It's humbling. Makes you feel small.
We had the opportunity to fly over the Kilauea Crater in the helicopter, it looked big then, but here, in Volcanos National Park, how close do you want to get?
We got our first up-close look at the crater from the area marked for the "Steam Vents." It's a beautiful view point. There are hiking trails for all athletic capabilities, except those of us with pins through their knuckles. Also a great "Kodak moment."
You can get all kinds of vantage points, or entry points if you're on foot, of the crater, which is expansive. If you have time, stop and look around. Everywhere you look in the park, there is evidence of volcanic activity, from numerous lava flows. This huge crater is just a reminder of how catastrophic an eruption can be.
About half-way around Crater Rim Drive, there is a spot you can walk out to, that brings you even closer into the crater. You can smell the sulphur and see the steam from the volcanic activity happening under our feet.
*** The sulphuric fumes here can be dangerous to those with respiratory problems.***
I will have to go back one day, and hike down the trails to go deeper into the crater. *sigh* Next time.
Once you enter the park, stop at the Visitor Center. You can't miss it, it's one of the only man-made structures you'll see for a while...
Inside is what any tourist would expect from a Visitor Center...displays, pictures, videos, tours...etc. We stopped here for the most important thing. Yes, there are flush toilets here! You may want to use it...before you lose it.
Also, there's a really cool topographical map of the island, showing all the craters and volcanic flows. Check it out...
From here, jump onto Crater Rim Drive, which takes you around the park, through numerous geological climates, or hop onto one of the many hiking trails. There are maps showing both, with distances, elevations, and other historical info.
Check on the website. There's a link (marked see lava safely) to a page showing the current areas of volcanic flows (for those who want to see red lava) and which areas are currently closed.
The visitor center is open daily 7:45 am to 5:00 pm.
One of the first "attractions" you drive up on is the "Steam Vents." At this point of the journey, I had begun being active after the hospital stay, was still heavily medicated with painkillers, but tried to do alot more than I should have. I had to get out of the car and walk to the edge of the crater, where the steam from the vents here were visible from over 100 yards away, just billowing out like smoke from a factory. Just walking sent pain throbbing down my arm, but it's worth going out to.
From here, you can look down into the crater, an amazing view. The vents were really interesting, as it is a stark indication that there is still volcanic activity boiling away right under our feet. The rainwater seeps into the ground, hits the heat and returns up as steam. In fact, the ground here gets so hot, that tree roots cannot survive, so all that grows here are hardy grasses.
Crater Rim Drive winds through Volcanos National Park, around the Kilauea Crater offering different, each beautiful, views. This is the road you are on when entering the park, and there are highlighted spots on the "Crater Tour" where you can pull off, have a picnic, take pictures or whatever. Just remember, there are many other tourists, there will be some amount of traffic. Be patient and courtious to others and respect the land by parking in designated areas...
The beginning of the drive is rainforest, and as you approach the crater, it becomes more barren, with course grasses and shallow root plants...and steam rises from the ground. Once past this volcanic field, you enter the lava flow zone, where numerous volcanic eruptions have sent lava flows through this rift.
The ground in some parts have a blackish color, where other lava flows (depending on what was dug up by the flow) have greens, reds and yellows. Gordie joked that he thinks the Mars probe actually landed here...but NASA doesn't know the difference. It looks like it.
Wow...it's been almost a year since the trip, but with the injury I didn't have the ability to do this. I may have the order of events backwards in this trip...but by now I had figured out how to open the pill case with one hand...
Gotta go to work...I'll be back...
Ohia Fern Rainforest. on the east side of the cauldera. Cool and damp. The softest rain I've ever experienced. Stuck to our hair and eyelashes like snowflakes. The best hike is the Thurston Lava Tube. Takes 30-45 min to go down to and through the developed tube, with walkways and lighting. There is a continuation of the tube you can explore if you have flashlights....but there is no paved walkway or lighting. (We didn't go that far)
Outside of the Volcanoes National Park, don't forget to visit the Volcano Winery, where they make their own unique wines.
Inside the Volcanoes National Park, there is a multitude of things to do. First, visit the Visitor Center. Find out about the park, and heed their warnings about current conditions. If you're going hiking to the current lava flow, make sure you have water, long pants (the lava is very sharp), and that you don't get too close.
You can drive down the Chain of Craters Road, which, as its name implies, drives past a number of large and small volcanic craters. The road skirts the rim of the very large Kilauea Crater, then winds its way down the mountain to the ocean. At one point, you can look back up at the mountain and see where the most recent lava flows cascaded down the mountainside to the ocean. The most recent lava flows are the darkest. You can park your car at the end of the road (where the lava has crossed it and made it impassable), and hike to near where the lava is currently entering the sea. Great steam clouds are rising from this point. Don't get too close because sections of land may break off without warning and slide into the sea, and the steam from the lava is toxic. Still on the low lands, you can stop and walk about 2 miles inland to see some ancient petroglyphs left by the Hawaiians.
Nearer to the Volcano Center, you can walk through the Thurston Lava Tube, a 'structure' created when the lava exposed to the surface cooled, but the lava underneath was still hot and molten and continued to travel. When the lava ceased and hardened, a tube was created, sometimes going for miles. You can also walk the Devastation Trail. a boardwalk created through an old lava flow. You can see petrified tree stumps and the total devastation that a lava flow can leave behind. There are several hiking trails you can take, including a short 2 mile hike through a tropical rain forest, or a longer 8 mile hike across the floor of Kilauea Crater, on barren lava rocks. Also in the park are steam vents (don't get too close or you'll get scalded), sulphur banks (that smell like rotten eggs), and lots of local plants, such as ginger flowers and ferns.
You have to see it to believe it. The Volcanoes National Park is one of my favorite places in the world. It is a great place to gain respect for the forces of nature, and to gain great respect for the land.
The greatest thing about the Volcano Winery is their bumper sticker, which reads, 'Stomp Me, Squeeze Me, Make Me Wine'.
Chain of Craters road certainly lives up to its name. Stretching from the main active volcano of Kilauea at 1000m or so down to the ocean level where the lava belonging to another hot spot ends up, it reveals a whole scale of volcanic activity in all sorts of stages. Along the way one can witness craters spewing lava, craters belching smoke, craters frozen till next eruption and even craters overgrown with trees. In-between are lava flows in different colour and texture all of them generally going downhill as expected and nicely marked according to dates of eruption. Depending on the view angle lava flows at you or from you or around you in all-encompassing motion showing the power of the planet’s creativity.
Kilauea has been erupting since Jan 3, 1983. The most recent flows can be seen at the end of the chain of craters road. When I was there the walk to see 'red' lava was 1 1/2 hours from where you parked your car, across very uneven terrain. Be prepared if you go. Take lots of water, wear hiking shoes (no slippas) , long pants and make sure you have a flashlight and batteries. Rangers say lots of people loose track of time and are out on the flow a lot longer than they plan on, and when the sun goes down............you discover a whole new definition of dark.
The main attraction for the Volcano area is the Volcanoes National Park.
The park offers you a variety of experiences, including hiking on barren lava flows, walking through a tropical rain forest, visiting sulphur banks (not recommended for asthmatics) and steam vents (where you can feel the heat of the earth), walking through old lava tubes, and exploring the visitors center and art center.
Kilauea volcanic production shows vividly what a double edge sword these earthly hiccups can be. New lava has burned, smothered and pulverized everything in its path but in a while life springs up from any possible crack fed by the frozen cocktail of nutrients that this amorphous mass is made of. While flora spearheads the way to the future other creatures are not far behind. Humans in the area have shown incredible resilience and resistance even to its own laws and hoisted new dwellings right on the bare lava waves. Difficult to comprehend considering the level of volcanic activity around and at the same time maybe this activity itself is driving the folks in question to build back and use the properties for commercial reasons. All the action-hungry tourists have to be provided with different viewpoints of the same magnificent spectacle and what a better way of feeling the lava rage than being on top of it, preferably on a veranda .
The trail to the most active lava production point with awe-inspiring name of Pu’u O’o and its closer to civilization viewpoint with the sexy heading Pu’u Huluhulu leads you to at least a couple of discoveries. Along the path are visible strange formations that at close inspection become lava tubes materialising through the process of engulfing and consequently burning of palm trees thus leaving the space where the trunk used to be hollow. The bark prints are clearly visible on the lava sculpture. Then it is the Nono’s turn, flightless bird of the Canadian geese variety stuck on Hawaii during some navigational turmoil. Unfortunately the sensation of unspoiled wilderness is ruined by some warden tagging the poor bird.
Part of the "Crater Tour" is an expansive, and ancient lava tube, the Thurston Lava Tube.
You know, this work stuff is really cutting into my VT time...I'll be back to finish the story.
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