Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Volcanoes, Part 3 Volcano, HI, Sunday, 20 August 2006 9:49pm

This was the day for hiking. I started out early for the park, stopping in at the visitor center to see if there were any eruption updates (no), and then setting out around the crater rim, stopping at each site and overlook. There were lots of deep sulfur vents and shallow steam vents, and many different styles of volcanic rock.

I think the most interesting sights on the rim were around the Southern Rift. You can see a crack in the earth heading both directions from the road. At its narrow end there are intrepid ferns trying to establish a foothold. At the other end, it suddenly drops off to the floor of the Halema'uma'u crater floor. The walls of the crater are colored by various mineral deposits and there have been collapses along the walls that expose the different layers of stone. White birds swoop around in the updrafts.

You can't currently go down to the floor of the main crater (it was a lake of fire when Mark Twain visited it in 1866 and still has magma moving well below the surface), but you can hike the bottom of the smaller Kilauea Iki crater. I spent most of the afternoon doing that walk. The crater floor itself seems a lot like cracked blacktop, but on a gargantuan scale. The kind of crack that you might see from a tree root growing under pavement is the size of a bus.

I also explored the unlighted part of the lava tube on this trip (I'd left my headlamp in the car when we came as a group.). It was pretty similar to the lighted part, but... darker. I was hoping to see big lava drips from the ceiling, but there were only little ones. There were a few places where the roof had collapsed, but the tunnel was otherwise pretty featureless. Towards the end, the ceiling got lower and lower until the tube closed off completely. I turned off my lamp for a bit there and stood in the complete darkness.

After a day of driving and hiking around the crater rim, I was exhausted. I stopped back at the B&B to rest for a while, then decided to make the drive to Hilo for sushi rather than visit one of the (four) restaurants in Volcano. Unfortunately, it turned out that the sushi place was closed on Sundays, so I had to find other food. I've now driven all of the way around Hawai'i.

It was pouring on the way back to Volcano. A reminder of why there are rainforests on this side of the island...