The three things I most want to see on my trip

Or how one of those three are in trouble.

Today, while my body was trying to decide whether I have a cold or the flu, I poured through my Big Island travel book. Armed with my highlighter, I was picking out points of interests and other places that appealed to my nature. During this study, two things struck me: I have been to this Island before and how different my vacation goals are different from others.

In 1996, while I was serving as an Interior Commutations Electrician aboard the newly commissioned USS Boxer (LHD-4), the ship went to Pearl Harbor for major degaussing work. This work involved quite a few days and the ship or the Navy setup tour packages for sailors on shore leave. The one I wanted to do most (and no of my colleagues were interested in) was a day trip to the Big Island. The tour picked you up, took you to Honolulu airport, flew you out to Kona, picked you up in a van, and you were off and a long day trip with a guide. The trip stuck so much in my head that the Big Island always was in my top three of places to visit. Thus, while going though this travel book, I am struck about how many things that seem ‘vaguely’ familiar.

When I initially planned the flights, I wished to do only a seven day trip, but the absurd discount for that length of time wasn’t available. The best fare was for a nine day trip. At first, I thought that was too long. Now, after spending much of the day researching this, I feel this isn’t enough time.

First of all, I’m the adventurer type. Being at a Kohala Beach resort for a week would feel like prison. I don’t want to tan, I don’t want to relax. I want to explore. I want to see. And I want to shot.

This brings me to my ideal goals for my trip:

1. Mauna Kea and the Milky Way

Even though the mountain measures just shy of 14k feet in elevation, Mauna Kea is the largest mountain on Earth when measured from it’s base… at the bottom of the ocean. Atop the mountain atop the mountain, there are number of telescopes as this is one of the best places on Earth to have a ‘scope. This is due to many factors including climate, air turbulence, and light pollution. This also makes an ideal place for one other thing – star photography! I have ALWAYS wanted to shot the Milky Way and this is my chance.

I will be armed with a f/2.8 14mm wide lens, tripod, and remote shutter release. But there are couple issues.

First is the temperature. I have already looked up the sunset and moonrise times and my best bet is between 0000 and 0200. That means it’s going to be really freakin’ cold. Which further means I will have to pack my parka, hat, gloves, and leggings for my Hawaii trip in JUNE!

The second issue is altitude sickness. The 02 levels at that height are low and I haven’t been been up that high in oh I don’t know when. So I am concerned – especially since I am doing this solo and driving on the side of a mountain in the dark. My current plan is to drive up to the Visitors Center, which is around 9000 feet, and spend around 30 minutes allowing my body to adjust. A process I will have to repeat on the way back down.

2. See actual f**king lava

Let me quote the guide book I have been using (Doughty, Andrew. Hawaii the Big Island Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook. Wizard Publications, 2016.)

“There are not many place on this planet where you can walk on ground younger than you are, we you can be assured that there is absolutely nothing alive beneath your feet except for the earth itself. We’ve been there when people all over the world stand in awe, tears streaming down their cheeks as they tell their children, ‘You may never see anything like this again in your lifetime.’”

When I visited the Island back when I was a wee lad, part of the tour included some time at the Volcano Park. This was my absolute favorite. I was stunned and in awe. Back then, the Kilauea Caldera was open (it’s closed now) and you could walk down into it. And I did. It was like nothing I had seen ever before. It was like I was on another world. The air had a faint hint of sulfur and heat.

The guide took use to a road that was overtaken by lava and now just hard rock. I saw and walked on a black sand beach.

The one thing I wanted to see most of all was actual, real flowing lava. And thus, on this trip, this was one of my goals. I didn’t even care if it was just a distant glimpse. I wanted to see new earth being made as I watched.

But now…

After recent geological events, the actual prospect of seeing this is low. As I write this, the USGS is forecasting an explosive event as the lava level continues to drop. The National Park Service has announced they will be closing the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park tomorrow for an undisclosed amount of time.


The Airbnb host that I am staying at near the park seems positive about things changing by the time I get there. I hope she is right.

3. Hike through the rain forests on the Windward side

The Leeward side of the Big Island is the resort side of the island. Lots of sunshine and little rain. Great weather for beach worshippers. The Windward side, where Hilo is located, gets rain – a lot of it. In fact, Hilo is the rainiest city in the United States at a whopping average of 240” of rain a year. Bad for getting a tan, but wonderful if you want to hike through green jungles and see waterfalls. Not to mention to take photos of the amazing green and pouring water. It will be amazingly beautiful. Expect for the mosquitos.

I fully except (even with repellent) to come home a pin cushion.

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