The Mauna Loa Adventure (2 of 5)

Hikers: Bill Melemai and Dayle Turner

Day 2--June 8, 1997, Sunday:

Everyone is stirring around 6am today, with three folks--a father and son and another lone male--heading for the summit. Bill and I decide to spend another day at Red Hill to rest and acclimate. Six others are headed back down to the Strip Road trailhead and one female from Germany will hang out at the cabin to await the arrival of two female companions who had hiked to the summit yesterday and are due back today.

The mist from the night before still lingers, which sets the cabin's water tank (roof catchment system) to overflowing. As a consequence, there are no worries about water at Red Hill but what about the summit cabin? At check-in yesterday, the rangers report that the water tank at the top is empty. I'm anxious to talk to anyone returning from the summit to find out how they fared waterwise.

At 8am, much to our surprise, two 40-ish males, fatigued and soaking wet, stride into camp. Having set out in mid-afternoon from Strip Road, they had spent the night in a tent downslope since darkness hit before they could reach the cabin. These two end up being a constant source of irritation for Bill and I during the next several days and for ease of reference, I'll call them Bozo (as in "the clown") and Potsy (as in the dude from "Happy Days"), for the two resembled these TV characters.

From the get-go, Bozo incites Bill's ire by immediately dumping his wet rainsuit on Bill's pack. Bill, as gentle and easygoing guy as you'd want to meet, says nothing to Bozo but tells me of his displeasure with Bozo's action. Not a big deal, I tell Bill. Giv'im the benefit of the doubt. Bill, after some thought, agrees.

Before departing, several of the Red Hill-bound folks (plus Bozo) partake of some pakalolo. Bill and I are offered hits but we decline, being non-tokers. Meanwhile, Potsy gets my goat a bit because of his propensity for particular words beginning with "f" and "s." Now I'm no bible-carrying, squeaky-clean guy. But, why does someone have to interject "f*ck" (and forms of it thereof) into every other statement made? Is "It's so f**king cold" better than saying "It's so cold"? Sheesh.

I bite my proverbial tongue and tell myself to giv'im the benefit of the doubt.

By 10, just Bill, Bozo, Potsy, the German girl, and I remain at the cabin. Three are off for the summit and six have headed down the mountain to the trailhead. It's still misty/rainy.

At 10:30, I decide to get a bit of a workout and I head upslope on the trail for about two miles before returning to the cabin. Bill opts not to join me and spends most of the morning napping out on the porch in his sleeping bag while Bozo, Potsy, and the girl hang out inside the cabin making small-talk.

After completing my 2-hour dayhike, I lay down on one of the eight bunks in the cabin for a nap. A mild headache, brought on by the altitude and the inane bickering between Bozo and Potsy (e.g. they argue about who is going to pick up the tab for their rent-a-car), keeps me from resting as peacefully as I'd like. The tranquility I expected? Not hardly.

In between head throbs, further inspection shows that the cabin's exterior roof has been rebuilt recently (I read about this work in the newspaper) but the interior and the rest of the exterior look unchanged from my first visit in 1995.

By early afternoon, the mist lifts, the sun appears, and two German girls, then two brothers arrive at Red Hill from the summit. All are in their early 20s and have descended the 11.5 miles and 3,400 feet in about five hours with smiles on their faces (ahh, to be young again).

The H20 report is positive with the four telling us water is readily available, albeit a bit brown-colored, from the tank at the summit cabin. This is good news and means Bill and I won't have to lug more water (eight pounds to the gallon) than needed to get us to the top when we launch for the summit tomorrow morning.

After resting and eating lunch, the foursome plus the lone German girl who spent the previous night at Red Hill, are bound for Strip Road. This leaves Bill and I with Potsy and Bozo.

Lucky us. :-(

The subject shifts to the hike to the summit tomorrow. Hoping to burst their desire to join us, I tell our "friends" we are looking at a 5:30am launch.

Without hesitation, Potsy asks, "Can we join you?" in behalf of himself and Bozo, both first-time trekkers up Mauna Loa. Although my initial inclination is to say no, not wanting to alienate anyone, I consent. Bill and I engage in blitzkrieg conversations in pidgin English, which prompts quizzical expressions on the faces of our non-pidgin-adept guests.

Bill and I spend time in the late afternoon checking out the panoramic view from atop Red Hill. Lava, in various shades, forms, and textures, lies virtually everywhere around it. In the distance, we can see sister-mountain Mauna Kea and the white mushroom-looking observatories that dot her summit. We can also see a couple miles downslope and can discern no hikers on the trail leading to the cabin. Upslope, the broad, gently-arching summit ridge of Mauna Loa seems benign.

We eat dinner and bed down early in preparation for an early launch for the grueling and humbling ascent to the 13,000-plus foot summit of the famed Long Mountain.

Next: Day 3--How much do we love lava? Let us count the ways.


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