The Big Island of Hawaii (June 28, 2012)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A leisurely morning was in order after our taxing hike the day before. Kris lazed around in the hammock at the Jungle Hideout.

As suggested by Liz, we focused on the Puna side of the island.

We drove quite a bit with our first stop being the Pohoiki warm spring at the Isaac Hale Beach Park. You walk along the beach in the wooded area to a secluded natural volcano heated warm spring. Kris tried to open a coconut along the way.

I was fairly shocked when we got to the warm spring to find that I'd brought Kris to a drug-using naked orgy hot springs with shrimp. (Not pictured below...three people, one unclothed.) You mostly couldn't tell the older lady in the hot spring was naked, but she kept trying to have a conversation with me. It was strange. Now that I think about was strange that we decided to get near the hot spring, but I honestly didn't really register the lack of clothing until we'd asked if we could crash their party.

Next stop was MacKenzie Beach.

We decided to skip the clothing optional Kehena Beach and continued along to the end of the road to view the Kalapana Lava field. This beach was considered one of the seven national treasures of Hawaii until the lava took over the beach in 1990.

A few brave souls still surfed there was their puppies slept and waited for them.

Although it was new sand, the beach really had some gorgeous black sand.

It'll be a beautiful beach again one day.

On the way back, I was accosted by a Rastafarian former New Yorker who tried to sell us some jewelry - but not very hard. He mostly was bored and wanted to chat.

Next up was the Star of the Sea Painted Church which was saved by the locals from the eruption in 1990.

I had read that there was a really great Mexican food restaurant in a town called Pahoa. Kris hadn't had Mexican food in a long time, so we decided to go there for a late lunch. Pahoa is an interesting town perfectly safe during the day but known for having some drug issues. They do, however, have an incredible restaurant in Luquins Mexican Restaurant. It might not look special, but it was very tasty.

Despite the rain, we stopped at the Kaumana Caves. It isn't all that often that you can explore caves without a ticket office and safety paths. I went down into the caves, but I let Kris do the brunt of the exploring. I didn't trust myself not to get injured.

With this cave, you pull to the side of the road, go down a ladder with a warning sign, and you're left to your own devices.

As you can tell, it was hard to maneuver around with a flashlight, camera, and body. It was good that I waited in the larger section of the cave for Kris.

Our last and longest journey of the day was Mauna Kea - a two million year old volcano standing 13,796 feet above sea level. The peak of Mauna Kea is the highest point in the U.S. state of Hawaii, and, something I found a bit fascinating is that most of Mauna Kea is below sea level. In fact, when measured from its oceanic base, Mauna Kea stands at more than 33,500 feet significantly taller than the elevation of Mount Everest above sea level.

Anyway, getting up to the visitors center of Mauna Kea is tricky for the rental car, and going above the visitors center is against rental car regulations. Everyone is required to acclimate at the summit for at least 30 minutes, so it's busy.

We got to the Mauna Kea visitors center and already suffered from chills. I couldn't fathom attempting to go higher. We weren't properly attired (excursions to the top provide parkas) for the summit and would be breaking our contract with the rental car company. Kris was likely disappointed, but he relented since people only go up there to see the sun set then come back to the visitors center to actually look through telescopes. We were already above the cloud line, so the clarity was phenomenal.

When we were flying in, we actually saw the observatories on the top of Mauna Kea, and, while I've already put this photo in the last blog entry, I'm going to use it again. If you look really closely, you can some of the 13 major observatories currently on Mauna Kea. *Mauna Kea's summit is one of the best sites in the world for astronomical observation due to factors like a dry climate, clarity of the level of dark and lack of atmospheric pollution, and being above the cloud line.

We arrived at the center just in time for a great rainbow and to see the masses of people who had paid more than $200 a piece to get to go to the summit of Mauna Kea.

The line I had to wait in for the bathroom was insane and so cold!

While I stood in line for the restroom, Kris went exploring.

After the hordes of people had left, Kris and I had time to look through a few telescopes already set out to view the moon and sun. Then we headed up to observe an incredible sunset from a nearby hill that afforded phenomenal views. Since we were not properly attired, I put on all of the clothes I had with me in the car. I wore my light jacket, my thin raincoat, and, because it offered some warmth, a beach towel. I might have looked strangely stylish, but I was super glad I had that towel later.

Being above the cloud-line was a bit surreal.

Kris had on even less clothing than I did, so he took a break from the wind whenever and wherever possible.

I got so wrapped up in the color changes during sunset I forgot to photograph it.

Regardless, we trekked back down to the visitors center for some $1 hot chocolate and some time with the telescopes they set up.

As dark progresses, they change the focal points of the telescopes. While waiting, we heard a great joke.

Q: What are the two seasons of Arkansas?
A: Winter and road construction

While waiting, you also want to get out of the cold. Inside of the visitors center, they play science documentaries. I tried desperately to fall asleep during a presentation about string theory. So awful! Kris, however, was captivated. He'd apparently already viewed the same show at home...when he could have chosen to watch anything!

Finally it was dark enough, and the wait proved worthwhile. From the sparkles seen in the sky with the naked eye to the treats in the telescopes, the trip to Mauna Kea is something everyone should do.

The highlight for me, however, had to be that we got to see Saturn and a very detailed Moon through a telescope. It was unbelievable to see Saturn! Kris actually successfully photographed what we were seeing through the viewfinder. I still don't know how he did that.

Isn't Saturn incredible??? You know it looks like this, but it's so unreal to see it yourself through a telescope.

Our trip back to our lodging was all descending down Mauna Kea. We saw the gas mileage gauge turn over back to zero several times as it went past 999 miles per gallon. What great gas economy you get if you are always going downhill!

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1 Response
  1. Anonymous Says:

    You need the mittens wherever you go, even in Hawaii! How do you manage to find the coldest spots?
    Cool shots,esp Kris' glasses and of course I loved the blog!