Aug 06

Day 5: Friday, August 06, 2004

by in 2004 Trips, Hawaii

Rest Day (no riding)

Click to see image enlarged
Click to see image enlarged

We slept in and woke to another hot and muggy, but dry, day. This was just a day to relax in Hilo before we took a tour to the top of Mauna Kea volcano at sunset. We visited Rainbow Falls and the natural food store for lunch and provisions. We saw a lot of large banyan trees along the way. Then we just relaxed.

At 3:30 we were picked up by Arnott’s tour company. They drove us once again to Rainbow Falls, but this time we heard a Hawaiian legend to go with it. Then we drove up to the 9,600’ level of the mountain.

There was a small visitor’s center there filled with tourists heading to the mountaintop for sunset. There were a dozen of us on our trip and Sheila and I were the only North Americans in the bunch! We spent about 40 minutes acclimating to the altitude before we drove to the summit.

We topped out around 13,600 feet. We saw about 9 international observatories perched on the false summits of the mountain. Our guide broke out parkas to save us from the biting cold and the stiff winds as we waited for the sun to go down.

I decided to take advantage of the chance to hike to the true summit, about 10 minutes away. It was surprising how much the altitude affected me. I was a little light-headed so I took care to breathe deeply and move cautiously. Before long I was on the top looking at the last rays of sunshine slipping below the clouds. It was incredible. Sheila got a picture of the shadow of the mountain forming a perfect pyramid on the clouds below. What a sight! (see bottom photo)

As darkness swallowed our party, we drove back down to the visitor’s center to do some star gazing. Our guide handed out binoculars so we could zero in on the celestial sights. He used a laser pointer which really impressed Sheila. She still can’t believe it worked to point out stars.

Eventually we got cold enough to want to head back to Hilo. As we pulled in to the Dolphin Bay, the rain was coming down hard again. Amazing.

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