At the top of the world

My Dad loves the stars – the ones up in the sky, not the Hollywood ones. So, on our recent trip to Hawaii, one of the only things he wanted to do was visit the observatories on top of Mauna Kea. To give this some context, this is the man who never, ever, ever expresses a preference for a birthday gift, Christmas gift or any type of gift. The entire family has to guess at what to give him. And that’s a lot of people doing a lot of guessing because we’re a gift-giving family. So everyone is very happy when he says he wants something in particular and me, the person who everyone asks what he wants, is absolutely ecstatic!

Back to the story, we took a trip with Hawaii Forest and Trail that takes you up the mountain, includes dinner, an astronomy tour and brings you back.  The observatories are located over 14000 ft above sea level (really, really, really high if you are wondering).  Which means this is something very few other people have done (despite the number of idiots up at the summit). It is harder to breathe and move around up there and it is cold especially if you aren’t feeling well.  Drink plenty of water and if you are prone to car sickness, take something before you go.

However, it also means the air is crystal clear up there. Be prepared to see some amazing scenery when you’re on the top. Also be prepared to freeze when you use the outhouses (no flush toilets), oh, and the latch on the middle one sticks so make sure there’s someone on the outside to let you back out 🙂

At the very top, it does look like you are floating on clouds.  When the sun started to go down, all the domes opened and started to move.

When the ast ronomers come out to play

When the astronomers come out to play

As the sun went down, we were treated to the reddest sky ever.

The reddest sunset

The reddest sunset

But without vegetation and with everyone bundled up, it looked like a scene out of an alien movie.  There were a lot of people up there, some with other tours some who just drove up. I don’t recommend just driving up as its a long drive and you get out of the car, take a photo and then attempt to make your way back down in the dark. Tours are way more funner.

Some of the observatories at the top

Some of the observatories at the top

On the way up (yes, I know these photos are not chronologically ordered), we were treated to sites such as these and included the area that the US astronauts practiced for the moon landing!!!

The older piles of volcanic rocks show their iron rich content

The older piles of volcanic rocks show their iron rich content

At 10000 feet we had already left all vegetation behind

At 10000 feet we had already left all vegetation behind

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