Sunday, June 10, 2012

Kohala, Hawaii to See the Sun

Quite a contrast, the first three days in Kailua-Kona were very gray and overcast with volcanic smog.  The ocean was gray with no obvious horizon, the water just blurred into the sky.  It was much worse than the haze of L.A.  We'd read about vog but really were not prepared for it.  We didn't know how much we'd miss the sun.  There was no rain, but just enough clouds to hold the vog down.  Bill and I had headaches, and at times my throat burns. 
Hawaii Vog in South Kona 3 p.m. (c) Engela & Bill Edwards
Hawaii Vog in South Kona.  Looking at sea at 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon.  6-9-12
June 10:  On Sunday, our fourth day here, we drove to the north end of the island to see sun.  We hoped our headaches would improve. Rachel fell asleep in the car on the drive north.  She woke up to blue skies, turquoise water, and emerald green grass.  She said with a sigh of relief, "It's beautiful here."  We agreed.  We were in the middle of the cattle ranches.  It looked like spring in Texas, with the added views of a blue ocean and what we thought was a distant mountain that turned out to be the island of Maui.  

We stopped to take a picture of a rainbow.  There must be sun to create a rainbow and we appreciated both.  We hadn't seen the sun for three days on the west side of the Island in the Kailua-Kona, Captain Cook, and South Kona regions. 

I think we stopped at every ocean-side park on our way north.  On the way we got better at recognizing the no dog signs from a distance.  Still there were some places where we parked and had the dogs out of the van before we found their no-dog sign.  Pets aren't allow in any of the county parks.   

In Kapaau in the Kohala district we drove down Old Kohala Mill Road.  According to the Garmin GPS it looked like a road to the coast.  It quickly became a single-lane road, then dirt walls on both sides got higher and closer leaving us no place to turn around, so we continued forward.  The walls dropped away, but the plants still hemmed us in.  We passed a gate with a sign which read, "Do not block.  Emergency vehicle access."  It was difficult to imagine anything other than a helicopter getting here quickly.  We continued about 300 feet more before Bill decided the road was so bad as not be able to continue further, which was something Rachel and I had been saying for ten minutes. 
Kohala Mountain Road, Hawaii, Hawaii 2012 (c) Engela & Bill Edwards
Kohala Mountain Road, Hawaii, Hawaii 2012

Bill backed the van back up the road to the gate with the sign, so he could turn the van around.  Then we slowly drove back to find the restaurant with the "vegetarian-food" sign.  It was closed and, as it was getting late on Sunday, so was everything else.  In Kohala we found great sun, double rainbows, clear weather, and sparkling blue skies, but not a place to enter the water when you have a dog with you.  

We drove south toward Waimea and could see the observatories at the summit of Mauna Kea.  What was most amazing wasn't that we could see the distant white buildings on the volcanos rim, but the fact that we could see the volcano at all.  This was the first time since we landed that we'd been able to see very far inland. 

We stopped at a restaurant with just average food.  The Hawaiian singer playing guitar and doing covers of country songs and 70s music made the meal much more enjoyable.  We stayed late enough to see the stars on the drive home.  It was only then I realized we'd not seen stars or moon since we'd been here.  I dreaded heading back to the gray gloom that had encased us for the last three days. 

It had been sunnier in northwest New Mexico in November, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado in December, and the Sierra Mountains in California from January to April and everywhere in California in May; even in San Francisco that is known for being foggy and L.A. which is known for being smoggy.  We’d come to an island in the Pacific for sunshine and warmth, but had only found warmth until we headed north to the windy point of the Kohala district.  We'd avoided the rain by staying on the west side of the Big Island, but the vog builds up throughout the days, looking like a rainstorm approaching, but it doesn't bring rain, just gray dreary skies, and sulfur dioxide and (according to one national air quality alert websites) 254 days a year of unhealthy-to-breathe air.