Halemaumau Crater <---great Wikipedia link!
After our morning in Hilo, filling up on lychee, climbing up and into banyan trees, we went west. West to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. I don't know if we have a more dynamic National Park to enjoy both creation, and geologic destruction. The grand and the minute, the forces that erode and the elements determined to rebuild are at work, together in one place. It gives perspective about Earth, about the huge forces at work, and yet it's hard to maintain a perspective, to appreciate the entire scale and ratios... between ourselves and the spaces we saw, the distances we covered. Inevitably I feel small here. We have power, we have understanding of nature, but on this level, where the earth is belching out new land, we are only witnesses. And here, it is best to be a cautious, respectful witness.
It's a place for the scientist and the poet, both. You stand in awe of all you see, and want to know more, to get closer. Mark Twain was a visitor in 1866, and he wrote, "Here was room for the imagination to work." Indeed. There are interesting facts, and details, as evolving and changing as the volcanoes themselves.
Some of us went to see the activity of Halemaumau Crater, in the dark. We arrived before the sun, and despite the bracing wind, we enjoyed a fantastic view and impression. From deep within the Crater, the glow of flowing lava is stunning. Get any closer? No. Not a good idea... that cloud is a plume of sulphur dioxide. The ground is hot, steam vents, open crevices, earthquakes, and explosive episodes. I felt happy enough viewing from the relative safety of the Jaggar Museum.
Southward from the Jaggar, around the Crater Rim Drive we come to the Rim of the Kilauea Iki Crater... Little Kilauea Across the crater and in the center of the image you can see the plume from the Halemaumau Crater. Our plan: descend 400 feet into the Iki Crater, cross it and then hike back up and around the rim. Through fern forests, then across a Martian terrain!
A few feet in, and you are in another world. Remote, ancient, thick. William was overcome with explorer's awe. This was the beginning of his heightened interest in photography. He and Geoff discovered new camera apps for the iPhones, and from here out our adventures were captured in 3D, and panorama. William was happy, and eager to take in all he saw.
At the trail head, we started from the left side, down by the Thurston Lava Tube entrance. You cannot see the crater bottom until the last switchback in the trail, and suddenly ferns and ginger give way to a barren otherworldly terrain. It is a stunning vision. You are at the bottom of a volcanic bowl, once a lake of molten lava.
Down the center is the trail. It's gray, the lava is crushed from hikers passing over, and over. But step away and you see the untouched, crystalline surface of both lava types... Pahoehoe, a smoother and flowing surface, where a`a is sponge-like, but jagged.
Again, from the rim, you can see the gray and worn path across the crater, and maybe you can make out the two hikers walking from right to left of the image.
Back to the crater floor... life finds its way.
It's hard, even standing there, to comprehend the scale.