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Saddle Road

Exploring the sites between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa

Saddle Road runs across Hawai'i, connecting Hilo and Kailua-Kona. On the way it passes along the "saddle" between Hawai'i's two largest volcanoes, Mauna Kea, and Mauna Loa.

Saddle Road has a reputation for poor visibilty, windy turns, and crazy local drivers. Recent construction has improved the Hilo side of the road, but the side from the turnoff to the Mauna Kea Visitor Centre to Kona is still pretty rough. You'll soon see why most people drive up the middle of the road on this section (it's much smoother). Be warned that it can get very foggy (and creepy!) late at night along Saddle Road, and you may find yourself navigating by driving from one reflective cat-eye to the next. Don't be intimidated by Saddle Road. I drove it several times, each time a bit faster than the last. Maybe the locals aren't so crazy - the road actually seems a bit easier if you go faster...

The "Boiling Pots" and Pe'e Pe'e falls near Hilo are a popular spot to cool off on a hot day.



Boiling Pots
Saddle Road, Hawai'i (May 19th, '08)



Pe'e Pe'e Fals
Saddle Road, Hawai'i (May 19th, '08)

Kaumana Cave, just outside of Hilo, was formed by a lava tube. Bring a flashlight if you want to explore its dark depths.



Looking out of Kaumana Cave
Saddle Road, Hawai'i (March 3rd, '08)



The entrance to Kaumana cave
Saddle Road, Hawai'i (March 3rd, '08)



Dad at the exit of Kaumana cave
Saddle Road, Hawai'i (May 19th, '08)



Me inside the Kaumana cave
Saddle Road, Hawai'i (May 19th, '08)



Roots hanging inside the Kaumana cave
Saddle Road, Hawai'i (May 19th, '08)



The exit of the Kaumana Cave
Saddle Road, Hawai'i (May 19th, '08)

About halfway along Saddle Road you find yourself between Hawai'i's two great volcanoes, Mauna Kea (the White Mountain) and Mauna Loa (the Long Mountain). While Mauna Kea, at 13,796 feet, is about 120 feet higher than Mauna Loa, the latter is much more massive with a volume of about 75 thousand cubic metres.

This area is strewn with the debris from various lava flows, most prominently the 1984 Mauna Loa flow.



The 1984 Mauna Loa lava flow, with Mauna Kea in the background
Saddle Road, Hawai'i (February 16th, '08)



Cinder cones along Saddle Road.
Saddle Road, Hawai'i (February 16th, '08)



Cracks in the lava
Saddle Road, Hawai'i (February 16th, '08)

If you have time for a short side trip while driving, check out the Mauna Kea Visitor Centre. It has lots of information about the mountain and the astronomy work that is done there. See the next page for more details!

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