Pu'u Loa
Pu'u Huluhulu
Mauna Ulu
Pu'u Pua'i
Puehu
Pu'u o Ka'au
Pu'u o Lokuana
Pu'u Hoomaha

Wed, Jan 8, 2020

With: Tom Becht

Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 GPX
Pu'u o Ka'au later climbed Mon, Jan 13, 2020

Continued...

On our second full day on Hawaii we headed to Volcanoes National Park on the southeast side of the island. It had been raining in Hilo when we left and was still raining lightly at the Visitor Center in the park with heavy overcast and poor visibility. We first attempted to visit the Kilauea hihgpoint, only to find that the road and trail have been closed for several years, since the crater floor collaped in 2018 and the rim was deemed too unstable for public safety. Others continue to stealth this one, but we were discouraged by the extra distance we'd have to hike in the rain. The wetness in this part of the park would linger most of the day and we'd be pretty wet after a few short hikes. In the afternoon we headed southwest, intending to visit the southernmost point of the island, more than an hour away. We never got there, stopping with better weather to tag a few more easy summits on the way.

Pu'u Loa

This one is located not far from the end of the park road at the coast (where the cool Holei Sea Arch can be found). We drove down the road to get out of the rain and this worked nicely - overcast still, but dry. A 3/4mi trail leads to some Hawaiian petroglyphs. At the end of the trail is a small looping boardwalk around the petroglyphs. The highpoint is found just outside the boardwalk on a very small knoll, maybe five feet higher than the boardwalk. Not much of a summit, but the petroglyphs were interesting. Most of them were small, circular divots (much like the dimples on a golfball) used in ceremonies to ask for long life for newborns, their umbilical cords placed in the divots with a rock over them.

Pu'u Huluhulu / Mauna Ulu

Driving back up towards the Visitor Center, we stopped at the Pu'u Huluhulu TH from which both of these summits can be reached. It rained for most of the hike and it was here that we found ourselves damp and wet, despite rainjackets. A trail goes east for some miles, passing by a handful of small vents and craters from past eruptions, getting within a few miles of Pu'u O'o, the site of the most recent eruptions that had gone on almost continually for decades, starting in 1983 until it ended abruptly in 2018. The trail travels over lava fields and through small forested areas to a trail junction at the base of Pu'u Huluhulu. The left branch goes up the forested slopes of the cinder cone to a small concrete & rock viewspot with handrails around it. No views from the top today as we were swimming in the clouds. The actual highpoint and benchmark are found just to the northwest, made easier by a use trail through forest and uluhe ferns encroaching thickly on both sides. Back at the trail junction, we continued east on the fork heading to Napau Crater, leaving it very shortly to head southeast to Mauna Ulu. Though bigger than Pu'u Huluhulu, the gradient of this shield volcano is more gradual. Upon reaching the rim, we were surprised by the size and depth of the crater, its walls partially vegetated with sun-shy ferns and small trees. The wind was blowing strongly here and the rain whipping our faces, so we had trouble enjoying the views. The highpoint is found on the southeast side of the crater which we dutifully navigated to before returning back the way we'd come.

Pu'u Pua'i

This is the highpoint of a small subsidiary crater called Kilauea Iki on the northeast side of the far larger Kilauea Crater. The Devastation Trail goes along the base of Pu'u Pua'i and along the crater rim. Signs indicate the summit is closed (due to unstable ground), but a use trail leads up gravel slopes to the summit in a few minutes. It had temporarily stopped raining, but the low clouds muted most of the otherwise impressive views of both Kilauea Iki and Kilauea Craters.

Puehu

Tired of the wet, we head out of the park and southwest on Hwy11. Puehu is a summit found about 30mi south of the park. Summit is used loosely here. The topo map shows a small bump with 33ft of prominence about 400ft south of the highway. Though short, one needs to wade through thick and tall nonnative grasses threaded with half-hidden vines waiting to trip you up. As you near the point you will find a vertical bluff some 40-50ft high not accurately depicted on the topo map. Worse, the location of the benchmark and supposed highpoint are some 70ft beyond the edge of the bluff. The map does show a borrow pit here, so it's possible that the benchmark was excavated away ages ago. There is no quarry work taking place here anymore, just a collection of beehives kept in the same location below. We walked to the edge and called it good.

Pu'u o Ka'au

This minor point is found along the coast about 5mi further southwest off Hwy11. A spur road off Hwy11 takes one to Whittington Park, a delightfully secluded park on the edge of Honu'apo Bay. Pu'u Ka'au is found across an estuary from the park. Our first effort was to go around the edge of the estuary, but this proved too boggy and we retreated. We then tried to cross the narrow opening where the estuary meets the bay, but the water channel here was far too deep. We were resigned to giving up when Tom noticed someone fishing on the other side. They didn't look like they'd swam there, so we got out a phone to check the satellite view. This showed a dirt road north of the park going out to the coast and a short distance from the point, and we drove off to investigate. The dirt road services some informal picnic sites along the coast (signed for No Camping). A short hike along the rocky lava coast leads to the summit where a benchmark is found among the center of a chest-high pile of rocks. Beautiful coastal views all around, something we'd never have found without chasing such silly little points on a map.

Pu'u o Lokuana

This is a small, grass-covered cinder cone near the entrance to the Kahuku Unit of Volcanoes National Park, found at the southern end of Mauna Loa. There are grassy trails leading to the summit from the south and north sides, a short, easy stroll from either of two parking lots. There are a few other summits in this interesting area, but the gates are closed at 4p and we had time for only this one. Will have to come back for a second visit to explore this area more.

Pu'u Hoomaha

This last summit is found above 2,000ft on the southern slopes of Mauna Loa, on lands used for ranching. Ka'alaiaki Rd off Hwy11 at the small town Na'alehu can be used with other public roads to get within a mile of the summit to the east. An unsigned but locked gate must be crossed to access an old, no longer traveled ranch road that leads to the summit, really just the highpoint of a gentle ridgeline. Some cows were grazing on the land below us to the north, but little other activity about during our visit. On our way back we noticed a truck pulling a flatbed stop by the spur road where we'd parked. Our initial fear that he was there to tow our jeep was short-lived when we discovered he was there to pick up a small bobcat bulldozer that was parked nearby. He didn't seem troubled by our presence as we drove by, even asking if everything was Ok while giving us a friendly wave.

Continued...


Submit online comments or corrections about the story.

More of Bob's Trip Reports

This page last updated: Thu Jan 23 14:42:06 2020
For corrections or comments, please send feedback to: snwbord@hotmail.com