Hawaii Day 6 — Volcanoes National Park

Originally published: 8/2/2003; 11:50:17 PM

Today we woke up early (which can’t be helped due to the thin ceilings and walls–you’re pretty much up when the neighbors get up) and went hiking. We did the Kilauea Iki trail, a 4-mile loop down a crater wall, across the crater floor, and back up. The crater floor was black lava and fairly desolate except for the small green plants growing in the cracks and the occasional steam vent. The whole crater resembled a chocolate souffle that had fallen.

After that we did the Visitor Center and the Jagger Museum at the Kilauea Summit. I found the Jagger Museum a little disappointing–it had a few good exhibits but it was smaller than I had expected.

Lunch was at Lava Rock Cafe in Volcano. I had the fresh fish plate lunch. Christy had a burger. The service was a little off and the food was mediocre. I’d pass on the Lava Rock in favor of other options.

In the afternoon we hit the Pu’u petroglyphs trail (1.4 miles round trip). Cool petroglyphs at the viewing area and along the trail (if you look hard enough). Then we took a nap.

At about 4:15 we headed back down the Chain of Craters Road to the eruption site. The trail starts a half mile beyond the parking area. The April 2003 flow had covered the road. Then, it was a mile to a mile-and-a-half over some awesome lava formations to the leading edge of the flow.

The lava flow was beautiful. It slowly oozed across old laval making interesting patters as it pushed, bulged, and twisted.

There were basically three areas where lava was flowing that were in close proximity to each other. One was meeting some plants and shrubs causing small fires. The methane explosion risk was too great to get close to that one. But the other two could be approached quite easily.

At other spots, cracks in the old lava glowed red hot with new lava surging beneath. And, on the hillside, hot lava could be seen glowing as the lava made its way from the vent down through the lava tubes.

The lava that usually flowed to the sea had been blocked for two weeks and continued to be blocked while we were there so we didn’t get to see a live ocean entry.

As it grew darker, the hillside began to glow. It was really pretty. People were just sitting around watching the lava like you would stare into a campfire.

We broke out the mag lights, hiked back to the car, and headed to Hilo for a fast food fix. All of the restaurants in Volcano were closed.

If you are going to Volcanoes National Park, take “real” water jugs (I like Nalgene brand), flashlights, and sturdy shoes. A daypack, long pants, and rain gear are also good things to take. The hike to the lava flow (at least when we were there) was over some rough terrain. New lava has yet to be worn by wind and rain so it is still pretty jagged. The little pieces can be sharp as glass. I wound up with more than one splinter. I wouldn’t take people who have trouble getting around or very small children.

Also, 4:15 was just about the perfect time to head down to the lava flow. The afternoon crowd was heading out so we found a parking spot close to the turnaround point. And, we got to enjoy the lava both in daylight and darkness.

“Day 7, Volcanoes National Park”