Today Karen, Kristen, and I ventured into the Volcanoes National Park.
We awoke at the crack of dawn, mentally preparing for the long day ahead. Karen, Kristen, and I hopped in the car and took off on the 1.5 hour drive to Volcanoes National Park.
The park encompasses two active volcanoes: Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Our day was spent exploring the region around Kilauea, more specifically the smaller Kilauea Iki crater. Our 6.8 mile hike started and ended at the Visitor's Center, and took us through lush green rain-forest, and the blackened, blasted crater of Kilauea Iki. The forest was filled with all manner of flowers, and we even saw what we think was a Hawai'ian pheasant.
We descended into the crater - the complete opposite of the rain-forest. A scrubby brush grew here and there, but not much else. A lone bird, with beautiful, long tail feathers flitted about in a circle above our heads. It was the only animal we'd see in the crater. The lava had dried, cracked, and broken in hundreds of different ways, keeping the crater floor interesting and unique the entire way across.
Winding our way back up the Kilauea Iki trail we stopped at the Thurston Laval tube, which is worth checking out. There is even a raw section that has been left alone as is only navigable by flashlight, which we were sadly lacking.
We ate a rather disappointing lunch back at the Visitor's Center - gas station sandwiches are not the best of picnic lunches, especially when Karen and Kristen don't like the mustard and mayo. Well, they're loss I suppose. The nearby buffet had just been deluged by several bus loads of tourists, so we ate our meager meal and got back in the car to travel around Crater Rim Drive.
We stopped at the Halema'uma'u overlook, but Kristen and Karen opted to stay in the car. I walked up to the crater's edge, surrounded by steaming vents, and saw offerings left on the rim for the goddess Pele. Several ne'ne geese strode about, eating the fruit meant to appease the angry goddess. I hoped she would understand, and not blast us all away with rivers of lava. She seemed to be dealing with it fairly well, so I went back to the car and drove down the Chain of Craters Road.
The drive to the bottom was great. You zigzag back and forth as you make your way to the ocean. The road dead-ends at a lava flow - the road was covered in 2003.
At the dead-end is the Holei Sea Arch, a bit of lava carved out in the shape of an (you guessed it!) arch. A mile down the road was a viewing point where you could get a good view of the lava flow entering the ocean. Unfortunately the lava itself was not visible, only its effects - namely a great plume of steam and smoke that rose up and drifted back west across the island.
I asked a ranger (and later a tour guide) if it was possible to see the lava at night, and both said no - all I'd see was a faint red halo where the lava entered the ocean. The girls were relieved to hear this, as I was planning on staying until sunset to catch a glimpse of the lava. Ah well, maybe next time.