Friday, March 22, 2013

The Blue Room And Other Hidden Places, part 2

Susan’s Eye Waimea Bay sits about the middle of the North Shore area of Oahu and during the winter months is considered the best big wave surfing spot in the world. There is a large rock tower of sorts that is a great place to jump into the water and it is usually covered with local kids that jump down into the surf at just the right time as to not smack a bolder or hit the bottom. I’v done it a few times but this area is best left for the local kids. Far off to the left end of the beach is a little tidal cave that if you were never shown you would never know it existed. It basically has two entrances. There is a hole right next to the sand that you can jump down into and an entrance that lets out into the ocean. If you swim inside and wait for a wave to wash in, you will be able to feel the air pressure change in your ears and make a sort of a whistling sound out of some of the vent areas in the cave wall. This cave is very easy to get in and out of and small kids swim in and out all the time but most tourist never even know it’s there. It really does not have a name so I gave it one. There was a young girl taking pictures one day of the cave and her name happen to be Susan and she was trying to get the shot just right and I asked her what she was doing and she said she was trying to get her eye just right, so I named it “Susan’s Eye”. Sharks Cove and the Belly Slide Sharks Cove is one of the only two protected areas on the Oahu coast. The other is Hanauma Bay which is much closer to Honolulu. Sharks cove is a small closed tidal pool area with a little bay opening that leads to the open water. When the tide is high the inner pool is great for snorkeling. To the right side of the pool area is a small look through that washes from the open water into the pool area. If you time it just right you can slide on your belly from the outside water into the pool. On the outside is various swimming areas with cave like entrances and little hidden rooms to swim through. I have spent hour upon hour swimming and exploring every inch of this place and it is my favorite. If you happen to Scuba this is a popular area for that also as there is lots of underwater caves to explore. I have found all sorts of items on the ocean floor dropped by tourists no doubt, from jewelery to 357 Magnum Rounds just rolling around on the ocean sand at about 15 to 20 feet deep. One of the strangest Items was a large Sterling Silver Serving Ladle, marked US Navy. I even had a pet Moray Eel that had his home in the rocks and I’d visit him form time to time.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Blue Room And Other Hidden Places, part 1

In 1992 I was given the opportunity to move to the Island of Oahu and live close to the famed North Shore. I was working in an area called the Kahukus and Kualoas. It was a mountain range that stretched between the towns of Mililani and Wahiawa. There were a number of trails that ran along the ridges of these mountains that were paralleled by deep valleys filled with running streams and herds of feral pigs. Banana trees and Cherry Guava doted the valleys and fed the wild life that made their homes there. The soil was iron red from ancient volcanic activity and it was rich with the elements that it took to support a tropical rain forest. In one particular valley there was an abandon dam, stone tower, and foot bridge that was completely overgrown and if you did not know it’s exact location you would have never seen it from any trail. This area was completely off limits to anyone except for those who worked there and the occasional local that we allowed to hunt for their dinner of Kalua Pig. The view from a place we called the “Top of the World” was fantastic and you could see Honolulu in one direction and the famed Pipeline Beach in the other. For three years this was my playground, and I took every free moment exploring the landscape. The shore line was filled with caves both completely underwater and some that were only visible during low tide. Most of these spots were only known by locals and were almost never visited by tourist. Some of them would take great skill to find and navigate. While living there I never used Scuba equipment as I was tolled by a wise old Hawaiian that true water-men would always free dive and use a net or spear to capturer their dinner and I was determined to do the same. In fact I was very interested in all or the cultural traditions of the Hawaiian islands and did not care much for the ares or activities that were frequented by tourist. Don’t get me wrong, everyone should walk the streets of Honolulu, attend a Luau and lay on the beach of Waikiki at least once, but after that get off the beaten path. Eight Mile Loop The first bit of trail that I would tackle was referred to as eight mile loop for obvious reasons. If it were a typical eight mile trail it would be a little challenge in it’s self but this was not typical at all. It was made up of six sections and only two of the section were actually a trail. Most of it was a hand over hand climb up and down steep valley walls were you would have to grab plants and bushes to pull yourself up or let yourself down to the next step. This was a route that we would take potential Ranger School candidates to see if they were ready to attend the actual school. I had always lead these patrols at night and the students would have about a 60 lbs pack on their back and would have very little sleep before going. We had to evaluate their performance before we would recommend them for school. I had graduated from the school a few years earlier and had no problem driving them up and down the valley walls until they would ether drop out or ask for more. We would start with a class of about 30 and recommend about 6 to go to the actual course. We tried to make this Pre-Ranger selection so hard that those that survived it were sure to pass the real course. As a unit we had a very high pass rate for those attending Ranger School and that was something to be proud of. After I had stumbled over this route with the students a few times I decided to take a much closer look during the day on my own. The main trail from and to the camp was open a wide and there was no problem walking these areas unless you walked it in reverse. Walking the route in reverse would take you up hill for three miles to the place that we called Top of the World and that fantastic view that I mentioned. This was a very steep trail that we would run the students up for three miles just to stop and do exercises until all the stragglers would catch up and then turn around and sprint back for three miles down hill. This would always cut the class down a little and get rid of those who really did not want to be there. Yes, it was great fun. The trail away from the camp was very level and crossed a wide open plateau with a bamboo forest on one side and a sheer drop off to a narrow valley on the other. This valley drop off was basically the trail head for the eight mile loop. The climb down was just a small taste of what was to come. As soon as you would reach the bottom you were going back up the other side and then directly back down again as it was only a false ridge in the middle of this small valley or drawl. At night this would really confuse the students and there map reading and navigation skills were really put to the test. As instructors we knew exactly where we were but for the students this was bewildering. You see the map did not properly show this false ridge and they would have to really count on the distance traveled to understand that this was not where they thought they were. But keeping a proper pace count when climbing down and up and back down and then back up again was almost impossible. Unless you walked it yourself during the day and it happened to be your backyard. After reaching the other side there was another open area to cross and then it was back down an even steeper valley wall and over a fast running stream. At the bottom of this valley was that old overgrown dam that lead to a decaying foot bridge and past an old stone tower that was thought to be haunted by the locals. At night this was the perfect place to set up an ambush for the students by our own opposing force that we had hidden there just to see how the future Rangers would react. Most of the time it did not go well for them as they were so completely exhausted by their trek so far, and totally encumbered by their equipment. We understood this and were never hard on the grading of their reaction and battle drill but what we were really looking for was how they reacted with each other when they were mentally fatigued and who stood out as a leader under stress. Thats really the whole objective of Ranger School anyway. Small unit battle drills and tactics are easy to learn with constant practice, but it’s the intangibles like leadership under extreme stress that actually counts in combat. Most things in combat turn messy like a soup sandwich but it’s good leadership that makes things work. The next leg of the route would take you down what we called the pig path. It was muddy and covered with pig droppings and rotting fruit. It was thick with bushes and had a natural rock wall of sorts on one side and drop off on the other that was about sixty feet down to the valley floor. Not that hard to navigate in the day but at night it was crazy. The “wait a minute” vines were everywhere and the mud made it slow going. This part of the trail was also infested with gnats and other tropical insects that you could hear and feel but never see, even in the day. A true test of miserable proportions. And as instructors we loved every second of it. At the end of this section was where the enemy was waiting in their makeshift camp and the students were supposed to conduct a raid on the encampment. The same as their reaction to the ambush, was their reaction to the raid and it always went poorly but again it was not the mechanics of the operation that we were looking for. Right below this open area was a fantastic fresh water swimming hole and a rock cliff to jump off of into the cool back waters of Hawaii. This was only known by a few of us and I would visit it on hot afternoons when I had time off. After their time in the enemy’s camp their was a long steep climb that went up a spur to the trail at the Top of the World. After that it was a three mile ruck run down a rocky dirt road and back to the camp where they would drop their packs and assemble in the physical training pit and we would roll them around in the sawdust for a few hours. Yes, a job well done!)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

Monday, March 4, 2013

“The Land of the Morning Calm” Part 1

The year was 1982 and I had just went from the US Army Reserve program to Active Duty. I had also changed my job skill from Communication to Infantry. I figured that if I was going to eventually make a career out of the military that I would have to start with being a basic “Grunt” and then eventually go into Special Ops. When I went to the recruiters office and asked to go Active Duty and change my job they gave me a funny look. Most people with my test scores would go into a much more tech type job or even to the Officers Candidate School but no, not me. I also asked to be sent to the farthest most exotic place that they could send me and they offered South Korea and before I knew any details I said “where do I sign”. Needless to say they gave me another weird look. Most people don’t ask to be sent there as its considered a hardship tour and you only have to go for one year because of that fact. To me it was just an adventure and I could not wait to go! Now, switching from Communication to Grunt proposed a little bit of a problem for the recruiters. In most job skills training, you would first graduate from “Boot Camp” and then be transfered to another post for your “Advanced Individual Training” or AIT. But in the case of Infantry, after boot camp you would just stay there and have a glorious time in an extended training program with the same Drill Sargent. Now I had already been through boot camp a year and a half prior so they gave me the option to show up to training at the transition point of Boot Camp to AIT or go through the whole thing again. Im sure that they thought in their minds that no one would choose to go through boot camp again if they did not have to but, no not me. I was glad to go through the whole thing again. And of course they gave me their final strange look. Boot Camp the second time around was a breeze and I was even offered a Drill Corporal position if I elected to stay for a little while after graduation. A Drill Corporal was just an acting position to help out the Drill Instructors. But I was eager to get over to Korea and see what all that was about so I declined and the position was given to someone else. I have absolutely no memory of the flight over but I sure remember landing in Korea. It was in the morning and the sun was out and the humidity was overwhelming. I could see countless rows of rice paddies and smell them also. The air was thick with the oder, something between manurer and a strange chemical smell that I would later learn was pig wast and a burning coal called “Ondol”. Eventually I got used to the smell and would hardly even notice it. We were bused to a compound in the city of Seoul which happens to be the 8th largest city in the world. The city area was massive and being an American I could imagine myself lost for days trying to find my way around. I was grateful for the small post where everything was labeled in English. This area was called Young Sang Compound and home to the 8th Army Headquarters and the reception station. We were processed for about a week and then I was sent up north to the 2nd Infantry Division in an area called Tongduchon or TDC as called by most soldiers. TDC was very close to the DMZ or border between the North and the South. There were little military compounds everywhere in this area and each camp was usually surrounded by a town or small village. Each of these village areas catered to American GIs or even the ROK (Republic of Korea) Army soldiers and you could imagine what some of the activities were that went on there. There were some hidden dangers that went with this type of environment especially in the early eighties and I will touch on them the best that I can using as much discretion as possible. This is where the Black Market made most of it’s money, prostitution was semi legal and managed by the local government under the table of course, and a North Korean spy was captured from time to time. Also the occasional drunken brawl would break out in one of the many bars that lined the small alleyways within the towns and TDC just happen to have the most of them. There were certain parts of TDC that you were repeatedly warned not to go, especially after dark but there were some of us that were just so curious that nothing would keep us from going, and I happened to be one of them. I spent about a week in another reception station before I was sent to my home unit called the 1/23rd Infantry Regiment “Tomahawks” on the Camp Hovey compound. This reception station was called the “Turtle Farm” and it had a small group of buildings that had the in-processing hut right next to the out-processing hut. It took you 12 months to get from one building to the other so we were all given the nick name of turtle as it would take a year to move such a short distance. This nick name would be yelled at me by everyone including the Koreans for about six months. At that time I would start yelling it to anyone who was newer then me because I had become a short timer and made it over the hump of six months. Korea had five seasons to the year and each was extreme. The fifth season was the monsoon season and it poured rain for about three months. Along the road ways were these deep ditches to handle all that water, and solders that did not pay attention would often fall into these ditches at night so the ditches were called “Turtle Traps”. There were a few other locations called “Turtle Traps” for a completely different reason but that is not for this story. Finely I was sent to my home unit and was assigned to a Platoon and then to a Squad. It was at that time I learned that I would be restricted to camp as I was just to new to be given a pass to go down town on my own. I was devastated. I had all these plans for my first trip to TDC and did not need anyone to look out for me, or so I thought. I would have to wait for another two weeks! I had been in country for almost three weeks and I would have to sit around and do nothing for another two! Thats when I meet Privet Olie and Privet Kenneth Lovelace. Now I could not have linked up with anyone that was more shady then these two. Within an hour I had purchased a fake pass from Olie who happen to work in the front office and befriended Ken who happen to be a surfer from Huntington Beach and offered to be my tour guide to all the restricted places not to go in TDC. He told me this up front and I was willing and eager to tag along as soon as we were given time off. We had become the Three Amigos so to speak and we were ready for all kinds of miss-adventures. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Epic Adventure of Endurance Journal Sep 8-11 2009

Me and my buddy Noel were talking about taking a little trip over to Catalina for a few days. My parents live on a 45 foot Sailing Yacht called the Sanderling, and they are moored on a ball in San Diego Harbor. In August to September for the last few years they sail to the back side of Catalina to a place call Two Harbors and just anchor in the bay and enjoy the weather and water for about three weeks or so. I just so happen to be living in Newport Beach at that time on the Peninsula about a block from the Fun Zone where the Catalina Flyer was docked. This was the perfect opportunity to grab my Mountain Bike, jump on the boat, head to Avalon and bike over to the other side of the island. Well it was just not that easy as I would soon learn. I enlisted Noel into my adventure and thought I’d show him how my 21 years of experience in the US Army Rangers would propel me up the switchbacks and then to the other end of the island with a 50 pound pack on my back, or so I thought. Noel stayed on the couch that night in the apartment because we wanted to get an early start and take the first boat over to Catalina. We wheeled our bikes and packs over to the boat early that morning, and boarded the craft and waited to get going. It was a little overcast as it usually is about that time of the day but I fully expected it to burn off soon so we would have great weather for Catalina. The trip over was uneventful and we sat most of the time inside and just looked at all the tourist dealing with sea sickness. I have never had a problem with motion sickness at all as I grew up around boats and the water for most of my life. Being a Paratrooper and flying around in Helicopters and Fixed Wing Aircraft and then jumping out of them is a test for people if they have motion sickness problems but for me it was just a lot of fun, except for the time I was being shot at while jumping out of a C141 Aircraft in the middle of the night into the country of Panama, but I will save that for another story. Noel also has no issues with motion sickness as he is basically a vagabond like me and has done a lot of traveling either by motorcycle up to Alaska or camping all over the west in his VW van. Now Noel is a modern day hippy of sorts and an artist so he is the kind of person that moves at his own speed and does not hurry for anyone. I have never known him to be on time for anything. I on the other hand show up a half hour early for everything and if things don’t go as scheduled I freak out. I needed him to help me relax and I could not have picked a better partner to go on this little adventure with. He is a surfer and all around casual guy and a lot of fun. We arrived at Avalon Harbor about 10 that morning and road our bikes off the boat and into the little town of Avalon in search of the office that would issue us our permits so that we could travel the interior of the island. You actually have to join the Catalina Conservatory program and get special tags for your mountain bikes and pay fees for the year. You have to leave a plan of your route through the back country of the island for safety reasons. We soon found the office on one of the small back streets and then we were off! We rode through the little streets of Avalon and made our way to the first of many hills that would take us up to the Airport which was the first stop that we had planned on our trip. For the next three hours I cursed myself for packing 50 pounds into a backpack. Noel on the other hand had a pack that rested on his bike instead of his back. This was my first lesson for the trip, work smarter not harder. Half the stuff in my pack was unneeded anyway. What was I thinking?! We walked switchback after switchback for what seemed like days before we reached the airport. The views were fantastic but I was so wore out that I could not even really enjoy them. The sun did come out in full force and I could not drink enough water and Gator Aid! But, when we reached the airport we were both ecstatic and felt like we actually accomplished something great. We thought we were done with the hard part. That was not the case. We rested at the famed DC-3 Runway Cafe at the little airport on top of the island. It’s also been called the airport in the sky as it is at an elevation of 1602 feet and we felt every inch of it on the way up. Of course we were starving and had to have the famed buffalo burgers. Now, I don’t know if it was because we were just very hungry or not but those burgers were fantastic and I could have eaten two. We filled up our water and checked the air pressure in our tires in the aircraft hanger and mounted up for the decent to a place called Little Harbor which we planed as our next stop. The ride down the hills to Little Harbor was at a breakneck speed and dust was flying everywhere. We were both so close to wiping out so many times, it was a wonder we even made it down in one piece. There was this area that we stopped in about half way through our decent that had a spectacular view of Little Harbor and it was one of the highlights of the trip. Eventually we ended up at the bottom at one of the wilderness campgrounds and found a water source and filled up our water bottles. Most of the interior of the island was completely deserted and we spotted a lot of wildlife that Catalina is known for. We saw Bald Eagles and Red Foxes every so often and at Little Harbor, Dolphins were swimming not to far off the shore. After a short rest we started our assent up the next set of hills to reach the peak that would in turn propel us down to Two Harbors. The climb was grueling in the heat and of course the fact that I had unneeded equipment that was sucking the life energy out of my body like a giant tick attached to my back also did not help. We walked a good portion of it, as it was just to steep to ride. We eventually reached the top at just about dusk and I could see the lights of Two Harbors in the distance. The ride down was just as fast paced as it was down to Little Harbor and there were moments that I just knew I was going to ride off the edge to my death! I thought about my experiences in combat and all the dangerous jumps I had made into ruff terrain and now I was going to die after retirement on a bike ride. Is’t that how it always goes? Well we made it in one piece and were met at the bottom at about 8 that night by my father. We were completely caked in dirt and sweat and thank God there was a recreation center of sorts with showers. After recuperating we made our way to the dock on the backside and locked up our bikes. We rode the dingy out to the Sanderling where mom was waiting on the boat with much needed food and drink. That night I fell asleep in the forward V Berth to the gentle rocking of the boat and slept like I was a dead man. The next morning I awoke to pancakes and coffee and for a little while I completely forgot about all the pain that I endured the day before. We spent the next 3 days snorkeling boat wrecks with Leopard Sharks, Garibaldi, and the occasional Octopus. We watched the buffalo roam the trails between the two bays and we ate good food overlooking the beach. Food always tastes better outside on the beach or on the deck of a boat. This was the good life! But the day was approaching that we would have to bike back to Avalon. What to do? Thats when I came up with a plan. First I dumped half of my stuff and left it on my parents boat. It was not like I could not get it back. We bought tickets for the shuttle bus to take us and our bikes all the way back to the Airport in the Sky. It was money well spent. After reaching the airport we rode our bikes down the switchbacks to Avalon. We still had about three hours before the Flyer was departing back to Balboa, so we dove off the shore of Avalon and snorkeled with some of the biggest fish that I had swam with, and I have done a lot of skin diving around the world. Eventually it was time to board the boat back. As I departed the boat in Newport, I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets that I have ever seen. All the pain was nothing compared to the experience and I am so blessed to have been in that place. At that moment all the world was at peace and I cant wait to do it again, but with less of a pack. Why carry all that junk when its so unnecessary? Kind of like life don’t you think?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Epic Adventure of Endurance

OK, me and my bud mountain biked from Avalon Harbor to Two Harbors on the other end of the island. Needless to say the trip from the bay to the airport by bike is very hard! Had to walk a good portion of it. By the time we got to the airport we were both very hungry and the Buffalo Burger was fantastic but I was starving and everything taste better when your very hungry. The patio is great with the view. I did not try anything else so I can not speak to the taste. The service was a bit slow but they made the burgers to order and fresh so I was not that surprised by the wait. we were so tired we did not mind just sitting for awhile. If your in a hurry just don't get a burger. But that is what they are known for. Our trip was an adventure in endurance and it would not have been as epic without the burger. ooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Friday, March 1, 2013

The History of one of my fav places. Matsumoto's Shave Ice

Established: February 13, 1951 Founders: Mamoru Matsumoto (7/11/08 - 5/11/94) Born: Honomu, Hawaii Family Origin: Hiroshima-ken Helen Momoyo (Ogi) Matsumoto (7/22/11 - 3/11/89) Born: Hilo, Hawaii Family Origin: Yamaguchi-ken Mamoru Matsumoto's family returned to Hiroshima-ken when he was a toddler, and they struggled to survive. He worked as an apprentice at a sake factory, and other odd jobs, but the income was insufficient. Therefore, he and his older brother boarded a ship to Hawaii to find jobs which would supplement the family's income. His brother became ill and returned to Japan, while Mamoru continued to labor on the sugar plantation, the railroad, and eventually became a salesman for the Sakai Store, which is currently known as the Haleiwa IGA. In order to expand his knowledge, he attended night school to learn English and Math. Through friends and relatives, he met his wife, Helen Momoyo Ogi, and they were married at the Haleiwa Jodo Mission. Mamoru worked long hours, while Helen became a seamstress. They dreamed of opening their own business and purchasing a home for his family in Japan and for themselves. Mr. Kazuo Tanaka gave them the opportunity to open their own grocery store, M. Matsumoto Store Inc. in the previous Tanaka Store at 66-087 Kamehameha Highway, in Haleiwa, Hawaii. At first, Mamoru peddled his wares on a bicycle, until he was able to afford a panel truck. He went from camp to camp, taking orders and delivering the goods, while Helen manned the store and did some sewing. With the birth of their three children, Glenn, Janice and Stanley, they needed to expand their business. With the perfect location along Oahu's beautiful North Shore, a decision was made to commence operating a shave ice stand in the midst of the grocery business. The carloads of racing enthusiasts and the waves of surfers and hippies in the '60s brought people from across the globe to this quaint store to purchase the shave ice, or "snow cone" cascading with their homemade syrup. As the business grew, their dreams and aspirations were materialized. However, the couple was no longer able to handle the influx of customers. While Glenn and Janice attended the University of Hawaii, Stanley decided to remain home and assist his parents in running the business. Today, on a warm, sunny day, the store produces 1,000 shave ice. Half of the customers are tourists. Many people from around the world have visited the store. Should you have the opportunity to visit the store, you'll see their pictures on the walls. Konishiki and Tom Hanks are a few you'll recognize. Matsumoto Shave Ice has been displayed in various magazines, news articles, and television programs, the most recent being on Bay Watch Hawaii. Take a drive to Oahu's North Shore and visit us soon! Stanley and his wife, Noriko, successfully converted the groceries to T-shirts, souvenirs, and snacks, and he eventually became the proprietor while his parents semi-retired and later passed away.ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo