Puu Waawaa

Fri, Jun 6, 2014
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Today is a travel day, but since my flight doesn't leave until early afternoon, I figured I had enough time for a short morning hike. I probably had time for a more involved hike, but I had already done the ones I'd come prepared for on the Big Island. Tomorrow I was going to attempt the difficult outing to Molokai's highpoint, so an easy outing today seemed the best choice.

Pu'u wa'a wa'a is a prominent cinder cone on the north side of Haulalai, about 25min drive from Kailua-Kona where I was staying. The state park is used by both hunters and hikers. A sign on the gate off SR190 says it is locked from 6a to 6p, but I was there before 6a and found it unlocked. I don't imagine it is tightly enforced. Inside the gate, one can drive about a third of a mile to a self check-in station where one must park and start the hike. The hike isn't particularly scenic, but not a bad way to spend the morning. It's about 3.25mi to the top of the cinder cone, about half of that on crumbly pavement, the other half on grassy ranch roads. As with most of the island, the terrain is volcanic, lots of grass and some dry forest, too. Signs along the way warn of collapsing cliffs, found just off the road as one reaches the end of the pavement and the base of the mountain. There is a deep gash between the road and the mountain, the road going around to the backside before starting up to the summit. There are some rather loose and steep cliffs immediately across the gap on the north side of Pu'u wa'a wa'a. As I was examining these, I was startled to see first a couple, then almost a hundred goats (or sheep?) standing on the steepest parts of these cliffs, all silently staring at me. As a hunter it would be easy to stand across the gap and pick off any one of the goats. It would probably tumble down to the gap where it could be retrieved with some difficulty, but the hundred foot fall would ensure it was pre-tenderized. In addition to the goats, I saw a couple of pigs running through the forest upon my approach - it's easy to see why the area is popular with hunters.

I followed the ranch roads around to the backside of the cinder cone where the slope is more gentle and it is an easy hike up to the summit. There are a few view benches situated about the rounded, grassy top (this cinder cone is far more ancient than those I explored on Mauna Kea, and consequently has a very different feel - all grass with a few trees, little volcanic rock exposed. There was only a slight breeze and no serious clouds, though it was hazy this morning, hampering the views. Directly behind the summit to the south rises the broad ridgeline of Haulalai, to the northeast is the state highpoint, Mauna Kea. Though less than 200ft lower, Mauna Loa is much less impressive to the southeast.

On the way back I took some time to take pictures of the various trees with flowers of red, yellow and purple. The red ones in particular look like a cross between manzanita (leaves) and bottlebrush (flowers), but I have no idea what the actual name is. The birds were plentiful too, particularly the LYBs (little yellow birds). Some larger birds resembling grouse made a ruckus as they flew by, pretending they were being effective in driving me away. A pair of hikers came walking up the road as I was nearing the end, the only other car at the parking lot when I returned around 7:30a. Now back to the hotel for a shower, laundry and a few other chores before heading to the airport...

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