At long last, the `Ainapo Trail story in pictures and words! Huzzah, and here we go.
The day started early and 5 of us headed up Mauna Loa’s northwest flank in my boss’ heavy duty truck.
Once we were near the summit, the helicopter met us and flew us across the caldera to the southeastern flank. My boss was already waiting for us, as the helicopter had taken him up first. We split into teams of 3 to perform our surveys. My group headed down the `Ainapo Trail, certain to camp overnight. The second group headed around Mokuaweoweo (Mauna Loa’s caldera) and was able to drive back down the same day.
Here’s the start of our survey. We were at the 3rd benchmark here, and we were just finishing up lunch. The day started off beautifully.
The good weather was not to remain our companion for long, however. This was the scene near our 5th or 6th benchmark. I have to say that I love my boss’ outfit. Like all good geologists, his style is impeccable. You’ve seen the way I dress in the field, so be aware that this is utterly tongue-in-cheek. Perhaps we should look into Nike sponsorship or something. At least then we’d match.
The fog was accompanied by rain, and we found our last benchmark of the day in a steady drizzle. Luckily for us, the bossman is resourceful and found a dry (albeit cramped) place to sleep for the night. In a lava tube. On the side of the world’s largest volcano. This has to be one of the highlights of my outdoor life, if not of my entire life.
My boss did a lovely job of modelling the tube for the camera. We had a simple dinner of minestrone heated over the tiny stove, and then we were about ready for sleep. Camping conversations are always fun, and ours was no exception. I’m not going to post a photo of my portion of the lava tube, as it was an even tighter fit than the one pictured. My parents do not need their respective blood pressures elevated any higher than necessary by my escapades.
I do have to say that one of the most rewarding parts of camping is the unexpected splendor of the early morning views that are often available. When you reach a campsite at night, the daylight can offer wonderful surprises. Shortly after dawn on Mauna Loa was no exception.
The plume from Kilauea’s Halema`uma`u vent is visible in the middle of the picture. It is situated at approximately 4,000 feet above sea level. Our campsite was about 9,000 feet above sea level. We started our hike around 13,000 feet above sea level. The temperature dropped to 42 degrees Farenheit in our lava tube, so we weren’t that uncomfortable. I slept poorly, but that could have been because my tube section was the size of a coffin. Most of the hike was over a`a lava, and that’s why I was so battered by the end.
The survey went well overall, and we’ll polish the data tomorrow. We should be able to compare this information with last year’s in order to assess Mauna Loa’s deformation rate. This, in turn, will enable us to form a better picture of the volcanic activity beneath the mountain’s massive surface.