Earlier this week I was on an observing run at one of the 10m Keck Telescopes. The telescopes are located on the summit of the 4205m high Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawai’i, but we have been observing from a control room in the town of Waimea.
A typical bedtime when observing is shortly after sunrise. I will usually sleep for 6-8 hours and wake up in the afternoon to prepare for the night’s observations. If time allows I usually try to go hiking or running on the mountain.
Before traveling to the Waimea, a collaborator had sent me information on a hike in the area. A little research by my friend David suggested the morning was the best time to go, before the clouds move in and block the views. So rather than sleep before hiking, it was hike before sleeping.
Shortly after we closed up the telescope (and as my fellow observers were heading to bed), I got in touch with David and we arranged to meet soon after sunrise. David, incidentally is a fellow grad student at UVa. In a fortuitous coincidence our stays in Waimea overlapped so we resolved to do some hiking.
Our goal for the Sunday morning hike was in the Kohala Forest Preserve. Right after we got out of our car the clouds cleared and we were treated with a view of the summit of Mauna Kea, almost 3000m above us. Despite its distance (at least 30km horizontal) the domes of several telescopes were clearly visible — my first view of the Keck telescope!
We then turned our backs to the mountain, hopped a fence, and walked back into the forest. The first half of the hike followed a small canal which lead to a reservoir near where we left the car. A side trail led to the top of a waterfall with a purported view of the ocean. After a short hike through dense bamboo we found the (dry) waterfall, but clouds blocked the view. Backtracking to the main trail, we continued onward.
The trail continued through a re-growing part of the forest with thick undergrowth. After winding through this the trail emerged on the edge of a large gorge. As we stepped in, the clouds thinned and we could see across. Timing the echo of a shout suggested the chasm was about a half mile wide.
Despite the cloud cover, the views were impressive. We scrambled partway up a few ridges on steep trails which split off from the main trail.
After a little over an hour of hiking we turned around when the trail became overgrown and a bit treacherous. Returning the way we came, the cloud cover appeared to be thinning rapidly enough that we hiked back through the bamboo to the waterfall. Our persistence was rewarded with a fantastic view off the top.
Another excellent hike in Hawaii!
To view the rest of the pictures, see Kohala Forest on flickr.