Originally published: 8/3/2003; 12:01:55 AM

Woke up early and drove to a general store in Volcano for milk and juice to go with some muffins we picked up in Hilo last night. The breakfast buffet doesn’t open until 7:00 AM and the snack bar doesn’t open until 9:00 AM so the general store is the best option.

We took the longest hike of the trip this morning. From the Volcano House lodge we took the ‘Iliahi Trail to the bottom of the Kilauea Caldera to the Halema’umu’u Trail. We then took that trail across the Kilauea caldera bottom to the Halema’umu’u crater. The trail was failry similar to the trail to the lava flow–lots of lava. Unfortunately, the trail didn’t get close enough to the crater for a good view. (Use the Halema’umu’u Crater lookout for the best crater view if the view is what you’re after). Cloudcover and mist kept us cool during the hike.

The caldera bottom is pretty desolate. Mostly lava and young fern trees, at least on the older flows. On the way to and from the bottom, though, the path goes through lush rain forests with some pretty incredible ferns, trees, moss, and the occasional rock formation.

At that point, we made a decision that effectively turned a six-mile hike into an eight or nine mile hike. We took the Byron Ledge Trail from the crater back across the caldera and up onto the Byron Ledge. Near the end of the trail, though, it dips back to the caldera bottom. That didn’t seem appealing so we took a junction over to the Waldron Ledge which led back to Volcano House. (In hindsight, it probably would have been better to stick with the Byron Ledge Trail to the Halema’uma’u trailhead and then the ‘Iliahi trail back to the lodge. The vertical change wasn’t as bad that way as it looked).

We went back down to Hilo to have a look around. Stopped at the Mauna Loa Macademia Nut plant. We drove through downtown and over to Rainbow Falls. There were some huge banyan trees over there and along Banyan Drive.

At Hilo Hatties we picked up some Aloha shirts for me and the kids. It’s a good place to shop for souvenirs. If you only stop at one such place on your trip, stop here.

The Kilauea Lodge looked good for dinner but they were all booked up so we went to the Kiawe Cafe in Volcano Village. I had the pasta with crab alfredo and Christy had marinara. The food was good but the service was a little off. I’d go back, though.

On to Hawaii Day 8 — Kona