Desert Islands and Bowls of Ramen

I’m in the middle of a 6-day trip flying between Honolulu and Tokyo. We were flying a typical “great circle” route from San Francisco (SFO) to Tokyo/Narita (NRT) the other day when the ubiquitous undercast cleared. Whenever it does, and it really is rare, yet seems to be happening more often lately, and I don’t want to think too hard on why, I get to see some fascinating sights. Here’s the big picture of where the following photos were taken. You’ll notice a little place marker in the middle of the Aleutian Islands chain, just east of Adak.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 4.10.02 PMZoomed in a bit.
Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 4.09.53 PMYou can see the clouds in the background (how this region usually looks when I fly over it) with no land at all visible. But soon they retreated enough to reveal great views of Adak and…
IMG_5708IMG_5713Then…look at that–a tiny island with a crater in the center! Wow! I really had to zoom my iphone6 in to get any detail. Cool!!! What was this place? Was that fresh water in the center? Was it warm from thermal heating? From an ancient volcano? It looked completely scrubbed and desolate, and I wondered why, as wouldn’t it be the perfect seasonal habitat for seabirds and other life? Since I couldn’t rappel down from 37,000 feet to explore I scribbled down the approximate latitude and longitude and when I got to Tokyo I googled it.IMG_5711It was a real place and it even had a name: Kasatochi Island! With a violent and tragic past, I learned. Prior to 2008, it was green and beautiful, considered by many to be the most picturesque of the Aleutian Islands. Before disaster struck…Kasatochi_Island_crater_lake,_August_14,_2004“Before the 2008 eruption, it was steep, rugged and it’s vegetation was dense, low-growing and dominated by many species of grasses and forbes making it similar to other Aleutian Islands. What set Kasatochi apart was the diversity and abundance of seabirds that nested there each summer. Most notably, Kasatochi supported a colony of about 250,000 least and crested auklets, one of only seven such colonies in the Aleutian chain. The large numbers of seabirds attracted a variety of avian predators such as bald eagles and peregrine falcons. Kasatochi was also notable in that it supported a rookery of the endangered Steller sea lion.” –Alaskan USCS483398488 Auklet_flock_Kasatochi_Island Wow… And now this… :(
IMG_5711After Kasatochi, it was onward to crossing north of Adak and eventually south of Russian airspace to Japan. Those who know me well know I LOVE traditionally made Japanese ramen. This was my dinner in a little noodle shop in Minato District in downtown Tokyo. A creamy, slightly spicy surprisingly good broth for a tiny hole-in-the-wall place with noodles and some vegetables. I added ground sesame seeds and a little more chili. I went early, before it got crowded with “salarymen” after work, because while I love ramen, I hate eating it to the sound of loud slurping, the proper way to eat the noodles, apparently.
IMG_5715 Funny, my breakfast looked a lot like my dinner!

Omelette bar? No thanks. Give me the noodle bar. I made Udon noodles (at the hotel breakfast buffet) with an egg and loads of vegetables, hot chili, cilantro, sesame oil, and lemon to flavor, and one meat-ish ball plopped in, because why not? A thing of beauty…and it tasted amazing, too! IMG_5717
I’ll write a post about Honolulu next. Until then, be good…


Alaska the beautiful

Another crossing where the rare absence of cloud cover revealed amazing views! This is Kodiak Island and the region south of King Salmon (Katmai National Park). Less than a half hour after I took these pics the clouds were back and over Russia we went.



Here’s  map of the approximate route. The crooked blue line is my fault–finger drawing! :)

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UFO-ish Lightshow

I was treated to the most beautiful and unusual phenomenon crossing the Pacific heading east at dawn. A halo formed around the sun with a Saturn-like ring of light through the center. The two flares on either side resembled UFOs/flying saucers. Here are a few photos, the left side, the center, and the right side. No photoshop, no “lense flare.” It’s what we saw, except it was all much more dramatic in person. IMG_5412



Seoul abloom!

I missed the cherry blossom height this year in Seoul due to bad weather when I was here and they were blooming, but on my hike in the hills around downtown Seoul I was treated to what looks to be the peak of the rhododendron season. Unbelievably pretty!IMG_5401 Not the rhodos but striking yellow blooms with a backdrop of skyscrapers.IMG_5402 IMG_5403 IMG_5404 IMG_5405

Rhododendrons even along the highways:IMG_5406 IMG_5407 Post-hike Korean spicy noodles from the train station. Yum!