On Saddle Road
On Saddle Road.
Image taken on Saddle Road (Route 200) the very tough and unforgiving road that goes accross the Big Island of Hawaii.
The official start of Saddle Road is at the “T” intersection of Ua Nahele Street at mile 8. This is the last neighborhood through which the route will pass. As it has from its beginning in Hilo, Route 200 continues to climb towards the Humuʻula Saddle between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. The rainforest of the Hilo Forest Reserve and Upper Waiākea Forest Reserve surround the roadway and begin to thin as the elevation increases. Quality of the asphalt surface is quite good on this side of the crest but there are many curves and rises with limited visual distances.
The terrain becomes the high lava desert of the Humuʻula Saddle. Two roads intersect Saddle Road close to Puʻu Huluhulu at its crest near mile 28 at 6,632 feet (2,021 m) above sea level:
A Hawaiian Lele (altar) near the junction of Saddle Road and Mauna Kea Access Road, Mauna Kea in the background
Mauna Loa Observatory Road is an unmarked 17.1 mile (27.5km) long narrow rough (but paved) road which winds its way towards Mauna Loa Solar Observatory, Mauna Loa Atmospheric Observatory, and AMiBA on the slopes of Mauna Loa.
Mauna Kea Summit Road (known as John A. Burns Way) provides access to the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy (at elevation 9,300 ft / 2,835m) then climbs Mauna Kea past the Mauna Kea Ice Age Reserve to the height of 13,780 ft (4,200m) at grades averaging 17% making this the third highest public road in the United States. The road is 14 miles (23 km) long, of which the first 6 miles (to the Onizuka Center) and the last 3 miles (4.8 km) are paved. Puʻu Wēkiu is the highest point in Hawaiʻi at 13,796 ft (4,208m) and is home to Poliʻahu, Goddess of Snow. Mauna Kea Observatory on the summit, an ideal location for astronomical seeing, is under the jurisdiction of the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy. Driving from sea level to the top of Mauna Kea Summit Road provides the greatest elevation gain possible by car in one state.
The 6.5-mile (10.5 km) segment from milepost 28 to 35 was dedicated and opened to traffic on May 29, 2007 with Senator Daniel K. Inouye as the keynote speaker and other local dignitaries. The new segment is quite a contrast to the roadway near the Pōhakuloa Training Area. The old section of roadway included some of the more dangerous features of the old Saddle Road: a sharp curve, blind corner and one way bridge near the entrance to Mauna Kea State Recreation Area that was one of the worst on the roadway. In contrast the new section was constructed to full federal highway standards, with wide shoulders, rumble strips, good signage and emergency phones at regular intervals.
From milepost 35 to 44 the road passes the main gates of Pōhakuloa Training Area and Bradshaw Army Airfield before continuing across the military reservation. Military vehicles — including armored personnel carriers — occasionally cross or occupy the roadway. Artillery exercises, including live fire, are not uncommon with batteries set up along the roadway firing towards Mauna Loa. This section of the road was repaved in the summer of 2008, greatly improving the conditions.
On August 18, 2009 the completely rebuilt section, from milepost 35 to 42, opened to public travel. The realignment relocated the highway north to the Mauna Kea side of the Army base and Bradshaw Army Airfield.
From milepost 44, near Kilohana, to the Māmalahoa Highway the road retains its original character, a narrow ribbon of poorly maintained pavement with crumbling edges. There are several more one lane bridges, blind curves and hills. It is common for drivers to negotiate the center of the road to avoid the rough shoulders, moving back into the lane only when necessary to pass traffic proceeding in the opposite direction. The route is quite scenic with views of the coastline, the Hualālai and Kohala volcanoes, winding its way across Parker Ranch and through the development of Waikiʻi.
The original western terminus of Route 200 comes at its junction with Māmalahoa Highway (state route 190) six miles (9.6km) toward Kona of Waimea (coordinates
Total miles = 45.7 (73.6km)