OHE January 5, 2000 (Mauna Loa--Pt. 1)

Date: Wed, 5 Jan 2000 11:40:01 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (prorie@k12.hi.us)
Subject: Mauna Loa Y2K

People around the world chose various ways to celebrate the arrival of Y2K. Most gathered with family/friends using champaign and fireworks to usher in the new millennium. Others congregated in huge throngs (Times Square in New York City, for example). About a dozen "nut cases" decided to make the Mauna Loa (lit. "long mountain") summit cabin (elev. 13,250 ft) on the Big Island of Hawaii their party locale this past weekend. Torrey Goodman and I were two of the "nut cases" and the following is a basic summary of our trip.

== Wednesday, Dec. 29, 1999

At 11:20 a.m. I met Torrey (an experienced backpacker of the Himalayas) at her workplace (Kaiser Moanalua), and we carpooled to the Honolulu International Airport where we caught the 12:20 p.m. Aloha Air flight to Hilo, Hawaii. Having heard about the flood of calls to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (HVNP) during the past two months regarding backcountry permits, we drove to the Kilauea Visitor Center to obtain a permit as soon as possible hoping to secure spots inside the Red Hill and summit cabins. Torrey packed her four season tent just in case.

The two of us arrived at HVNP (overcast skies, 58 degrees) at 3:18 p.m., and, much to our delight, acquired the fifth and sixth spots (more aptly, bunks) in the Red Hill cabin for the 30th and two bunks in the summit cabin for the night of the 31st. From the visitor center, Torrey and I proceeded on foot to Volcano House to pick up the key and linens for cabin #10 of the Namakani Paio campground.

Finding ourselves with some unexpected free time, we then drove to the Mauna Ulu Lava Shield, hiked for about a mile to the top of Pu'u Huluhulu via the Napau Trail and enjoyed the terrific panorama despite the cloudy conditions and threat of rain. We returned to the rental car as darkness set in at 6:16 p.m.

After dinner in Volcano Village at Surt's restaurant (nice place, recommended, call for reservations), Torrey and I traveled to a cold and drizzly Namakani Paio (approx. elevation 4,000 ft) and checked into cabin #10 at 8:25 p.m. We made final preparations for the trip, each took a half pill of diamox and crashed for the evening, Torrey prior to 10 p.m. and myself at 10:21 p.m. Let the reader understand that Torrey and I slept in separate beds and have never been involved romantically. Greg Kingsley was supposed to come with us, but he cancelled due to his acceptance to Embry-Riddle University. The women on this list that I have dated need not worry. Just relax, sweethearts, unless you believe Thomas Yoza who recently branded me a two-timer! Or did he say three-timer? :-)

== Thursday, Dec. 30, 1999

Arose at 6:50 a.m. to a magnificent day weatherwise - crisp, cool with entirely blue sky overhead. Upon returning the linens and key to Volcano House, Torrey drove us to the start of the Mauna Loa Trail (elev. 6,662 ft) where we kicked off the first leg of our journey, a 7.5 mile tramp to Red Hill (better known as Pu'u 'Ula'ula). Stuart Ball has written an excellent route description of the trail in his "Backpackers Guide to Hawaii" (pick up a copy at Rainbow Books on University Ave. for $8), so I'll skip the specific details of the footpath unless deemed necessary for inclusion in this literary work.

We began hiking at 9:30 a.m. in short pants and tee-shirts, bright sunshine with a slight breeze at our backs, perfect hiking conditions. Shortly before the 8000 foot mark, I caught up to Bob and Lisa, a couple from Kailua, Oahu, making their first trip up the long mountain and stopped briefly to chat with them. At 10:54 a.m. I sat down next to the last ohia lehua for a rest and to gain pleasure from the crystal clear view of the gradual curvature of the mountain in the distance. Meanwhile, Bob, Lisa and Torrey passed me without pausing. Further ahead, we encountered two older men and a guy about my age descending from Red Hill using plastic garbage bags to carry their personal belongings. Apparently, they had commenced their odyssey from the top of the observatory road the previous day after sleeping overnight there, walked all the way to the summit cabin and down to Red Hill spending Wednesday night in the Red Hill cabin. One claimed he saw Jimmy Darranty (sp?) during the descent from the summit, and all complained about carrying too much food and not enough clothing.

I reached the Red Hill cabin (elev. 10,035 ft and also known as the Red Roof Inn) at 1:40 p.m. with a female day hiker and met Randy (a middle aged man from Spokane, Washington) on the cabin porch. Afraid permits would be hard to come by, Randy's pilgrimage began on Wednesday morning at the intersection of Rte. 11 and Mauna Loa Road. He walked 11 miles to the trailhead and spent the night at the last ohia lehua (elev. 8,000 ft) in his three season tent. Torrey arrived at about 2 p.m. and two hours later, Bob pulled in carrying Lisa's pack in his arms. Lisa, suffering from altitude sickness, slowly completed the final stretch pausing atleast once to puke. At 4:23 p.m. Zoltan of Hungarian descent living in Washington D.C. entered the cabin and ten minutes subsequent to Zoltan's appearance, Chris, a member of a U.S. Army cavalry unit on Oahu, rounded out the Red Hill cabin roster.

I sun bathed on the porch for a time as Torrey did some yoga to stretch her muscles. Prior to sun set, I climbed to the top of Pu'u 'Ula'ula (no wind, very quiet) and noticed the nearby cones to the northeast but clouds obscured the vista of Mauna Kea and the saddle between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

At 7 p.m. Bob, Lisa and Chris retired for the evening in their respective bunks while I consumed my dinner (caesar salad, Mountain House vegetable lasagna). After dinner I gained pleasure for 33 minutes outside in the area surrounding the cabin from superb star/planet gazing that night until my feet got cold. Recognized Orion's belt, Pleiades, Jupiter, Saturn and the milky way but thought about my friend Ken Suzuki (flora and star/planet guru), wishing he could have been at Red Hill to point out the lesser known constellations. I also observed the silhouette of Mauna Kea, the dark massive bulk against the evening sky.

Randy decided to sleep on the porch, and my thermometer read 48 degrees fahrenheit inside the cabin at 9:10 p.m. I went to sleep inside Gene Robinson's warm REI sleeping bag (max rating -20 degrees fahrenheit) at 9:33 p.m. A big mahalo to him for allowing me to borrow it.

Next: Part 2 - A Rendezvous with the 21st Century at the Mauna Loa Summit Cabin

== Paka

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