Trip date: July 23-24, 2019
Caltopo map here: https://caltopo.com/m/0H9C
(this is the same map as for the Mauna Loa trip report--- Look on the NE coast for this trip)
Day 0: Prologue
After Mauna Loa I really wanted to take a shower. I first looked for hostels in Hilo but they were all booked up. I boosted my price range up to $60 and came across the Dolphin Bay Hotel. When I got there I was greeted by an incredibly sweet, older lady who worked the desk. She showed me the room and it looked immaculate. I was scratching my head why it was so cheap because everything seemed very polished. As I settled in to go to sleep I figured it out. There is no air-conditioning and the rooms are ventilated by keeping the windows open. This was a very reasonable approach given the cool temperatures. However, there is also a symphony of tropical birds that sing all night. I suspect most people can't handle the noise all night, but they do provide ear plugs. I can't recommend it enough and I don't recommend much besides game trails so this is special.
I spoke with the owner in the morning and asked him about the crowds near Waipio and Waimanu Valley. He said that after you cross the creek that flows into the ocean in Waipio valley, you don't see anybody. "Americans don't get too far out of the car". That was good enough logic for me and I headed west towards the town of Kukuihaele.
The crowds indeed dissipate pretty fast. The first water crossing the hotel owner was talking about is significant. This helps to keep people out. Beyond this I saw no people until I got to the Waimanu valley were there was one other group camping (I only saw their tent).
The low mosquito pressure surprised me and I didn't put up the bug net I brought. That night I woke up in the middle of the night with a horrible pain in my shoulder that felt like an insect bite. I was so concerned that I took this photo to get an idea of how bad it was. I was mostly worried about my shoulder swelling up overnight and making carrying a backpack painful the nexts day. I slept the rest of the night in my pants, rain jacket and shoes to prevent more bites.
When I woke up the pain was completely gone, like nothing ever happened. I began to think it might have been a dream but I checked my camera and indeed I had this photo. There was no indication I'd been bit for about 7 days when that spot regressed, scabbed over and became painful again. I suspect it was a spider but I never actually saw what bit me.
I'd probably recommend a bug shelter after all.
This is all I took (except for the unused bugnet). There weren't any mosquito's but a bug net is probably a good idea for spiders. That night I, slept on top of the sleeping bag in my underwear only. It was very warm. The pyramid was overkill on this particular night (an A-frame tarp would have been fine). I'm unsure of the usual variations in weather patterns though so can't say much more about how protective of a shelter you really need.
Now I'm forced to report the biggest disappointment of the trip. Despite the incredible natural beauty of the area, current regulations have nearly ruined it. The area does not have wilderness status the way that Volcano National Park does. This means that as this area becomes more famous, more and more people want to visit but few are willing to put in the effort to reach it by foot. I was familiar with the usual crowd of clowns in Colorado that drive their 4WD vehicle as close as possible to the mountain they want to climb. Their behavior is usually terrible, as they aren't truly interested in experiencing wild areas but rather see trips to the mountains as an "event". Why not just go to Six Flags?
My usual approach to avoid seeing this, is to pick a random mountain and head straight up hill. I didn't expect to be double-crossed by helicopter tourism. Every thirty minutes a new helicopter arrives full of instagram tourists to do another strafing run. The whirring sound of helicopter blades was relentless. Just when it gets quiet, and you can hear the waves, and the wind blowing through the trees another load of assholes arrives.
Helicopter tourism in Hawaii has been in the news recently. Honestly, this is part of what motivated me to finally get this one written up. Hopefully, Hawaii will change it's approach in the near future.