So, yesterday, a friend and I went to one of our favorite beach parks on the east tip of the Big Island, the tip of the Puna District. We had heard on the radio that all the beach parks were open again, and we hadnʻt been to the beach in a while, so decided to go check it out. We really enjoy going to the "warm ponds" [officially called Ahualani Ponds] near Pohoiki. The warm pond is actually a semi-human-made pool, with rocks set with concrete lining the pool area and set slightly apart from the ocean [although there is a way for water to come in from the ocean]. I havenʻt been able to learn the official reason why the ponds are warmer than ocean water [we took the temperature a few times; the highest has been 92 degrees Fahrenheit, while ocean water is generally around 80 to 82], but when the water is warm, it is bliss! A few times weʻve gone there, itʻs been a bit cold and I have actually had to wear a wetsuit. The warm ponds are on property that was owned, at some point in the past, by the McDonaldʻs owners [the Kochs], but they deeded it to Hawaii County, and now the County looks after it. Getting in the warm ponds is like slipping into a nice warm salty spa.... ahhhhh....
Anyway, we went to the park and yes, the park was open, but we discovered yellow tape preventing foot traffic to the actual ponds themselves. One guy said that there was damage in the pond - some rebar and other materials sticking out in the water - and so it wasnʻt safe for humans yet. BUMMER! Itʻs a looonnnggg drive to the eastern tip of the island, and we were really looking forward to relaxing in the pond. But Hurricane Iselle had decided otherwise.
It was quite eerie to drive down the roads going to the beach parks because we could see the downed trees, electrical lines and poles that we had before only seen pictures of and had only heard about on the radio. There were a BUNCH of downed trees lining the roads in some areas, while others had few to no trees down. In some places, we saw electrical lines hanging all the way down to the road [and people driving over them!], as well as poles and other electrical components lying on the ground. It was clear that the electric company had its work cut out, as well as why some were still without power 10 days after the storm. I donʻt know how many people were still without power as I havenʻt heard the latest estimates, but it is probably around 4,000 or so.
Since the warm ponds or Ahualani Ponds were closed, we decided to check out a smaller warm pond that is adjacent to Pohoiki Beach, which is just a couple miles away from Ahualani This warm pond is not as well known, and sometimes we have been the only people in it. Perhaps Sunday would be our lucky day! So, we drove to Poholiki, gawking at the downed trees and all the work that had already been done in the area. It was pretty cleaned up, but we could see that quite a few trees on the sides of the road and park that had been cut up. One section of road was still closed to traffic. We parked and walked over to the warm pond, which proved to be a bit difficult as downed trees had made the original path impossible. We found another path to the pond, but when we got there, we were shocked and dismayed by what we saw! In all the years of going to that small warm pond, we have always seen it full; slightly lower at low tide; slightly higher at high tide, but not more than two to three feet different. Sunday, the pond was less than half full, and it was high tide! This likely meant that the regular underground path the water traveled to get to from wherever it flowed into the pond was impeded. The water in the pond did not look fresh, either, like it almost always did. It looked like it had been standing and not refilled, so to speak. It may well be that this small warm pond will be forever altered and no longer another blissful, warm and relaxing hang-out for us humans. So sad! The destruction of Hurricane Iselle has affected many lives [although we have heard of no injuries or deaths as a result of the hurricane, thank goodness], and it looks like it has also affected some treasures of the Big Island.
I hope that the County is able to repair Ahualani Ponds in the not-too-distant future, but Iʻm sure that it is a low priority compared to other issues facing the Hawaii Island in the aftermath of the Hurricane. When will we get to bask in the bliss of the warm ponds again? Who knows!