Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mauna Kea

Th Summit--Mauna Kea
Sunday after church we headed up the big volcano mountain on the Island.  Really there are 2, one barely taller than the other.  We have a great view from our breakfast window each morning of the top of Mauna Kea, the tallest at 13796 feet above sea level.  If you count all the footage below sea level, then it is in fact the tallest mountain in the world.  There are several observatories on top with good reason.  There is a visitor's center at about 9000 feet where they advise you stop and hang out for 30 mins to give your body some time to adjust to the elevation level if you insist on heading to the top.  They really advise you not go further unless you are in excellent health and have 4 wheel drive.  So we hung around for a bit and then headed up to the top.  Once you leave the visitor's center the first 5 miles is not paved.  I don't know if it is to discourage tourists from continuing on and make you think you need a 4 wheel drive or what, but after the 5 miles it is a nice paved road the rest of the way.  Weird. 

The view is incredible.  It was quite cloudy on our way to the visitor's center, but so clear once we continued on and rose above the clouds.  It was windy and cold, it felt like home, but we were in Hawaii.  We brought some warmish clothes, parked the car and headed up the short trail to the summit.  After making it back to the car and warmth, we had only an hour till sunset, so we stuck around as it got busier and busier for the show.  It was beautiful to watch the sun drop below the clouds on the horizon.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011


Friday night after exploring the Kohala beaches and area we attended the Luau in Kona Village in North Kona.  We had a great time and the food was really good , I am always skeptical of a buffet, but this was really good.  I enjoyed the local food that was included such as taro, poi, and taro leaves and fresh fish, and a locoal coconut dessert that I don't even know how to describe, it was like a cross between gelatin and mousse, and yet that doesn't even explain it.   The show was great and I felt like I learned alot about their culture as well.
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Posted by PicasaWe searched the black sand beaches for turtles on day 2,  but we did not see any until later in the week.  We hiked into a little bay area that our travel book noted for having turtles.  It was a beautiful cove, however, the water here was murky and unclear, so it did not make for good snorkeling.  We found some turtles and I tried to follow them in the water, but due to the murkiness they could easily disappear.

On our hike back to the jeep we passed this big turtle hanging out on the beach.

Navigational Heiau

On Day 4 we toured the North Beaches known as the Kohala area.  We hiked out to see this Navigational Heiau.  Supposedly hundreds of years ago these rocks were placed here to navigate to the other Islands, Hawaiian and Polynesian.  David is studying them trying to decide how they line up to point to the Islands.

After visiting the rocks we were hoping to snorkel in the area, but the ocean seemed a little surgy for our comfort, so we went to find somewhere else to see some underwater life.  Since we hadn't seen any turtles yet, we went to a little cove nearby where we did in fact find a few turtles. (see turtle post).  We had a nice day exploring this part of the Island viewing beautiful beaches; Kohala is where the beautiful and large sandy beaches are on this Island.  There are quite a few resorts and vacation villages in Kohala as well.   

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 3

After spending the morning exploring more of Volcanos Park we headed North along the eastern side of the Island.  Along the way we stopped to explore waterfalls and a bit of the city of Hilo.  The east side of the Island is the wet side of the island and while it wasn't raining and hadn't rained in a few days, it was much greener and lusher on this side.  No more miles and miles of barren lava rock. 

We were spending the next 4 nights just outside of Waipi'o Valley in the town of Honoka'a.  This Bed and Breakfast is up in the hills just a few miles outside of the town.  We were glad we had our GPS to help us find the place as it was dark when we arrived and the drive is quite remote.  The roads up the hill are literally one car wide and windy with side walls 4-6 feet high with tree trunks and worn sandy dirt.  It was a fun little drive to and from our accomodations each day.  Since it is in a bit of a remote location it is "off the grid".  David had a great time checking out all the solar panels, generator, and bank of batteries and chargers one morning.

We attended church on Sunday in this area, and were asked if we were just passing thru or where were we staying, and when we said in this town, they all responded with "you're staying in Honoka'a? Really?"  They don't get visitors much.  Most of the tourists stay on the other side of the Island.  But I wanted to be close to Waipi'o Valley so we would have plenty of time to explore it.  (more on that in another post)  Church was great, the ward was very friendly and we enjoyed attending there.

Mauna Ulu

Day 3 brought us back to Volcano's National Park for more fun.  It really is a great park.  We were glad we were staying down on the south point of the Island because we were within an hours drive of the park that we could spend a day and a half exploring it.  Had we been staying in Kona or Kohala we probably would have only spent one day exploring this part of the Island, and there is just so much to see. 

I know this shot looks photo shopped, but it's not, I was really there--Maunu Ulu Crater

On Day one we had driven around the Kilauea Caldera as far the park would let us, they have part of the Caldera (the part you can drive thru) closed off due to high volcanic fumes, but the views off the road are amazing.  So on day 3, we drove the other direction on the road to see Kilauea Iki Crater.  Also amazing.  We hoped to have time to hike it later during the day, but we had other plans for the morning. 

 We headed down the Chain of Craters road with a few stops.  These craters are all areas where lava spewed out and formed cones that have since collapsed or are in the process of collapsing.  We stopped to see some surviving petroglyphs in the area that were carved into the lava rock from when the first people (Tahitians) came to the Island.

This is my jumping the crack action shot

Our next stop was to hike out to the Mauna Ulu Crater.  This crater was an eruption site from 1969 to 1974.  When the lava quit flowing here it was left to be 400 feet deep and 600 feet across. It still steams from ground water and the heat below. The hike out over all the rivers of lava tubes was incredible.  The ground all around the top of the cone was quite fragile.  We wanted to peer in, but also didn't want to cause the edge to crumble and fall in.  It was also quite windy up at the top of the cone.  We were able to find more stable areas to allow us to peak down to the were the lava hardened to form the floor of the crater.

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Green and Black Sand Beaches

We explored 2 black sand and 2 green sand beaches in the afternoon of day 2.  The first 2 beaches we went to were a bit deserted down "the road to the sea".  The first one was a few miles down a lava gravel road.  Only one area required 4 wheel drive to get thru.  It was a black sand beach, which is created when new lava enters the ocean and is beaten to sandy pieces and washed ashore.  It is beautiful, it is soft and so sparkly.  The sand is finite and is only there until a storm brews to wash it away back into the ocean.  We had this first beach to ourselves to explore and enjoy.  The ocean was not swimmable, but it was beautiful to watch the waves wash up and stir the black sand.  Next to this beach were 2 tide pools with coral in them, which is unusual for tide pools.  The waves would crash up and splash over the rocks and into the tide pools.  It was fun to watch.
the 2nd beach was nearby, but for me a nervous 10 minute 4-wheel drive away.  But this is exactly the kind of adventure we rented the jeep for.  David loved maneuvering over the lava rock.  This beach was located in a reserve area and while quite empty of people, we passed a few that either had made it to the beach or were attempting to.  Although David has a fair amount of experience 4 wheel driving I am not fond of it, but I endured to enjoy the beauty of the beach.  This beach was a mixture of green and black sand.  The green sand is formed from a gemstone called Olivine.  The Volcano located of the shore of the Big Island contains a large vein of Olivine, and as the ocean waves pound away at the cone of this volcano it washes ashore this beautiful green sand.

The 3rd beach we visited was Punalu'u Black Sand Beach.  It is the most easily accessible Black sand Beach on the Island and is quite busy.  The down side is the water has a fresh water spring and it is COLD.  But the turtles like the cold water temp, so we went to this beach in search of turtles, but there were none on the beach to be found.  They may have been swimming around in the waters, but it was a little too cold and late in the day for me to swim in.

Our 4th Beach was Green Sand Beach.  Also a well known tourist area, but more difficult to get to.  It is a 2 mile drive through a soft grass/sand reserve in a 4 wheel vehicle, or a hike without it. Again david had a great time 4 wheeling it in the jeep.   And that is only to the top of the beach.  You then have to climb down to the beach.  Luckily our book had details on the easiest trail down.  Many were climbing down a quite steep area that did not look safe.   

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kayaking to Cook Monument

Day 2 brought another busy schedule. Kayaking and snorkeling in the morning and 4 beaches to explore in the afternoon.
We rented a Kayak in the morning and headed out across Kealakekua Bay to the Captain Cook Monument to snorkel along the reef.  It is a healthy reef and there is lots of coral and beautiful fish.  It is a popular snorkeling site and tour groups bring in large party boats full of people.  On our way out to the site we saw a double kayak aways out towards the ocean.  As I continued to watch them, wondering what they were doing so far out I looked back to catch the tail of a whale as it dove into the water.  It was pretty cool.

The reef was beautiful.  It was different then the coral and fish we had seen snorkeling in the Abacos last winter.  While the fish were abundant they were a little lacking in variety. It was interesting swimming around the reef there would be cold spots and you could clearly see the temerature changes in the water or the heat waves of the warmer water.  The cool water is found in many different beaches on the island from fresh water springs.

 I had hoped to see some dolphins in the bay as we kayaked to and from the monument, but no such luck. It was a lovely morning.  Off to the beaches for the afternoon...
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hike to the Lava Flow

After hiking 9 miles to see the actual Volcano from as close as we were willing to get, we stopped nearby for some delicious Thai food.  And then we drove out to the current Lava flow area.  Just a few years ago it was flowing thru the National Park area, but currently it is flowing on private property--if you consider the lava field where your house use to be, private property.  In Hawaii, they do.  The Lava is flowing through the neighborhood of Kalapana.  There are a few homes left in the area, some without running water or working electricity and with lava flowing closer and closer.  The street of course is public property and so the county has set up  a veiwing area for tourists that want to get a look at the lava,  We arrived late in the afternoon and walked down the street, but couldn't see much from where the viewing area was. Technically if you could figure out where the road was (as it is now covered feet deep in lava, you could walk out in the lava field all you want).  In the parking lot there were locals with booths set up offering to take groups out to get close to the lava after dark charging $50-$60 per person.  Some were headed an hours hike to where the lava enters the ocean.   We were tired from hiking all morning and thought the price was a little steep, not to mention that the ocean entry area is more unstable.

Don't know what the black mark on my forehead is.
 We found a local that was taking another couple out thru a friends property and asked if we could come along for a small price.  We paid him $50 for both of us to go.  We hiked a little less then a mile out to find some lava flow.  It moves quite slow and is thick. It is incredibly hot making it difficult to get very close or stay close to it.   It was fun to poke a stick in the lava and it would ignite from the gases mixing.  As we hiked around you could feel the heat emanating from the lava that had flowed the days before as it was cooling.  As I realized how hot the rocks were just a mere 12 inches down, I quickly began looking for a cooler place to walk or stand.
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Hike to Volcano Pu'u O'o

Pu'u o'o is the current active eruption site on the Big Island. Lava has been flowing from this site since 1983. It is just barely within the boundaries of Volcano National Park--which is a fantastic park, there really is so much to see there. (Lucky them, that the Island kept the current flow in their boundary). In the picture, the peak of the hill in the background is Pu'u O'o.  And while it was a cloudy day, that is smoke coming out of the top of the peak.  To hike out for a view of Pu'u O'o from with the Park, is a 9 mile hike.  Our book told us about a trail outside the park that is only 4.5 miles, ending about a mile from the volcano, with a clear view over the vast cooled lava field. ( you can see all the growth that has occured since lava flowed over this field)  When we arrived at the trailhead, there were a couple of signs stating the trail was closed due to dangers in the area.  There was a phone number on the sign (see picture below), which I called, and the lady infomed me that the trail was closed to not go on it, it was dangerous, too many people needing to be rescued.  We had heard from our accomodations and I had read, that people get lost on this trai, so we had come prepared with GPS radio that maps our trail.  We marked our beginnig point and started our hike. 

The trail passes through a beautiful rain forest.  The trees and plants were just amazing in color and size.  In addition to the amazing rainforest it was nice to hike through a forest and not have to worry about snakes or vicious animals on the trail.  There are no snakes in Hawaii and the most viscious animals are wild pigs and cows.   It is amazing to hike through such luscious scenery to end at such a barren lava field.  Halfway thru the trail there was another set of signs stating that the trail was closed, to not go any further.  But we pressed on. The trail was nicely groomed, I really didn't know how people could get lost on it.  Then we reached the end and found another set of the same signs.   My guess is that people actually venture across the Lava field to get a close up view of the Volcano and either get sick from the sulpher gas in the air, or really can't find the signs and trail back.  We were happy with the view from the end of the trail--It is an active volcano and we weren't interested in tempting it. 

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Monday, January 24, 2011

The Big Island of Hawaii

I have wanted to go to Hawaii for quite sometime, specifically to the Big Island. David finally relented and we planned a trip, just the 2 of us for a week. When we told people we were going to the Big Island, many of them were unfamiliar with that particular Island and typically assumed we were going to Oahu. So if you are unfamiliar with The Big Island, it is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands and the furthest south. It is not Oahu. Why the Big Island? Throughout the world there exists 13 climate zones. These zones create rainforests, deserts, grass plains, snowy mountains, volcano's, and so on. On the Big Island there are 11 of the 13 climate zones. All located on one Island, that really is not too big.

We hoped to stay in a timeshare rental through Grandma's membership, but oddly we couldn't find one available. It wasn't that busy, so I am at a loss why none were available. Since we had to pay to stay there we decided that instead of staying in just one place and spend longer days traveling to see it all; we decided to spend half the week in the southern half of the Island, and the other half on the Northern end of the Island. I found a couple Bed and Breakfasts online to stay at rather than some huge resort. We really enjoyed the nice and private accomodations, and since I am a sucker for good food, the gourmet breakfasts were a fabulous way to start each day.

Since we have been flying alot over the last year we had racked up a decent amount of miles in the Untied mileage program. While we haven't yet used them at all yet, they certainly paid off in status on this trip. We were upgraded to first class both on the flight there and back for free.

The following posts are the highlights from our trip. We had a great time even though we didn't lay around on the beach at all. There was so much to see and do. Our friends, loaned us an indepth travel book "the Big Island Revealed" that was full of adventures and things to see on the Island. I can't wait to go back someday with the kids.