Thursday, February 28, 2008

Snowshoe at Holden Arboretum

The sunrise timetable is finally early enough for me to get outside and put in a decent workout before I need to be at work. And yes, work is as simple as a decent internet connection and a comfy chair. Today, I made it back to my fluffy couch by 8:55 am.

Believe it or not, I live within 15 minutes of our nation's largest Arboretum carving out a whopping 3400 acres in the Kirtland, OH area. It is filled with natural gardens, private fishing ponds, a butterfly garden, wilderness trails, and much, much more. For only $40/year, you can be a member of this fantastic organization. Not to mention, you also get free entrances to the Cleveland Botanical Garden and just about every other Arboretum in this country.

So at 7:02 am, I pulled into an empty lot after typing in my passcode to get through the main gate and checked the temp. Lovely 5F and the sun was on it's way. I donned my snowshoes, gloves, hat and neck gaiter and was off. The first 1/2 mile I had a snowmobile trail to follow, then another .5 mile of single cross country ski tracks and the remaining 4 miles were virgin snow ranging in depths from 10"-16".

The Pierson Creek trail is quoted to be 2 miles long with 2 small stream crossings and 100 steps to enter and exit the gorge area. Today was spectacular. The pines were hanging low with snow cover and most of the water was frozen, so I had no trouble crossing. I did catch the sounds of several woodpeckers and saw a few deer tracks, but other than that the wildlife was quite.

After working up a decent sweat, I climbed out of the gorge and took the Highlights Trail around to the gazebo and overlook. At this point, the sun was shimmering through the tall pines. I even caught another sign of life! Someone was out cross country skiing on the groomed portion of this trail. As soon as I cut back into the woods, I was into fresh snow once again.

Since I am blessed with a wonderful job when I am at home and not traveling, I can take advantage of the early AM adventures. But the downside is that I'm always alone! So, I used my handy tripod and snapped a picture of myself resting in the gazebo. Not my most photogenic moment, but hey....that is what you get in these conditions!

From the Highlights Trail (about another 1.5 miles), I trudged back across the main garden, around a few frozen ponds and bogs back to my car. By this time, it was 8:25 and the employees were rolling in.

I must say it was a beautiful morning and it was awesome to practically have the place to myself! I hope to get out again tomorrow morning and check out Girlded Road Reservation before the snow melts this weekend :)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Diving the North Sulawesi Aggressor

Sorry for the hiatus. Work caught up to me quickly upon my return, and I've been lazy about downloading all my photos!

28 dives in 6 days....hmmmm....I think I got my money's worth.

Muck diving - yes, it's muck! Black volcanic sands and the weirdest creatures I've ever seen. If you don't acknowledge evolution, you need to go to this country and dive here. Matter of fact, just snorkeling would do it. Poisonous lionfish, razor fish, nudibranchs/sea slugs, eels, sea snakes, electric clams, dolphis, turtles, rays, frogfish, cuttlefish, octopus, flat worms, sole and more anenome fish aka Nemo than you can imagine. Darn things will even bite at you if you put your face near their anenome. Can you see the fish in this picture? And no, us weirdo humans swimming around with metal tanks do not count. It changes colors like a chameleon, waddles vs swims, and is super ugly! If you see it, the official name is the Painted Frogfish. For a live viewing, go to and search 'sulawesi frogfish' or 'frogfish feeding'. Just strange is all I can say.

A little history on this trip: The Truk Aggressor (Federated States of Micronesia), which I was on back in April 2005, left for a brighter future in Indonesia at the end of that year. Luckily, many of the crew members stayed aboard. In March 2006, Just Add Water posted this trip scheduled for late September 2007. Believe it or not, I reserved a spot that long ago! Since there was an accidental double booking, the new North Sulawesi Aggressor pushed our trip back 2 weeks into playoff baseball season. But as you read from my previous blog, satellite TV and ESPN do exist outside of the US.

On to the boat - 107' long and 22' wide. A lovely ship. And I was blessed with the upper deck quad for living quarters and no roommate! Easy access to the beer cooler and the hot tub.

Sunsets were awesome, the islands are beautiful, and the locals were super nice. All the divemasters were experts at finding tiny critters in corals or in the sand (pygmy seahorses 1cm max), filling and changing your tank, washing gear, and handing out warm towels and water each time you climbed back on the skiff. And the goodness. Every time we went from skiff to main ship, there was something waiting for us to eat. Cookies, banana breads, muffins, etc. And just like Truk Lagoon, the main meals were outstanding. Pizza, pasta, sushi, thai, mexican, chicken, burgers, roasted potatoes, and dessert every night. Thankfully, I was only up 2 lbs. and I'm blaming that on the Bintang.

After 4-5 dives a day, you would think you would loose weight. Anyway, it was a great week meeting all kinds of new folks and taking in the sites. I also found time (mainly on the dang airplane) to read 3 issues of Nat'l Geographic, several Scuba Diving issues, "Into the Wild", "Shadow Divers" and 2 issues of Business Week. Rising at 5:30 am will allow time for this all this believe it or not. Why can't I do that at home? Maybe if you were waking to this sort of view....hmm.....

Well, I'm glad I went and glad I'm back home to cool fall temps, Frank, family, and friends. I've already been out twice in the kayak and taken 2 work trips. Imagine, I put in 30 hours of FLIGHT time and visited 8 different airports in 6 days!

Off to my next adventure soon, and I'll be sure to blog again. BIG backpacking trip over Thanksgiving. Might even get in some bushwacking :)