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World Wide KAP Week 2011 – Day 6

Posted by Tom Benedict on 05/05/2011

One kite did make it out of my bag today, but that’s as close as I got to flying a camera today.  The wind models didn’t appear to run last night, so I guessed at the wind and the weather and drove to Pololu Valley.  I’ve flown in Pololu before, but this time I had a different plan:  I’d fly from the top of the far side of the valley and try to get a panorama that would take in the northern end of the entire valley region.  Or that’s what I thought, anyway.

I drove across Kohala through dumping rain.  Kohala generates its own microclimate, so it was a fair assumption that this was all generated by the mountain itself.  But by the time I reached Hawi on the north side and turned to go through Kapaau, I knew I’d messed up.  The weather system was coming in off the water.  Oops.  It dumped buckets for much of the drive, but by the time I reached Pololu it was only spitting rain.  I grabbed wet weather gear and hiked in anyway.

The wind was fast and gusty, so I launched my Flow Form 16 when I reached the valley floor.  It sort of flew, kind of, but not really.  After a few minutes I packed it up and kept going.  Some years ago I’d hiked up the far side of the valley so a friend and I could backpack in one of the other valleys.  I knew that much of the trail, and knew there were two spots that would potentially provide a really good place to do KAP.  One was a spot that overlooked Pololu, and the other overlooked the valley we had camped in.  Up I went.

The climb up the far side of Pololu is deceptive.  It keeps feeling like you’ve reached the top.  Unlike the north side of the valley the switchbacks are hidden in the trees, so just when you think you’re done with the ascent you find out there’s another hundred feet of trail to go.  Then another hundred.  The another.  By the time you’re done you realize both sides really are the same height.

I hiked in to the valley where I’d camped and checked out the first vantage point.  It really would be a great place to KAP, but the wind was blowing the wrong way and it was gusting between 10kts and 25kts.  It was all over the place.  I finally gave it up as a bad idea.  I’m sure I could’ve flown something, maybe even flown a camera.  But it would have been a punishing session that would’ve resulted in a bunch of blurred photos.  Not worth it.  I turned around and hiked back.

The second vantage point was supposed to overlook Pololu, but there wasn’t really a safe way to launch.  The wind was still gusting, and I would’ve had to pay out all 1000′ of line on my winder to get the camera to the point I wanted.  Tour helicopters were coming over the ridge well below the 1000′ mark, so again I gave it up as a bad idea.  Maybe in better weather, but not today.

I hiked back down only to see a black line of rain hitting the water about a quarter mile offshore.  Squall!  I had enough gear to cover my cameras in case of a rainstorm, but it’s no fun hiking when it’s really dumping, and the trail isn’t really safe under those conditions, either.  Despite really needing to take a break, I hitched up my bags and hoofed it up the trail.  By the time I reached my car I was exhausted.

There’s a beautiful silver lining to this story. Some friends of mine run a deli back in Hawi, the Lighthouse Delicatessen.  Lunch time!!  This is one of the best parts about hiking in Pololu.  After tucking away a french dip sandwich and a really good ginger beer, I got an order of soft pretzels and drove home.

Not my best KAP day ever, but everyone enjoyed the pretzels including me.  Not a bad end to things.

– Tom


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