Wednesday, February 9, 2022



post by Corrine

What is it about Hawaii sunsets? 

I love ending my days in Hawaii by watching the sun set on the ocean. Eric doesn’t share my love. He prefers Alaskan sunrises and sunsets, which I agree are more beautiful, but I still like to take the time to watch the sunset while on the islands. It’s a contemplative end to the day. A time to slow down and reflect while watching that glowing orb disappear into the ocean. A way to mark the end of another day on this Earth. For whatever reason, it’s become a tradition. I try to watch the sunset most days while in Hawaii. 

We just got back from a week on the Big Island. We’ve been to Hawaii several times before. It’s relatively close – just a five-and-a-half-hour plane flight from Anchorage – and a great way to improve our winter mood and Vitamin D levels. Hawaii has lots of medical conferences, so I try to find one in late January to attend. That way I can learn something new while soaking up the sunshine, plus my airfare and our condo are paid for. 

A Conference is a Good Excuse for Sun

This year I once again attended the “Mayo Clinic Selected Topics in Internal Medicine” conference, which runs daily from 7 a.m. until noon with lectures every 30 minutes. The lectures are so good that I almost never miss one. And the schedule allows the afternoon and evening for play and exploring. But it’s also exhausting. I’m on the go from 5:30 a.m. to after sunset every day. I know, we could just spend an afternoon relaxing on the beach but neither Eric nor I can spend more than about half an hour doing that.

6 AM outdoor breakfast every morning at the conference. Medical conferences are at ritzy resorts but we stay at condos instead

I made the reservations months ago, but we weren’t positive we were going to go until about a week before the conference started. The omicron surge was spiking. I kept thinking that Mayo Clinic would change the conference to virtual-only, but they didn’t. Finally, Eric and I decided the trip was worth the risk. Covid rules in Hawaii are more stringent than Alaska, so we would probably be safer there than here. Plus, everybody attending the conference had to be vaccinated AND have a negative COVID test within 72 hours AND had to mask when indoors. So, we decided to take a chance and go. I’m glad we did. It was a nice break from Alaska.

Outdoor seating available at the conference.  I took advantage of this option

We’ve been to Hawaii several times and have already done many of the typical tourist things like snorkel tours and parasailing. This time we looked for new places to hike and bike. I brought my gravel bike and commuted the 10 miles round trip from our condo to the conference most days. The one day I didn’t ride my bike, I walked back along the shoreline and Eric met me halfway.

Meeting Eric on the rocky Fisherman's Trail on the way back from the conference

Biking the Big Island

Besides the daily commute, I did several other bike rides. My biggest bike adventure was riding from the ocean in Waikoloa up to the Mauna Kea visitor center (at 9200 feet elevation) and back down. While on Maui two years ago, I biked from the ocean up to the summit of Haleakala and back. Although the Mauna Kea visitor center is 800 feet lower, the ride felt much harder. The route is longer by about 10 miles, but it was more than that. The uphill seemed relentless, almost no shade on a fairly straight road with minimal change in scenery. It was a 47-mile uphill grind with the grade getting steeper the closer you got to the visitor center. I had to walk a few of the steeper pitches. Very mentally challenging. Eric had driven to the visitor center to do some hiking and be available for support if I needed it. Several times I texted him that I might turn around before the visitor center. But each time I decided to go a little further. I kept turning the pedals and finally made it after almost nine exhausting hours. I still had a bit of daylight left, so I decided to bomb back down. I made it back to our condo in just over two-and-a-half hours, only 10 minutes after the sunset. 

Grinding up one of the steeper climbs.  

I made it. 47 miles, 9200 feet elevation gain!  Now time to bomb back downhill.

I also did a 69-mile loop up toward Waimea, then across the highlands to the northern town of Hawi and then back on the Queen’s Highway to our condo. I had to go in the afternoon after my conference, so it was a hot grind the first 15 miles to the high point of 3500 feet, but then it was a fun descent (even with a heavy rain shower thrown in) and back along the ocean again. 

Climbing up into the higher cattle country

I did one more longer 44 mile bike ride from our condo to secluded Manini Beach, just south of the Captain Cook Monument.  Eric met me with take-out burritos, so we watched the sunset and ate dinner before heading back to our condo. The last day I ended up biking north after the conference, stopping at beaches along the way and going swimming when I got hot. For the week, I ended up biking over 280 miles!

Sunset at Manini Beach

Hiking the Big Island

Eric was nursing an injured calf, so he didn’t try anything epic. He couldn’t even run, but he could hike if he was careful. He spent most mornings working on a variety of writing and volunteer projects and went hiking in the afternoons. Beside the hike around the Mauna Kea visitor center, he also hiked partway up Mauna Loa, and did a forest hike on the Makuala O’oma Trail. 

Hiking toward the summit of Mauna Loa - Eric didn't have time to go all the way

 Makuala O’oma Trail

Besides the shoreline hike, we did several other hikes together. The first day we did a short hike to King Kamehameha’s birthplace and a heiau where ritual sacrifices took place. Hawaiian history is interesting and colorful, but it also has a lot of brutality. 

Walking around the walls of the heiau

We also did a wonderful hike on the Awini Trail, which starts at the Pololu Overlook. This hike had a little of everything including steep trails, secluded beaches, a stream crossing, bamboo forests and even ropes to help climb around a section that had been taken out by a landslide. Most people only go to the first overlook about 1.5 miles in, so after that we had the trail to ourselves. The trail goes on for 11 miles but we turned around after about 3 miles.

Climbing with ropes 

Secluded beach that would be perfect for camping

Stream crossing

The last day we drove to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, met up with Robin (a former Fairbanks doc who was at the conference with me) and her spouse Jess. We hiked to Maunaulu crater, a really cool hike I hadn’t done before. It had steam vents and lots of old lava fields. We had heard that you could see glowing lava at Kilauea Caldera at night, but Eric and I didn’t have time to stay until dark because we had to be back for our flight. 

Fun hike with Robin and Jess

Love all the different ways that lava flows. We walked up this to get to the crater rim

That's a big hole!

That was most of our trip. We also swam a little at some of the beaches near our condo and spent an hour renting a kayak and exploring one of the bays. (Eric also watched golfers from our condo lanai and wondered why it is so popular.) 

All in all, it was a great break from Fairbanks. I was able to learn some things at the conference along with having some adventures and seeing some new sights. 

And I got to see a lot of sunsets!