Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Training Hike #3 - Maryland Heights with Pat and John

We are training to hike the Camino Santiago in Spain this coming May. So far, we have hiked the Potomac Heritage Trail and Rock Creek Park. This week, we headed off to Harpers Ferry.

On Saturday, we did a quick 5-ish mile hike in Maryland Heights, just opposite Harpers Ferry. The trail is a long skinny loop, going up then down.

We hiked with our friends Pat and John. As you can see, there was still a lot of snow on the trail as we got higher on the ridge. At the top, the sun came out and we paused for wine, chocolate, paté, cheese and fruit before starting the descent.

Next hike will be in Whistler, BC.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bonaire Spring Break 2015

Hunter and Mike both had Spring Break on the week of March 8th, so we headed down to our favorite scuba location, Bonaire. We decided to stay at the Black Durgon, mostly on price. The Durgon is more of a hostel than a hotel or resort, but it is right on the water. Below is a typical scene - our pickup truck loaded with scuba tanks, getting ready to drive off to a nice shore location to go diving.

The dock at of the Durgon is the bottom one in the photo. The lighter-colored water is the sandy bottom that is about 10 feet deep at the dock and about 20 feet deep where the water turns dark. The reef starts right where the water turns dark blue, and it drops off to about 100 feet. At any time of the day or night, just walk out onto the dock, jump in, go diving, and come back. Couldn't be easier.

This is a photo of the dock at the Black Durgon.

Here is a typical shore dive scene. Casey got Sherry a solar shower for Christmas and it is sitting on top of the truck so we have warm, fresh water to rinse off with at the end of the dive. On these dives, the entry can be a bit tricky. There is usually a little bit of surf, and the entry requires walking over old coral while wearing a lot of heavy gear. Often, Mike or Hunter will carry Sherry's gear out to waist deep so Sherry doesn't have to walk over these rocks while wearing half her body weight in scuba gear. Sherry hangs out in the water while we go back to the truck and gear up ourselves.

Actually, this dive turned out to be the Dive from Hell. Three of the six tanks were defective (leaky o-rings, broken knob) and then Sherry's gear fell off of the truck and she blew out an o-ring leaving us with just 2 tanks, so we drove back to the Durgon to get a new tank and drove back to the dive site. After the dive, when Hunter was getting out of the water, he rolled his ankle and sprained it pretty badly. The local medical supply company lent us a pair of crutches for a few days to help him heal.

We decided to learn to hunt lionfish. These fish are beautiful, poisonous, and invasive, They are relentless hunters and they are eating all of the small fish on the reefs in the Caribbean. Hunting of any kind is strictly monitored in Bonaire, and lionfish hunting is no exception. We had to take a class first, and then go with an approved guide.

First, we had to learn to use the "ELF" spear. ELF stands for Eliminate LionFish. So, we swam around in shallow water shooting at plastic water bottles for an hour or so and were deemed Licensed to Kill.

Next, we went off on a boat to Klein Bonaire, the island that is about a mile off of the the main island. There were five "hunters" on the boat and we got five lionfish on the first dive and seventeen on the second dive. The non-hunters on the boat were good at spotting the fish and pointing them out to us.

Here is the bounty from the second dive. After the boat came back to the dock, we de-spined the fish and then cleaned them. We took about seven of them back to the Black Durgon and made lionfish ceviche out of them. Delicious as always. Lionfish is a very mild and tender fish and it makes for a great ceviche. 

To take a break from diving, we rented scooters to tour the island. Hunter had a 50cc scooter and Sherry and Mike shared a 125cc. We took them on paved roads, dirt roads, sandy roads and muddy roads.

Bonaire has a few good blowholes, and we rode scooters to the end of the earth to find one of them. Here is a series of photos showing the blowhole doing it's thing.

Scooters at the end of the world, There were a few squirrely moments while riding the scooters over sand to get here. I think that I still have Sherry's fingernail marks in my shoulder. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Ready for Bonaire!

We are packing our scuba gear while we watch the snow falling.  It has been a long and cold winter with more snow than we have had for years, but Hunter, Sherry and Mike are heading down to Bonaire on Saturday morning for a week of sun and scuba. The first question we get is "Where is Bonaire?". Well, it is part of the Dutch Antilles, along with Aruba and Curacao, and on a clear day, you can see Venezuela. The map below shows the location.

The great thing about Bonaire is that you can dive right from the shore. Most dive locations require a boat trip to get to the dive sites. If you dive from shore, there is just endless sand - pretty boring. In Bonaire, the reef is just a few feet to a few hundred feet from the shore, so you can just swim out to it. Also, Bonaire has had a marine preserve for a very long time, so the fish and coral are still plentiful.

We have been to Bonaire quite a few times, and we know where to buy fish from the local fisherman, where to get the good vegetables, and which bar has the best bartender. It is our go-to vacation.