Laupahoehoe, HI to Honokaa (Kalopa), HI

21.4 mi / 7.9 mph / 2838 ft. climbing
Home: Kalopa State Recreation Area Campground

It rained on and off throughout the night, which we could detect by hearing the patter on the rainfly during the lull between each loudly-crashing wave. But somehow sleep comes far easier when the noises are natural, rather than if they’re chattering fellow campers (or their music), even if the volume is literally ten times louder. By morning the tent was nearly dry, particularly the inside, which was a pleasant surprise for our first night of camping in this new tropical environment. The waves, indefatigable in their onslaught, continued to hurl themselves upon the rocks as a new day dawned.

After an all-night assault, our stone defenders remain strong, and our tent remains untouched by the watery army.
12 hours of failing to reach our tent still doesn’t mean that the waves are going to stop trying!
A saffron finch, introduced from South America.

We got packed up quickly (being inside the tent once the sun is up isn’t a lot of fun here), and soon after we moved under the shelter (where our bikes had stayed dry all night), it began raining again.

While we ate breakfast I looked out through the drops at the ~100-year-old banyan tree standing across the open field. I had visited it last night, and then brought Rett to walk under its canopy with me, since it was perhaps the most astounding tree I have ever stood beneath (and we’ve seen a lot of impressive trees!) But this morning it had once again it had returned to its incognito state, somehow hiding its immense scale in plain view. It appeared to be a nice tree, but nothing especially remarkable. I think the illusion comes from its proportions: both its “trunk” and its canopy are objectively enormous (~30 and ~190 feet in diameter, respectively), but balanced against each other they mimic the shape of a nice circular ornamental garden tree. So until we’re standing under its canopy (and its trunk is still an entire tennis court away), our brains jump to the more-believable conclusion: it’s a normal-sized tree standing much further away from us than it actually is.

Standing under the canopy of the great banyan. That auxiliary trunk standing to the left of the main mass on its own is big enough to be the base of a large, mature maple tree.

If we had so much difficulty understanding its scale while standing in its three-dimensional presence, it’s going to be nearly impossible to communicate its size in photos. But here are some words attempting to do the same:

  • the multi-stem trunk is at least 50% wider than Te Matua Ngahere, the staggeringly-fat kauri we saw in New Zealand.
  • If you centered it on a square 1-acre plot of land, its circular canopy would essentially fill that square, leaving perhaps a 5-foot gap between the outermost leaves and the border of your property.
  • You could back an entire 70-foot semi-truck under the canopy with room to spare (I think the base of the canopy is high enough to fit the truck as well). And then 17 of your trucker friends could do the same, with your rigs emanating from the trunk like the spokes of a wheel.

Standing under the canopy (which was much more transparent from the inside than the outside) feels nearly like standing in a domed sports stadium. Most of the monumental trees that we’ve visited are far taller than they are wide, so this one being the opposite probably contributed to the otherworldly feeling (though it’s also deceptively tall, probably 70-80 feet!) It was a true wonder.

#FindRett, 5’8″ tall, standing next to the trunk of the giant banyan.
Rett yelling at the banyan for being far too large for comprehension.
Rett beginning to enter the “trunk” of the banyan.
Some of the fattest coast redwoods would be similar to the two of us with both of our arms fully-outstretched. This, well, there would need to be several more of us!
Now on our morning return to the banyan, Rett has proper footwear so can do the exploration she wanted to do last night.
Rett climbing high up a staircase that the banyan somehow constructed inside its own trunk!
Rett finding another pathway down the banyan’s trunk.
At this close distance, it’s clear that this is not a basic ornamental tree!
The natural “archway” that my bike is under is likely 15 feet high.
Even our bikes stretched end to end can’t compete with the banyan tree.

We said our farewells to the great tree and began with our steep-but-doable 400-foot climb back up to the highway. We then had a more-gradual but long uphill taking us to nearly 1000 feet above sea-level, though the sea was still only a mile away on our right. Shoulders remained wide and smooth, and drivers remained awesome.

On our way up from Laupahoehoe Beach Park.

Shortly before we reached Pa’auilo and the one grocery-shopping opportunity of the day, I discovered that the store was closed on the weekend. Shit! We stopped on the shoulder to figure out what to do: have lunch, breakfast, and dinner of tortillas? Backtrack to the cafe that might have been open? Luckily it was less than a 17-mile day planned, so we decided to push further ahead to a gas station in Honoka’a, and then turn around to return to our state campground destination. It added five miles to the day’s ride, but seemed to be the least-bad alternative.

The gas station had plenty of calories for us, if not in the healthiest form, and we even got some hot pizza-taquitos for lunch. We ate in our chairs back around on the side of the building, and that’s when the rain returned for the first time since breakfast. Our campground was at 2100 feet, so not only did that mean an 1100 foot climb over the last 2.3 miles (for those of you without a calculator handy that’s a 9% average grade!), it meant that the rain was unlikely to abate on the way up there since “upslopes cause precipitation” is the main thing on this windward side of the island.

So the climb was in fact a beast, with plenty of grades in the double-digits, Rett losing stability once and getting whacked by her bike, and the trees (that only seemed to be on our side of the road) doing an unfortunately-efficient job of collecting the misty rain and converting it to heavy drops falling on us. But it’s still pretty awesome that we can finish a ride by defeating an 1100-foot steep-ass climb in the rain. The day’s 132 feet-per-mile of climbing is the 3rd-highest of our nomadacy, and our 7.9mph average speed was faster than 5 of the next 7-highest feet-per-mile days.

I knew that this campground had three shelters like last night’s, but instead of being officially prohibited from camping under them, they are literally what you reserve when you reserve one of the three camping spots. Setting up the tent on concrete (thus not being able to stake it out) is a bit of a pain, but there was more than enough room for it, us, and the bikes out of the rain.

Campsite/shelter #1 at Kalopa State Park.
Campsite/shelter #1 at Kalopa State Park. Our drying line wasn’t completely useless, but nothing on it ever quite reached the status of “dry”. But ironically it was the first night in forever that we camped without the rainfly on the tent!

Without the shelter, it would have been pretty untenable, since it rained essentially without a break all afternoon and into the night. In contrast to the mid-80s in Hilo, it was 66F up here, cold enough to get out our down jackets after we took unheated showers (at least here the showers were inside the bathroom building). The new-to-us atmospheric conditions meant that our fingers and toes essentially never dried, staying moist and prune-y for hours. We had wanted to do some hiking through the state park, but maybe tomorrow?



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