Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pool Repair

the hole cut in the concrete apron to expose the pool pluming
Re-plumed skimmer

Today Dad and I were pool repairmen for a day.  The pool at my grandma's house was installed in 1979 and started having leaking problems within a few years.  Various attempts were made to stop the leaks but a concrete apron surrounding the pool prevented accessing the pluming.  Today we changed that by renting a concrete saw with a diamond blade and cutting away the concrete slab.  After a few minutes of digging in the sand we found a leaking pipe coupler.  Further investigation revealed that the pipe had been cross threaded when it was installed four decades ago.  With less than $20 of parts we re-plumbed the drain. We believe we may have stopped the leak but will be testing it thoroughly tomorrow.  I think this project is a lesson in doing it right the first time. We are just glad it was a relatively easy fix.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Rafting on the Rio Congrejal

River Swim
Class III section

Our Honduras adventure is over but we’re still going through the pictures! We made it back to Florida in time to spend Christmas with Ryan’s grandmother. Our last big adventure before we left Honduras was whitewater rafting on the Rio Congrejal along the border of Pico Bonito National Park.

We signed up for a guided rafting trip with Jungle River Lodge based on some great recommendations from other travelers we had met. They hire all local guides and they take safety very seriously and have new equipment. The trip started off with a swim in the river and some cliff jumping. Some of the guides took videos of us jumping. I’ll upload the videos when we get back to Seattle and have faster internet. The highest cliff we jumped off of was 7 meters (23 ft) – by far the highest thing I’ve ever jumped off of!

The water is pretty low this time of year but there were still some solid class III sections including some serious little drops. It was a fun river to raft because it is full of huge boulders, so even where there aren’t rapids, you have to navigate around all the rocks. The river was pretty different from anything either of us has rafted before. We’ve pretty much just been on wide rivers with sections of rapids. The boulders in this river made it interesting even in flat water sections.

All the rafting trips at the Jungle River Lodge include a night in their hostel right on the river. It was a relaxing place to hang out for a day and a half.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


We’ve spent the last couple of days on Roatan, the largest and most visited of Honduras’ Bay Islands. We’re staying in West End which is where most of the lower budget travelers stay. Scuba diving is extremely popular here and cheap compared to other vacation diving destinations. Lucky for us (since we don’t dive), the snorkeling is also fantastic. It’s a bit of a weird place though. West End is just full of dive shops – all inclusive places where divers on vacation can stay, eat, and dive. There is a small, less than tidy beach right in town with some pretty good snorkeling not far from shore.  Other than that, there isn’t really much to do in the town except for eat and drink.

West Bay is the resort center of this island. It’s only a couple of kilometers away from West End and has a much nicer beach. We went down there yesterday to find out that it is a total zoo. The beach was so packed with people, chairs, and vendors that you could hardly find a place to lay down your towel. There is fantastic snorkeling right off the ends of the beach though. The beach was so crazy that I think it’s safe to say I’ll never visit West Bay again. Amazingly, just around the corner from West Bay we found a restaurant/dive shop that was almost empty and had chairs in the shade. It was so relaxing to get away from all of the chaos on the beach.

Wanting to get away from all the crowds again, today we hired a boat to take us along the coast to some good snorkeling spots. We first stopped at a ship wreck that had amazing corals all around. The water was so much clearer away from the main tourist area at West Bay and West End. At another spot we even saw a couple of lobsters and a sting ray. The boat driver dropped us off for lunch at a resort located on its own beach – also very relaxing as there were only a couple other groups of people/families there. If we were going to be here another day I’d probably rent a car to get out to some more beaches like that. But, tomorrow we’re heading back to the mainland.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Finca El Cisne

Dried coffee beans
Before we left Copan and headed for the coast, Molly and I spent a day and a night on a farm in the mountains called Finca El Cisne (Swan Farm). Our guide, Carlos, and his family own and run the 2,000 acre farm started by his grandfather.  A few decades ago they started growing coffee beans and that is now their primary product.  Despite the rain we toured the coffee plantation and learned about how the coffee is shade grown and handpicked.  Carlos guided us through the processing buildings showing us how the beans are separated from the fruit, dried, and stored.  It was interesting and I was impressed by their use of hydropower to operate most of the machinery.

Carlos took us on a horseback ride through their land.  It was a great ride and my horse Bonito was awesome!  Bonito loved to gallop and was very, very tolerant of the annoying little hound that taunted him.

To top things off we soaked in the nearby hot springs where half a dozen pools had been thoughtfully crafted into the hillside.  Each pool was slightly warmer as you worked your way up the hill towards the actual springs.  It was quite delightful and we could have stayed longer if we had more time.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Macaw Mountain

This morning Molly and I rode in a tuktuk a short distance into the mountains outside of Copan Runis. We visited Macaw Mountain, a bird sanctuary that specializes in reinterducing macaws to the Copan Valley. Besides macaws the sanctuary also houses other parrots, parakeets, hawks and owls from the area.  Some of the birds were in cages but there were also many uncaged in a large interactive area. As proper tourists we welcomed the offer of the bird handler to place macaws on our shoulders and arms.  These macaws had been trained to grasp lightly and also responded when the handler told them to leave Molly's sunglasses alone. Neither Molly or myself are much in the way of birders, but who isn't fascinated with such beautiful and smart birds? Again, we were pleasantly surprised by the lack of tourists. It made the experience all the more relaxing.

This afternoon we returned to the Copan Runias Archeological site. We wanted to see some more areas and take a few more photos. Its a huge site and I know we could spend a many more days exploring, but tomorrow it is on to the next adventure: a coffee plantation.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Copan Ruinas

Ruler 13

We made it to Honduras and after having to spend a night in San Pedro Sula, we arrived in Copan Ruinas – a town completely unlike San Pedro Sula! Copan Ruinas is small, quiet, and safe. Today we went straight to the archaeological site of Copan. Like many famous Maya sites it has been partially restored. This site however, is far off the beaten path of most travelers to Mesoamerica. It was incredibly pleasant to only share the site with a handful of other tourists.

Copan is well-known for its elaborate and well-preserved stelae or carved stone monuments. Each one contains the image of a ruler and inscriptions that describe his reign and ancestry. One of the reasons Copan has so many of this is that its last ruler (Ruler 13, otherwise known as “18 Rabbit”) commissioned a lot of them, both of himself and his late father. Most of the southern Maya city-states were in decline around that time (~AD 800) and Ruler 13 was going to extreme lengths to hold his kingdom together. He ultimately failed, the city of Copan was abandoned, and his elaborately-built tomb was never filled (he presumably died somewhere else).

Copan also has some really cool and unique architecture including basalt construction (more northern Maya sites used limestone) and temples built on top of temples, but those are topics for another post.

A ball court

Friday, December 7, 2012

"Dude, its like a blizard man."

"Dude, it's like a blizzard man" proclaimed the snowboarder in the lift line at Steven Pass ski resort today.  Molly and I quietly chuckled at this young man's astute observation.  The truth is, it WAS a bizzard.  Nearly two feet of snow had fallen in the last twenty four hours and it was still coming down heavy.  It was a great morning to be playing hooky.

I have been thinking a lot lately about what I won't and will miss about Washington when we move back to Alaska.  I will miss Stevens Pass Ski area but I won't miss lift lines and the hundards of other people who crowd the slopes and track up the snow.

A friend and I recently had a conversation about resort skiing versus back country skiing.  His argument was that you remember everyday in the  back country whereas resort skiing is just a blur of all your trips to the slope. I think there is a place for both.

Resort skiing is like thanksgiving dinner - you gorge yourself on elevation rather than food.  Groomers, powder, trees,'s all there for the taking and you can get more skiing in one day than in weeks of back country skiing.  Back country on the other hand is like fine dinning - a small perfectly cooked steak paired with the perfect wine that you enjoy slowly so you will remember it.

In Alaska I will spend far fewer days resorts but my days backcountry are likely to be awesome.  I have to say the time I have spent resort skiing in Washington has made me a much better downhill skier and I am looking forward to skiing terrain in Alaska that I couldn't have skied when I was younger.