Photography Travel

Vacation to Hawaii

For the first time since last summer I took an actual vacation where I traveled somewhere. Until now, the only state to which I had never been was Hawaii. Now I can say that I’ve been to all fifty states and that I’ve spent not-insignificant amounts of time in each of them. (Next goals: visit all ten provinces and three territories of Canada and all of the public islands in Hawaii. Maybe after that I’ll try out other countries.) Of course, I took pictures.

On the first day I just stayed in a hostel around Kailua Kona. The sky was clear, so I took this photo of the crescent waxing moon. (Also called an ‘ole kū kolu moon.) The moon had a very pretty halo around it.

A halo around the ‘ole kū kolu moon on March 13th, 2019.

The second day I went to South Point or Ka Lae, the southernmost point in Hawaii and the United States. (Wikipedia disagrees with me, but Palmyra is in a territory, not a state.) Interestingly, South Point is not that interesting. It’s on a cliff and very rocky and popular with people who have fishing rods.

Later in the second day I went into Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. I stayed in a cabin just off of the national park but needed to enter the national park to check into the cabin. There I wandered through the steam vents along the Kīlauea caldera. It’s just remarkable to see steam just rising from the dirt. Then you can look out and see toxic smoke rising from a gigantic hole in the ground that periodically shoots molten rock in the air. Most of the area around the caldera was closed because of recent eruptions. However, there were no eruptions at the time of my visit and no lava was visible anywhere in the park. Very disappointing but probably safer.

The Pacific Ocean crashes against the cliffs at the southern end of Volcanoes National Park. These cliffs were made in the past seventy years.

On the third day I visited Hilo. Hilo felt like home in Seattle with its continually misty rain and lush greenery. On my tour of Hilo I stopped at the Kaumana Caves Park, a county park that features entrance to a totally uncontrolled lava tube. Seriously, you just walk in to this pitch black cave at your own risk. My headlamp did not suffice and I actually relied on the flashlight functionality of my phone to see deep into the cave. You turn several times and duck through several small passages in the two and a half mile tunnel, completely losing sight of the entrance. That is, it is nothing like the caves in Virginia.

Spelunkers descend into the Kaumana Caves lava tube with their flashlights shining. The plant life hanging from the top of the cave is actually a volcanic glass fiber known as Pele’s Hair.

I stayed at the Inn at Kulaniapia Falls, an “off-grid” inn situated overlooking a waterfall. It was a really pleasurable experience and I would do it again. The staff are lovely, even if they did wake me up at 4am slamming doors in the office below my room. At least they compensated me for that!

Rainbows appeared in the morning light around the waterfall. It went into a large pool that then drained into several smaller waterfalls.

I missed the dinner reservation at Kulaniapia Falls and instead went into Hilo and had a fantastic dinner at Pineapples restaurant.

The fourth day was the most remarkable. I took a guided tour to the top of Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in entire Hawaiian island chain at 13,803 feet above sea level. Another 17,000 feet or more of the mountain is below sea level making it the tallest mountain the world from its base. Fortunately the snow was gone from the top of the mountain this March.

The shadow of Mauna Kea against the clouds over which it looms.

The tour took us up the Hawai’i island Saddle Road where I snapped this picture of a tree that survived a lava flow while everything around it burned. Incidentally, this island is covered in wild goats and feral pigs and cats brought to in various waves by Polynesians, the British, and the Spanish. Additionally, this tree and the surrounding lava flow is actually pretty representative of the island of Hawai’i. Most of the island is pretty much covered in barren lava rock. The western side of the island receives hardly any rain and the rain is what begins to break down the lava rock into more fertile land facilitating growth. There’s also the fact that this island is still an active volcano so new lava is being laid down all the time.

A lone tree surrounded by lava.

Once at the top of Mauna Kea, you can see the most beautiful sunset that you’ve ever seen with more colors than you ever thought imaginable.

The sun setting into the clouds from the top of Mauna Kea.

The top of Mauna Kea, you may have heard, is covered with telescopes. In fact there are thirteen telescopes and a couple more antennas. Because the University of Hawaii actually destroyed the original summit, native Hawaiians designated a nearby peak as the peak where they would perform their rituals.

The actual summit to Mauna Kea and the trail up to it, open only to native Hawaiians.

After watching the sunset, the tour guides took us down to the Mauna Kea Very Long Baseline Array antenna, part of an array of ten radio antennas spanning the globe. That is where we got a tutorial on the stars and how the original inhabitants of the Hawaiian islands navigated by the stars. These tour guides were the best and shared a ton of information about Hawaii that I don’t know where else I would find.

Even with a half moon, you could still see a ton of stars by the VLBA antenna at the top of Mauna Kea.

And I had a terrifically disappointing journey back to Seattle via Delta where they managed to do everything wrong from start to finish. I also don’t regret renting a Jeep but I would have preferred that Avis had given me a Jeep that had been made in the last two or three years than the crap that they did give me. It didn’t even have support for Bluetooth. Still, I’d go again.

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