On our last Hawaiian trip in 2014 we went to Oahu and did a circle island tour with a trip to Pearl Harbor. Lynn really wanted to go check out the big island and see if we could see some active lava flows at Volcanoes National Park. So I booked us a flight from Maui and a room and rental car for a couple of days. Our plans were to try and hike / c=activate Mauna Kea summit one day and hit Volcanoes NP the next day. We got an early start and headed straight for the summit. The drive to get there had some incredible landscapes and elevation gain. With great views of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea and the ocean on the way. We passed by some lava fields that looked really cool. We had rented a Jeep Renegade, which is a piece of junk. We got a little over half way up the summit and the car cut off. It cut back on, but we didn’t want to take a chance and headed back to the rental car place and got a 4wd pickup. We had just enough time left to get to our hotel, then catch a dinner cruise we had booked. My business partner Kevin and his wife Karen met us for the cruise. The cruise was great. We had a nice Hawaiian lady give a historical tour the entire way. We got to see Captain Cook’s burial spot and take in a very good meal at sunset. A talented local musician sang and played guitar with original pieces, Hawaiian favorites and covered standard tunes as well. This was one my favorite things we did on the whole trip, other than summit activations of course. Speaking of which, equipped with our new 4wd pickup after a good nights sleep and a great breakfast we headed back to Mauna Kea summit. This summit is no joke. It is the tallest mountain on earth from base of the mountain to the summit, only most of it is submerged. It’s summit is a very high 13, 768 feet above sea level. The road to it past the visitors center (9,000′ asl)is not paved and it gets graded on a regular basis. This road gets closed when there are clouds, snow, ice or low visibility. Yes it snows there. We came home and a month later the summit was on the weather channel covered in ice! The pickup had no probelm. You really need 4wd low gear to get back down without burning up the brakes. I made sure to write down all of the local VHF & UHF repeaters so I could corral people to simplex in hopes of a quick activation. This was a smart move. I had hoped to also set up an HF antenna, but gave up on this quickly. First of all the summit is controlled by the University of Hawaii and has observatories, HUGE observatories funded and operated with the help of 27 countries around the world. At the summit there are signs that say not to even use your cell phones so as to not interfere with the radio telescopes. Second, the trail to the summit had a sign that said to stay off of it due to religious significance to Hawaiian locals. I checked in with the ranger. He said it was OK to hike to the summit, just to not touch anything especially the alter at the top. He watched us the whole time from the parking area, so I did not chance getting out my new Alpha Loop antenna or dipole. Having the repeater info handy paid off and I was able to get the needed contacts and wrap up the activation. This is the highest I have been. I had no issues at all with the elevation as I had been sure to adequately hydrate and slowly acclimate before climbing the hill. One side of the summit looked to have a huge wall of thick white clouds several thousand feet below the summit. It was like there was an invisible boundary keeping them from coming farther. I guess there is, as one side of the island gets a couple of inches of rain per year and the other gets a couple of hundred inches! Unfortunately that is where we were heading. We came down the mountain, made a left and went from clear skies to zero visibility in 1/4 of a mile. This is the craziest thing I have ever seen. We had about two hours to drive to the national park. On the way we were in constant rain, fog or drizzle. We saw some cool trees in the rain forest. The Koa trees are really cool. Unfortunately you can’t drive anywhere near the active lava and it takes several hours to hike to these area. We didn’t have that much time and it was raining to boot. We did catch a cool movie at the visitors center and went to the crater/cinder cone. At night you can see lava glowing in the cone. We had zero visibility, but you could smell the sulfur. We headed back to the airport,the way we had came and rode right back into clears skies. We made it to the airport only to find our flight delayed a couple of hours. It was a great trip all in all.
Lots of great pics by clicking here