Archive for the ‘blog’ Category
Summary of Big Island trip
March 8 – 15th, 2016
Flight, drive from Kailua-Kona to Hilo
Drive to Volcanoes National Park, Kilauea Iki loop, Hike to Keauhou
11 miles backpacking
Return from Keauhou, hike to Napau
13 miles backpacking
Return from Napau, drive to Kona, Manta Ray snorkeling
6 miles backpacking
Honokohau Beach, drive to Fairmont Orchid
2 miles hiking
Lay on beach, snorkeling
Puu Waawaa Cinder Cone, A-Bay
9 miles hiking
We had an uneventful flight from SJC to KOA. The security line at SJC was long enough to finally spur us to register for one of the TSA pre-clearance programs.We arrived in Kailua-Kona in the afternoon and drove east across the island to Hilo to get an early start backpacking the next day (daylight hours and permit office closed at 4 pm).
This was our first backpacking trip that required flying to the destination. We each brought a backpack and a duffel bag for post-backpacking hotel time. One novelty was that we left our fuel canisters, lighter and multitool (security) at home in addition to our hiking poles (limited space). Online reports indicated that we could pick up Jetboil canisters from Sports Authority, but we had no such luck at the Hilo location. Fortunately, there is a Jetboil dealer located in Hilo, KapohoKine Adventurs.
There were quite a few vegan-friendly food options in Hilo, and we opted to visit Prabha's, which was delicious. Hilo was not particularly photogenic, and so I didn't take any photos.
After our Iceland trip, which was similar to this trip in many respects, we enjoyed the perks of traveling within the United States: English, Starbucks, and no SIM card swapping for data. The Iceland trip involved a significant amount of driving and we mostly did short day hikes, with the exception of a long day hike in the hills above Akureyri. The Hawaii trip was planned to address those issues via relatively short drives (<2 hours each day) and a significant amount of mileage as originally planned, before the weather interfered.
We arrived at the Volcanoes National Park backcountry office after a short drive from Hilo. Our original plan was to do a one-night trip to the coast before a two-night climb to the summit of Mauna Loa, stopping one night each at Red Hill Cabin and Mauna Loa Cabin. It was a fairly ambitious plan, averaging 15-20 miles per day. The mountain was closed above Red Hill Cabin due to high winds, but the ranger thought that it would reopen the next day, and so we headed to the coast and planned to return the next day to check on Mauna Loa.
One interesting aspect of backpacking in the park is that water is only available from rainwater collection at cabins/shelters, and the availability of water can drive your trip itinerary. For the coast trip, we originally planned to visit Halape. However, the rainwater storage was nearly empty because it is a popular destination, and so we opted for nearby Keauhou. In addition to rainwater collection, the shelters provide protection from the sun and high winds on the coast.
Before heading out, we decided to visit two popular nearby destinations: Thurston Lava Tube and Kilauea Iki. The lava tube was underwhelming compared with the rest of the trip, but makes for a popular tourist destination - our walk through it preceded the arrival of multiple full tour buses. Kilauea Iki, on the other hand, was a fantastic short hike (~3 miles) and we would highly recommend it.
Afterwards we drove to the trailhead of the Keauhou Trail and headed down towards the coast. The first portion was through lava fields marked by cairns before transitioning to grasslands. It's worth noting that hiking through the lava in the dark would be fairly treacherous due to the lack of trail markings except for the cairns, which would be nearly invisible (black-on-black). The trail tended to follow the lava flows, and so it was consistently rocky and windy.
We reached the Keauhou shelter, set back 1/3 of a mile from the ocean, after about 2.5 hours. We did not encounter any other hikers on the Keauhou trip (either out or back), which was fortunate because the shelter would have been a cozy fit for two tents. We explored the beach and took some photos before returning to the shelter to wrap up for the day. Although the lack of the usual bears was great (cook near your tent, no bear canister required), the ground was absolutely swarming with ants, and so food preparation required some care. The wind howled all night, and camping outside of the shelter would have been madness.
The hike back up from the beach was even windier than on the way down, and so we were not feeling good about our chances of hiking Mauna Loa. This was confirmed when we reached the backcountry office. We decided to do another out-and-back to Napau, but decided to drown our sorrows in Thai food before heading out.
The first half of the Napau hike was in a lava field and the scenery was reminiscent of Mordor - gray and rocky to the horizon with steam rising from the ground. We passed by several enormous craters and ventured as closed as we dared with the high winds, but photos don't capture the sense of scale. The last several miles transitioned to a lightly traveled jungle trail. Hiking through it with shorts and sunburnt legs was character building, and I would highly encourage anyone reading this to take the time to pull on pants before entering the jungle.
The endpoint was a small clearing with a short walk to another excellent crater view. We encountered a few dayhikers but the trail was relatively empty, and we did not encounter any backpackers. Unlike Keauhou, there was no shelter at the endpoint and hence no water. We each carried 4L though, and water was not a problem. Overall, we would recommend skipping Napau and instead sticking to the coast or to the summit if it is open.
Besides the other various differences between backpacking in Hawaii and the Sierras (weather, scenery, terrain, wildlife, water), it is worth commenting on the bathroom experience. Every backpacking destination that we visited in Volcanoes National Park had a composting toilet, which was unexpected. The Keauhou facilities were amazing - between the raised height and the open sides it represented the pinnacle of the bathroom experience. In contrast, the Napau facility was a closed building with a horde of spiders living inside, and only a crazy person would use it.
Besides the Napau bathroom spiders and the Keauhou ants, the only other wildlife that we encountered was a Small Asian mongoose who tried to eat our food at Napau. Surprisingly/fortunately there were no enormous spiders inhabiting the very narrow jungle path that we took to Napau.
It rained sporadically in the morning as we hiked out of Napau. At the backcountry office we found that Mauna Loa was still closed, so we decided to grab lunch at Cafe Ono (meh) and decide on our next move. The park ranger had recommended a trip to Pepeiao in the Ka'u Desert, but after perusing photos online it was hard to get excited about it.
We decided to cut out one night earlier than planned from the park and stay at the Sheraton in Kailua-Kona to snorkel with Manta Rays. Before leaving the park, we drove to the end of Chain of Craters road and saw the sea arch.
We took the south route around the island towards Kona, and although there was traffic at several points it was a pleasant drive. The snorkeling experience with My Kona Adventures was great. We would highly recommend the experience in general and that snorkeling outfit specifically (friendly, stayed out on the water longer than planned waiting for a manta ray to show up, fresh pineapple afterwards).
We drove up the cost from Kailua-Kona to the Fairmont Orchid, stopping at the Lotus Cafe for lunch. The food and gelato were both great, and we would recommend it as a good food/gas stop on your way to or from the airport. We also stopped at Honokohau Beach for a short walk and saw numerous sea turtles. The rest of the drive was uneventful.
After arriving at the hotel, we walked one mile to a nearby shopping center to grab dinner at Under the Bodhi Tree. We ate the majority of our meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) over the next few days. Besides the lack of vegan options at the Fairmont Orchid, the food was far more reasonably priced, delicious, and it was a pleasant walk. Dishes that were particularly exceptional: french toast, Reuben sandwich, and the veggie burger. Afterwards we walked back to the hotel and enjoyed mixed drinks while watching the sunset.
After enjoying some french toast, scrambled tofu and french press at Under The Bodhi Tree, we read on the beach and snorkeled for most of the day. Snorkeling was a success and we encountered a sea turtle and an eel in addition to the swarms of fish. Afterwards, we did some more reading on the beach and enjoyed the sunset again.
We got back to hiking after a day of laying on the beach. First up was a Cinder Cone hike, which was reminiscent of Mission Peak in the Bay Area. Afterwards we picked up Starbucks and Thai food, then did a few miles of hiking at A-Bay.
On our last day in Hawaii, we had a lazy morning and then drove down the highway to the airport.
I used some new gear on this trip.
- Peak Design Capture Pro
- Ultrapod II
- Canon 6D with 24-105L and Rokinon 14mm
- Sony RX100 iii
The Capture Pro and Ultrapod were fantastic and I will bring both of them on every trip in the future. The 6D was a bit heavy, and carrying it on my shoulder with the Capture Pro resulted in some numbness that persisted for about a week after the trip. For future trips I will either bring it and mount it in a different location, bring the RX100 instead, or invest in an APS-C mirrorless to save a few pounds.
With the imminent demise of Picasa, I decided to move my photos over to 500px. The sidebar link on the right has been updated.
I considered migrating back to Flickr, but decided to try a new product that seems to have a brighter future.
Existing photos, such as veganomnom, will continue to live on Picasa until it explodes and I need to update links.
A few weeks ago I started a print and took the dogs out on a walk. When I came back, there was a huge blob of PLA attached to the tip of the extruder because the first layer had not adhered to the bed. The filament gunked up the red insulation boot and I cut off the contaminated portion. Unfortunately this made it slightly too short to cover all of the hot bits, so I started looking for a replacement.
Printrbot does not sell individual replacement boots and finding a generic source seemed like a much better solution than contacting them for this one random part. After a bit of searching I found a 1/2" silicone coated fiberglass insulation sleeve that is similar (although not identical) to the sleeve on my printrbot LC. It is slightly looser than the stock sleeve but works great and 5 feet of it is about $20. I'd consider ordering the 3/8" sleeve in the future to have a slightly tighter fit if I ever run out of my 5 feet, although there is some risk that it'd be too small. It would be nice if printrbot sold their insulation boot separately but this will do.
(update: I contacted printrbot and they included a replacement sleeve with another order that I placed. Fantastic customer service!)
I'm not sure, but it's online in its entirety here. Are you prepared to experience some advances in nanomechanical force sensors with integrated actuation?
I just came across this comment to a New York Times article. It is just so well written and perfectly conveys my experiences.
I've been a vegetarian for a long time. For both health and animal cruelty issues. But I don't preach; I just eat. Still, it's remarkable how vegetarianism angers folks. Really angers them. Especially the older ones. Somehow it's un-American. Many carnivores think I'm accusing them of something. Try telling people you're a vegan sometime. It's hilarious. Imagine a vegetarian running for president. A communist transexual would be elected before a vegetarian.
Speaking of which, I have explained what I eat and why so many times over the last few years that I've lost count. I never, ever bring it up but always need to be ready for the standard array of questions when I do not eat something with cheese on it.
No, I do not live in a tree with a spotted owl named Moonsparkle. Yes, I can eat mushrooms although they are not technically denizens of the plant kingdom. No, my shoes and belts are not leather due to the magic of synthetics. Yes, lions do hunt gazelle and all of that but they don't exactly have any other options. No, my cats and dogs do not eat animals and don't need to in order to be healthy and happy. Yes, I am physically fit with off the charts B12 and calcium levels, half the cholesterol level I had a few years ago and twenty pounds lighter. All of these, except for one, are real questions I've been asked. The vast majority of people are nice and polite, but some people just open up with a barrage of questions, usually seeking out some fallacious chink in the vegan armor.
If you're a question barrager, please take the time to read this extremely reasonable book written by a former Bush speechwriter or this short and sweet video (or any other Mercy for Animals video) and your questions will be answered. I'm happy to answer non-confrontational questions just to dispel the notion that vegans are the black-bloc wing of the vegetarians. But please, no more gotcha- or owl-questions. And I never plan to run for elected office.
Today I learned how inductive loop sensors at traffic lights work.
The motivation was a traffic light on my route to work that never detects me. Until now I have been carefully positioning my bike into the middle of the loop. I had been assuming that it was based upon the movement of a small piece of steel somewhere on my aluminum bike inducing current in the loop. This concept fits with the fact that cars (large with lots of steel) reliably trigger loop sensors while bikes (small and usually not much steel) often do not. The solution then would be to stick a magnet on your bike. Problem solved right?
This is not how inductive loop sensors work, thanks to this fantastic writeup. They are resonant systems. The loop forms an inductor in an LC circuit that is driven on resonance (at 20-30 kHz usually). Any change in the inductance shifts the resonant frequency. What's great about this is that your car/bike is part of an oscillator. A car triggers the loop by being large and conductive, not large and magnetic. Your vehicle behaves like a shortened turn in the roadway inductor, increasing the resonant frequency of the oscillator.
Similarly, a bicycle triggers the loop sensor by decreasing the inductance seen by the circuit. The best way to do this is by bringing a large ring of metal to the region with the largest magnetic field. Your tire rims, unless you spent a small fortune on carbon fiber ones, provide the loops. But where should you position your bike? It depends on the way the loop is configured. If it's a simple square then you should position it directly over one of the long edges, not in the middle of the loop. If you can see two side-by-side squares in the pavement then you should position yourself over the center line where there are two wires carrying current in the same direction. If there are diagonal cuts in the pavement, just make sure that one of your wheels is over one of the diagonal lines. If the first link is too daunting, read this link (or either of these) for short and sweet diagrams.
It is impressive how many people think that run of the mill permanent magnets can trigger inductive loop sensors (myself included this morning). Loop sensors are normally designed to detect an increase in resonant frequency (i.e. inductance decrease). However, some fraction of loop sensors are configured to also respond to an increase in inductance and you can buy magnets on the internet that purportedly trigger loop sensors. So could you just strap a chunk of iron onto your bike frame? Probably not. If you look at the patent application filed by the Green Light Trigger company you'll see that the magnet needs to be ceramic, i.e. high electrical resistivity. As the excitation frequency increases the apparent inductance of a magnet decreases due to eddy currents which short it out. By increasing the resistivity of the magnet you increase the corner frequency up to which it looks like an inductor to the circuit. Some people on the internet claim that magnets don't work because only inductance decreases are registered. Others, who are trying to sell you stuff, claim that inductance increases are also detected and their magnets work. Either way, someone on the internet is wrong.
The frequency change required to trigger the loop sensor depends on a threshold that is programmed into the system. There is a tradeoff in setting the threshold - too low and cars in adjacent lanes might trigger a left turn light. Too high and bicycles and motorcycles will not be detected. This means that if the loop sensor is relatively small (< 10 feet long) then it's just a matter of adjusting the sensitivity. If you have positioned your bike properly and it still doesn't trigger then you should let your city know so that they can reprogram it. I haven't had a chance to ride through my problem intersection yet, but hopefully the power of physics will help me next time and if not, the magic of complaint forms on the internet will.
TLDR: Your bicycle rims are primarily responsible for triggering loop sensors. Learn where you should place your bike. If the loop sensor still doesn't work you should contact your city.
Everybody likes getting their name on a wall