We could have just driven up there, against the car rental policy. I didn’t actually read the verbiage, but according to a lot of websites, most rental car companies prohibit driving up the road from the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station to the top. So, we decided to hike it.
Early Saturday morning, still in the thick of the Hilo rainstorm, we get up early, enjoy a full breakfast, and jump into our cars. Driving up Saddle Road, we remain engulfed inside this large cloud. Right at the junction to turn off, we meet clear skies, and a rainbow surrounds our car.
The Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station is closed, so we self-register for the hike. The Humu’ula Trail carries us away from the station and hovers above the clouds the whole time. Everything is a moonscape, but instead of plain gray, the rocks come in so many colors—mostly rust red, but also turquoise green and carbon black. We pass many false summits made up of cinder cones.
After going through the ice age area, we reach the main road. This is the road that cars drive up. At this point, the trail ends, and we hike up the road. Several cars zoom by, but we had only met one person on the trail. The last mile is up this road.
At the summit, also known as Pu’u Wekiu, which is a cinder cone next to some of the largest telescopes, we take in the views. Here, on this highest place of the Pacific Ocean, and on this tallest mountain on earth (33,500 ft tall, or 13,796 ft above sea level), we share thoughts about the Sabbath, sing hymns, and say prayers.
On the way down, looking back toward the summit, we see a whole caravan of cars going on the guided tour the summit, and we are glad we got to experience solitude and the spiritual sense of the place on this special Sabbath day.