If I had to choose one thing about Hawaii that I love love loved the most, it would have to be Mauna Kea. Maybe it was the lack of oxygen at 9,000 ft+ above sea level. Maybe it was the utter quiet. Maybe it was the twilight and watching the mist descend and form clouds around us.
Maybe it was all of those things.
But it was magical.
I wrote about the high-powered observatories in my last post. This is where they live. People come from all over the world to observe the sky from atop Mauna Kea.
This mountain is technically the tallest one in the states, bottom to top (Mount Everest has a higher top elevation, but its base is above 10,000 ft). Mauna Kea’s base is actually far under the ocean. So what I’m saying is it’s steep. I have altitude sensitivity, so I started feeling funny around 6,000 or 7,000 ft. My husband never seems to notice any external stressors like that — he’s the person who can drive home from the optometrist with his eyes dilated, when I’m still fumbling for my water bottle 8 hours later. So when it comes to driving up the side of a mountain, climbing 9-10K feet in an hour or so, let the one who can breathe do it.
On the way up, there are no filling stations, no McDonald’s, and only scattered houses. Mostly there are cows. And sheep. Donkeys. And signs to let you know that the donkeys will be crossing the road at daybreak and twilight. We found those particularly amusing. Probably the lack of oxygen.
But Mauna Kea is such an attraction because of the high elevation, the great views, and then, as the sun sets, the stargazing. It is so dark out there with the lack of ambient light and the sharp jutting of the mountain into and above the clouds that you can see stars unlike anywhere on earth.
These snaps were taken atop an embankment above the visitors’ center. Hiking up it made me a little nervous. Imma really scared of heights and there are no safety rails on this thing. But getting up there was worth it.
So worth it.
It is undoubtedly the number one thing I would recommend doing if you visit the Big Island. I’m not the type of person who likes to go to the same vacation spots over and over again, but I can’t wait to go back and visit the mountain. I loved it so very much.