Friday, February 5, 2010
Escape from the Northwest: Mauna Kea Sunset
This is my second “postcard” from my winter trip to the Big Island of Hawai’i.
With the wind chill hovering around freezing, I’m bundled up in five layers of clothing I packed for this tropical getaway. I’m still cold.
We’ve driven through a stark volcanic landscape up to 9,300 feet on Mauna Kea to the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy and hope to hitch a ride to the summit for the sunset. The road up to the 13,796-feet-high peak is too steep and rough for our wimpy rental sedan. No luck tonight, though, as all the tour vans are full up.
So instead we hike up to a rise at about 9,500 feet, along with several others, and watch the still awesome sunset against the backdrop of Hualalai, one of the Big Island’s five volcanoes.
At first the clouds above and below us on the horizon start to turn orange and gold.
Then the drama heightens as the sun slips toward the horizon.
Even though my hands are really cold, I can’t resist snapping multiple photos as the clouds take on a fiery hue.
Over to our left, Mauna Loa bears a layer of clouds reflected pink from the sunset.
And the vivid display continues until the sun falls lower and the show winds down.
In this relatively remote location without light pollution from any major metropolitan areas, Mauna Kea is home to several of the most powerful observatory telescopes in the world. After the sunset, multiple telescopes are set up at the Onizuka Center for some stargazing. But, alas, tonight a thick layer of clouds above obscure the heavens.
It's still a worthwhile adventure.