The weather looked promising on our sixth day in Hawaii (May 22), so we decided to take a day trip to Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea is one of five volcanoes on the island of Hawaii. Mauna Kea is the tallest of the five volcanoes. With Mauna Kea’s peak reaching a lofty 13,796 feet above sea level, we wanted the sky to be as clear as possible BELOW the mountain peak!
We departed Kona at 9:00 AM en route Mauna Kea.
The road to the Mauna Kea summit is about 15 miles long. It branches north from Saddle Road. The Mauna Kea summit road is paved for the first six miles, to the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station. The visitor information station is located 9,300 feet above sea level.
I didn’t take a picture of the visitor center itself; however, I did take a picture of this plaque. The Visitor Information Station on Mauna Kea is dedicated to the late Ellison Onizuka, a local astronaut who died in the 1986 Challenger accident.
At the visitor information station we watched a short movie about Mauna Kea and changed into warmer clothes. When we left Kona it was 80 degrees. The temperature at the visitor information station was 50 degrees. It would be even colder when we reached the summit.
After hanging around the visitor information station for at least 30 minutes, as it is recommended in order to adjust to the change in altitude, we began our climb to the Mauna Kea summit. Beyond the visitor information station, the Mauna Kea summit road becomes steep and unpaved for about five miles. The remaining four miles approaching the summit are paved and not as steep.
We parked near where the road reached its highest elevation at 13,780 feet. We had a beautiful view from Mauna Kea. We could see the ocean, other mountains, and observatory equipment. The Mauna Kea summit area is popular with astronomers worldwide, mainly for its clear and thin air and minimal light pollution.
If you look closely to the right and center edge of this photograph, you can see the trail leading to Pu’u Wekiu–the highest point, at 13,796 feet, on Mauna Kea.
Bob and Dorothy hiked the trail to the top of Pu’u Wekiu.
Leaving Mauna Kea summit we stopped once again at the visitor information station.
We ate lunch (Subway subs) and went on a short walk through a Silversword enclosure area, while at the visitor information station.
We returned to Kona around 3:30 PM. Here is a map showing our Kona-Mauna Kea summit road trip. We returned to Kona the same route that we traveled to Mauna Kea.
Later that day Dorothy and I went to St. Peter’s Catholic Church, known locally as the “Little Blue Church”, and took pictures of the sunset. The church is located in Kahaluu, a short distance south of Kona.
As I was taking photographs of the sunset, I noticed a Japanese fellow taking photographs with a big camera. As Dorothy and I were leaving, we talked briefly with this young man. The Japanese fellow is a Pentax employee. He was in Hawaii for four days taking photographs for a catalog that will showcase photographs taken with the new Pentax 40 megapixel camera (645D, I believe). We shared photographs that we had just taken. The Japanese fellow said that my photographs were good. I told him that his photographs were way beyond AWESOME!