February 5, 2016
CAMPGROUND CLOSED! This is never a good sign to see when you are on a bike tour. Kat and I were cycling around the Big Island of Hawaii, and had just climbed 4,000 feet up to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. We knew that the Namakanipaio Campground had been closed due to some large fallen Eucalyptus trees, but we still held on to the hope that this free, beautiful, just-off-the-road campground, had recently reopened. The sign dashed our hopes.
Our option, other than trying to get a crazy expensive room at an overbooked lodge, was to pedal ten miles into the park to the equally hard-to-pronounce Kulanaokuaiki Campground that provided pit toilets and no water. It was, however, free.
Not what I would call the best scenario, but it would do.
Well. I was wrong. It was fabulous!
The asphalt road winding down to the campground was barely a lane wide. We descended through a tree canopy that suddenly opened up to the stark, barren beauty of the volcanic rock landscape.
Sure, the campground was bare bones, but it suited the surroundings. The steam and smoke from the vent of the Halema‘uma‘u Crater of K‘lauea loomed in the distance, but the real show began after dark as the glow loomed over the dark night sky.
It was such a unique and wonderful site that we stayed another night.
Note: Want to explore the Big Island by bike? There are still spaces available for Adventure Cycling’s self-contained, guided bike tours around the Big Island of Hawaii. (Rumor has it, they’ll be using this same campground.)
Photos by Willie Weir
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday.
Willie Weir is a contributor for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His books, Travels with Willie and Spokesongs, will inspire you to hit the road and might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can also find him at WillieWeir.com, Facebook, and Instagram.