Water Chemistry and Hawaiian Exploration

We had a short week, because we just got back from our second block break. We spent the four precious days of relaxation exploring and (some of us) reconnecting with our families. A small part of our Ohana also got scuba certified with our good friends at Blue Wilderness! They had a blast visiting a whole new world up close and personal with the honu (sea turtles), the coral reefs, and everything in between.

Wednesday, we got back into biogeochemistry with Kumu Lou. One of the highlights was traveling to Onomea and getting the chance to take a dip in one of the beautiful stream pools. Most importantly, we collected some water samples to add to our collection! We spent the day collecting water samples and exploring our island home more, including a stop at the Wailuku River.

Our second day back was spent in our “backyard” on Kohala volcano. Although she’s not active, she’s still giving us trouble with her steep, rocky road! We needed four wheel drive vehicles to get us up to our test sites. Our day included stream sampling and checking our data loggers. From the loggers, we are gathering data on temperature, humidity, etc. in the soil. We are so lucky to be able to do real science in such a beautiful place! The view from Kohala is incredible; you can see the ocean as well as the snow-capped Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. The cows who live in Kohala pastures get to enjoy some pretty prime real estate!

On Friday, we went down to Kona to take water samples. We got a bunch of different samples from different areas in a boat harbor and also from several anchialine ponds. The anchialine ponds were particularly interesting, especially getting to see the famous red pond shrimp. In Hawaiian, they are known as ‘opae ‘ula. These shrimp are able to live under the intense stress of fluctuating salinity, which is incredible to see. At the end of our water collecting, we got the chance to go swimming on a beautiful nearby beach. The highlight for me, of course, was seeing some sea turtles on the beach. It is always a delight to see honu sunning themselves and enjoying the beach as much as we do.

We got a special treat on Saturday by getting to go to Queen’s Marketplace in Waikoloa to watch two of our Dryland forest Kumu (teachers), Uncle Keoki and Aunty Yvonne, perform music. It was an interesting cultural experience for the whole class to listen to Hawaiian music while sitting in a shopping mall. Although they could avoid the tourist areas, Uncle and Aunty choose to sing there because it is a great outlet for their music and messages. We had a wonderful time listening to them, and were happy to support a pair of people that have helped to develop our understanding of conservation and Hawai’i.
– Caroline


What did the ocean say to the other ocean?

Nothing, it just waved.

If you didn’t gather by the hilarious joke, this week NELHA was ocean-oriented (which makes sense, given the fact that we are in Conservation OCEANography). Let me paint you a picture of how the week went.

MONDAY: On the Island, We Do It “Hawaii Ocean Science and Technology Park” Style

It’s a Monday, so if you aren’t in this program, I’m sorry. But if you are IT WAS AN AWESOME MONDAY. If I had to summarize today I would call it tour day. What did we do? We toured. Everywhere. Also Senior Alex Lyang attempted to rock a mustache. It was terrifying.

Stop 1: NELHA. NELHA is the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority and its energy center  is a sustainable, zero-energy facility that was first built around 2004. The energy center is designed to house research and education (we had a nice talk about the Hawaii’s energy potential and future options).

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Stop 2: How to use the ocean to make energy via Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). This on-shore system produces energy using temperature variations of ocean water.

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Emma, Alli, and Abby talk about how cool OTEC is (and how difficult their names are to say all together). Bennett thinks about OTEC, while Nate looks on thinking about lunch.

Stop 3: LET’S EAT SOME ABOLONE. It was around lunchtime and lunchtime is the best time to tour the Big Island Abalone Corporation. We learned about farming techniques and how to create a Mollusk-friendly system. We even got to eat some of the tasty mollusks—and yes, they were delicious.


Final Stop: Biofuels. We toured the Cellana six-acre facility that creates marine microalgae-based products for a “sustainable future.” We checked out the photobioreactors, algae pools, and preparation labs (oh my!).

TUESDAY: The Journey Continues

We journeyed to Alpha Centauri on the Sagan Planet Walk. Being a College of Wooster student, someone had to explain to me what that actually was (i.e. Ellie Derry). So apparently downtown Ithaca (i.e. Ithaca Commons) has monuments of the different planets in our solar system. By that scale Alpha Centauri (the nearest star) would be at the Imiloa Astronomy Center. So of course we went. We also saw a 3D star show (LOOK AT THOSE GLASSES).

We moseyed from Imiloa toward Hilo to see the Pacific Tsunami Museum (PTM). The PTM is a non-profit organization whose initiative is to educate the public about tsunami safety measures and warning signs. We checked out some of the permanent exhibits that combine personal accounts of tsunami survivors with scientific information.


WEDNESDAY: Can you canoe?

Today we prepped food and equipment for a night hanging out with the Makali’i Crew on site. The Makali’i is the third voyaging canoe that was built by canoe carvers; although the canoe is currently in retirement, it has been sailed all around the Big Island, to Tahiti, and to the Marquesas Islands.

When we arrived, we cooked, talked, chanted, and learned about the history of the Makali’i until it was too dark outside to see. We talked with Uncle Chadd, the director of a non-profit voyaging education organization and captain of the Makali’i.

We heard stories of life on a canoe, and learned about the cultural renaissance that occurred, in part, because of the rebirth of Hawaiian voyaging. When it became too late, we unrolled our sleeping bags and fell asleep early to prepare for an early morning.

He wa`a he moku, he moku he wa`a: the canoe is our island, the island is our canoe.

He wa`a he moku, he moku he wa`a: the canoe is our island, the island is our canoe.


THURSDAY: What’s up Dock?

Wake up: 5:00AM

Make Breakfast: 5:30 AM

Chant with the rising sun: 6:00AM

We talked early in the day with Uncle Shorty about Polynesian Navigation and sailing thousands of miles using only the stars, weather, and wildlife to guide the double-hulled canoes. He described to us his adventures as a captain and the struggle to rebuild the past in a meaningful way. When breakfast was over, we were split into groups. Some did dry dock work, which included sanding several massive masts, others bailed water from different sections of the canoe. We chanted while we sanded and were able to chat with some of the crewmembers. It was an overall incredible experience.


We had an exam today. There were (some) tears. Later that day we had an Ohana concert with big names like “Uke and I” (featured below) and “Rated R for Rad.”



BLOCK BREAK # 2 2015! This is the sweet and condensed version: some of us got SCUBA certified, some of us went to the beach, some of us ran away to hotels with our respective parents, some of us slept, some of us played video games. Kumu and Ellie got out of dodge and went to Molaka’i.


BLOCK BREAK # 2 2015!

Pretty much the same as yesterday…



Whales, Wave Gliders and Moa

Monday- We started the week off with a series of lectures introducing us to the world of humpback whales and bioacoustics. Teaching us this week was Adam Frankel, vice president of the Hawaii Marine Mammal Consortium. The `ohana was given a brief overview of bioacoustics, which is the study of sound production, dispersal, and reception in animals. Adam spoke about his research on the effects anthropogenic sound has on marine mammals, specifically humpback whales.

We learned about the ways scientists monitor bioacoustics and face the challenges of working in the ocean. One way scientists do this is by monitoring sound in the ocean with a vehicle called the Wave Glider (picture below). This instrument uses the energy of the ocean waves and solar radiation to power itself, making it completely autonomous. The Wave Glider acts as a platform for bioacoustics tools and can travel the ocean for months at a time collecting data.

With newly found knowledge of the Wave Glider, we took an afternoon field trip to Liquid Robotics to see one in person. Liquid Robotics builds customized Wave Gliders for a variety of clients – from researchers wanting to monitor whale songs to the coast guard looking to keep our borders safe. At Liquid Robotics we were given a tour of the facility and learned about some of the projects the company is working on now. To many of us, the best part of the tour came when we found out we most likely would see a Wave Glider in the water our on adventures during the week. Our tour guide gave us special permission to touch them and check them out if we found one as long as we stayed away from the cables – we were on a mission to find ourselves a wave glider!

Tuesday- Our mission for this day was to find some singing humpback whales. The group traveled to Puako where we took a boat out to look for singers. Adam used a recording device to record singers while we watched for breaches, tail slaps, and any other signs of the whales. The day was perfect, we saw beautiful whales and even had one swim under our boat – luckily he didn’t come up and tip us over! Throughout the day we kept our eyes open for wave gliders and we found one. Once spotted, the `ohana got their snorkel gear on and jumped into the water to check out the instrument. As we dived down into the water we could hear the whales singing. Needless to say we had a whale of a good time!

Wednesday- Wednesday we had a “snow day”! The rain came and stayed for the day washing out our plans to go whale watching, so we had lectures and prepared for Thursday.

Thursday- With the rain gone, we headed toward Kawaihae to a shore look out point. Once there we met up with Adam and two other members of his team. At the shore point we were broken up into groups to help with their project. Three of us helped collect data, three others used binoculars to watch the ocean closely for whales and boats, and the rest of us scanned the horizon looking for any signs of movement.

For the first hour we worked to spot as many whales as possible, indicating whether or not we saw a mom, calf, or male escort. Our goal was to identify as many pods as we could while tracking their movement and surface activity. The last hour required us to silently observe the area we were studying, while one person counted the number of whales they saw. Because data collection does not occur in large groups of 20 very often, using one person to count the number of whales they saw in one hour helps control the data, making it comparable to other data collection events. At the end of data collection we celebrated with homemade chocolate chips cookies!

When we returned home we found some new house guests – baby chicks! These chicks will be our pets until we leave in May. When we leave, the chicks will go to a farm run by one of the program’s alumni. In January when `ohana 2016 arrives, the chicks will return all grown up. Think of it as cooperative chicken housing!

Friday- After a week of whale watching we headed to the Mauna Loa observatory to learn about climate change. The Mauna Loa observatory has been monitoring atmospheric changes since the 1950’s and is perfectly suited for this because of its location. The Mauna Loa Observatory sits approximately 11,000 feet above sea level in undisturbed air with no nearby vegetation and human disturbance.

We got a tour of the observatory, learning about the type of work they do, such as monitoring CO2 levels, ozone depletion, and air quality. Just when we thought we’ve seen it all, we got to see the telescope they use to monitor solar activity. My favorite piece of information I learned was that there is an 8-minute delay between what we observe with sun and what is happening due to the distance away in the solar system. So if the sun disappeared, we wouldn’t know about it for 8 minutes! But not to worry, they assured us that wouldn’t be happening anytime soon.

Mahalo for reading!


Conservation Oceanography

This past week marked the beginning of our second course: Conservation Oceanography with Drew Harvell and Chuck Greene! Drew and Chuck came to Wai`aka on Sunday night for a course overview, and everyone got very excited for a week of snorkeling. On Monday morning, we had a quick introduction to the primary invertebrate phyla we would be seeing in the intertidal zone and on the reefs. Drew promised we would know them well by the end of the day, but some people had their doubts. We headed out after lecture and ate lunch on the beach before exploring the Hualalai intertidal zone. Discoveries were abundant—sea cucumbers big and small, urchins that poked back, an adorable sea hare (photographed by Reyn and pictured below), sponges and corals—even a Honu! After tide-pooling, we drove over to Mau`umae for a quick snorkel on the reef. We learned some of the most common corals in Hawaii, and explored a little as well. On Monday night, Drew went over the work that we would be doing to collect data on the reefs and the resulting research papers we’d be writing in our newly assigned groups—our “pods”.

On Tuesday morning we ventured back to Mau`umae and practiced the fieldwork that we would be doing all week. After a quick practice round, we swam back to the beach, nibbled on snacks (9:30am felt an awful lot like lunch time all week!), and divided into three data collection teams. The “fish people” were to enter first, swim along three 25-meter transects set by Drew and Nathan, and record the number and type of herbivorous fishes swimming within 2m of the transect. Next, the coral and urchin teams set quadrats at 5 locations along each side of each transect and determined the coral makeup and urchin counts in each one. Coral people recorded cover by species, number of colonies, and disease prevalence and urchin people searched the nooks and crannies of the corals for hidden urchins. I may be biased, but Team Urchin definitely had the best job! Unfortunately, the surge picked up quickly and Drew made the call to get us out of the water before we were able to collect all the data we needed at Mau`umae. We played around a bit in the waves near the beach and headed home early. In the evening, Drew came over and showed us amazing photos from her recent trip to Indonesia. It was really exciting to see healthy, flourishing reefs and to hear about her research.

Wednesday was an incredibly exciting and action-packed day. We left early to get to a marina, where we hopped on a boat with our friend Denise from Blue Wilderness Dive Adventures and headed out on an hour long boat ride to Kealakekua Bay, just south of Kona. All 22 of us crammed into a hard-bottom inflatable, most of us straddling the sides of the boat for added adventure. It was a really great experience to see the west coast of Hawai`i from a new perspective. Kealakekua was crowded with snorkelers and kayakers, but we were able to get good data with time to spare for fun. The reef is stunning, healthy and full of life. It is located at the bottom of a massive cliff and is only accessible by boat or 2-mile hike. I used my underwater video camera for the first time, and it’s a good thing too because hidden away in a natural arch built into the cliff’s edge was a 5-foot-long white tip reef shark! Sharks are rare on the Big Island due to overfishing issues, so the experience was incredible in many ways. Although many of us would have loved to stay at Kealakekua all day, we were headed back to the marina in the early afternoon. But the excitement wasn’t over! About halfway into the boat trip back, we were blessed with the arrival of several kohala—humpback whales—swimming very close by. We watched the kohala blow, wave their flukes and breach several times, only a couple hundred meters away. It was whaley an unbelievable sight and a great end to an exciting outing.

On Wednesday evening, Lehua came over with bamboo so that we could begin working on kihei stamps. A kihei is an ornamental piece of clothing that serves as a spiritual representation for the person wearing it. We will each make our own for the Pa’ina celebration at the end of the semester. We chopped the bamboo with machetes (which some of us found far too fun), and carved out our blank stamps. Lehua looked over and critiqued our designs so that we could edit them before the time comes to carve them into stamps.

Our schedule was adjusted on Thursday due to dangerous surf conditions at the reef we were supposed to visit. Instead, we headed back toward Kona and went to Honaunau Bay to collect data. We had a lecture on corals and climate change in the evening. On Friday we were hard at work on our research projects in our pods. Craft supplies started flying around as we began preparation for Saturday’s Invertebrate Ball! In the afternoon, each pod presented their hypotheses and data analysis to the rest of the class. In the evening we gathered in the living room for a viewing of Finding Nemo to further our reef education.

On Saturday morning we got to collect one more set of data at Puako. The reef was definitely different from the others. The entry point from the beach was narrow, and we had to time our entrance with the waves. At first, the reef appeared less healthy than the others we’ve seen, but it ended up being very lively. We spent the rest of the afternoon trying to focus on our papers, but people were getting excited about the Invertebrate Ball. The Invert Ball was a classy event featuring the latest in invertebrate fashion. Everyone dressed in their Saturday night best as their favorite invertebrate. Urchins and jellyfish were aplenty. Some of the more risky costumes paid off—a nudibranch, a conductor crab, a flatworm, a Christmas tree worm. Others were off after 10 minutes—I won’t mention any names. Eric was a collector urchin, and spent the evening swiping parts of other costumes to tape onto his shirt. Kumu came as “marine debris”, covered in the trash that litters the ocean. The winner of the costume contest was Ms. Aubrey Coon, a beautiful bubble coral. Activities at the ball included “pin the tube foot on the starfish” and “musical find-a-spot-on-the-reef”. The inverts danced their vertebrate-less bodies until midnight.

On Sunday morning, we had our second Wa`iaka Field Day. The theme: Gallus Gallus Moolah. The costumes: chickens and gangsters. The mood: slightly confused. The highlight: In search between the dryer and the wall for a recently lost sock, PA Nick Lucia discovered a sock that he had lost no less than three years ago. It was reunited and Nick was ecstatic.

The chickens have arrived after a week of preparation by Kumu Alex and some helpers—they are simply delightful and we can’t wait for some chick therapy next week!




Alaka`i boardwalk

Alaka`i boardwalk

Sunlight glowing through the canopy, enveloping the forest in a soft blanket of golden light. Slippery boardwalk unfolding before my feet. Endangered, endemic, and invasive, all battling in an ever silent war for life beneath the reticent trees towering above. Peacefully marching along not really knowing or caring about the destination, only the journey.

Silence. Until, a question. Cutting the silence like a knife through butter. Do I know what tree this is? Olapa. Do I know the genus and species? No, what kind of question is that, I’m thirteen. The questions pour on like a river rushing through my ears. Softer, more enjoyable to ponder. The rest of the hike is spent tripping over our own laughter, gliding through a silent forest. Slippery boardwalk folding itself up behind us, fading into golden light.

– Ellie

Blog Break and Thursdays with Lou

Block break was short and sweet.

Our entire `Ohana stayed in Maui, minus John and Krysden. We split into 3 groups with our cars stuffed with food, supplies, and luggage. You could say, we really put our expert Tetris stacking skills to use. Two out of the 3 block break groups stayed at Wai’anapanapa camp grounds, which was awesome-sauce! This campsite was as fancy as a campsite could get, it was fully equipped with soft green grass that was relatively flat to sleep on, indoor plumbing, and cold showers. There was also a black sand beach filled with 3-inch long centipedes just a few minutes away that you could walk down to. This my friend, is what the fancy folks call glamping (glamorous camping). Basically, let me sum up the block breaks into single testimonies from representatives of each block break group.


Block Break Group 1’s representative Mary Catherine Reinthal says, “I liked sleeping on the beach.”

Block Break Group 2’s representative Christina Ann Harden says, “Abby was a better driver than Alex. Oh, and watch out for rainbow fish, they are too close for comfort.”

Block Break Group 3 stayed at a hotel for the duration of the block break being tourists.

Anywhos, they say pictures are worth a thousand words. So, Emma out **drops mic**.

February 19th-February 21st
One class ends and another class begins. The first day of a new class begins with trips to various outcrops of different ages where the `Ohana closely observed the outcrop to attempt to figure out what processes may have occurred to give it the present day appearance. This first day was a warm up for the real task at hand, going up to Kohala Mountain to install loggers and measure the pH of soil and water. Our Kumu Lou Derry takes us to Kohala Mountain to install loggers at various GPS coordinates on the Kohala climate gradient to monitor humidity, temperature, light, and moisture for each individual site. This project would require 2 days to complete. Along with installing loggers, we also took the pH of soil samples at each stop. The procedure was hard work, but nothing our `Ohana could not accomplish.

After completing these large holes, we collected soils at 10 cm and 50 cm at each site to measure the pH values. The results were that the soil pH of the areas were never higher than 5.4, which indicated more acidic soil conditions. We would also install in the loggers near the edge of each soil pit.

Christina Harden and Eric Nunez La-Fontaine install some loggers

Christina Harden and Eric Nunez La-Fontaine install some loggers

This experiment took the course of 2 days to complete. After installing in all the loggers, we filled back in the hole and headed back down Kohala Mountain. Now it was a matter of waiting and checking in on the data of the loggers in March when Kumu Lou resumes his Biogeochemistry class.
To reflect on these 3 days with Kumu Lou, I must say that I came out of the class learning a lot more than I expected for just spending 3 days on course materials. The material at occasions got intense, but needless to say, there was still time for some fun shenanigans.

Ohana shaka-ing down Kohala Mountain

Ohana shaka-ing down Kohala Mountain

Till next time Kohala Mountain
Gossip Squirrel
-Emma Zheng

`Ohana takes Maui

Monday – we touch down in Kahului and someone remarks that the view from the baggage claim is the same at every island airport we go to. But the horizon looks distinctly different from the lava fields of Kona and the dinosaur spine ridges that greeted us in Kaua’i: the flanks of West Maui, covered in green rivulets, come down from the clouds and flow all the way to the ocean.
We wait on the curb for the rental cars, looking more forlorn than usual, and I feel like I experience the trade winds for the first time. This is shortlived, because soon, we’re piled into vans – are the Nissans smaller than the Dodge caravans? I can’t tell – and on our way to the Maui Seaside. The locally owned motel has a huge Hala (Screwpine, Pandanus tectorius) out front, white walls, and green trim. It wouldn’t have felt out of place to roll up in a Cadillac in a 70s Technicolor film.
We’re happy to eat lunch, grocery shop for the week, and make Ellie subtly ask all our Secret Valentines what kind of chocolate they like. After several power outages and more than one over budget Hui, we make our way back to the Seaside for break time. (Woo!) Some of us head to the mall; others take naps or equally long hot showers. Mazen heads over to the ocean and sees an octopus; Eric (or Ellie? unclear) kicks Christina in the head in the pool.
At 5:30, we re-group, and Kumu briefs us on our upcoming trip to Haleakala. We learn that Haleakala Crater is more of an erosional feature than a caldera, unlike Kilauea. We’re given maps and instructions to not get lost like those other kids who made it all the way to the ocean—and if we do, to call Lou to pick us up.
We’re set free to find dinner in Kahului, and many of us go to Whole Foods. After dinner, Virginia and Ellie buy matching pants, Abby, Christina, and Phoebe all find the bathing suits of their dreams. Then it’s back to the Seaside, to work late into the night on our Kaua’i Sand Dunes project! Overall, it was a solid day for the `Ohana.

Day 2 – Rain???
We wake up for breakfast at 7:30 and find a sparse packing list. In addition to two regular items, “Raincoat?” is listed at the very bottom. Some of us obeyed, others chose to rebel—after all, we’ve been having the best luck with weather, ever, right? It can’t rain on Maui, right?
Wrong. We make our way up to Kupa’a Farms on the Haleakala side of the island, only using our windshield wipers sparingly. When we arrive, the sky decides it’s time to open up. Those rebels without raincoats rue the day. Only Eric, who brought both a raincoat and rain pants, stays dry today. For the rest of us, sneakers are soaked within the hour.
This doesn’t dampen our spirits, though, and we follow Gerry Ross around his beautiful organic farm. A veteran of the Canadian Geological Survey, he and his wife moved to Maui in the 90s to start Kupa’a Farm on a 14 acre piece of land owned by his in-laws. The vegetables are so sprightly and healthy looking, the branches of the coffee trees sag with “cherries” to be picked, and the compost pile is a steamy 130 degrees Fahrenheit. We learn a lot about cover crops, food waste, natural fertilizer, and some of the insects that are a threat to some of these handsome fruits and veggies—like the Coffee Berry Borer and the Potato Nematodes. We get to see just how much effort goes into running an operation like this, and many of us are in awe of and inspired by Gerry and his family—especially since they started this farm with little to no prior experience, and learned everything they know (which is a lot) through observation and mistakes.
After our tour, we enjoy lunch in the garage and sample some of Kupa’a’s award winning coffee—it really is excellent. Then, we spend the afternoon picking coffee cherries. Gerry, who can pick 25lbs of coffee per hour by himself, says nothing about our 23 member `Ohana picking 75lbs in two and half hours. This was kind of him. After picking our coffee cherries, we get to watch how they’re processed and see beans at different stages of dryness. Simultaneously, we all miserably ponder our own stage of dryness.
When our time at Kupa’a comes to an end, we sincerely thank Gerry for his time, and pile in the vans to head back to the Seaside, all of us well caffeinated and thoroughly inspired.

Picking coffee at Kupa`a Farms

Picking coffee at Kupa`a Farms

Day 3 – Megaptree novergray
We say goodbye to the Maui Seaside for a few nights after a delightful breakfast at the hotel restaurant. We drive to `Iao Valley, which used to be the West Maui caldera. It looks way different than the Kilauea caldera, but a 2 million year age difference can do that to you. The walls of the valley are steep and covered in rainforest. From the parking lot, trails go off in multiple directions, leading to different garden paths and lookout points. After a walk through the beautiful gardens featuring canoe plants brought by the Polynesians, lots of us take pictures in front of the West Maui Needle (Kuka`emoku) in true tourist fashion.
We only spend a little time in here before it’s back in the vans. It’s a short drive to a little lookout point on the southern end of West Maui where we see Kohola galore! We can also see Molokini, Lana`i, and Koho`olawe across the water. These islands, plus Maui and Moloka`i, were all connected when sea levels were significantly lower in the last ice age 20,000 years ago. These shallower waters and island barriers make the place perfect for whales. Most of us who have been slacking on other islands get Megaptera novaeangeliae checked off our species checklists—but some of us aren’t so lucky. Eric makes fun of Sophie by saying, “It’s Megaptree novergray, right?” but he’s not too far off. Sorry, Sophie, maybe another day…
We talk a little about the lava flows that make up the rock we’re sitting on, and we do a little scrambling over the cliff side down the to the water, where we can see the contact point between the younger, alkalic lavas and the older tholeiitic lavas. (See Bennett’s stylin’ pineapple hat for scale).
After we all make some artful sketches, it’s a scramble up the cliff, and then an awesome afternoon at the Maui Ocean Center! We have a great time exploring the aquarium, and many of us came face to face with our spirit animals!
Then before we know it, some of us are trying our hardest not to toss our lunch on the road to Kipahulu. We pitch our tents at the NPS campsite, and check out our surroundings: we can see Hawai’i from here! There are also some pretty cool tide pools, and some of us get closer to them than others (cough, Lopez, cough). The stars are fantastic, but most of us are in bed by 8:30.

Day 4 – Seven Pools
The next day, we pack up our campsite, and we’re on the road a half hour early—woo! We go a couple hundred yards up the road before we pull into another parking lot and Kumu announces that we’re free to roam the Kipuhulu area. This includes swimming in the pools at Ohe’o, and trekking through the bamboo forest up to the Falls of Makahiku and Waimoku. The trail leading up to the bamboo forest is shaded by kamani haole, which you can tell because 1 in 5 (or 1 in 1 in some cases…) of the leaves are red instead of green. There’s also a bunch of wild coffee growing around—we couldn’t miss it after spending so much time with it at Gerry’s.
The bamboo forest itself is unbelievably cool—most of us have never seen anything like it. The temperature drops what feels like 20 degrees once you enter it. It’s dark, and you almost expect to see pandas prowling behind the green walls of thick stalks. This stuff is so strong, even though it looks flimsy, and many of us feel like it’s such a shame that it’s an invasive. Most of us do the hike to the waterfall, which only flows a little today because it’s been so dry, and then head back down towards the pools for lunch. The pools are so pleasant to swim in, and some of us do some sweet rock jumping after much coaxing and reassurance from the braver souls.
Early afternoon, we assemble in the parking lot. We (barely) survive the road back, and get on our way to the other Haleakala campsite: Hosmer Grove. We arrive surrounded by pine trees, and the wind is blowing clouds directly over our heads. It’s pretty cold, I won’t lie to you, and the wind is insane. Little do we know this is only a taste of what’s to come….

Day 5 – House of the Sun: Part I
I’m up at 5:45 and in a van by 6 to watch the sunrise near the summit of Haleakala. The clouds are kind of in the way, but the view of West Maui was unbelievable. I’m not even tired since I went to bed at 8:00… do I get to keep this sleep schedule at Cornell?
After we give up on the sunrise and head back to the campground, I put the finishing touches on my backpack. I pile into Kumu’s van with a few of my fellow compatriots and we’re off to the visitor’s center to get our permit for Kapalaoa Cabin. We’re asked to watch an informative video about leaving no trace in the park, and are reminded once more that whatever we bring in, we must take out. Krysden does a little shopping, Eric admires the Silver Sword hybrids out front, and Emma uses “the real bathroom.”
Within the hour, we’ve all been dropped off at the summit. The wind is blowing like a hurricane and the rain is falling sideways. Remember when Steve said we could wear shorts and a t-shirt? Alice, Kumu, Nick, and Virginia shuffle the cars around, so there’s something waiting for us when we crawl out on the other side. When they get back, we’re off.
Hiking in, I can’t see anything but clouds and the gray sliding rocks beneath my feet. I’m following a ghostly rail of backpacks—and all of them have rain covers, except for mine. Damn it. Occasionally, the clouds to my left blow away and I can see the crater shining in bright, hot sunlight. It really does look like Mars. I’m trying to be interested in the view, but I find that it’s more crucial that I focus on the trail in front of me and trying not to blow my knees out as we descend ~3000 feet.
I have my hood up, hat on, neck gator over my face, but I’m still feeling piercing rain drops hitting what little exposed skin I have. Wind is blowing my pants against my legs in such a way that I have a second, North Face skin. When the wind shifts direction, I’m a human sailboat, thanks to my huge backpack, and I’m almost knocked over a few times.
As we descend, I see more things—silver swords, pukiawes (which I’ve decided will grow literally anywhere), ferns, grasses, and little yellow primroses. It’s the familiar stark lava flow plant life that I’ve come to love. But it’s hard to love it right now—because even though I’ve reached the crater floor, I’m still two miles from Kapalaoa Cabin and now it’s raining in earnest. A trail fork leads left, to Holua Cabin across the crater, where the sun is shining and the Nenes are singing (in comparison).
Eric and I make it to the cabin first, but everyone arrives soon after. Even Kumu says it’s miserable—and that’s when you know. We dry things by the fire, take naps, and make too much ramen that we’ll have to carry out. Before bed, Kumu tells us stories about Maui—Hawaiian Superman—how he found the fire, pushed the sky up, and slowed down the sun. I love Hawaiian folklore.
We go to sleep at 8:30—and I’m up at 10, then 12:15, then 2, then 4. The wind is howling so loud—it’s going to bring the cabin down, I swear.

Day 6 – House of the Sun: Part II
Somehow, we all survive the night. By 7:30, we’re all awake and oatmealed and packing up our stuff. Someone—maybe?—puts on Sierra’s pants.*
“Can we wait for the wind to die down first?” Sophie asks. Someone replies that we’ll be at Kapalaoa all day if we do that. I agree. I’m eager to get started. It’s 8:15 when we leave Kapalaoa behind.
Trailhead reads: Holua – 4.3 miles. It’s almost flat, but that’s not the hard part. Remember the human sailboat thing? Multiply that by 200. Remember the piercing needles of rain? Throw some sand and bits of rock in there, too. I know because something flies into my mouth and I crunch down on it—headache for the rest of the day.
There’s one part of the trail where I’m walking between two Pu’u and the wind is blowing so hard that I’m leaning forward trying to move, but I can’t. I’m suspended in motion, and I’m wondering how anyone managed to pass this way yesterday. Oh well—at least there’s a rainbow ahead of me right? There are rainbows after rainbows after rainbows—but I’ve decided that all rainbows mean is that the sun is shining, taunting us, while the rain blows sideways into my ears. This is more annoying than no sun at all.
We reach Holua at about 9:15, and all the food I brought for lunch is gone by 9:30. I miss my Fig Newtons, and rue the day I only bought two boxes. The Kapalaoa Krew wastes no time, and soon, Mary, Alli, Sierra, and myself are leading the trek towards the Park Road. Sierra asks, “Wait, these aren’t my pants. Is someone wearing my pants?” for 3.9 miles. A laughable distance, right? …right? Oh, sorry, did I not mention the switchbacks? Remember that ~3000 foot descent I told you about? We have to get back up that somehow, and the way Haleakala has chosen is to present us with two good miles of narrow switchbacks on the wall of the crater.
Next thing I know, I’m leaning against a rock, hanging on for my life. The wind is so bad that I almost can’t breathe. Phoebe isn’t far behind, taking a picture of me struggling to get around this bend. I turn to her and try to yell, “I don’t think I can do this!” but she doesn’t hear me. Thank goodness—because that would have been embarrassing, and it doesn’t even matter, because the next moment, the wind suddenly stops.
I’m standing there thinking, “I can wait here for Phoebe, the next gust of wind, and my demise, or I can run.” So I run, for awhile, actually, until I reach the other side of the cliff face. The rest of the way up is kind of a blur. I remember thinking that moving at this pace up this hill was harder than any half marathon I’ve ever done. I also almost toss up my PB&J and figgy newts—wish I still had those figgy newts.
Eventually, I run into Nick, coming down the trail from the opposite direction. He had gone to Holua Cabin the previous day, and I was confused to see him. I catch myself thinking, “Maybe I’ve died, and he’s some kind of merciful angel here to carry my backpack as far as purgatory…” Then, the more rational side kicked in, and I thought, “PEOPLE! I must be close!”
He tells me I’m about halfway there, and I think a little bit of me died inside. He moves on to check in with the rest of the folks on the trail. The running episode had put me pretty far ahead of everyone else, so now it was just me in front. Lonely, but nice, just me and my breathing.
I see plants, and I wave to people going in the opposite direction. I look like a tomato, but I feel great. Seeing the ocean from this high up is a pleasant reminder of where I am—if it doesn’t end up being the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it’s certainly the coolest. I reach the end of the switchbacks, and the sign tells me it’s 0.7 miles to the parking lot. I’m deliriously putting one foot in front of the other by the time I see the cars—I slow down significantly, but suddenly, there’s Virginia! And Steve, who takes my backpack off and lets me sit in the middle of the parking lot with a box of Maui Caramacs.
The runner’s high is unreal—I’m so glad I did that, and, sorry Emma, but when can we go again?

*Whether or not Sierra was actually wearing her pants has yet to be determined.

– Christina