Journal of visit to the Big Island of Hawaii March 2011

Hawaii Power Point slides

I am attending  “THE MAINLAND CHINA-TAIWAN-PACIFIC RIM CONFERENCE ON CLIMATE AND AIR QUALITY” at the Waikoloa Hilton Hotel Kona, Hawaii March 14-19, 2011, where I am scheduled to give a 3 hour invited lecture on aerosols and clouds and then participate on a panel as well.


I awoke at 300 to prepare to leave for DIA. I turned on the Weather Channel only to find out about the earth quake and tsunami that hit NE Japan and that it was expected to hit the Hawaiin Islands before our arrival in Hilo. Vollie and I got to DIA and caught our 0715 flight. Enroute I asked a flight attendant about Honolulu and he said the airport was closed. But by the time of our departure from LAX it opened and we left on time. At Honolulu we heard all the airports at outlying islands were closed and one flight to Hilo was cancelled before ours. But we lucked out again and our flight departed on time. I had a car rented and we drove around the north side of the island on excellent highways at 55-60mpg and did the drive in around 1 hour. It turns out I could have gotten flights with the same airline(Hawaiian Airline) right into Kona but being my own travel agent I didn't even check that out. It was just a dinky runway years ago. Since we arrived in the dark I could see no evidence of the Tsunami although I heard there was damage further south on the island and on some other outer islands.

  As I said we arrived after dark about 6:30PM and stopped in a shopping center and had dinner before checking into the hotel. The Hilton Waikoloa Village reminds me of Disney World. I checked in and then parked at a self-parking area about 1/4 mile from the lobby. The lobby is essentially a check in/out counter and a train/boat station. You take a tram or slower boat to your room. It took us a while to find our tower elevator once we got off the tram at our station. We are on the 5th floor and slept with the screened patio door open. I awakened at my normal 0530AM time which is 0230 here and have been reading or catnapping since. I hope to go for a jog as soon as it is light enough. After breakfast the plan is to visit Volcano National Park and whatever else we find on the way. 

 We have a dinner engagement with a friend(Rit Carbone) from NCAR in Boulder who has a house in Waimea up on the ridge at 2500'MSL. By the time we get back we will have driven around the entire island!

It was almost 80 over here when we arrived and it now feels like around 70 outside.

  I woke at 230 which corresponds to my normal wakeup time of 530 in Fort Collins. I tossed and turned, read a bit and catnapped until 600 when it was light enough to job. I jogged through winding paved walkways through our complex and then along the beach on rough broken coral trails.

  Vollie and I set out  to visit Volcanoes National Park after having breakfast at a food court in the small shopping mall near the hotel. Then we headed south on quite a long drive. I saw the first sign for the park after we drove about an hour and it said 90 miles! We stopped at a small village to pick up some local fruit and things for making lunches and breakfast. It was a neat little town and they had a form of farmers market. There was also a bakery where breads and pastries could be purchased.
 Around 1230 we arrived at Volcano National Park where we had our lunch of submarine sandwiches we had purchased at  in the shopping mall near our hotel. The temperature was down in the low 70’s, cool enough for us to don our jackets!  Then we drove and hiked along the rim trails of Kilauea crater. There views of the smoke and steam coming from the lowest part of the crater and steam vents along the trail itself.
I had hoped to see  lava flowing out into the ocean but they told me I was a month too late!

We then drove into Hilo and stopped to walk around a city park that is on the shore of the bay. It is a beautiful park with Japanese type of pools and statues in the interior and views of the bay as you walked trails along the shores. Being Saturday it was quite busy with local families having their picnics.
Heading to Rit Carbone’s house in Weimea  we took the saddle road this time which begins winding through the outskirts of Hilo and climbs and climbs, goes through a construction area, and then back to the old rode at an elevation of 6500’. The last 20 miles of descending road is very windy, with major dips and rises, and then many single-lane small bridges.  You really have to be careful about not meeting someone head-on on those bridges!

We found Rit’s house which is in the outskirts of Weimea in a modern subdivision consistenting of single and two-story homes of about 1500sq ft. Rit’s place looks over a large sprawling ranch with Mauno Kea in the background. We actually could see its summit in the setting sun. 

We then went to an upscale restaurant called Merriman’s where Volllie and I had Mai-Mai that was very nicely prepared. Rit brought a bottle of wine so only the tapping fee was paid($20) but he said that wine would have cost around $150 if bought at the restaurant. It still costs over $130 for our share of the dinner!
 Quite tired by this time we headed back to our hotel.


 I finally slept to 0600! I took a jog along the shoreline where I saw some red bird about cardinal size but definitely not a cardinal. I also saw in the lagoon a few sea turtles, and two adults and young bottlenosed dolphins.  Someone told me they observed some whales sounding offshore that morning.  We will have to keep our eyes open!
Around 0900 Vollie and I walked along the shoreline and observed a number of pods of whales. Every once in a while you could see them breaching. Then we saw a pod of bottle nosed dolphins closer to shore. We also observed numerous colorful birds.
 In the afternoon we drove north to a beach at Hapuna State Park. It was crowded, being a Sunday, and hard to find a parking spot. But we hung out and took turns getting wet in the gentle surf.
On our way back I spotted a sign for a general  store. So we drove down to the  village of Puoko, which is mainly composed of  small, older homes along the shoreline and across the road from the beach. We picked up some food so that we could prepare our own lunches and breakfasts. Partly due to the cost of food but also because I can get what I can eat!
  While walking around this quaint general store we heard these weird sounds. It was live whale sounds from an underwater microphone out in the bay. As I mentioned we sighted quite a few whales  and the activity in the area was quite high.
We returned  where I took a nap and then picked up registration materials. On our return to our room we observed a beautiful sunset over the ocean.

After a morning jog and breakfast in our room of oatmeal(using hot water from coffee maker) with fresh papayas, and bread and peanut butter, I went to the conference room.  Today is more like a tutorial than a strict conference. I presented a 3 hour lecture on aerosol impacts on clouds and precipitation. I was pooped after that!  After an in the room lunch Vollie and I skipped the meeting and headed north to the end of the road. There is ends at a cliff which a beautiful overview of the sea 800’ below and rocky islands with the surface pounding against them. The winds in the straights between Hawaii Mauie are fierce with large waves. It would not be fun sailing between the islands.  We headed back and stopped at a State Park to look for whales. Then headed further north and pulled off on a rough gravel road that went down to the beach. I spied several whales some breaching and some blowing, a couple relatively close in. By the time Vollie had made her way down the rough trail they had all disappeared.  But she spied three turkeys.  As we returned to the car the turkeys just meandered along about 70’ ahead of us.

 We stopped at a marina where we watched groups of young people launching outrigger canoes. They were apparently practicing for some competitions. One was loaded with about 8 girls.
 At a local Deli Vollie picked up some food for supper as she refused to let me pay for her attendance to the conference dinner that evening. They charge $80! But since my meal was paid for I went and had a good meal of local fish, marinated eggplant and salads. It would be a deal at $15/person!


 I took my morning jog up the main access road to the hotel. I wanted to see if I could find an access to the sand beach to the south of the Hilton which I viewed from the trail going south along the beach. But the trail finally disappeared so I thought I would find a more civilized access. After about a mile I passed a gated access community and spied a concrete sidewalk with no signs whatsoever.  I jogged along it and asked a workman if there is access to the beach and he said just keep going along the way I was headed.  I finally arrived at the beach. It was much smaller than Hapuna beach but isolated and at this time of day only no one there but a watchman.  In the middle of the beach there was a cut that opened to a small lagoon. The watchman informed me that the cut formed on Friday by the tsunami and that the lagoon was just a small pond before that. He pointed out that all those chairs were back about 100’ feet from the beach. There was a shack used for rentals of kayaks, boards, etc  but it survived intack.  The tsunami explained which the beach trail essentially disappeared.  I found out I can rent kayaks for about 1/3 the price of the Hilton and moreover I can paddle in the bay proper whereas at the Hilton I am constrained to a roped off lagoon unless I want to pay $40 for a guide.  I plan on going back there and going kayaking. I decided to jog back along the former beach trail jumping over logs and finally after only 100m or so arriving at the part of the trail I had run on before.

 I am now at the meeting which is more like a normal conference rather than a tutorial that I was one of the lead discussants yesterday. My part today was to give a 20 minute briefing on aerosol pollution impacts in SE Asia and some comments on weather modification activities. In the afternoon I skipped out and we drove up to Waikoloa Village which is about 6 miles from the beach resort up on the hillside at an elevation of about 800MSL. We stopped in the shopping mall where we found an actual super market.  There we picked up a few things for our lunches and breakfasts which we have been having in our hotel  room rather than to pay $25/person for a buffet! We toured the mall to see what was there and find only a couple of restaurants, one being a Subway and the other more like a bar with oil cloth table cloths. They had mostly pasta dishes with lots of seafood.  Still the prices were around $25/serving!   Vollie wanted to see downtown Waikoloa Village since she expected there to be an old downtown with old section stores. We drove up and down the streets and could find only street after street of single-family housing.  These were not the luxury housing units that we have seen on the coast but still pretty nice well maintained homes. I have no idea what they cost but I imagine they were costly and probably owned by a few snowbirds and the middle echelon of hotel workers(certainly not the maintenance workers!).  We came back to our hotel room and had sushi  and wine which we picked up at the supermarket. 
3/16/11 Another beautiful morning in paradise! I did my morning jog taking a loop along the streets to the beach access and then along the rough beach trail back to the Hilton complex. I saw a few whales blowing but some distance offshore.
  After attending the conference session for a while Vollie and I drove south toward Kona.  We first visited the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park. This is the place that our daughter-in-law, Vicki used to work as a seasonal ranger back in 1992. We were told that one of the rangers that she likely worked with, Steve Makuakane Jarrel was shot and killed as he tried to prevent someone from walking their dog along the trail. Even here in paradise, it is not free of gun-toting idiots!
 Because it was close to closing time we were told to enter the park from the nearby marina as the main gate would be closed and our car would be locked in. So we followed the trail from the marina where we say rock piles, a wood   tower from bygone eras. The trail went through a dense forest and was quite pretty.
 After walking the trails we stopped at the marina where we found a couple of seafood restaurants. One was not fancy and had red picnic tables outside, some with colorful umbrellas.  It was called ”bite me”!  I was told by a couple who was eating there for the 4th time the food was great. So we decided to tour Kona village and return there for dinner. The drive down the beach street in Kona was extremely crowded. Occasionally, we could see buildings with yellow police type tapes and plastic sheets covering the entrance to a building that had been hit by the tsunami.  After slow stop and go traffic we moved further south where we found a small park where there was close-in large surf and the waters dotted with surfer heads.
After a while we decided to head up to Hwy 11 only to find  most streets that headed upwards to the highway dead ended. After a number of dead ends we finally saw the tsunami escape route signs which when followed go us back on the highway.
  Then we headed back to Bite-Me where we enjoyed a  seafood dinner with me having a fish reuben sandwich.
  We then headed back to the hotel to attend a poster session where there we some tasty snacks.

 The day began with my morning loop jog to the sandy beach and back. I spied a few whales along the beach which makes it now at least one whale siting each day.
I briefing attended the meeting and then we headed out for some fun.  Our goal was to find a place where we could rent some kayaks that we wouldn’t be constrained to the small lagoon at the hotel. We were told that the Mauna Kea resort to the north is a possibility if the beach parking lot wasn’t full. Unfortunately it was full and the guard wouldn’t let us in.  So we stopped in the village of Puako again and asked about renting kayaks. They said there was a guy that sometimes set up a trailer with kayaks   at the boat ramp. I think I saw his rig in the back yard of one home but he was not at the beach.  
So we headed back to the hotel where we rented a tandem kayak to paddle around the lagoon. The kayak was like a barge compared to what I am used to. We paddled near some sea turtles which seemed to enjoy swimming near the artificial waterfall.
We returned to our room and showered and then went out to a Thai restaurant in the nearby shopping center. The food was quite good. We returned to the hotel where I stopped off at a poster session and  Vollie returned to our room.  I walked into the poster room and there were only two girls standing by their poster. No one else was there and only a couple other posters where there. The girls were undergraduates in Manila and were obviously disappointed that they had come all that way and no one showed up for their poster display. They had me stand by their poster and take my picture then I took a picture of them standing by their poster. I was quite embarrassed and more than a little PO’d that they did not get the exposure they deserved. I understand that it was announced at the end of the afternoon session that the evening poster session was cancelled. In my opinion the posters that evening should have been displayed the evening before.

I took my morning loop jog and found a number of outrigger canoes set up on the beach to the south of the hotel. I suspect they were removed or damaged by the tsunami and then returned yesterday afternoon. I spied a few more whales on the way back along the beach which means I went 7 for 7 in seeing whales each day we have been here. 
Now we must pack up and drive over to the east shore where we plan to visit some waterfalls before we catch our flight at 6:30PM.  Indeed we saw waterfalls, at least three big ones. The tallest and most spectacular is Akaka. Not only are the waterfalls impressive but so are the flora of the deep valleys they are embedded. We also stopped at a beach at the head of one of those deep valleys which not only had spectacular flora but also giant waves crashing on shore. For lunch/dinner we found a family style restaurant in Hilo where we had a great lunch of a fish stir fry.
 We now are at the Hilo airport listening to live Hawaiian music. Unfortunately I had to pack my shorts and sandals for the long flight home. Our flight from Honolulu to LAX was delayed over an hour. This caused us to miss our flight to DIA but we were able to get on an 0900 flight.