SKIING IN THE TROPICS
Hawaiian Style

Well.....Where to begin.....Okay at the beginning. Since moving to Hawai`i from the mainland the plan had always been "gotta ski the Big Island, gotta ski the Big Island"...And for the first time since I arrived in '90 - there was the snow, time and money to do it......This trip (in Jan 94) was my first ascent to "The Top of The Pacific" and we were ready. (actually I'd been ready since I knew where Hawai`i was!!)

So....Mauna Kea got a dump - a "foot on the summit road", the paper said. I called my pal Lisa at Paradise Actions & Tours and asked her what the best deal on a Fly/Drive package would be and booked it, landing in Hilo, about an hour drive from where the road to the summit begins. We were headed for Pohakuloa, which is about 1/2 way across the Saddle Road that cuts thru the valley between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea - a really awesome place - you'd never know you were in the tropics since the area looks more like the high-country deserts of Utah or Wyoming.

The auto rental companies aren't too enthusiastic about folks driving their cars up there, so we don't want to talk about this part..... ;)

Being a "veteran" of the camping scene in Hawai`i - having camped out at beach parks for the better part of my first two years here, mostly due to my determination (necessity being the mother of motivation) to stay in paradise, self-employed (not always glamorously ;) .... I knew what we had to do.....and went to the Department of Land & Natural Resources - State Parks Division office in Honolulu and made a reservation for a cabin at The Mauna Kea State Recreation Area. As luck would have it - there was space for 2 the next night on Friday - 4 days after the storm. Obviously if one is the type that needs to make plans/reservations a year in advance - this is not the adventure for you.

'Course there was gonna be 4 of us going - which ended up being 3 (never make plans with people who DON'T OWN SKIS) - but details like that never stop DIEHARD ski types......

Now the best way to plan this trip, for maximum benefit of the great over-nighter packages that can be had out of Honolulu, is to fly on Friday with Saturday night being the "over-nighter night" and staying up at Pohakuloa the first night. And since these packages typically come with a rental car as part of the deal, what you want to do is rent a hard-top Jeep, which will be an extra charge, for the trip up the mountain. The idea is to reserve the car for pickup the next day when you come down. Make sure to specify hard-top as a rag-top in a 35 degF, 25 knot wind won't be fun.......tell them that you're worried about rain.

Anyway.....the _THREE_ of us arrive at Hilo "International" Airport at about 4 pm - after a "thrilling" Friday afternoon RUSH-HOUR warp-speed-run thru downtown Honolulu traffic, barely making the plane, just as the door of the DC-9 closed behind us.

After somewhat coyly trying to convince the rental agency attendant that we "weren't planning on going up Mauna Kea.... no sir, not us" - upon refusing the rag-top he pulled up in first - we loaded up the luggage and drove back around the terminal again to load up the skis. It would not sound very convincing if one walked up to the counter with the boards and asked fer a Jeep - trust me.

We head for the supermarket for provisions and refreshments..... once out of Hilo town, on the Saddle Road - there are no stores.....no gas stations....no payhones....no 7-11's.... you get the idea.... Make sure you think of everything, it's a long way ba ck to town.

The Saddle Road at night is a real test of driving skill, 'specially when it's cloudy - which it is most nights at about the 3000 foot level - and did I also mention? There aren't any street lights either. And if you go off the road - in your rental car - be prepared to pay Plenty if you need the services of a tow truck..... Does the term "roller coaster road from hell" mean anything?..... Oh! and another thing.... The locals on the Big Island - since it is BIG - drive fast.....Very fast..... and use this route to cross the mountains to the Kona and Kohala coasts and commute daily to jobs - so keep your eyes on the road and not on the scenery, which is quite eerie at night after you get above the clouds(fog).

We arrive at Pohakuloa - about 1/2 way across The Saddle - at about 7pm and check in. The State Park caretaker points us to our cabin, which to our pleasant surprise is empty and we have it to ourselves. Good thing, since we only have reservations for two and there are three of us - myself, Mutha and my pal Harv, here from Vancouver.

His mother? you ask?....more on this later......

Setting Up Camp

*Hele On

Last modified - 19981206.0949 HST Sunday
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