This past Sunday, Jan. 19, my friend, Eric, and I and my dog drove on the Mauna Kea Access Road to the summit of the mountain to check out the condition of the snow. Eric has been a surfer and skier for a longtime. Somewhere above the Visitors’ Center, still on the 4-wheel-drive part of the road, one of the four ranger SUVs on duty that day, was behind us. Eric pulled over to the right and waved to the ranger to pass. Instead of passing, the ranger pulled up beside us and motioned for Eric to roll down the window, which Eric did, only for the ranger to inform us that it is not allowed to stop on this road.
Arriving by the telescopes, we parked the truck, I got out with my dog (on a leash), we crossed the road and were watching the activities below from a snowbank. Here comes the same ranger, telling Eric that dogs are not allowed on the mountain, that he has to put the dog back into the truck. We did as asked.
We continued driving over to the Keck observatories, parked the truck and went to inspect the snow from there, leaving the dog inside the truck. I saw the same ranger’s SUV arriving and parking a few meters away, right next to a regular police car. While they were “talking story,” and hoping not to be noticed and seen, I took my dog out of the truck (leashed), crossed the road, and climbed up on a very wide snowbank with her. And oh yes, he saw us.
“Didn’t I tell you not to take the dog out?” I became very frustrated by then and told him that we live on the island, have been coming to the mountain since before he even was born. I also told him that nowhere have we seen a sign, which declared that no animals are allowed on the mountain. He admitted that there are no signs, but said that his department is working on them, also creating several new rules.
Shaking our heads (and secretly our fists), Eric and I drove on around the Keck Observatories and back down. As we came around a corner, lo and behold, I could not believe my eyes: There must have been around 10 or more pickup trucks lined-up on the road along a snowbank, their owners shoveling snow into the beds of their trucks. They were parked, standing perfectly still, and there was no ranger to be seen, not even “our friend,” to shoo them away.
Picking up the first snow of the winter, driving it down to make snowballs and snowmen, is a local tradition. Perhaps these new rules the rangers are creating, will prohibit this also one day soon?
Erika Fluyt is a resident of Holualoa.