Once inside the park, we spent about an hour in the Visitor Center where we watched two movies about Kilauea volcano. One movie was a highlight of the volcano's eruptions over the last 30 years; the other was about the hike to see the lava flowing into the ocean (basically how to be safe and where to go). At the end of the movies, a park ranger came, put a map on the overhead and explained the two ways to see the flowing lava:
- Drive to the end of the Chain of Craters Road inside the national park. From the end of the road it is approximately 5 miles each way to see the lava flowing. With this option, you will be hiking downwind of the dangerous sulfur dioxide gas (not good). This hike also entails a hike over "hot lava" to see the lava flowing into the ocean. Hot lava is flowing in lava tubes, but the top or ceiling of the lava tube may only be 8-10" thick.
- Leave the park, drive to Kea'au, then turn right on Hwy. 130. Continue on Hwy. 130 to the end of the road. (The total drive will take one to 1-1/2 hours.) From the end of the road, you can hike 3.9 miles each way, or you can rent a bike for $20 per person. The route is mostly on a wide gravel road, with the last 1/8 to 1/4 mile on very sharp, very uneven lava rock. Doing this route will keep you upwind of the dangerous gases and off of the hot lava.
The weather was rainy, windy and cold. We were wearing shorts and T-shirts.
From the Visitor Center we drove to Jaggar Museum which deals with the geology of the volcano. There are also beautiful pieces of art to be seen. But the main reason for going to the Jaggar Museum Visitor Center is to see the lava lake in the bottom of Halema'uma'u Crater.
The level of the lava goes up and down. Not too long ago, the lava level was 100 ft. below the floor of the crater and couldn't be seen. Very recently, the lava level rose back up to the level of the floor of the crater. Now when part of the crater floor heats up and breaks off, it falls into the lava creating lava splashes. We were able to see quite a bit of activity while at the viewing area at Jaggar Museum.
|Lava in Halema'uma'u Crater. The dark|
color is the old floor of the crater.
|Part of the large Halema'uma'u Crater. The current |
lava pool is the circular area in the bottom of crater.
Below are pictures of my two favorite pieces of art in Jaggar Museum.
|Pelehonuamea by Herbert K. Kane|
From Jaggar Museum, we stopped to hike to steam vents and look over the Kilauea Caldera. We were literally standing in a volcano!
|One of the steam vents by the parking lot|
|Bob at the trailhead.|
|Volcano House Hotel overlooks Kilauea Caldera|
|Steaming bluffs with Mauna Loa in background|
The Big Island of Hawaii is nicknamed "The Orchid Isle." On the wet, Hilo side of the island, many orchids grow, even here at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
|Wild orchids grow like crazy in the Kilauea |
Caldera. There's a whole field of them!
On the way out of the park, we drove past Kilauea Military Camp. OMG, the cottages were all decorated with assorted and sundry cartoon or superhero character cut-outs which had been painted in bright colors. We saw the Fantastic Four, "Frozen" characters, something different in front of each cabin.
|Kilauea Military Camp|
As an aside, Bob ran the Volcano Marathon in 2008 (or thereabouts) and we got to stay in one of these cabins. It was very cool. We loved it.
Two activities we didn't do while we were in the park this time were: driving to the end of Chain of Craters Road, and walk through the Thurston Lava Tube. We had done those before and, with the weather being so nasty, we decided to go have lunch in Hilo at Ken's Pancake House (an old favorite of ours), and then head out to hike to the active lava viewing area outside the park.
Oh, there was one activity that would have been worth doing if we had the time and good weather: hike the Kilauea Iki Trail (4 miles). This hike descends 400 ft. through native rain forest into a crater and takes you across a hardened lava lake, still steaming from the 1959 eruption!
As we left the park it was raining hard and rained all the way down to Hilo, about 30 miles away. Our mouths were watering thinking about the great food at Ken's Pancake House. As we pulled up to the intersection by Ken's we could see that the parking lot was coned off and all the lights were off in the restaurant. We don't know what was wrong, but there were workmen on the roof. Oh, well, we would have to find something else.
As we drove into downtown Hilo, I remembered a good restaurant on one of the side streets so Bob humored me and we drove up and down a couple of one-way streets. I didn't find the restaurant I was thinking of, but we did see a place called "Pineapples" that looked interesting. There was a parking spot across the street. We parked and went in.
|Pineapples restaurant is open air|
|Fish and chips and coleslaw|
|Chicken curry wrap with potato-mac salad|
Our next plan for the day was to start hiking from the end of the road at Kalapana, Hawaii, at 4 pm so we would be at the lava when it got dark. We finished eating around 2:30 pm and we had one more stop to make before we headed out to the end of the road: Big Island Candies.
If you go to Hilo, you have to visit Big Island Candies. They make not only candies but also cookies and brownies. As you enter their store, you are given a little cup with samples in it. As you walk around their store, there are sample eats on shelves, and employees walk around handing out samples as well. Mmmm!
|Workers dipping shortbread cookies in chocolate|
|Big Island Candies entryway decorations|
|Cutting fudge into squares|
|Big Island Candies retail store|
Our main purpose in visiting Big Island Candies was to buy and ship thank you gifts to our respective work-places to thank them for covering for us while we're away. Our mission was accomplished and we got to watch the assembly line of workers hand-dipping their shortbread cookies in chocolate and also we saw one cutting fudge.
To be continued on Tuesday, Part 3...