This post: July 19-20, 2019
Total Trip Dates: July 19-24, 2019
Caltopo map here: caltopo.com/m/0H9C
I got really lucky this summer and got to go to Hawaii for a work conference. On the back end of the trip I got to do some exploring and hiking around on my own time. I was on the "Big Island", which is home to Volcano National Park.
Shortly after my conference was over on Friday afternoon at Waikoloa, I started driving south around the outer edge of the island toward Volcano National Park. In the satellite imagery below, my driving tracks are shades of blue and my hiking tracks are red.
Day 1: Driving from Kona to Volcano NP
On the eastern side of the island there is a very large lava flow that you drive through. It was my first glimpse of how bleak Mauna Loa would actually be. It reminded me a little bit of the Red Desert in Southern Wyoming; it's generally thought of as a barren wasteland but I think its beauty is under appreciated. This video about the Red Desert from the Wyoming Wilderness Association is worth watching.
Soon the terrain becomes much more tropical.
This was also during the peak of the protests over the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope this summer. There were signs of protest everywhere, even though I wasn't anywhere near Mauna Kea. There were abundant homemade signs along the highway and every 20-30 miles, you'd pass a groups of ~10 protesters. The log book at the Mauna Loa summit cabin (where I would be in two days) was filled with comments about it going back several years.
My bias is to always come down on the side of science, especially when the conflict has partly religious origins. That said, compared to the some of the protests you see in the continental 48, and especially in Boulder, this didn't have any "recreational outrage" character and felt quite genuine. I would spend the next 2 weeks wondering if I was wrong. How many other "disagreements" have foolishly dismissed as "solved" before digging a little deeper.
The coast was stunning and there was no one around! That was the coolest part.
Day 2: Touring Volcano NP by car
After experiencing the wind, I could imagine a little better why the Volcano NP campgrounds webpage featured "tunnel tents" you see for barren winter landscapes like Greenland.
From here I started driving down Crater Rim drive heading SE towards the ocean. The first stop was the Kilauea Iki Trail. This drops down into the smaller Kilauea crater.
The video below from the NPS/USGS is well worth watching. The scale of the Kilauea Caldera is hard to get a sense of from maps. This was produced for the 2018 eruption.
Kilauea Iki crater
I hiked down to the floor of the crater and then turned around because I still had a lot to do that day.
From here I drove the backcountry office to get my permit for Mauna Loa.