Sunday, December 16, 2007
The view from Mauna Loa... 11,200 feet.
Haleaukala in the distance (I think). On the ground (lava rock) there, that's snow.
Mauna Loa Observation facilities, with more snow.
As the matter of fact holds, it’s winter at the moment. In which case the temperature’s steady at 78 degrees and, I guess, it rains more. Like, say… 20% of most days. It makes for an interesting experience, different in certain aspects than weather at home, mainly in regard to the temperature. Aside from that it’s pretty much the same.
I’ve been splitting most of my time between the gym, the bike and… versus; which’s taken an approach of late to covering the intricacies of ultimate fighting… most bizarre really, do people actually prefer fighting to fishing?… a joke of course. I never understood how they could afford a house when they were air’n fishin’ ‘n’ huntin’… even the token rugged outdoorsy type don’t watch that nonsense.
With that said, the riding here isn’t superb, though one can trespass the indignity of highway riding with some decent noise cancelling headphones equipped with the latest in FM technology. Dangerous you say in an already deadly environment? Perhaps the potential of self inflicted crime presides in such a case (muse carefully). The redundancy of riding on the edge of a highway travelled heavily is morally debilitating, but if one has a firm union with their inner mind, the continuance of exercise in such a time is austere in its simplicity.
On the Saturday of last week I road to the visitor center at Mauna Kea, a superb location really, nestled quaintly on the edge of the world at 9200 feet; easily accessed by a winding little road which accumulates an average grade of 17% in the last 5 miles. It’s especially easy on the legs when you’ve already put 6500’ feet into ‘em and are feeling a bit queasy from express altitude ascension- well, not really, but it does sound cool. After the visitor center the road turns to a well packed, road bike accessible route to the summit at ~14,000 feet… but as I approached they forced me to yield articulating tales of lost hikers, rapid response teams and thermal cameras. After a moment of calculated thought I decided to forego my savvy little plan to foil their summit defenses and fill my bottles before descent… which gave an uncomfortably vivid fleeting feeling.
The elevation between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea is less than a few hundred feet, but the various observation laboratories are situated atop the latter… somehow the location of the laboratories fabricates the misconception that Mauna Loa is to Mauna Kea as Mount Rainier is to Mount Everest. In truth the two are separated by but a few hundred feet. A few days ago the knowledge was bestowed unto I that the road to the observation center on Mauna Loa was paved all the way… Yesterday I set out to determine the quality of the road and various view points and happened upon the gem of the big island. I have never set my eyes upon anything as mystical as such. The road to the summit traverses dormant lava flows all the way to the top where the zenith of three other mountains gather too in the sky like islands in the clouds. I think two of them were Haleaukala (Maui) and Mauna Kea, but the third I know not. When I arrived at the top I spent a moment gathering the image in my mind before noticing the approach of some rather inhospitable mountains… and pairing that with the time 5:00pm (I got off to a late start 1:00) I figured that the time at once was one of perfection to depart. The elevation where the road on Mauna Loa turns to an impassable gravel compound is 11,200 feet. The temperature was 28 degrees and a bit of wind enabled the feeling of utter desolation to effectively set in. On the way down I entered the cloud & the weather began. The rain was very light but it was so cold, rainy and windy that everything pretty much went numb- which isn’t exactly superb given the grade of the road and the state of it’s pave. I just about died. Half an hour later It was pitch dark and I was still descending, fortunately a last minute thought had me grab a tail light and a little visibility headlight when I was heading out. The tail light was adequate, but the odds bode very poorly when riding at 35 miles an hour on a winding road coupled with driving rain. Fortunately the passing of cars was fairly infrequent and the reflectors lining the center and sides of the road were very good, they must be designed to catch even the most unworthy radiance in the night… so I could, despite impending circumstances tell which way the road was going. And, alas, Hilo was never a more welcome sight.
Mauna Kea froma Mauna Loa.
It was a bit fresh on top.
There in the background, that's lava rock. uh...