Saturday, March 26, 2016

Big Island 2016

I haven't posted in a year, and we have a huge backlog of photos. Gotta start somewhere: here's our impromptu visit to the Big Island last week. We got very cheap tickets two weeks ahead of time, camped for 5 nights, stayed in a nearly-off-the grid cottage for another 3, and did all the things on the Big Island we missed last time around (2010).

Kayaking and snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay:

We paddled out to the middle of the bay to try to see dolphins and saw a couple humpbacks out a bit further out. We paddled within ~100-200m and suddenly Daddy started screaming eloquently: "WOW!!! WOWW!!! WOOWWWWWW!!!" Full breaches, first mom, then a baby. Buddy calls this his favorite moment of the trip, and it was certainly spectacular.

Hike to Papakolea (green sand beach). About 5.7m round-trip:

Buddy walking though what Little called "turmeric sand."

Littler spent the entire trip tumbling around in the waves.


We went up a 4-wheeler trail on the flank of Mauna Kea into the last remaining palila habitat, called Pu'u La'au. We might have violated both our rental contract and the DLNR restrictions on 2WD vehicles, but we're not admitting anything.

We explored for a couple hours but struck out on the palila.

The next day we did an all-day 10-mile hike from Saddle Road into some of the last remaining habitat for the rarest birds on the island (akiapola'au, creeper, akepa). We struck out on the rare birds, but had a superb time and saw many gorgeous endemics. The kids were phenomenal and all claimed at the end that they could have done "twenty or thirty" miles.

The trail cuts through lava flows of various ages, and occasionally enters small "kipukas"--intact and relatively undisturbed native forests that survived in pockets between lava flows. The kipukas rang with bird song, and the kids were reverential.

For endless hours, Daddy hosted "Nature Questions," an enthralling game where he quizzes the kids on nature trivia and they guess wildly. "What kind of animal is a coelacanth?" "What animal harvests specific plant leaves and uses them to feed crops of fungus?" "What is an axolotl?" We're pretty sure they could do this continuously for 100 hours, and hike enthusiastically the whole time.

About 6 miles into the Pu'u O'o trail there is an undisturbed lava tube with an entrance through a skylight cave-in. Once again, there may be some official restrictions we violated, but we couldn't resist. Consider it educational: the next several Nature Questions involved cave-adapted organisms.

Buddy didn't care much for nonsensical instructions like "don't touch the pile of random bones deep in the lava tube."

We attempted to hike the Pu'u O'o trail in 2010 but got rained out. In that attempt, Littler was obsessed with these plants. Here she is, again in the rain, recreating a classic picture from the old days.

Throughout the trip we did tons of snorkeling, but didn't bring the camera for most of it. As a random selection, here's a juvenile peacock grouper from Kapoho tide pools.

On our last day we went back to Pu'u La'au to try for the palila one more time. Success!! Super bird.

We had a bit of time to burn before our flight left, so we spent the afternoon at Mahukona Beach Park, jumping from the wall into the ocean and doing other Fellin things.

It was a good trip.

Random notes:

1. Littler jumped nozzle-first into the waves every beach we went to. She also made friends at every single beach.

2. We camped at Ho'okena Beach Park for 3 nights, at Spencer Beach for 2 nights, and stayed in Kurtisville for 3 nights.

3. One morning at Ho'okena, Littler woke up, rolled out of her tent, ran to the beach, and just swam right out into the bay. A bohemian-type woman was floating out there and Littler swam over and chatted for a few minutes, then swam back for breakfast.

4. Beaches visited: Ho'okena, Papakolea, Honaunau, Hapuna, Mauna Kea, Mahukona, Kapoho. Littler marinated in every one, and we body surfed and/or snorkeled each.

5. At Papakolea, the water was full of 20-something guys trying to prove their manliness in the waves. And also Littler. At one point she got pulled out, struggled for a couple minutes to swim back, rested for about 5 minutes, and headed right back out.

6. At Ho'okena, Bud just decided to boulder-climb up the coast and Daddy had to run off after him. He just kept on going for over 20 minutes, reaching the limit of Daddy's scrambling skills, and had to be manipulated into agreeing to return. Agile little dude.

7. It is possible to do Hawaii for very cheap, provided you can get yourselves here... :o)

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