OHE April 16, 1999 (Halape/Puna Coast)

Date: Fri, 16 Apr 1999 00:08:21 -1000
From: MARK SHORT (MARKESHORT@worldnet.att.net>
Subject: Halape Solo Backpack Adventue

Having read the recent write ups of backpacking trips to this wild area I decided to stop dreaming and start doing.

My son could not decide if he wanted to go so I waited to make plane/car reservations. When I did call there were no rental cars and only one plane seat for the trip to Hilo because of the Merry Monarch Festival. Nothing was going to stop me!

I took the one plane seat and left Oahu at 12:15 Friday afternoon. At Hilo Airport I took a cab to Prince Kuhio Plaza ($11 including tip). At the mall I stopped in at Maui Taco and ate a huge chicken chimichanga ($5.99 and well worth it). At 3:10 I caught the Hele-On bus ($2.25) to Volcano National Park, reaching the visitor center at about 4:15.

On the bus was a wildlife biologist who lived in the park and a young backpacking couple from Denmark. We were invited to camp in the biologist's backyard which was way better than walking the four miles to the campground (or trying to find a ride). A pau hana party was going on in the backyard and I learned a lot from the many great conversations with the many young scientists present (biologists, archeologists, botanists, geologists, entomologists, etc.. etc..), and one fellow who has worked in the park for 27 years who said if he was anything he was a hikeist. I got lots of tips on things to do & see while on the coast.

After setting up my new 1.5lb ultralight tent quick & easy in the rain & dark, I went inside and marveled at how much room there was inside. My sleeping bag is also very light and I was concerned about getting cold at night and although it was quite chilly at this elevation I slept warm & dry through the night.

I was up early in the morning cooking my breakfast in the garage while letting my tent dry a bit out of the rain. Walked back to the visitor's center at 7am & called home to check in. I then hiked a variety of trails about 3 miles to the Chain of Craters Road. This was a beautiful hike with the early morning sun now shining on the fresh snow atop Mauna Loa.

Before I could change into dry socks a big black truck came along, I stuck out my thumb and got a ride! The park ranger who issued my backcountry permit drove me about three miles to the top of Hilina Pali Road. We had a chance to chat a little bit, he had worked at the park for four years and before that had been sailing around the South Pacific with his wife (what a life!).

Hilina Pali road is about 9 miles long and ends at Hilina Pali, the trail head. It is a very quiet road and enjoyable to walk on, I wasn't too sure about getting a ride this early in the morning. After about an hour of road walking a small blue rental car came along and picked me up, HOORAY! ! This young couple were on their way to day hike down to Kaaha. He was from Indonesia, she was from New York. They met half way in Hawaii. She being from New York, was a little spooked by the quietness & the fact their were no people around. She couldn't believe I was hiking solo and how small my pack was, asking lots of questions about what was inside it. I think the reason they picked me up was she liked the idea of having someone else on the same trail. At the trail head I decided to just do the Halape trip and save Kaaha for another time.

I headed down Hilina Pali but had to stop soon to refill my hydration pack from my water bag (I started the day with a total of 11 liters and was drinking as much as I could so as to be well watered and to lighten my load) I also secured a line from my hat to my pack since the wind was blowing it off. Near the bottom of the Pali is a tree with some shade so I stopped for a snack. The landscape in this area is truly awesome and the trails are very rough. I had my hiking poles and while they were attached to my pack I was asked many times what they were for. My answer "To keep me from falling down". They worked perfectly at this, I was able to make good time going down hill over rough, loose lava feeling very secure. Is it the Leki ad or the movie Babe, that says "Four legs good, two legs baa-aa-ad"? Anyway these poles also worked great at helping me get through the SPIDER FOREST! This area had so many huge spiders!

By the time I had completed the eight miles to Halape shelter I was ready to lie down in the shade. It was hot. The shelter was occupied by three young women hikers who looked like they had just arrived (must have come the coast trail, no way anyone else had been on Halape trail today, way too many SPIDERS). Not feeling like talking and only feeling like lying down in the shade a blew past the shelter and headed for the beach with it's promising palm trees. When I got there the shade was minimal so I continued on to Halape Iki. PARADISE!! The best shady spot on earth and it was mine alone!!! I took off my shoes & pack, put down my sleeping pad and had the best rest in the shade of my life. I even had a nap. When I woke up I headed to the beautiful sandy lagoon and had a refreshing swim in the crystal clear water among the colorful fish. I then explored my little Eden a bit, not going too far since I was bare foot and very mindful of the rough lava (one warning I had received the night before, this is the most dangerous part of Halape, your guard is down, and a stubbed toe can make the rest of the hike very painful).

I leisurely cooked and ate my Liptons Parmesan noodle dinner (with peanuts & raisins added). Then I put my shoes back on and explored the area on the hillside in back of my camp site. Having satisfied my curiosity I went back to hanging out and just watching this unspoiled jewel called Halape Iki. Soon the sun would be going down, I debated setting up my tent. There were clouds to the north but I really thought I would be safe in this desert area. I did set up my tent, just to let it dry from the night before. Sitting in the twilight I watched the stars appear and ate some fig newtons for dessert. The shooting star show was spectacular. The winds had made for very clear skies this night and I enjoyed this as I gradually gave way to sleep. At about 11pm light rain began to fall so I moved into my tent and slept soundly the rest of the night.

Ate breakfast & packed up in light rain. I took one last look at my little paradise to make sure I left it just as I found it, clean & unspoiled. Headed for a tour of Halape proper, checking out all the camp sites. No other campers, this surprised me. I guess those at the shelter yesterday were dayhikers. I made an entry in the log then went to the brackish pool for a swim. The water was so clear the big lava crack looked empty except the lava underwater had different colored algeas growing on it. My early morning swim was refreshing, the water was not to cold and not to hot, just right:)

On to Keahou. Now it was raining & very windy. I had my umbrella and it worked great, I just had to be careful it not be destroyed by the wind. At the Keahou shelter it was really pouring. I refilled my water (the first time since 6:30am the day before, I guess I was carrying too much) and ate an early lunch. The rain let up so I zipped down to Keahou and explored this area. It is also incredibly beautiful and definitely worth a camping trip. I had enough food for another day but decided to head on out via the coast trail. It looked like the rain was going to be here for awhile and I knew my wife would appreciate my early return. At Apua Point I met up with the Danish couple again. They had hiked out to view the lava flow the night before and they excitedly described it to me. They had come to Hawaii for the beach and did not even know there was a Volcano here. They kept asking me "is there a beach at Halape?". They were two months into on a six month around the world backpacking trip. I asked if they had to save a long time to afford the trip and they said yes "Save a long time and make a big loan!" They said if they did not make this trip now while they were young, without kids and house etc. they never would. Soon enough they would be back to the real world working to repay the loan. Friday night they had talked about going to Halape and when I was there I doubted they would make it with their big backpacks, but here they were at Apua Point!

Driving wind & rain, huge waves with curtains of white water breaking over black lava, historic structures built when this land was used for cattle, ancient petroglyphs, many things to see & feel on this eleven mile hike.

At the road I felt I was in luck. There was a rental car parked at the Pu'uloa trailhead. I thought, even if I don't get picked up by one of the many cars headed the 20 miles back up chain of craters road, I'm sure to get a ride from this fellow hiker when he gets back to his car. About 20 cars went by in 15 minutes, no one stopped. A car coming down the hill pulled over and the couple asked if I was all right. "Yes, just hoping for a ride up the hill" I replied. "We're not going that way yet" they said, and off they went in full rain gear to see the petroglyphs. After walking 50 yards they turned back, the vog was triggering her asthma. They got into their car and continued down the road. About 30 minutes later the hiker I had hoped for blasted past me and jumped into his car. I gestured and spoke through the closed window "could I get a ride to the top of the hill?" "Going the other way!" was the reply. He spun his car around and was speeding away down the hill. After being passed by many more cars the couple I had talked with earlier stopped to pick me up. They were from Denver and couldn't believe I was out hiking with so little rain gear. I explained that since it didn't get too cold it was ok if I got a little wet. I asked if they were headed back to Hilo, hoping to get to the airport. Yes they were, if I didn't mind a few tourist stops. No problem for me:) I love tourist stops with friendly people on the way to the airport! We then went to Thuston Lava tube, tree molds and various look out points. This was very enjoyable with good conversation. They had recently been to Tahiti and hitched all over.

Arrived at the ticket counter at 5:45 pm and was able to go straight to the gate for a 6pm flight. Had just enough time to call my son and arrange pick up in Honolulu. This trip was a great success, with 100% enjoyment the entire time. Not having a car allowed me to meet & talk with interesting people and I was still able to get exactly where I wanted to go. I'm glad I just did it!

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