25 December 2016
It's odd to be able to stand on the beach in your bathing suit while looking up at snow covered peaks only a few miles away. I'm not talking about Kona coffee trees loaded with white "Kona Snow" blossoms, I'm talking about actual snow, that frozen rain stuff that the mainland gets in the winter.
The Big Island has two large mountains: Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. They are both nearly 14,000 feet tall. Mauna Kea, the older of the two, is the one with all the awesome telescopes. Mauna Loa is the one that is still considered an active volcano even though it is not currently erupting. When a winter storm rolls through, they can both get snow on the summits.
This year's timing was perfect because a storm came through about a week before Christmas. It was dangerous blizzard conditions on the summits while the storm passed through. It even got unusually cold here on the farm, like so cold that I had to put on a sweatshirt. I think it got all the way down to the low 60's. Brrr.
It took a couple days for the storm to pass and the road to reopen. They got it open just in time for the Christmas holiday. I've been to the summits many times but never before have I seen so many locals there. It was like a giant ski party. I never realized how many locals own skis and snowboards. There's no ski lift but there are plenty of passing pickup trucks willing to give you a ride back to the top after you slide down. All you have to know is the secret password: "Eh Bra, you going top? You can give one ride, yah?"
There aren't many places in the world where you can drive from the ocean to 14,000 feet in about an hour. There are all sorts of warning signs along the way about altitude sickness, 4-wheel drive required, don't bring children or pets, possible blizzard conditions, etc. The tourists are often scared by the signs but none of the locals seem to care.
It's easy to spot the tourists versus the locals. The tourists are all wearing nice warm jackets supplied by the tour company while the locals are wearing t-shirts or no shirt at all. They keep warm by vigorously shoveling snow into the back of their trucks. Once the truck is full, it's customary to stand the shovels straight up in the snow then drive back down the hill. Seriously, don't lay the shovels down, you have to stand them straight up like a symbol of triumph. Of course half the snow will melt before you get home but that doesn't matter, you have to stand the shovels up so everyone knows you have snow. If you drive home fast enough, you can stop at the beach and throw snowballs at the tourists.
It's not very often that we get a White Christmas in Hawaii, but it does happen. The best part is, the day after Christmas it's right back to t-shirts and shorts.