Trapped in Paradise – the DC Edition

Part travel blog, part philosophical musings. All tongue-in-cheek ridiculousness.

World Class Stargazing!

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Dude! It’s snowing in Hawaii!

And you thought you were coming here for the warm weather!

And you thought you were coming here for the warm weather!

Granted this happens just about every winter, but it still blows my mind. Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, the Big Island’s two tallest volcanoes at about 13,700 and 13,600 feet respectively, will get a few inches of snow at the summit each year (as does 10,000 foot tall Haleakala on Maui on occasion.) This winter, in keeping with the strange weather patterns seen in the rest of the country, seems to have brought more snow than usual. Bring on the skiing!

Gonna go get a tan on the beach after this, nbd

Gonna go get a tan on the beach after this, nbd

I have yet to try this, but from what I’ve heard the skiing and snowboarding isn’t all that great as the conditions are icy and rough, and you have to watch out for exposed rocks. Also, since there’s no ski lift you’re on your own getting up the mountain. This is no Colorado, for sure. But then, nobody comes to Hawaii for the skiing; it’s all about the novelty of being able to say that you skied on a tropical island, and then drove back down to the beach to thaw out afterwards.  Anyway, for more pictures check out Hawaii News Now.

Since we’re on the topic of mountains on the Big Island, I’m going to take this opportunity to put in a plug for the Mauna Kea observatories, a must-see for any astronomy enthusiasts. Because of the stable airflow, dry environment, and lack of light pollution, scientists have come from all over the world to set up shop here as evidenced by the twelve giant telescopes on the mountain’s summit. These aren’t normally open to the public, although you’re welcome to drive up there to check them out. The view from the top is amazing! Just make sure you’ve got plenty of gas, and preferably four-wheel drive since the roads past the visitor’s center aren’t paved. (You might be able to make it without 4WD, but be cautious since most car rental agreements don’t allow you to drive to the summit. I’ve seen people get stuck on that road, so drive carefully.)  Oh, and if you completely lose your marbles and decide to hike up (seriously?!) try not to end up like this guy. I’m glad he’s okay, because how embarrassing would it be to bite it during a snowstorm in freaking Hawaii?

Standing on top of the world

Standing on top of the mountain

View from the top of the mountain - orange jumpsuits keep your warmer, or something

Orange jumpsuits keep you warmer, or something

For some serious stargazing, check out the Visitor Information Station. Every night after sundown they’ll bring out their heavy-duty telescopes and set them up to look at planets and stars. They even have special filters that allow you to see nebulas, which is really really cool. There’s also a “star tour” where a guide will point out various constellations. I’m a big old space nerd so I’ve been here twice, and loved it each time. It does get very cold, so even though they have coffee and hot chocolate for sale you should dress in something warmer than shorts and a T-shirt, even in the summer. (The last time I went was in April, and I was freezing despite wearing my winter coat.) And the best part? It’s free!

The w hole universe at your fingertips

The whole universe at your fingertips

If you only have time for a few activities while on the Big Island, I highly recommend that you make this one of them. Stargazing on Mauna Kea is hands down one of the best things I’ve done in Hawaii. It feels like you’re looking at the entire universe – absolutely incredible.

Not my picture, it's from Hawaii Luxury News. If I could take pictures like this, I'd be famous or something.

Not my picture, it’s from Hawaii Luxury News. If I could take pictures like this, I’d be famous or something.

So, the Olympics are starting… tomorrow? Friday? I’ve heard the opening ceremonies are on the 7th but they’re showing some of the events starting tomorrow, or something like that. Sounds a bit unorganized kind of like the hotel situation in Sochi (potable water? Nah, but here’s your complimentary picture of Putin!) but either way I’m stoked. Let the games begin!

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Author: Brit C

Aspiring author and travel enthusiast living in Washington DC. Stop by and say hi!

2 thoughts on “World Class Stargazing!

  1. How interesting! Never knew there was a lot of snow on the volcanoes. I went up Haleakala about 12 years ago in February, and it was only slightly breezy. No snow in sight. Do you know when the snow generally falls in Hawaii? (Most of the winter, or infrequently…?)

    • I think the snow on Haleakala is less frequent because it’s not as tall – maybe once every couple of years? The snow on the Big Island mountains is more constant, every December – March, though the amount of snow varies. When I visited in January a few years ago the snow was pretty sparse, nothing like what they saw this winter (I think I remember reading that they got six inches during that storm where the hiker got lost!)

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