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Our trip down the upper part of the Observatory Trail was an easy cruise - the still-firm slow and gentle descending grade made for very easy hiking conditions. We had great views across to Mauna Kea, and to the north, a very fluffy deck of clouds below us.
Brian, Jenn and Haleakala
Beautiful day on Observatory Trail
A sea of cotton
Rivulets of Lava
Brian picture-taking pose
Trail through a'a
We made quite good time hiking down along the Observatory Trail, and by noon, we were less than an hour's worth of hiking time away from the trailhead. We stopped at the collapsed remnants of a colorful lava tube, and laid around in the warm sun, popping a few M&Ms and otherwise just lazing about.
Cairns guide the way
Lava tube cross-section
Brian's Orthopaedic Pose
Observatory in sight
Big gooey lava mess
Mauna Loa Observatory
Back on final bit of jeep road
After our lazy lunch, we started off on the final short leg of our journey. Soon the domes and towers of the Mauna Loa Observatory were in sight, and not long after, the trail reached and turned to follow the old jeep road. Perhaps ten or fifteen minutes later, we were back at the hiker parking lot below the observatory. The time was just after 1pm; slightly less than four hours from the cabin to here.

If you are interested in seeing additional pictures taken during our climb of Mauna Loa that are not in this main narrative, please click here.
Interactive Trackmap - Descent from ML cabin to Obs Trailhead - double-click map to expand
Mauna Loa, Descent Cabin to Observatory Trailhead - Hike Data
Start Time: 9:10a.m.
End Time: 1:06p.m.
Duration: 3h56m
Distance: 9.71 km (6.03 mi)
Average Speed: 2.5 km/hr (1.5 mph)
Start Elevation: 13325ft (4062m) *
Max Elevation: 13403ft (4085m) *
Min Elevation: 11187ft (3410m) *
End Elevation: 11193ft (3412m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 86ft (26m) *
Total Elevation Loss: 2194ft (669m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Elevation Graph
The completion of the Mauna Loa climb marked the end of the 'serious' outdoor adventuring we had planned for this trip. What we had planned for the remaining two-and-a-half days of our trip was mostly a combination of beach relaxation and some cultural exploration. One thought still nagged at me, though: we had not really gotten to see any actual flowing lava up close!

As we carefully picked our way down the Mauna Loa Observatory road, I thought back to the rumors we had heard at the Hawai'i Volcanoes NP visitor center about a guy in the Kapalana area - outside the eastern boundaries of the park - who was offering guided tours to active lava flows that were occuring in the area, just outside of the National Park boundary and normally not accessible to the general public. It was something we could consider doing, but if we did want to do it, it would have to be done now, when we were relatively close to the area. Once we decided to head westward to the coastal area where we would be putting in our beach time, it would be a much more inefficient proposition.

We weighed the pros and cons; actually, more like we weighed the pro and the many cons. The pro was the getting to see the lava part; the cons were several: no guarantee that this tour would be offered; whether or not we'd be able to find the guy if it was; whether or not his price was reasonable or not; not knowing if we had enough time left in the day to arrange to get on the hike (we had to do it today or it wasn't practical); whether or not the active flow was actually happening and in good shape to be seen today; and the fact that the weather still looked iffy and rainy down on that side of the island (making a lava viewing hike much less interesting).

I didn't really want to let the idea go, considering all the time and effort we took to get here, but cold hard logic dictated that the best course of action was to not go for it, unfortunately. Certainly it made for a powerful reason to come back to Hawai'i again someday. The idea of watching a glowing hot flow of liquid rock at dusk greatly appeals to me.
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[ Return to "A Hawaiian Kaleidoscope" Home page | Introduction | Mildly complicated journey | Visit to Pearl Harbour | Downtown Honolulu | Kaua'i - The Garden Isle | Na Pali / Kalalau 1 | Na Pali / Kalalau 2 | Waimea Canyon & Kalepa Ridge | Maui - The Valley Isle | Exploring Kaupo | Haleakala Sea-to-summit 1 | Haleakala Sea-to-summit 2 | Haleakala Sea-to-summit 3 | Haleakala bike descent | Maui beach & snorkel | Flight to Big Island | Hawai'i Volcanoes NP | Mauna Loa Backpack Prep | Mauna Loa Climb | Mauna Loa Descent | Paniolo Greens | Hapuna Beach Park | Pu'ukohola Hieau | Sunset at Hapuna Beach | Ph'uhonua o Honaunau | Farewell to Hawaii | Supplemental: Kalalau Trail | Supplemental: Kalepa Ridge Trail | Supplemental: Kaupo Trail | Supplemental: Paliku to Haleakala Summit | Supplemental: Mauna Loa via Observatory Trail | Supplemental: USS Bowfin and Missouri | Hapuna Beach Sunset | Hawai'i Flora and Fauna | The Blue Pilot | Video Clip Index | GPS Data ]

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