Seven days, seven black and white photos of your life. No people, no pets, no explanations.
Poliʻahu is one of the four goddesses of snow in Hawaiian tradition; and an enemy of Pele, goddess of the volcano. She resides on Mauna Kea and is Hawaii’s most beautiful goddess. Poliʻahu mingled with mortals on the east slope of Mauna Kea and was hōlua sledding with them one day when a beautiful stranger challenged her. The stranger had no sled, so she borrowed one to run against Poliʻahu. In the first run, Poliʻahu won, and then she exchanged sleds with the stranger to be gracious, and won again. On the third run, the stranger opened lava streams in front of Poliʻahu to try to win the race, revealing herself as the goddess Pele. Once she recovered from Pele’s attack, Poliʻahu threw snow at the lava and froze it, confining it to the island’s Southern end. Pele is said to rule Kīlauea and Mauna Loa on the southern end of the island, but Poliʻahu controls the northern end of the island.
Mauna Kea, when measured from the surface of the Earth (on the floor of the ocean) is 33,000 feet tall and is actually the tallest mountain on Earth! But when you measure from sea level, the summit of Mauna Kea is at 13,796 feet, because most of the mountain is below the surface of the ocean. The road getting up there is a rocky gravel road and 4WD is required. I think a lot of the rental car companies don’t allow tourists to go up there in the rentals, but we had the Rodeo – there are perks to driving in an old beater SUV! The road really is rough though people – it is definitely a bumpy trip to the top, so if you plan to go, be careful!
Day 2, Thursday, May 11, 2017
After the City of Refuge, I visited the Painted Church nearby. It wasn’t a planned stop; I drove by and saw the sign and decided to check it out. The Painted Church is officially known at St. Benedict’s Roman Catholic Church. It was built in 1899 in a simple European Gothic Cathedral style, marked by the pointed arch on the exterior and the vaulted interior ceiling, by Belgian priest Father Velghe.
Father Velghe was also a self-taught artist with a lot of talent. The church has beautiful painted murals that Father Velghe painted, and the intricacy is amazing. Father Velghe painted sections of the church with trompe l’oeil, which in French means”deceive the eye.” It is an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create an optical illusion of three dimensions. The nave behind the altar of the Painted Church is trompe l’oeil.
The story is that the murals were painted to educate the illiterate Hawaiian people, but there is some debate about this theory, as it is known that Bibles were translated into the Hawaiian language at the time the murals were painted. I am more inclined to believe that it was a way to provide some extra beauty to this little church.
There is a little cemetery outside with some old graves and pretty statuary. Photos are permitted except during services; it is still an active Roman Catholic parish. There were some vendors outside selling fruit, nuts and crafts, so bring some cash!
After the Painted Church, I was getting really hungry, so I found Da Poke Shack nearby. They sell poke, both to eat there and to take to go, but they also have a little BBQ joint on site. I had the pulled pork sandwich with sides. YUM!
After lunch, I checked out a couple of little antique shops, before it was time to pick up Brent and Rich from the job where they were working.
We picked up Brandon from the airport and headed to Costco for supplies. We had a huge salad for dinner topped with Ahi Poke (a choice of spicy or regular) and loads of veggies. We also made Mai Tais and went swimming and hot tubbing that night. What a fun day!
Costs and Fees: The Painted Church is free to visit – although donations are much appreciated.
Day 2, Thursday, May 11, 2017
Brent and Rich were going to work on my first full day in Hawaii, so I was on my own for the day. I dropped them off and then headed out driving the 1994 Isuzu Rodeo they keep there, with its bouncy shocks and squeaking. This truck was prime high-riding style at 23 years old!
My first destination was the Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, previously known as the City of Refuge. It was established in 1955, and was renamed with the correct Hawaiian name and spelling in 2000. An estimated 421,000 people visited in 2016. Even now, the name City of Refuge is still used unofficially, even though it was never technically accurate; it was never really a city. People didn’t live there – there were no permanent residents there.
I watched a ranger talk, presented by a native Hawaiian Ranger; he gave the history of the site. For hundreds of years until the early 19th century, Hawaiians who broke a kapu (one of the ancient laws that was part of a whole series of laws and regulations) received absolution from a priest if they could make it to the place of refuge, or puʻuhonua. The thing is, you had to swim there, because the puʻuhonua couldn’t be reached by land without crossing the royal grounds, and that was off limits. But if you could get there by water, you were pardoned, and could stay there to rest and recover before journeying home.
The park also contains a reconstruction of the Hale o Keawe heiau, the Hawaiian version of a mausoleum, which was originally built by a Kona chief named Kanuha in honor of his father King Keaweʻīkekahialiʻiokamoku (massive bonus points if you can pronounce that!). After the death of Keaweʻīkekahialiʻiokamoku, his bones were buried in the heiau, and more of the nobility of Kona were buried inside until the end of the kapu system in Hawaii. A son of Kamehameha I, the founder and first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii, was the last person buried here in 1818. Eventually this heiau was destroyed – the one existing on the site today is a reconstruction.
The ranger talk ended with him playing a nose flute – he did a great job too! It was really cool to watch. After the presentation, I explored the site. It has several reconstructed traditional Hawaiian dwellings and structures for visitors to see. You can watch people making tools and traditional items using historic methods. There is also a konane board, which is a strategy game similar to checkers.
The City of Refuge is right on the water and I was able to walk across the lava rocks to see the fish and shellfish in the water. Sadly, I didn’t see any turtles though… There were several other people there, but it was certainly not crowded. I enjoyed strolling around at my leisure and checking everything out. It was so worth the visit!
Costs and Fees: $15 per vehicle at Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park (free with a National Parks Pass).
Friday, August 11, 2017
In August, I took a trip to Portland with a friend and her son for a long weekend. We made a stop on the way on the south side of Mount St. Helens, to do the Ape Cave hike!
Ape Cave was formed when about 2,000 years ago lava erupted down the south side of Mount St. Helens. As the lava flowed the outer edges of the lava cooled and formed a hardened crust which kept the lava underneath in a molten state. As a result the hot lava flowed in a lava tube and continued flowing for months during the eruption. The Ape Cave lava tube is 13,042 feet long, the third longest lava tube in North America, and the longest in the continental United States (for people who pay attention to these sort of statistics…). A lava tube like this is rare at Mount St. Helens because the mountain typically has thicker lava which tends not to result in lava tubes; instead it builds up pressure which then causes explosive eruptions like the eruption in 1980.
We got to Ape Cave about 1:30 in the afternoon after a several hour drive. It was definitely time to stretch our legs and get moving. There are two options to hike Ape Cave, the upper cave and the lower cave. The lower Ape Cave is about 0.75 miles long with a flat floor and is considered “easy,” appropriate for kids and people that are not up for doing the upper cave. The upper Ape Cave is 1.5 miles long, with approximately 27 boulder piles that must be climbed over. When the lava tube finally cooled, the molten lava drained out and the ceiling began to shrink and crack. Boulders fell from the ceiling, in some places leaving the piles and in others leaving the entrances. Even where there aren’t boulder piles, the hardened lava is uneven to walk on. There are also two rock wall obstacles in the cave that need to be scaled too, only one of which was in the website literature we read…
We decided to do the Upper Ape Cave, because who wants to do the easy hike?!? Pretty quickly we were absolutely alone. In the dark… With just our headlamps to keep us company. We made our way through the cave, climbing up the boulders and then back down the pile on the other side. Over lots and lots of rock piles… Over lots of uneven lava floor. The walls of the cave were fascinating. There was cave slime and interesting colors on the walls and the boulders.
I mentioned before that there are two spots in the cave that are more than just moderate. This is where the cave gets its “difficult” rating. The first spot we came to is about a 7 foot rock wall that you had to scale. Lucky for us, a ranger happened along at that point and let us know where the two footholds are. They don’t seem like they are allowed to help by giving you a boost though… The footholds help you get high enough up the wall that you can hoist yourself over, but you still need some strength to make it happen! I had strained my knee the weekend before, so I was a little worried about it, but managed to hoist myself up and over on the second try.
The second challenge was a bit different. You had to use a foothold to get up on a natural step – that part wasn’t hard – but then you had to scoot between the wall and and rock and then scoot your bum up and over the rock to get up to the higher level. The other option was to just pull yourself over the rock from the foothold, but I wasn’t strong enough for that. In short, if you don’t have the upper body strength, you have to be slender enough to scoot between the rocks. This obstacle was the hardest part of the cave for three short weaklings!
Toward the end of the cave you reach a little garden oasis, where the ceiling has fallen in and allowed light and soil to reach into the cave. There are ferns and other plants growing there. We took some photos there and continued on, since we knew we were getting close to the end!
Due to all the climbing over rock piles, it felt like way more distance than a 1.5 mile hike. The elevation during the hike moves from about 1,900 feet to about 2,400 feet, but you won’t notice the elevation gain with all the climbing over boulders… We reached the end after about 2.5 hours in the cave, which the literature says is the expected time. Admittedly, we took a lot of breaks along the way… We were tired at the end, but we still had to climb out of the cave using a ladder.
Once we were back above ground, we hiked back to the trail back through ashy soil and the remnants of the 1980 eruption all around.
If you go… Dress for a 45 degree cave – there’s no sun to warm you up. Wear pants to protect your legs and closed toed shoes, preferably hiking boots or hiking shoes – trust me on this, you will appreciate the leg protection and parts of the cave are slick. Bring a headlamp; you will want to be hands-free as you climb over the boulders. If you can, bring someone tall and strong! That would have made the obstacles way easier… And lastly – you can do it, mind over matter my friends!
What a fun hike!