Hawaii: Breathtaking at Every Altitude

Text by Hannah S. ’15
Photos by Mr. Bushong, Ryan M.’14 and Hannah S.

The Hawaii Trip still seems unreal. (A perfect place within the United States?) Who knew it could be so tangible, those tableaus of clear water and sunrays across the sky, truly a paradise, as one of our own 50 states?

As we left school we were nothing more than just classmates, but upon leaving Hawaii we were a family. How did this happen? What follows is both a personal account and a short dive into the many adventures we all experienced. To learn any more about our trip, just ask one of the 15 students who went; I guarantee everyone will name a different, favorite moment.

At 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, the caravan of students and teachers left LCDS and began a long day of driving, flying and gate-to-gate airport sprinting. But we decided it was all worth it as soon as we landed at the Kona Airport. Stepping out of the plane, walking across the tarmac and into the airport was nothing like what I expected. Feeling a nice cool breeze counteract the Kona heat as we waited for our luggage was one of the best feelings you can imagine. Soon enough, we were on our way to the house to unpack, eat a little food and get some much-needed sleep.

After some snorkeling in the morning, our next adventure was a drive to the Mauna Loa Observatory. Climbing above the clouds on one of the bumpiest and most twisting roads I’ve ever been on, we reached the NOAA observatory and received a tour by John Barnes. Other than learning about the research done there, one of the craziest things we noticed was that there was snow in Hawaii. Scattered in little patches among the volcanic rocks and research equipment was snow and ice. Maybe it was the thinning oxygen at altitude, but we immediately felt like we were at home.

After hearing about ever-increasing CO2 levels, as well as seeing the equipment NOAA uses and walking around the grounds, we began the long descent back to the base of the volcano. Once we got to the bottom, we began the long drive up Mauna Kea, one of the other large volcanoes on Hawaii. Arriving just in time to hike up a smaller portion of the volcano, we reached the top and watched the sun set from above the clouds, and took some family photos.

We hiked back down, ate the sandwiches we packed, and then continued to the visitor center to do some stargazing. Looking through the telescopes, we could see the craters on the moon and various constellations; even without the telescopes we could see the Milky Way looking close enough to touch. It was breathtaking, and not just because of the slight hypoxia.

We did quite a lot of snorkeling. Ask any one of us how many places we snorkeled and we’ll need our fingers and yours to count them. And, if you ask us which place we liked best, we’ll probably all offer the same answer: a place called Two Step. As soon as we arrived, we knew it was perfect: deep water and coral so variegated we could see it from above.

In addition to learning about the types of volcanoes and lava we were seeing, we saw many of the fish we studied while at school. Almost every day we saw a new fish; one day would be a Yellow Tang, the next a Parrotfish, and the next a Pinktail Durgon.

That was one of the most surprising things about this trip: We learned the names of these fish for our marine biology class, but now we were actually seeing them with our own eyes. And we actually knew what they were called! We would be snorkeling and suddenly hear one of our classmates yell out of their snorkel, “Blue-Lined Butterfly Fish!” or “It’s a Crown-Of-Thorns Sea Star!”

Even if we couldn’t remember what species the fish was, we would gather around to try to figure it out as a group; sometimes we would be at home later that night and would still be giving examples of what we thought it was.

As we began snorkeling, we noticed something strange in the distance. Swimming past the amazing coral and fishes, we found dolphins. But not just one or two, not even 10, but close to 40 wild dolphins jumping out of the water and interacting with all the snorkelers near them. After an hour just watching these amazing mammals swim below us, hearing the noises they make and continually darting out of their way, we headed back to shore and soon continued with our day.

Unfortunately, these amazing experiences came to an end all too quickly. We spent our last day in Hawaii in the tourist section of Kona, doing some shopping for our friends, parents and ourselves. Most of us stayed together in one or two large groups to roam the town and spend our last moments in paradise together. After our final dinner, we solemnly drove to the old Kona Airport. Along the way, most of us made escape plans to stay in the Aloha State, to maybe even open a LCDS West Campus (hint hint, Mr. Lisk). But instead we crammed ourselves into those airplane seats, and, 14 hours later, were home.

To see a record of the trip on social media, visit 
Facebook: www.facebook.com/LCDSHawaiiTrip
Twitter: @thehawaiianroad
Instagram: @lcdshawaii2014