Caleb enjoyed the morning to himself and woke me eventually. I’m usually the one raring to go. I ask if he’s going to grab his four beers, but someone pilfered three, so he’s leaving the last one. We stop at Big Rob’s for breakfast because we noticed Patz Pizza sign with Rob’s offer of breakfast all day. I tried a guava turnover sample and got four biscuits and gravy with two eggs. Caleb got the chicken-fried steak. We added a pin to San Diego on the wall map, and noticed no visitors from South America or Russia.
We bypass any stops, and sadly water too, and park in the lot for Green Sands Beach. We both thought we heard “two miles” which kept us motivated on a 4WD track near the windy cliff. We decided to turn around after we heard the trail is six miles one-way and we’d been walking for an hour. We watched the long-legged couple that passed us carry on ahead. We saw black rocks and water for another two miles. Once we got close to the lot again we began passing couples who had been told three miles. I wished them luck. Maybe we should’ve taken the truck offer or driven ourselves.
I had been motivated to return for some fresh coconut water, but the vendor was absent and his cooler locked. We drove five miles up the road and stopped at two farms across the street from each other – one growing orchids and selling hibiscus lemonade, and the other sampling honey by the spoonful and giving tours of their aquaponic system with tilapia and tomatoes. We saw a pineapple in progress, an overproductive papaya tree, and an unripe apple-banana tree.
We saw their guest turkey posing as a pigeon in a tree and tried fresh-picked coffee cherries. We bought a variety of macadamia nuts, coffee cookies, and wild honeys from Paradise Meadows and enjoyed our fresh drinks from Ka Lae Coffee. These treats carried us to the Royal Kona Coffee Center in Captain Cook. We tried some new coffees and Caleb tried nitro while making dive reservations. We bought some beans and peaberry and still somehow forgot to buy water.
We make it to the visitor center of Mauna Kea at 9,000 feet, and over two hours away, before buying a glow-in-the-dark bottle for Caleb to refill. We begin our trek to the top, via low gear 4WD, at 4pm and 60*F. Eight miles and 4,700 feet later it’s 44*F and 45 minutes till sunset. This gives us time to walk around the giant satellites, put here in the 70s, and now a major debate between science and the renewing of Hawaiian Heritage. We have the lilikou bar and nut brownie from last night’s cafe as a late lunch. I put on shoes and change into a shirt I hope is longer and won’t ride up – no luck.
We walk up a 300-foot hill to watch the sunset as the temperature drops. I watch a little boy throw rocks, a girl and her father try to dig up rocks, and a couple sharing wine. We’re enjoying the setting, but the dad next to us is begging his family to go. I don’t know if he was cold, tired, or scared of the dark. The clouds turn to fire and we return to the warm building for hot chocolate and an educational film. Occupancy is only 58, but we get closer to each other so that more of the 200 present have a chance to see.
We’re told to wait till the end of the film before coming outside to view planets Mars (12.5 light minutes away) and Venus (six light minutes away), and the galaxy Andromeda (2.5 million light-years away). The staff tells us no white lights, but that doesn’t translate to the use of social media and high beams – the parking lot and drivers coming down the mountain. My teeth chattered while we waited in the first line and behind six people in the second. We took intermission inside to warm up and let the crowd disperse – it worked.
We looked through two more telescopes, after getting them adjusted, and then made our way through the Invisible Cow pasture at 7:45pm. It was earlier than we wanted, but there was still cloud coverage over the planets, though the Milky Way is one of a kind from that viewpoint. Halfway to Kona we put our sunglasses on to help with the bright lights. I thought it odd none of the seven cars before me reacted, but we couldn’t tame the car behind us either.
I was glad to pull into our hotel, on the same block as the other one, at 8:45pm. We walked to a bar on the beach and then back to Humpy’s Big Island Alehouse which is still serving food. We join a couple at a table and leave them at one end while we sit closer to the sidewalk. We both get burgers – his with bacon and fries, mine made of black beans and garlic with a side of fruit. I leave half a bun, my pickle, and half my pint of Hawaiian IPA. We walk back to the room where Caleb can’t brush his teeth fast enough before passing out at 10:30pm. I won’t join him till midnight.