OHE November 16, 1999 (Puna Coast--Day 3)

From: Greg Kingsley (gkingsle@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Puna Coast Adventure, Day 3

Day 3: Overnight at Keauhou Shores
Keauhou Campsite
Saturday, November 13, 1999

After the night of twinkling stars, moon rainbows, and Leonid streaks had succumbed to morning's light, it was time to go. But before resigning myself to the departure tasks at hand, I lumbered out of the tent and made my way from the cove to a high-point amidst the "waves" of black lava. I spotted Judy starting off toward the Halape shelter (about 15-minutes from our campsite), so I decided to join her for a short conversation as I looked for a better sunrise vantage point.

About halfway to the Halape beach, I found a great set of boulders fronting the feverish surf. I sat on one of them, several yards from this open cauldron of sea-foam and undulating current. From here, I gazed upon the awakening of the small Kapukapu ridge - its brown peaks beginning to glow like a golden crown upon this "regal hill". Like a living photograph turning from black & white into colorful splendor, the greens of palm fronds, the whites of sand, and the blues of the Pacific etched images in my heart. The occasional blast of cold sea-water mist did help to bring me out of my sleepy daze, though.

As the sun broke through a horizon of plump clouds, I made my return to camp where my hiking cohorts were already engaged in breakfast. I cooked up a batch of saimin and, thinking I'd add a couple of opihi saved from the previous day's catch, I asked where they were. Turns out that in the night, something visited our cache in the cove, nibbled little holes in the netting, and got the bag turned upside down. Reuben found his sack floating in the water: empty. Ironically, I wasn't disappointed at all for I felt we had shared our awesome ocean harvest with, for lack of a better term, the spirits in the sea - the same who presented us with such a fortunate bounty in the first place. At that moment, I felt as though we had been blessed for the journey ahead.

With Keauhou Beach as our next destination, we filtered out of Halape Iki quietly, turning back now and then for some last looks of the cove. I couldn't spot the town of Na'alehu, who's lights were easily identifiable throughout the darkness of our nights stargazing, but I knew it was somewhere in the faraway distance. Features on the rounded peak of Mauna Loa were clearly discernable; its dome shape like a massive hump dominated our rearward view. I noticed how simple it is to underestimate the unforgiving, high-altitude nature of hiking that seemingly tame giant.

After a short 1.8-mile hike, we reached the Keauhou shelter: another three-walled, open-air bathroom pit arrangement - similar to Halape's. We trotted another .3 mile down toward the coast, hopped over some rocks in the tide, and took refuge in a wonderful abode of milo trees and soft, black sand. We set up camp in this great locale - one which is completely hidden from view, even from the shore not 20-feet away. Keauhou is truly a salt-water oasis of life in the middle of a barren, lava-land..

Reuben commented how the idyllic setting resembled a rock garden, except submerged in water. The shore is a jagged line of broken lava-rock (a'a), smooth lava-mounds (pahoehoe), and black sand. The entire jumble is surrounded by either leafy foliage or open-ocean. The outcome is a secluded playground filled with a plethora of eye-candy, such as brackish (partial-saltwater) flows peppered with tiny shrimp, the silver and gray ring patterns along the water's edge, the bounding surf against the breakers, and the mixture of plants surrounding the area. Above all, the true beauty of this locale is an active, abundant sea world thriving beneath the water's surface.

Armed with snorkeling gear, Reuben, Pat, and I were the first to head into this gigantic aquarium. Judy and Carole followed soon after (Mark decided to take a dip later on in the day). With the black sand shoreline on one side, a small lava-island on the opposite, and rocks behind, the result is a relatively shallow aquatic amphitheater teeming with undersea life. Averaging 5-feet in depth and encompassing about an acre in area, it is a virtual treasure chest! In my life, I have never seen so many types of coral and reef fish in one habitat (or even in a picture) - especially one so accessible to mankind. I swam gently through the schools, noticing how they recognized my presence but in no way was my bulky form going to threaten their sleek movements. I floated with a school of "pencil-fish" - long (12 - 18"), slender fish hanging out just below the water's surface. Deeper, I watched the cute antics of one of the red species, who used a slippery twisting motion to turn over loose coral and rocks in their goal to find hidden morsels. I watched Reuben diving to investigate some of the larger rocks on the bottom.

And the colors... there's just no way to describe all the hues and shades! Even the sea urchins, whom I thought were just black, had an almost-glowing neon blue tinge to their jet black spines as they hid under coral of just about every color in the spectrum! It was all so intoxicating that the current almost dragged me out into open water!

Such a dreamy experience, I didn't notice an injury to my knee until I got out and basked in the sun. Caused by a seemingly gentle graze with some shallow coral, I was trailing blood as I snorkeled. Luckily, nothing carnivorous (and big) "smelled" me in the water.

After lunch, the lot of us spent more time "doing nothing". Judy showed me some awesome drawings she did. I brought out my blue tarp and lounged on some windswept rocks along the sunny shore. Reuben and I couldn't do any fishing since all harvesting (beyond a certain point after Halape) is illegal to all except residents of Kalapana proper (many miles away).

Later, I walked up to the shelter and read through some of the log entries: this place has been well-travelled and quite busy! I found the short March entries from fellow hikers Pat Rorie (who was on the trip) and Dayle Turner (who couldn't make it due to work). While walking back, I watched the sunset disguised by cloudy skies and spotted two backpackers hiking into the area (there were a few other campers already at the regular Keahou campsite). It was a misty-eyed moment, thinking about life in general and the reality that this was our last night in this land we called home for three moonsets.

Coming down from my viewpoint - a high pile of rocks I was perched on - I noted a couple of None (/no-nay/) plants, each with several ripe fruit. In fact, there were several plants just behind my tent. I wondered how None, a prized Hawaiian medicinal fruit, was prepared for consumption.

As had become our nightly pleasure, we spent this final night reclined on the beach under the stars. Several of us brought out sleeping bag or blanket to lengthen our stargazing experience. Conversation and laughter melted away the fact that we'd be returning home on the morrow.

Next: The Endless Lava

Happy hiking! Greg

CREDITS: "The Backpackers Guide to Hawaii", Stuart Ball. University of Hawaii Press, 1996

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