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New Mexico

2024-01-03

Here are some pictures from a two-week winter trip to New Mexico.

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My family got together at George and Cora's house in Los Alamos. We did some snowboarding, shopping in Santa Fe, cooking, and then we played with the cat a lot. Later, Dex & Betsy and Matt & Diana flew home, and I went south in a rental car. The first stop was Guadalupe Mountains National Park, just across the state line into Texas. The hiking was excellent. For the entire trip, the nights were around freezing, and during the day the temperature got up to the 50s with sun, which made for great conditions for being outside. Several days later, I stopped by Carlsbad Caverns, which is a ridiculously large and impressive cave complex. From there it was up to White Sands National Park, with the overnight at Aguierre Springs Campground in the Organ Mountains. The last desination was a brief stop at Three Rivers Petroglyph Site, then a quick sprint up the interstate to Albuquerque, an airport hotel, and a long flight home.

I've been to New Mexico several times, and even to some of the above locations before, but that was a long time ago, and some of the previous visits were short. It's nice to relax and focus on seeing those areas with time to spare, to walk around longer and take in more views. It's a beautiful part of the U.S.


Ireland

2023-08-24

Here are some pictures from a two-week summer trip to Ireland with Marjorie and River.

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We started in Dublin for several days, complete with day trips to visit Glendalough, Knowth, and some other sites with somewhat old and very old ruins. After that we headed west to Galway. The Sky Road was a scenic drive. After Galway, we headed south to Doolin. The sites to see there were the Aran Islands — we visited Inishmore, the large island — and the Cliffs of Moher. The views and landscape here, as with elsewhere in the country, were amazing. The coastal cliffs are distinct in color and vegetation from the inland mountains, even though they're only twenty minutes' drive from each other. Following Doolin, we continued south to Killarney. Our rainiest day was a bus tour of the Ring of Kerry, which was designed to be fun regardless of the weather. Finally, we spent two days in Cork.

I didn't know much about Irish history before visiting, so it was exciting to learn about the neolithic people, the history with the Vikings and later the British, and small things like the fact that George Boole was the first mathematics professor at University College Cork or that famous wool sweaters come from the Aran Islands. The food was mostly excellent. Many of the sandwich shops and bakeries we visited served great food, and classics like mussels, fish & chips, and the full breakfast were as good as I'd hoped they'd be. It was a nice time seeing the historical, cultural, and natural sites with friends.

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Hiking in North Kanto

2023-07-31

Continuing on the quest to climb Japan's Top 100 Mountains list as well as dodge the heat in Tokyo and Kanagawa, I went up to North Kanto for a week and climbed five peaks: Mt. Nikko-Shirane, Mt. Hotaka, Mt. Tanigawa, Mt. Makihata, and Mt. Hiuchigatake.

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This trip spanned from Gunma to Tochigi, then Niigata, and finally Fukushima. The distances as a crow flies for each hike, and even between trail heads and campgrounds, is relatively short, but the mountains are steep and the roads are curvy, so it takes a surprisingly long time to get anywhere... Which is just as well, because what's the rush? There's a lot to be discovered: campgrounds with no cell signal, bears, monkeys, foxes, good views, peace & quiet, cicadas, rain on the tent, wind. That's why I come up here.

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Hiking in Shikoku

2023-03-31

For spring break this year, I took my car on the ferry from Tokyo to Tokushima and went hiking and car camping in Shikoku. Six years ago I did a similar trip by motorcycle, and it was good then, so why not mix it up with a revisit by car? There were bicycles to ride and mountains to climb.

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It was my goal to climb Mt. Tsurugi and Mt. Ishizuchi, because they're on Japan's Top 100 Mountains list. Along with those two mountains are Mt. Ryuo and Mt. Miune, which are less famous, and those four mountains are the highest points of each of the four prefectures in Shikoku. Mt. Ryuo isn't even a hike — you can drive to the summit — but the other three mountains were around 10 km jaunts up the hills. Late March weather can be spotty, so there aren't many other hikers around, so it makes for a relaxing time.

Later in the trip I headed west to ride on the Shimanami Kaido, a bicycle path that runs from Imabari in the south to Onomichi in the north, bridging the island chain from Ehime to Hiroshima. I rented a bike in Imabari, and it took about seven hours at a leisurely pace to get to Onomichi. Getting back to my car in the south was complicated: walking, a ferry, more walking, a highway bus, and yet another long walk. The path was also on my list of sixteen motorcycle roads.

If you live in Kanto and have a car, Shikoku is a great spring break location. The ferry is slow but inexpensive, there are many free or cheap campgrounds, and there's a lot to explore. Along with the above-mentioned hikes and rides, I spent a day driving through the Iya Valley, replete with thatch roofs, vine bridges, and mountain valleys with crystal clear streams.

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Sabah

2023-01-05

Here are some pictures from a two-week Christmas vacation trip to Sabah, Malaysia.

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A few years ago I was diving in Bali, and a couple on the dive boat recommended Sipadan. So this year, as COVID restrictions were easing around most of the world, I wanted to go somewhere new, so Sipadan it was.

I did three days of diving in Sipadan. Sipadan is a famous diving destination, and I was impressed. We saw all kinds of creatures: jack fish, barracuda, bump head, white tip sharks, turtles, lion fish, cuttlefish, manta rays, sting rays, scorpion fish, frog fish, tuna, mantis shrimps. The schools of bump head were freaky looking, and we had some amazing barracuda cyclones. After Sipadan, I took a day for easy hiking around Semporna.

It's a quick flight up to Sandakan, and from there a short taxi ride to Sepilok and the urangutans. You can watch the urangutans get fed at the rehabilitation center. Next door is a sun bear rehabilitation center, which is also pretty cool. I also did some hiking at the Rainforest Discovery Center.

Next on the trip was the Lower Kinbatangan River. A three-day two-night package with mosquito-laden nature walks and mosquito-free river cruises revealed all manner of wildlife: long tailed macaques, proboscis monkeys, silver leaf monkeys, egrets, baby and adult crocodiles, hornbills, osprey, an orangutan, kingfishers, Pacific swallows, storm storks, Oriental darters, eagles, and more. There's a lot of beautiful nature in this country.

My last two days were in Kota Kinabalu, the state capitol. There is a museum, plus some mosques to see. Malaysia is not famous for its food, but if you look carefully there's tasty stuff to be found. I had some great seafood meals, and there are many good coffee shops to be found. A leisurely stroll through the city was a nice way to end the vacation.

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USA

2022-08-12

It was nice to get to the U.S. after three years. At the beginning of COVID-19, international travel was absurdly difficult. After a while things settled down, but until the spring of 2022, the Japanese government's immigration policy required a length quarantine upon return to Japan. It's hard to do that unless you work from home, which I don't, but now the rules are more relaxed so it was time to take a jaunt across the Pacific and see how America is faring.

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I went to North Dakota along with George and Cora. Betsy and Dex had a Christmas party despite the seasonal inconsistency. We also went to see the Sound of Music at Frostfire, rode some bikes, and went tubing on the Red Lake River. It worked out well.

After five days in the upper Midwest, I flew to Seattle, and Marjorie and Andrew and I took a road trip down through Corvalis, where we met up with Ross for an afternoon, and then west to the coast from Newport down to Arcata before slowly working our way back to Portland. There was so much cool stuff. I don't know what the best place was, because it was all good, but the two locations I'd wanted to go for decades were Redwood National Park and Crater Lake, and they lived up to the hype.

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On Marjorie and Andrew's last day, we drove up to Portland and saw Toby for few hours. Then I went camping and hiking near Mt. Hood for a couple of days. And finally I drove back to Seattle, saw Matt and Diana and Nash for a day, met AJ for lunch, and flew back to Japan.

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