Meadow Lake Provincial Park, Day 2

Cold, eeew it is cold. Numbers say it is 10 but the air says it is a lot colder. Thought I could get out of the tent and survive with my fuzzy on, but nope. Touque, fuzzy, anorak, socks, mitts, and I’m still borderline. Debbie won’t even get out of her sleeping bag. Only clouds in the sky, sun isn’t even glowing through. The plan for the day, stay warm.

Get up late so breakfast is late and the moving about warms the extremities. Food also helps. Think a short hike would extend the heating and we are off to explore the campground. Seems the road in front of the tent is on a hiking trail. Figuring if we follow the signs it may take us somewhere and we know for sure the boat launch is in that direction so we can’t get too lost.

Murray Doell Campground Beach

Murray Doell Campground Beach

As our hike progress we gather more and more information. Mostly from signs but we do run into the only other inhabitants of the campground and they, being experienced Meadow Lakers, fill us in a bit more. The Boreal Trail we are on seems to extend from one end of the park to the other. This we discover by driving to the far end of the park and finding trail remnants all along the way. Next we are in a portion of Canada’s boreal forest. And that is what the trail is highlighting. Trembling aspens, bears, loons, tamarack, deer and assorted other flora and fauna. Most of which we have seen in our travels. Including  2 bear cubs. We were in the car so in no danger even if mom was about.

bear cub

Bear Cub #2

The park is also very popular destination as we stop at 5 or 6 different lakes and everyone of them has a campground. At least 3 of them, including the one we are at have over 120 spots. I thinks it would be very crowded mid summer. I don’t think any one has much over the others. The Murray Doell has a small beach but the camp sites are separated nicely and there is ton of room and personally the one I like best. The Greig Lake site is a little more developed with paved roads, a large family area and beach, but the sites are a little more open and less private.

deer crossing

Deer Crossing

At Kimball Lake the sites are huge, big enough for a large RV and a boat, the roads are paved and it has a very big nice beach. Not much of a place for tenters but good for families and trailer haulers. A much smaller campground is at Matheson Lake as there is no electricity, and the beach is butt ugly.

I’m not sure I could swim in any of the lakes. They look clean enough and there is not much seaweed but just looking at them I can see how cold they are. This is, after all, approaching northern Canada, and I guess it is almost autumn. It seems to be a place for boaters and fishers. The lakes would be wonderful if you had a canoe or a kayak and I’m sure there are plenty of kids that spend countless hours in them but for us it seems like a good place to chill.

The temperature at the moment is ensuring we chill physically but this would be the time of year to come and rest. By the look of what is here summer would not be a time to get away from the daily routine.

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Meadow Lake Provincial Park, Saskatchewan

Some sage advice. Don’t travel highway 28 east for the next while. Start out today and leave early on what is to be about a four hour trip. Yeah well, we do not travel more than a few kilometres without having to slow to 50 and stop and wait. We are on the road for an hour and a half and maybe traverse 50K. It is like that all the way to the Fort McMurray turn off. Home free right. Nope there is still a couple more sections of the road that need work.

There has been talk of improving the road north but I wasn’t following it closely and I did not realize they are doing it all at once. Must need votes pretty bad to go at it like they are.

We do get to the Saskatchewan border eventually. From there on it is clear sailing on very good roads actually. It is kind of odd but the traffic is lighter on this side. There are fewer people but the border is just an imaginary line and there are no guards to impede crossing but the plates change and the numbers drop.

Our goal is Meadow Lake Provincial Park. Who knows why. We decided to go camping this week and that is where I picked. Haven’t been to Sask. much and I hear the Meadow Lake park is a nice place. Make the turn and it is on to the gravel. I’m OK with gravel roads but it is night and day from the brand new asphalt we just left. We head to the south side of the lake first. Debbie was on Google maps and noticed a sandy beach on this shore so we thought we might scope it out.

Weird, the gate house to the park is all boarded up. There is a fee to enter the park but no one to pay. A shrug of the shoulders and on we go. There is a residence close so we stop to ask the fellow about the campground, where we pay, if we have to pay, and assorted other things. The friendly fellow tells us the Provincial Park campground is on the north shore and the park is closed so he is not sure if we have to pay or not, or if the campground is even open. We decided to drive over there and take a look.

Entering the campground is much like the southside experience. There is a building but it is all boarded up. This building however has a few notes on it. First and foremost the campground is on self registration mode. Find a spot and self pay at the kiosk. Debbie want so go down to the lake side and see if there are any spots. Spots? It is more like are there any campers! We can have our pick and there is no line of traffic behind us waiting to jump on the good spot we bypass. There are a few trailers here but no people, no vehicles. Just us. Even the campground hosts have vacated but left their trailer.

Our campsite at the Murray Doell Campground

Our campsite at the Murray Doell Campground

Quiet and I mean quite! A chipmunk chirp here and a goose honk there but that is it. Oh ya, the military planes from the Cold Lake base flying back and forth. But only intermittently.

Get set up and head to the self check booth and lo and behold there is one more vehicle and campers, so there are two. 120 camp sites and 2 are occupied. Kind of spooky really.

murray doell campground

As darkness fall the loons wail their haunting cry and all the creatures including us know it is soon time to turn in.

loons at murray doell campground

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A Perfect Last Day of Diving

The day starts out with two turtles and a cute box fish swimming near the boat dock and then dolphins in the entry to the harbour. A couple of them swim our bow wave right underneath us. It is already a stellar day.

Our first dive is at Garden Eel Cove. D, our dive master, guides us north towards a point. On the way, a spotted eagle ray swims by and then a turtle cruises by close enough for photos and videos. The point is full of fish. Great schools of all sorts of fish. It is a rare sight to see so many. We take our time gazing up and around and down at all the sea life.

Kona fish

Our second dive is at Crescent Beach, a spot popular for getting glimpses of the resident dolphins. D lays out the plan to get the best opportunity to see the dolphins that are, in fact, in the area. His plan and our patience pays off and we are graced with the dolphins swimming by us so close we feel like we could reach out and touch them.

Dolphins off Kona

We doddle back to the boat, hoping they will swim by again. B, Murray and I stay under as long as we can to enjoy this last day of stellar diving which has been one of the best of this trip.

 

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Drift Diving

Today, the big boat, Hale Kai, is full so we get chosen to go on Imi Kai, the smaller more agile boat. There are four guest divers, dive master S and boat captain S. We get to do two drift dives today!

The first dive starts at a dive site called Outhouse. Yes, there is actually an outhouse built right at the shore, and thus the dive site was called this many years ago.

It is a very relaxing dive, not much current so we leisurely kick our way north at about 60 feet below the surface. We discover a leaf scorpion (Yeah B!), a stocky hawk fish and a huge gathering of assorted fish.

drift diving off kona

Our second drift dive is off the deep mooring at Pyramid Pinnacles and again we drift north. Right away we spy four spotted eagle rays gliding past us but not close enough for photos. It is a dive for invertebrates – shrimp and crabs. Dive Master S scoops up an orange hairy hermit crab to show us and this fellow is adorable.

Orange Hairy Hermit Crab

Orange Hairy Hermit Crab

After yesterday’s dive with the three goof balls, this day’s diving was excellent – calm, unhurried and relaxing.

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Karma

The day starts with B and Debbie standing on the lanai and spotting a pod of spinner dolphins swimming by. Not even on the boat yet and the omens are good.

D asks us what we want to see today and Debbie says she needs a good picture of a leaf scorpion fish and wanted to see a spotted coral blenny. First dive and we have covered off both. Neither of which are easy to find but the karma is good and we go with it. Second dive we find a couple more leaf scorpions and another spotted blenny. There are a ton of other fish but these are the highlights.

Leaf Scorpion

Leaf Scorpion

This afternoon we bag another beach. Debbie and I have been to Mauna Kea before but B has to see it. It is one of the nicest beaches on the island. Only thing is it must be accessed across private property so it is up to the man at the front gate as to whether you get in or not. No problem with him and we are in. The beach is big and the sand goes far into the water. There is a good snorkel area near and we make use of it and the sand.

The Hawaiian gods aligned with us today. We have yet to see a tiger shark but the other wishes come true and we will sleep easy tonight.

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Full Boat

Like neighbours, you don’t get to choose your dive partners. Today there is max people on the boat so we have to share our dive master with 3 others. It is B’s dive 100 so we are hoping for a good day.

We get in the water and within the first 2 minutes we know the day is going to be trying. The 3 other divers may not be newbies but they are not very good divers and are absolutely lousy at following a dive plan. Before we get in the water D outlines what is going to happen underwater and the behaviour he expects. As we progress D alters the dive plan because the behaviour of our companions is quite frankly endangering the entire group. The renegades’ diving skills are not up to snuff and they can’t follow directions.  The fortunate part is B, Debbie and I are much better on air consumption than any of the other 3 so we get 1/2 a dive after they are vanquished to the surface.

Frog Fish

Frog Fish

We did however find a few interesting things for B’s 100. The first thing is a frog fish. Orange in color. Really kind of cool. B has not seen too many and has a hard time distinguishing it but Debbie took a lot of pics and B is able to figure it out. B spots a snowflake eel. Really pretty and not that common so worth a minute of inspection. A couple more leaf scorpions are found and best of all for B, D finds a turtle sleeping under a cave so we all have a good look at it, before it wakes up and swims to the surface.

Turtle

Because of the guys we were with we did not have a good day for finding things. We could not get to the areas where we can find creatures and D had little time to do his magic and make things appear. This has been the worst two dives of the past week. There has to be the worst two but these take the prize hands down. Hope we don’t have the same company the next couple of days.

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Ring of Fire

Hawaii is part of the ‘Ring of Fire’. Been here twice before and have not been to the volcano. Today is the day. We cannot hike to the high peak and frankly since the big attaction is to view the sunrise I am not that interested in getting up a 2 am to make it to the top in time for the event. We opt for a trip to the Hawaii Volcanos National Park.

Halema'uma'u Crater

Halema’uma’u Crater

B and Deb want to sleep in so we don’t get started until 8 but we leave close. Two hours of driving later and we pass through the park gates. First stop, the visitors center. The displays are OK but the ranger/hosts that are very informative and give us an idea what the park has to offer. There is a loop road around the attractions but it is no longer a loop as 1/2 of it is closed. No explanation, just closed. We had spent $25 to get into the park so we thought we should a least see what there is. The displays at the Jagger Museum are really good and are quite informative about volcanos and Mauna Loa in particular.

Kilauea Iki Trail

Kilauea Iki Trail

We choose to do a 2 hour hike that skirts the rim of the Kilauea Iki Crater, created by the 1954 eruption, and then dips into the crater itself. Interesting walk. There is a very informative self guide book necessary to enhance the tour, otherwise it would just be a walk with no more purpose than to say we had done it.

Kilauea Iki Trail

Kilauea Iki Trail

At the end of the walk, when back on the rim of the crater there is a lava tube one can  traverse. To me it was a dark tunnel. Frankly I did not see the point of walking through it.

Three days ago we had another brush with the ring of fire. We were under the surface of the ocean diving when we all heard the noise of a boat passing overhead. Only we were not in an area where boats should pass over head, we did not hear it coming or going just overhead, and it was unbelieveably loud making it sound like the biggest boat that had ever passed above any of us. Nothing much was said when we arrive at the surface because we all talk about what is seen and the conditions of the dive. The next day K arrives and tell us there was a 4.4 magnitude earthquake while we were diving and that is what the boat sound was. Weird.

At home we put up with cold and snowy winters but on the edge of the Pacific Ocean residents and travelers alike have to be prepared to deal with earthquakes and volcanos. We experienced both in a short span of time. Neither was life threating but both are subtle reminders of what could be.

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3 dive day

The blog for this island is all about diving. That is what we are here to do and that is what we are doing. Every once in a while the dive shop does what is call a long range dive day. The idea is for more experienced divers to go farther afield. The diving is a little harder and the day is definately long. We start at 6:45 and get home around 4:30.

Pyramid Butterflyfish

Pyramid Butterflyfish

The diving is excellent today. Minor current on one dive and absolutely still water on the other two dives. We see cool stuff all day. Frog fish, haven’t see too many of those yet this trip. A rare one called a “painted” frogfish.

Painted Frogfish

Painted Frogfish

There are several Blue Dragon Nudi’s. Have never seen one before and today we see at least a dozen. A red spot nudi, not very common. A few Viper Eels, a couple Dwarf Eels, a Curious Worm Fish or two, a few schools of Pyamid Butterfly Fish, Fishegg Eating Nudis, and a single Flame Angel.

Golden Lace Nudibranch

Golden Lace Nudibranch

We get to swim into a couple of shallow caves and wind our way in and around a myriad of coral heads. One of which is named the Matterhorn. Guess what that one looks like. No snow though.

Dwarf Eel

Dwarf Eel

It is an absolulely steller day of diving.

Blue Dragon Nudibranch

Blue Dragon Nudibranch

 

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Night Diving

Yesterday evening B, Murray and I go out on a night dive. Now I am not a big fan of night dives – dark, cold, scary, dark, more dark, but Murray convinced us to do this one because the dive folks kept saying the night dives in Kona were great. Yeah, I’ve heard THAT before and been sorely disappointed.

Not this time.

There are just four guest divers and Luke, our dive Jedi. The fourth diver, R, is from St. Albert, a 20 minute drive from our house. Four Canucks, how lucky is that! At least we all talked the same language, eh.

Kona Dive Company ensures it is full dark before entering the water, which other dive shops around the world do not do. The creatures that come out at night are slow moving and it takes them time to come out, so we get a leisurely dive briefing, giving them plenty of time to come out of there daytime hiding holes.

After we descend, we start to see lobsters and crabs and shrimp and eels. I realize that, although it is dark down there, with the five dive lights and an extra red light that Luke carries, it is not as scary as I imagined. I was enjoying myself looking at the unusual creatures. Murray and I spy a small octopus moving along the bottom and wave the others over. The octopus has very long legs and a small body and is gorgeous. He gets nervous and moves under a overhang, evicting the fish that is there already.

Many of the fish are still out and I silently entreat them to go hide as they are fodder for eels and larger prey. Run! Hide! Go to bed!

It is a dive that every diver coming to Kona should experience. The night reef is amazing.

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A Turtle of a Day!

On first dive today, a hawksbill turtle swam by to chew on the fin of H, our dive master. He was quite intent on tasting purple fin. Murray captured some amazing video of this fellow, but you will have to wait to view it.

After our dives, we decide to go to the beach and bay where everyone says there are turtles. It is a hot walk from where we parked the car on the highway to the beach. Murray and I jump in the water right away while B watches the bags.

A three legged turtle swims by. I wonder how he lost his back leg. Poor guy. but he doesn’t seem to concerned with not having the right number of limbs.

After B has her snorkel, we walk north on the beach and find two turtle sunning themselves. They must get cold in the water at depth, and so lay on the hot sand to warm up.

Turtle

We accidently take a walk around a greenish looking lagoon trying to find our way back to the car, and come across a number of other turtles,  both in the water and out. Seems like the time of day to be sunning, if you are a turtle. What a turtle of a day!

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