Puu Lalakaukole P2K

Jun 2, 2014
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A year earlier, my family asked if we could go on vacation in Hawaii. It had been a few years since we had last been there, and with the kids moving quickly through high school, it might be the last chance to get all of us there. "How long do you want to go for?", I asked. My wife was good with two weeks and I let the family choose the island (Maui). "Mind if I go two weeks earlier?", I quickly followed up with. And so my two weeks solo in Hawaii was born. Having already done extensive hiking on Kauai, I picked three other islands on which to spend those two weeks Hawaii, Molokai, and Oahu. I looked at a list of all the P1Ks in the state and determined how long to stay on each island based on this information. My first stop would be the Big Island, Hawaii.

I left San Jose at the not-so-early hour of 8:30am. Luckily the time change was working in my favor as I got to adjust my watch by subtracting three hours. I had a stop in Maui for several hours before catching my final leg to Kailua-Kona. My brief stop in Maui did not allow me to do much more than walk a mile from the airport to get lunch and find a Starbucks. Looking west to the beautiful Io Valley, it had me antsy to do some hiking today. By the time I got to my hotel in Kailua it was 3p. With sunset (no Daylight Savings Time here) scheduled for 7p, it wouldn't give me much time. There are four main mountains on Hawaii, one of these is Hualalai Mtn, a P3K going up to over 8,000ft. The shortest route from the west is about five miles one way, aided by a paved road going up to 5,000ft. I couldn't do it before sunset, but I'd be able to get to the summit before then, and spend about an hour returning by headlamp.

The time of day I started was hardly ideal. Typical weather is clear in early morning, clouds developing by early afternoon, overcast into the evening before clearing again at night. Today was no exception. I had to use the wipers to clear the water droplets from the windshield as I drove up through the cloud layer. The hike started off in the fog, but it improved as the late afternoon progressed and I climbed higher. I started on a rough 4WD lava road, following this most of the way up, taking various turns at junctions that I had identified beforehand and entered in the GPS. The terrain was a cross between high altitude lava and tropical jungle, surprisingly well-suited for cross-country travel which I needed for the last mile or so. The only structure I passed by was a hunting cabin located about the midway point. The roads appear to be lightly used by vehicles judging by the grass and shrubs found growing on them. I disturbed about a dozen ferral sheep at one point - they appear to be fairly common on the island. The flora must suffer heavily from their foraging. I saw a number of protective sheaths around small trees to give them a chance to grow before the sheep could devour them. They seemed to have some success.

The views were extremely limited due to the cloud cover. I went over a first summit west of the highpoint in the fog. A small monitoring instrument was planted there. A terribly messy register was filled with scraps of paper going back years. The highpoint was another 15min to the east, past a pig fence that has been breached (this appears common in Hawaii and CA, too - hunters don't like limiting the area their quarry are allowed to forage in), and up to the 8,200-foot level. No register at this one, but I did find a partly filled bottle of gin in the summit cairn that I partook of because it seemed like the thing to do. No views, windy and chilly. Lava rocks had been used to construct a number of bivy walls about the place. Not pretty.

On my return, the clouds started to break some and I even got a small bit of sunshine before the sun set behind a wall of clouds to the west. As expected, the last hour was mostly by headlamp, getting me back in the damp fog around 8:30p. Not a bad bit of work considering it was a travel day...


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