jen yu: hawai'i 2005 - day 4

hawai'i 2005 - day 4

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waipi'o valley, saddle road, lava flows
february 6, 2005
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We left a note for Jackie that we would be back in time for breakfast at 8:00 am and started hiking down Waipi'o Valley at 6:30. It is just shy of one mile and 900 feet down on a paved road to the valley, but 25% grade! At the base, we turned toward shore via a muddy, forested road littered with giant potholes full of rainwater. I also lost the top layer of a blister that formed on my fourth toe thanks to a hole in my liner sock. I applied moleskin while a couple of giant trucks bearing surfers and their boards wobbled past us on the road. Traffic was exclusively trucks, mostly driven by surfers. [I wore shorts on this hike and acquired about 25 mosquito bites without ever knowing it.] The road led to a black sand beach where two camps of people were milling about at 7 am: fishermen and surfers. We took pictures, walked around, looked up valley and then looked at our watches. 7:30! We cranked back out of the valley, visions of tropical brekkie floating in my head. At the car by 8, in the dining room by 8:15.

Breakfast consisted of mango, papaya, and apple bananas (all grown in her yard), almond muffins with passion butter, custard, cranraspberry passion delight (a drink), kona coffee, and granola (which we never got around to) - all organic - all amazing. Jackie is a foodie and a great cook. If you ever want to get to Japan on the cheap, ask her. We got going shortly after breakfast, but not before stepping out back to enjoy the ocean view from the large lanai (deck). Jackie told me to email her for the custard recipe - so good!

Now after all of that healthy goodness from Jackie's kitchen, what did we do next but go to Tex Drive-In down the street to try malasadas (Hawaiian fried dough) that the LP guide authors raved about. The filled ones really don't need to be rolled in sugar - they are quite sweet as it is. We went back through Waimea to reach the Saddle Road - the strand that crosses between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. At the summit turnoff, we hiked Kipuka Pu'u Huluhulu - a hilltop covered with green in the endless sea of lava flows. From the top, we could see the domes atop Mauna Kea, and (as usual) clouds piling up against the broad summit of Mauna Loa. A lot of trucks joyride along the Saddle Road and Summit Road. At the Onizuka Visitor Center, people were milling about for the free hot cocoa. We were very disappointed in the displays (half of which had boxes of "oodles of noodles" and hot chocolate packets stacked against them). We watched 30 minutes of a movie describing the clashes between astronomy and native Hawaiians' on the mountain. The movie was all over the place and after a while we left. In the parking lot (and on the road down) we saw pick up trucks with snow loaded into the beds. They had driven up to snowline and shoveled the stuff into their truck to take back. I think locals are as irreverant to this sacred mountain as the astronomers. The complaint of the natives smacks of a double standard to me.

We returned to our old friend, Volcanoes and grabbed a tent site (another good one!) and drove down the Chain of Craters Road for the lava viewing. Lava flows had not been going to the sea for a while, but recently began flowing again. Road's end is a zoo. Cars parked along the road for a mile and hoards of people were crawling everywhere. It was humid, hot, windy, and stinky. Where the road lost the battle with lava, we hiked over cooled pahoehoe flows for another 1/4 mile following little yellow reflectors (sore toe and all), and then another 1/4 mile where there is no trail save for 5 orange traffic markers. It seemed that the majority of people visiting VNP came here because we saw a couple hundred people in the two hours we were there.

Ropes 1/4 mile in from the sea marked the edge of the safe zone. A shelf had collapsed in 1993 incinerating one poor guy and badly burning many others from the steam. From the last marker, we could barely see the lava enter the sea to our east. The wind blew the glass-, hydrochloric and sulfuric acid-laden steam right at us. Our eyes and throats were burning. We ventured further on where a large group had gathered. They were behind the rope, but in a better position out of the steam path. As the sun set, I figured we should head back as I didn't really want to hike back with my bum toe in the dark (well, by headlamp) on uneven lava. Along the way, we stopped for more photos - the lava is mesmerizing as night approaches and the steam plumes reveal and then hide the glow falling into the ocean. We passed numerous groups coming in as we left. It's frightening how unprepared most of them are. Falling on lava rock isn't my idea of a good time. The Park Service posts at the road end to: wear long pants, bring a flashlight, bring plenty of water, have proper footwear. People apparently don't care.

Driving up toward our camp, we passed through drizzle and rain, then punched through the cloud layer into dry clear night. Camp was breezy and cool. The stars overhead were brilliant. We ate dinner and retired to bed. I told Jeremy we could sleep in the next morning.

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