TODAY. WAS. AWESOME.
Jake and I shadowed Tommy, a masters student working in Laupahoehoe Park which is about 45 minutes north of Hilo along the coast. It’s heavily invaded by Strawberry Guava (SG) at low elevations, but becomes progressively more and more dominated by native species as the altitude increases. The hike itself was BRUTAL – huge mudpits in the trail and incredibly dense SG on either side so we couldn’t avoid getting our shoes and calves covered in mud. I definitely sunk in to my knee level a couple times, and slipped on my hands/butt as well. It was quite a hike to say the least.
We stopped periodically to find pre-marked plots and add litterfall traps and “collars,” which are 8” PBC pipe segments that are nailed into the ground to collect rain and litter and provide more information. That part was always an adventure since our GPS wasn’t working and we had to rely on trail signs and our intuition to find them. Luckily, we found all by 3 of the plots and got everything done a little early!!
The reason that the experience was so fun was in large part because two of Tommy’s college friends from Oklahoma were on vacation visiting him and came along for the field work (see photo of them carrying a ton of gear. HAHAAA!!). It was HILARIOUS watching the three of them talk – they’re all about 23, 24 years old, still definitely college guys, and all super clever about making fun of each other. They were building off one another the whole day and I don’t think I ever really stopped laughing. Also, Tiffany, they all did crew at some point (*wink*) haha it just made me think of you!! I will admit, they were all pretty cute. It was reeeeeal nice. And the view coming downhill was amazing! The uphill was hellish and reminded me that I’m really not in great shape – but it was worth it for the fun and for the view as we left Laupahoehoe.
After we got back to the car, we realized we were running early (since when does that ever happen??) so we stopped by a waterfall off the road on the way back. We didn’t realize it would be an epic hike to get there – we had to use ropes to lower ourselves down, and then haul ourselves back up an almost vertical river bank. There were also TONS of mosquitoes!
BUT THE WATERFALL WAS SO WORTH IT. The water was the perfect temperature, and the view was gorgeous. I was hesitant to get in because I hate swimming when I can’t see the bottom, but the guys convinced me and I ended up swimming all the way to the waterfall, swimming under it, and then climbing on the rock behind it to look out. It was phenomenal, and SO exhilarating. We dove through the back of the waterfall back out towards where we had started. I’m so proud of myself for getting in the water, and I’m so glad that I did it because it was GREAT. SO GREAT.
We also searched for some shaved ice on the way back – apparently there’s a great place hidden in downtown Hilo where they put ice cream into the shaved ice and it’s delicious. Unfortunately, all the shaved ice places were closed. Apparently 5:30 PM on a Monday night isn’t a hopping time to get shaved ice for normal people, but it was kinda a bummer.
Jake and I are planning to go to the Mauna Kea Astronomical Observatory with Tommy, Chris, and Ronny tonight to see the stars, so I’m hoping that actually happens and we can see the sights! I’ve wanted to go up there since I got here, and Tommy said that a lot of his friends are leaving town so he’d be happy for Jake and I to hang out with him when we’re free.
Basically, today was everything I hoped for and more! Great people, cool research experiences, lots of bruises and scrapes (seriously I look like I’ve been slashed by a crazed whomping willow), waterfalls, hopefully some stars too, and a local to show us the sights later on. YAYYYYYYYY!!!!!
Oh, and my camera appears to be working again!! Let’s hope it lasts!!!
P.S. My ears are unplugged =)