One of the "must do's" while in Hawaii was to hike Mauna Kea, the highest mountain in the world when it's measured from the true bottom 17K feet below the ocean. I was thinking we could rent scuba gear and start at the base, ditch the scuba gear on the beach, then continue hiking to the top....but the idea of getting the bends and altitude sickness in the same day wasn't my idea of fun. So instead we started from the visitor center at 9,200ft after the winding and hilly drive up Saddle Road. It was a bit chilly (compared to the beach front hotel) and foggy from the start and we had just about all the clothes we brought on. Of course the visitor center wasn't open yet, but there was a box to register. There were no maps though, so we figured the trail directly across the street was the right one. Wrong. Once that started heading back towards Mauna Loa, we retreated and found the correct trail farther up the road. Not much vegetation and plenty of lava along the trail that had us slipping and sliding around, like the two steps up and slide one back kind of hiking. Not long into our hike the fog was starting to lift and break up from the morning sun. This was really cool and you could see how barren and desolate the area was. Or course what we thought was the summit was just an old lava cone that we had to go around and see how far the real summit was! After a couple hours we were where the trail intersects the road for the last mile to the summit. Here Ranger Paul stopped us to chat; it seemed like he was feeling us out to check on how we felt and what conditioning level was. Once we said we were from Colorado and frequently hike 14ers, he let us continue on with no worries. About a half hour later we were on the 13, 792ft summit surrounded by the observatories and views as far as the eyes can see, taking 3.5hrs total to get there. It was really cool, especially with a memorial of rocks and sticks with what looked like offering an to the Gods. It was a bit windy, but nothing more than shorts and a long sleeve shirt was needed. After snacking, taking pictures, and checking out the scenery, we headed the short distance across the summit to the observatories that are open to the public. These were cool to read about, though not much was available for the public to see (guess ya can't blame them for not letting tourists get too close to a multi-million dollar telescope!) We spent about an hour putzing around on the summit before jogging most of the way down back to the visitor center. This was a real fast descent and the sliding downhill in the pea-gravel lava really worked to our advantage now Round trip time of right around 6.5hrs.