!  We signed up for the Atlantis Submarine Tour in Kona.  This tour was so much fun and so easy for everyone.  The submarine had two rows of bench seats facing either side of the submarine.   There were many windows, perfect for everyone to get a good view.   We went about 100 feet deep and toured around about 25 acres of coral reef and saw all sorts of sea creatures.  We also saw a wreck.  I would never substitute this for scuba diving.  However, if you have a member of your group that doesn't want to dive this is a great alternative.

Now, for those of you who love jewelry beware!  Sharing the same office space as Atlantis Submarines was Maui Divers Jewelry.  They had beautiful black coral pieces set in gold and silver.  They also had you fish for an oyster and find your special pearl.  The ladies working the counter were very friendly and very good at their jobs.  

The last day of our trip, in retrospect, wasn’t planned very well.  The Big Island has five volcanoes two of which are active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea.  The best way to see the island and its volcanoes are by helicopter.  There are many helicopter company locations around the island so you can easily book and leave from close to where you are staying.  We missed our chance on the helicopter tour because we decided too late and the bookings were full. Since we couldn’t do the helicopter tour, we took a long scenic drive.  Our first stop was in Hilo, which is very green and lush, compared to the Kona side, which is rougher with lots of volcanic rock.  We then dipped south toward the Kilauea volcano in Volcanoes National Park. When entering the park you can stop at Kilauea Visitor Center for information and history.  They also have a little theatre that shows videos of different eruptions and lava flows throughout the years.  After our stop at the visitor center, we rushed to a few observation areas.  I loved being able to actually see the crater of the volcano, the layers from the old lava lakes, and even the steam coming out of an active vent.  Kilauea volcano is such a different and amazing landscape from other places I’ve been.  The Volcanoes National Park is fairly large and definitely a full day or two days trip if you really want to hike and explore all the observation areas and different ecosystems.  Our visit was short and sweet as our flight was that night and we had to get back to Kona.  With so many things to do and so little time, I was off on another adventure.  I can’t wait to come back and explore more.

   

lava ecosystem
 Submarine Tour

Submarine Tour

Volcanoes National Park

Homestead Crater

Happy September!!

A few of us will be making the trip to Homestead Crater for a lovely two day diving adventure.  I have a couple of open water students and hope to have a few former students join us for a mini vacation and fun dive to enhance their comfort in the water.  If anyone is interested we will be there September 25 and 26.  Let me know soon, as I will need to book more space for any additional people.  

As we move to the latter part of the year I will be traveling a lot.  If you are interested in meeting me somewhere, i.e. Thailand, please contact me to work out a time and place to meet.  I would love to consult you about your travel plans and answer a few key questions if you are unsure of any aspects of your travel (Please remember that any consultations are subject to a fee).

I'm looking forward to the next few months and cannot wait to be on a plane again.  I am already meeting a few people abroad and know that may spiral into a lot of people.  It should be a great time!  For those of you who don't work these next few months, enjoy your time off!  And for those of you who do, don't forget to take a break and take care of yourself.  

I will update you all on our Crater trip and add pictures of our fun adventure along the way!

 

 

To Travel Or Not To Travel, That Is The Question?

Year after year I come across more and more friends, family and just people in general that say wow you have the life I always wanted.  I travel a lot.  I travel for fun and I travel for work and yes I have no kids so it is easier.  But today I want to talk about you.  What is holding you back from traveling more?  Everyone has a reason or two but today I want to talk about time and money as it pertains to travel.  

What I hear a lot, especially when I talk about Thailand is, I need at least a month to see all of Thailand and I can't get that kind of time off of work.  Well what if you made your trip a little more specific.  Why do you want to go to Thailand?  Because you don't have to see "everything" to make it a trip of a lifetime.  What if you just want to go to scuba dive, or snorkel or golf or see the craziness of Bangkok.  Pick one thing and focus on that to narrow down your time spent on this trip.  Next money, yes the plane ticket is expensive, especially if traveling from the US but here's the thing that no one thinks about.  Let's pretend the plane ticket is $1000, and you spend seven days in one place in Thailand doing the one thing you came to do and you spend say another $1000 on that place and that one thing.  Now, I know what you're thinking because I've heard it over the last five years.  That's a lot of money for just one week and it's so far and I won't have time to see "everything".  In the last five years how many of you have gone to Vegas for a weekend?  And in the last five years how much did that short two to three days cost you?  I went to Vegas recently for a bachelorette party I was there for the last half of the weekend which was two days two nights and I flew from a not so convenient location.  I dropped $1000 on two days in Vegas.  Yes, that is right half of what it cost me to go to Thailand for the week, seven days, only afforded me two days in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Now please don't assume I didn't want to spend that money in Vegas.  I made a decision to spend that time and money on an important and special occasion.  

Annually we all have to make decisions.  Decisions like, do I go to Mexico for a week or do I buy that gym membership, that i'll probably never use, so that I can go to Mexico next year looking super fly?  We, and I include myself in this conversation because I am guilty of it to, make decisions every day that affect our time and money.  Instead of trying to save for that "vacation of a lifetime" make time to go on vacations all the time to specific locations for your specific reasons.  It doesn't have to put you in debt when you focus your trip on what you really want to do instead of doing a whole lot of everything.

Panama

Here I am in Panama hoping to have some amazing dives and meet super people.  It is raining today however so most of my plans are at a standstill.  I am here visiting my long time friend Jamie who has been working here for an international school.  It is amazing to hear about the work she has done, the places she has seen, and the experiences she has had in a foreign country.    Being here is very symbolic because I would like to think I inspired Jamie to take the leap and live in a foreign country.  We were sitting in a bar in our hometown of Helena, MT both feeling like there is this great big world to see and she not quite knowing if leaving was what she wanted to do.  I, in no way, helped her move to Panama but I would like to think I created a path for her to follow into the unknown by relating with her all I had learnt from stepping outside my comfort zone.  A lot of times we get into our day to day routine and when we think about the logistics of travel or moving it often times becomes very overwhelming and scary.  I have walked people through the steps, from immunizations they need, to how to get there, to what they should do, and if I'm not traveling with them I even give them ways to contact me.  I have found that people who aren't traveling with me but meet me at a certain point feel immediately relieved.  The pressure of taking the planning and organizing a trip off of peoples shoulders is immediate and the response is physically visible.  I often hear people say, this trip has been a nightmare I'm so glad we finally ran into you, this day was so easy with you.  I had another person step off the dock in Koh Tao and literally fell into my arms saying oh thank god you are here.  I have to chuckle because I was there once too.  Crying on a beach wondering how am I going to do this, where do I go, how do I get there.  There is no right or wrong way to travel, but there is definitely an easy and a hard way.  I like to think that most people I've met, like Jamie, have been grateful for my ability to help them take the leap, travel to a foreign country, and enjoy the experiences they have.  

Website

No one told me setting up a website would be quite this difficult.  Yes, you have to be on the computer A LOT, which I also wasn't expecting.  But the actual choosing of content and pictures and what am I going to say and where should I put this and do you think people will look at that.....all to get very close to the end and think..."what if no one even looks at my website?".  So, here it is world, flaws and all.  A website that is putting everything I love to do out in the open for you to experience with me!  Suggestions are appreciated for the betterment of me or my website, meaning, positive constructive criticism appreciated.  I would like to thank all the people who have brought me to this defining moment and the five women who in the past few weeks have made this a reality, Suzi, Rebecca, Trish, Sherry and Dawn.  Thank you ladies for the "how to" and "who to call" and the editing and artistry!  Love you all!  And for all of you interested in trips, well, Contact Me!!