Top of the world
Mauna Kea Travel Blog› entry 6 of 6 › view all entries
March 6th, 2008 – by: agarcia
Today we planned to go stargazing at Mauna Kea. We left the Kona area around 2 pm in order to make in time to see the sunset from the mountain.
We made our way north again on Highway 190 until we turned westward onto Saddle Road. Saddle Road is a pot-holed, sometimes one-lane (over narrow bridges) road that serves as a shortcut to Hilo. The area also serves as a military winter training camp.
As we got closer to the turn-off to drive up to Mauna Kea the pavement improved and was wider. It seems it would have been a better ride if we had traveled from Hilo rather than from Kona.
The road that eventually led to Mauna Kea was in good condition overall bit it was winding as it rose up to an elevation 9200 ft above sea level to the Visitor Information center.
When we stepped out of the car at the center we felt how cold it was at this altitude and were grateful that we had brought some winter clothes with us from Chicago. We rested here for about a half hour to get used to the altitude and to buy some snacks from the store.
It took about another 15-20 minutes driving up a dirt road to reach the 13796 above sea level summit of Mauna Kea. At the top we saw the internationally known observatories and admired the view of the mountaintops covered with snow and sitting above puffy white clouds. It gave the impression that the snow continued all the way to the horizon.
We read in the travel guides that some people go skiing and snowboarding from up here but we saw none this late in the day.
We waited to see the beautiful sunset before we started making our way back down to the visitor center, which provides telescopes and guides to do some stargazing.
It was a moonless night so the sky was filled with many visible stars. And it was awesome when I got a chance to see Saturn and its rings from one the telescopes.
Some bad things about going to Mauna Kea – two of us had symptoms of altitude sickness (not me thankfully) and it was cold!!! A couple of us (me included) had to switch from staying outside and admiring the stars and then going back inside the center to warm up.
Overall it was a memorable and enjoyable night.
For the remaining days we took it easy since we were flying out on Saturday afternoon and arriving back into Chicago on Sunday morning. Uggh! Most had to go back to work on Monday but I had decided to continue my tropical vacation. So on Monday morning I flew out from Midway airport to the Yucatan Peninsula for 10 more days of warm weather.
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