A Cold Sunset on Mauna Kea

If you’ve ever hung around me more than 2 minutes, you would know that I really don’t like being cold. I’m one of the few women out there that absolutely loathes shopping (you’re welcome Raymund), but few things make me happier than a good comfy scarf. I have more scarves than socks and underwear combined! Jokes. Maybe.

You would think that scarves have no place in Hawaii. And you’d be wrong. Air conditioning and direct gusts of air from electric fans give me the shivers. All kidding aside, there are mountain tops so high that climate zones shift from “dry/arid” to “tundra” in under 2 hours drive.

While I was packing for our indefinitey long trip to Hawaii, I decided to leave all my favorite well worn hoodies and wool sweaters in NJ, the home of winter blizzards and cold fronts. You know, where they belong.

I regretted this decision only a few times during our months in Hawaii.

The first time was just 2 weeks into our trip. We booked a tour with Hawaii Forest & Trail to go to the top of Mauna Kea–the highest point in Hawaii.

This tour certainly wasn’t budget friendly, but the primary motive was to avoid having to exchange our 2WD rental car for a 4WD. Rules dictate that only 4×4’s can ascend the mountain above the visitor’s station, which is at 9,200 feet. The peak of the Mauna Kea is 13,796 feet. So this justified the price for us a bit.

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Stargazers at Mauna Kea’s Visitor Station

Also, neither one of us wanted to navigate said car up an aggressively inclined mountain with endless switchbacks. Not having to drive? Sweet. But, these parkas were more than worth the steep prices, alone.

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Parkas keeping us warm at sunset

Everyone imagines Hawaii to be perpetually warm with palm trees and luaus.

Mauna Kea flips expectations by blasting visitors with winter winds and sometimes snow. Snow. In Hawaii!

For our trip up the mountain, even though I wore pretty much every piece of clothing I had, these parkas were a real necessity. I was still cold wearing it. I would not have survived otherwise.

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Wearing all my clothes at the summit of Mauna Kea

So why would I, a sun loving, summer chaser, put myself through the bitter cold temperatures that I had traveled nearly 5 thousand miles from NJ to escape?

These views.

MaunaKea_beforesunsetMoments before sunset

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Observatory at sunset

Our trusty Hawaii Forest & Trail van and knowledgeable guide Brett, brought us above the clouds, a feat usually only possible by plane. The main event was the much-hyped sunset and it exceeded all expectations. We’ve been lucky to have seen some pretty epic sunsets all around the world, and this one easily elbowed its way towards the top.

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