Road closed

The spot where the 2022 Mauna Loa eruption crossed the road to the observatory
The spot where the 2022 Mauna Loa eruption crossed the road to the observatory

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Roads, Paths, and Streets.’ See more responses here.

After a recent hike off Saddle Road, I had time to take a drive up one of my favorite roads on the island, which leads to the Mauna Loa Observatory. Well, it used to; it doesn’t get there anymore. That’s because a flow from last fall’s eruption of Mauna Loa crossed the road a few miles short of its destination. I was curious to see what the scene looked like now.

The cloudy skies added some atmosphere to the drive which was, as always, a lot of fun. It’s a winding one lane road, so even though there’s little traffic, one has to pay attention. Any distraction could result in driving off the road into the inhospitable lava fields bordering it.

I confess, my secret hope was that, when I arrived at the flow, there would be a sign saying ‘Road Closed.’ Alas, that was not the case. Clearly, the Department of Transportation figured the seven foot high wall of lava conveyed the message well enough on its own. The only sign there warned against walking on the new flow. I didn’t need that warning. This is a’a lava which is really hard to walk on anyway, and in a new flow it could be quite unstable and even harbor pockets where one could fall through into still hot lava! Still, I’m sure some folks have clambered up there just because it’s there.

I took a few photos, then turned around and headed back down, not least because it was damp, windy and I was freezing, which is not why anyone comes to, or lives in, Hawaii.

The HISEAS dome on the slopes of Mauna Loa

On the drive down, I got a good view of the HI-SEAS (Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) dome. This is where teams of volunteers do research for what it would be like to be living on the Moon or Mars. I’m not sure if it’s in use since the COVID shutdown, but at least it survived the last eruption.

Clouds meet the and on the saddle between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea in Hawaii

Farther down, the land seemed to be steaming, but in the saddle between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, the weather often seems to be part of the landscape.

The Mauna Loa Observatory Road on a cloudy afternoon

And the views, which change with every twist in the road, are strange and stunning and wonderful. It may not be possible currently to reach the end of the road, but it’s still a great drive.


12 thoughts on “Road closed

  1. Denyse Whelan Blogs

    it is a strange and amazingly wonderful place isn’t it? My visit in 2006 did not have those road closures but I did not manage to get to see the volcano area thanks to this Aussie driver taking a wrong turn. My Dad was there in 1966 and I recall some photos of him and his friends with molten lave some distance away. Nature is awesome. Denyse #sundaystills

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bushboy

    What a great drive Graham with fabulous scenery, the last snaking road especially. I can see why they chose there to make people think they are living on Mars. I was wondering about the Don’t Touch sign, I would want to fall into a hole of hot lava.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Terri Webster Schrandt

    Wow, that is a sight to see, that lava rock enveloping the road–what a great shot of uncertain volcanic activity and its effects on the local environment! That last image of the road snaking through lava land and the green hills in the distance is quite spectacular!

    Liked by 1 person

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