Tag Archives: Saddle Road

Prickly heart

A heart shaped prickly pear cactus in Hawaii.

I saw this prickly pear cactus alongside Old Saddle Road and thought it a good illustration that affairs of the heart are not always smooth. I also thought this would make a good album cover for a country band whose biggest hit was a song titled ‘Prickly Heart.’ There must be one out there surely!

Posted in response to Becky’s October Squares challenge theme of ‘Past Squares – Spiky.’ See more responses here.

After the fire

After a brush fire
Burned pasture and trees with a bulldozed fire break in the foreground.
Aftermath of a brush fire
An object burned by the fire.

Earlier this month, I posted here about the largest brush fire in Big Island history, which burned more than 40,000 acres of land. A couple of days ago. I drove Old Saddle Road and got a look at the aftermath.

The fire burned mostly through dry pasture and scrub land leaving a black and brown landscape. Clumps of charred trees broke up otherwise uniform stretches of blackened grassland. Lines of fencing could be seen, but where before posts held up the wire, in many places the wire now supported the dangling remains of posts. Thoroughfares of dusty brown dirt cut through the landscape where fire breaks had been bulldozed. Strips of green alongside the highway were the only remnants of the area’s usual color.

The fire has been out for a couple of weeks now, but when the wind blows, brown clouds of dust are driven before it. It will be a few months before anything resembling normalcy returns, though new green shoots could be seen here and there, a testimony to the resilience of nature.

Trees after a brush fire
Trees charred by the fire.
A fence line after a brush fireLate afternoon on the lower slopes of Mauna Kea with a fence line stretching away toward the ocean.
This is the same area after the fire and before.
Two sheep after a brush fire
Two sheep in a fire scarred landscape.

As I walked around taking photos I heard some noises. I thought it was trees creaking, but when I got back to the car, I heard the sounds again and spotted these two sheep, now well camouflaged in the new landscape. They looked well enough, though there was nothing to eat or drink for some distance. But they’re free to roam through the gaps in the fencing and no doubt will find something. All the cattle and horses that normally occupy the fields were missing. Many were rounded up ahead of the flames, though some perished.

It was a sobering scene, the more so because, while this was the islands largest brush fire, it was tiny in comparison to the blazes that have become a regular feature of summer on the mainland.

Road trip to Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden

Hualalai volcano seen from Saddle Road in Hawaii
Hualalai Volcano from Old Saddle Road.

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Favorite Vacation Spot.’ See more responses here.

It’s been a long while since I took a vacation, but a favorite day out is a road trip to the east side of the island and a visit to Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden.

The day starts with a drive out of Hawi, up the hill to Kohala Mountain Road. This winding road climbs to around 3,500 feet before descending into Waimea. One the way, it passes through pastureland that is home to cattle, horses, and sheep.

A few miles after driving through Waimea, there’s a left turn onto Old Saddle Road. These days, the main road across the island is a smooth, wide thoroughfare, but it’s not so long ago that the highway was all like Old Saddle Road – narrow and twisting. In those days, rental car companies would not allow their cars to be driven on that road. Old Saddle Road is the last remnant of the original road and it’s one of my favorite roads to drive here, not just because of the road’s qualities, but because it’s one of the most reliable places to see pueos, the Hawaiian short-eared owl. On this road I drive like one of those people you follow and say ‘What the !@^%$@)&^ is that idiot doing?’ I’m prone to zipping off the tarmac and bolting from the car, camera in hand, snapping photos as I go.

Old Saddle Road joins the new highway a just before it reaches Pohakuloa Training Area, a large military base in the saddle between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. It’s not unusual to hear the sound of shells exploding here as they do live ammunition fire. Past this area, there are several good hiking trails that venture into the high elevation landscape. This is one of the best areas for seeing native birds that are still hanging on in much reduced habitat.

After that, there’s the descent into Hilo and then a jog north to the garden where, every time I visit, I see something different, something that wasn’t blooming on previous visits or that I’d just missed in the profusion wonderful plants to see.

And on the way back there’s a good chance that there’ll be a splendid sunset to be enjoyed.

Sunset seen from Saddle Road in Hawaii
Sunset from Old Saddle Road

Also posted for this week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Road Trip.’ See more responses here.

Hawaii ‘Elepaio

A Hawaii Elepaio searches for bugs on a tree trunk

On my last hike on the Pu’u O’o Trail, off Saddle Road, I’d been busy taking photos of an i’iwi when I noticed this little bird hopping up a tree trunk, probing for insects. It’s an Hawaii ‘elepaio (Chasiempis sandwichensis sandwichensis), a member of the flycatcher family, and endemic to the island. The Hawaii ‘elepaio is one of three ‘elepaio species in Hawaii, the other two being on Oahu and Kauai.

A bright I’iwi

An I'iwi in a forest off Saddle Road, Hawaii
An I'iwi calls in a forest off Saddle Road, Hawaii

On my last hike on the Pu’u O’o Trail, off Saddle Road, I soon ran into a man and his son staring at a tree a short distance away. The man explained that they’d seen an i’iwi, a native Hawaiian honeycreeper, fly into the tree and were hoping to see it again. I waited with them for a while, but saw nothing and decided to move on.

A little later I ran into two men coming out of a kipuka, a cluster of old vegetation that has been bypassed by lava flows. One of them, looking pretty pleased, held out his camera and said they’d just seen an i’iwi and he’d got some good photos. He mentioned the spot where they’d seen the bird, so I headed into the trees to have a look. Nothing. It was beginning to look like it was going to be one of those days where everyone else has a wonderful experience except me!

But not long after, I saw a flash of red and then this bird settled on a branch and began to add its song to the loud chorus of bird songs in the kipuka. One thing about i’iwis is that if they’re around, they’re easy to see, their bright red plumage standing out against the green background.

After the bird flew off, I carried on with my hike. When I returned half an hour later, the bird song in the kipukas had diminished considerably and I didn’t see or hear anymore i’iwis.

Posted in response to Becky’s April Squares challenge theme of ‘Bright.’ See more responses here.