Category Archives: Featured

A recent adventures update

The time has come to return to Honolulu on the final leg of our most recent epic travel adventure.

For the past three weeks, James and I have had the most incredible series of adventures with some of the best travel companions and friends we could wish for. Our trip kicked off with a one day adventure in NYC with one of my earliest and best childhood friends, Matthew. We explored the #highline and reveled in the gorgeous summer weather. Next stop was London, where we were welcomed to stay at the lovely flat of our favorite British blogger and proverbial “hostess with the mostest” Carla (check out her cool blog Zoubisou). After a truly amazing five day stay in the UK (which will be recapped in an upcoming post), we were off again to Bergen, Norway to rendezvous with our intrepid traveling companions Emily and Pat and received the warmest of welcomes by our favorite Norwegian, Mari. Not only did she open her home to the four of us, but she took on the roles of tour guide, translator, navigator and entertainer! (In traditional Norweigan national attire no less- but that’s a story for another day.) Bergen is a beautiful city and I look forward to sharing our adventures there after I have a chance to process some photos at home to illustrate the stories.

After Bergen, our party of four headed north, flying first to Bødo and then boarding the Hurtigruten MS Løfoten to the magical islands of Løfoten, north of the arctic circle. The awesomeness of our experiences here under the midnight sun are hard to put into words, so I will wait to share more details when the photos can lend some visual punch to my experiences of awe and joy.

After what seemed like the blink of an eye, we were all back in Oslo for our final night before parting ways. James, Pat, Emily and I stayed together sharing laughter, wine and the History Channel’s #vikings until the last possible minute (James and I grabbed the last train of the night from Oslo back to our airport hotel).

A flight from Oslo to Newark and a long overnight layover allowed for one more night with Matthew and his wonderful husband Bobby. We managed a nap and got to sit in on a Mathieu Blue rehearsal for an upcoming performance of his on Monday! It was surreal and wonderful to be a part of the behind-the-scenes with an awesome band and creative team as they launch my best friend’s lifelong dream of performing his original songs (and some rocking covers too) live in New York City. The night wasn’t complete until we grabbed our NYC slices to go and hopped in a cab back to Harlem.

Fast forward to the current moment, and James and I are side by side aboard our #united flight back to Honolulu. I reflect on the past few weeks with a heart full of friends and adventures and can’t wipe the grin off my face. What a trip it’s been. The sharing has just begun my friends, there are stories and memories galore to explore. But first, two more episodes of Vikings, a blanket and a nap are necessary to top it all off.

#summerinnorway was #epic

-Meagz

Atop Reinebringen
Atop Reinebringen Photo credit: James Brogan
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Hot springs, long drives and surreal places in wild, wild Wyoming

Thermopolis.

Sounds like a made up place, right? Some odd mishmash of science and Greek, with a dash of fantasy. Then you find out it exists (and it’s a tiny town in Wyoming) and it sounds even more strange and unbelievable.

My husband James was born and raised in Wyoming, but I met him in Hawai’i and most people would lose a bet to guess his origins. That’s likely because there are a lot of people (and places!) in Wyoming that regularly defy the stereotypical Wyomingite. Thermopolis is one of these places.

Everytime I visit I am surprised and delighted by the uniqueness of Wyoming; a place where the west is still pretty wild, just not always in the way you think it is.

James and his family have been telling me stories of their childhood trips to “Thermop” since I first met him/them nearly ten years ago. I didn’t realize at the time they were actually telling me about a town called Thermopolis (I thought for a long time it was a theme park, like Wyoming’s version of Six Flags). So on a recent visit to the Equality State, we take a short drive to make the introduction. Just a mere 2.5 hours from Casper (a “short” drive for Wyoming natives- the state is HUGE), the trip to Thermopolis is through a whole lot of… open space. There are small little townships scattered through the plains (some with populations of less than 50 people), and antelope. And cows. And fences. And tons and tons of sky. As a New Hampshire native, I think all of it’s brilliant. James yawns.

Then we drive into the Wind River Canyon (the yawning stops immediately) and we are surrounded by towering canyon walls, some as high as 2,500 feet high, containing rock formations dating all the way to the precambrian era. That’s almost 3 million years ago. Yeah, for real. The Burlington railway snakes along the river and we scan every ledge for a sighting of the many Bighorn sheep that make these ancient cliffs their home.

Wind River Canyon. Photo by M.C.Brogan, Shutter Force Photography
Wind River Canyon. Photo by M.C.Brogan, Shutter Force Photography 2015

After exiting the canyon we emerge shortly into the town of Thermopolis, the home of the world’s largest mineral hot springs and Wyoming’s first state park.

We were able to make a reservation at a renovated historical building (now operated by Best Western) located right within the park. Perfect. We check in and make our way over to the Star Plunge, one of three recreational establishments that utilize the hot spring mineral water to fill their pools, water slides and vapor room. I don’t know if a water slide will ever appeal to me more than one with 90-100 degree water flowing inside it. There’s a faint smell of sulfur in the air (mineral hot springs, remember?) but I was prepared for it, and to be honest, it smells a heck of a lot better than Yellowstone. I’ve got a sensitive nose and was pretty worried that I wouldn’t handle the smell well, but it never took away from my good time splashing around all the pools, hot tubs and steam room and before we leave I no longer even notice it.

Thermopolis Hot Springs. Photo by M.C.Brogan, Shutter Force Photography 2015
Thermopolis Hot Springs. Photo by M.C.Brogan, Shutter Force Photography 2015

The late afternoon is spent driving around the plains within the park, where herds of buffalo and deer roam about. We eat an early dinner at Las Fuentes Mexican Food and order the local favorite, a breaded chicken breast with aioli corn and raspberry chipotle sauce, topped off with a massive (real fruit) blackberry margarita. I was thrilled.. After dinner, the calories need some walking off, so we drive back to the park, bringing our cameras down past the Smoking Waters.

Smoking Waters, Thermopolis, WY. Photo by M.C.Brogan, Shutter Force Photography 2015
Smoking Waters, Thermopolis, WY. Photo by M.C.Brogan, Shutter Force Photography 2015

We wander across the “swinging bridge” for some awesome views of the mineral springs waterfall melting down into the Big Horn River as the sun sets. After the stars came out, we go night shooting and have fun (except for the little incident that involves me attempting to sneak up on a deer and instead stepping into a hole in the dark and tumbling awkwardly down a hill onto the pavement, the fall punctuated by curses. Oops.)

Frozen Hot Springs. Photo by M.C.Brogan, Shutter Force Photography 2015
Frozen Hot Springs. Photo by M.C.Brogan, Shutter Force Photography 2015

The morning of our departure we successfully find the bison in the park (check!) and then make for the rock shop as we headed out of town. Ava’s Silver and Rock Shop is not to be missed. Even if you are just driving through on your way to/from Yellowstone, make a pit stop here to view some amazing gems and learn more about geology in 40 minutes than you might in half a college semester. Discover petrified wood from the ashes of the last Yellowstone explosion, geodes that glow under blacklight and even find fossils of dinosaur bone marrow. Ava designs beautiful jewelry and Eddy has been a geologist for over 30 years. He was even part of the team in the early 90s that discovered over 35 dinosaur skeletons in the region, many of whom are found in the Wyoming Dinosaur Center right in Thermopolis. You won’t want to leave!

Thermopolis meets the Big Horn River. Photo by James Brogan, Shutter Force Photography 2015
Thermopolis meets the Big Horn River. Photo by James Brogan, Shutter Force Photography 2015

When I go back to “Thermop”, I will be sure to return to the mineral baths, sign up for a whitewater raft through the Wind River Canyon and maybe even do a day of digging for Dinosaurs. It’s a small, unusual and wonderful place that totally validates its strange name: Thermopolis, Wyoming. Go visit! -Meagz

I Got Rickrolled at My Own Wedding

November 10, 2012. James and I planned for nearly two years to make our nuptials something truly special to us. During those 2 years we attended a combined total of 9 weddings. Needless to say, we were feeling pretty seasoned in the weeks leading up to our own. Pretty much feeling like Wedding Warriors actually. So between the 2 years of planning, the assistance of our incomparable on-island wedding planner and our warrior mindset, we were feeling ready for our big night.

The truth is, nothing you can do ahead of time can truly prepare you for the axis-bending experience of your own wedding. It feels like a surreal vortex. It’s impossible to describe the multitude of unique emotions: the lightness of pure joy counterbalancing the weight of your awe and the depth of the humility you feel. The emotions combine with a warping of time and space, where everything happens at lightning speed but you are somehow able to zero-in on moments that went on and on into the night.

It was awe-some.

Our ceremony was magical. We picked a location that was earth-shatteringly stunning. Our wedding planner Nadia added the perfect touches to make it incredibly romantic. Our most favorite people in the world filled it up. We then threw in some unconventionality: we began the ceremony with each member of the wedding party ‘walking’ down the aisle of the ruins to the tune of their own chosen ‘theme song.’ We thought it’d make everyone relax a little and bring smiles all around. Instead, it was like a powder keg explosion of awesomeness. Our friends came unleashed at each solo entrance, dancing their faces off with their own unique styles. I thought my heart was going to burst with a mixture of delight, pride, and good old-fashioned, soul-deep laughter. From Macklemore to Queen to Steve Wonder, each new song brought new antics and a new level of delight. We were like little kids, reveling in the magic of music and friends, everyone downright giddy with the fun of it all. And yes, my little sister, ever the clever one, finished off her Matron of Honor entrance with a Rickroll just as she hit the altar. It’s a good thing I had a long walk ahead of me, so I had time to compose my hysterical laughter and take the walk with composure, as it was the one moment I wanted to savor seriously: the chance to walk with my Dad, my first hero, toward the man I’m going to spend a lifetime trying to deserve. We shared words that meant the world, our sisters shared messages of love and my beloved Godfather read our favorite message from A.A. Milne about being two balloons with our direction going up. We shared our commitments to each other, our dear friend Trevor bound us to each other by the power invested in him by, as he likes to say, “the internet,” and then James kissed me with a sincerity women (and men!) the world over spend lifetimes longing for, complete with a shower of flower petals and thunderous applause.

Magic. Brought to us that day by the letters B and C, our families, friends, music, St. Lucia, and yes, even a little Rick Astley.

-M

*Photo by the incredible Samuel Wright

Kaua’i Great Eight- Adventures

The Great Eight: ‘cuz Top-Ten lists are tacky

It’s where Hawaiians go to retreat from Waikiki; great for honeymooners who aren’t looking for social ‘over-action’; movie buffs go here to tremble at the thought of a raptor lurking on the opposite side of the palm fronds. Kaua’i was my first island explored in the Hawaiian chain, and as such holds a special place in my heart. Kaua’i=the Hawai’i your imagination conjures.

Great Eight listology

for the Garden Isle:

1. See the Nāpali Coast by boat or by air.

By air: Jack Harter Helicopters – do the chopper with NO doors (it’s worth any and all terror that might ensue)

By boat: Holo Holo Boat Tours – Nāpali and Niʻihau Super Tour

2. Hanalei Bay

The best of both worlds; where the mountains meet the beach in a magical way.

The most beautiful bay in the world
Sunset, anyone?

3. Kalalau Trail (if you can’t do the whole shebang, at least make it to Hanakāpīʻai Beach)

11 miles each way. Treacherous terrain. Hawaiian history. Hippies, body aches and a beach at the end worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears. Bring it on! Be sure to get a permit to camp if you’re going the distance (Hawaii Camping Permits). For those that can’t do the complete holy grail of Hawaiian hikes, be sure to do the first two miles, do-able for most skill levels. There you’ll uncover Hanakāpīʻai beach, complete with sea caves, boulder hopping and a freshwater stream. Here you’ll feel a connection to the ancients as you stand agape at the majesty of the landscape.

4. Kipu Falls

Cowabunga! If you’ve ever dreamed of waterfall cliff jumping, this is the spot. Plenty of depth and cheering supporters to witness your ultimate leap. There’s even a ladder to make your way back to the top. There’s a rope swing, but be aware and make sure your halter top string isn’t tangled up with the rope… it will come off at the same time you do. Trust me, it may have happened to someone I know. Or me. I won’t confirm nor deny it. Just go jump off the falls, will ya?

5. Queen’s Bath

Volcanic cliffs form a fantastic landscape for climbing around the coastline in Princeville. A tough spot to find (the hike down originates in a residential neighborhood), Queen’s Bath is a swimming hole fit for royalty. A must see!

6. Waimea Canyon

Mark Twain called it the Pacific Grand Canyon. The landscape is so unique you might have to check yourself that you didn’t travel to some other planet. Don’t forget to keep going past the Canyon however… you’ve got to make it all the way to the end of the road to get the view atop the northwest mountains of the Napali Coast. Breathtaking.

7. Wailua Falls

A quick view from the top is stunning enough, but if you’ve got the gall, climb the slippery slope trail down to the base of this powerful waterfall for the real experience. The water’s cold and the trail is muddy but it’s an experience that will leave you feeling like a true explorer. For an added thrill, climb ’round the backside to feel the ultimate rush. You won’t be able to get all the way behind the falls (too dangerous), but close enough to feel the sting of the spray and remind you how water always wins.

8. Polihale Beach.

The beach at the edge of the world. It takes work to get here, but the scarcity of others and the uniqueness of this beach makes it a must-do for a true adventurer. Don’t forget your slippers though; we didn’t nickname it ‘hot foot beach’ for nothing.

Hey Go Kaua’i!