Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

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.

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park offers visitors a phenomenal opportunity to witness something ancient, and brand new in the making. "Volcanoes are monuments to Earth's origin, evidence that its primordial forces are still at work. During a volcanic eruption, we are reminded that our planet is an ever-changing environment whose basic processes are beyond human control. As much as we have altered the face of the Earth to suit our needs, we can only stand in awe before the power of an eruption."

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.

Our own facts: we stayed for three days and two nights, we rented a home in the Village, we hiked Kilauea Iki Crater, and Nāhuku - Thurston Lava Tube. We baked brownies, from scratch. We walked, walked, walked, and we met all the neighborhood popoki. And we enjoyed a really wonderful lunch at Thai Thai... such a welcome treat.

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.

Good morning.

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.

The moon, and the ohia lehua.

We talked about terraforming Mars. We talked about brownies. Lava fields inspire great thoughts.

The morning started out cool, and it even felt nice standing in front of active steam vents. Not too close... it will scald you, or worse.

As the sun rose, we had a cooling breeze to keep us comfortable.

Then we hike up and out of Kilauea Iki, back into rainforest, and views from the crater's rim.

Stunning views.

Back in Volcano Village, we enjoyed walks through the neighborhood, meeting local cats, all the beautiful flowers, and the hot lava sheet of brownies we were inspired to bake.

Maria asked to sign the guestbook for us. She put her heart into it.


judy in ky said...

Your photos are phenomenal and your words are poetic. What great descriptions of your experience.

Little Messy Missy said...

Beautiful pictures. I love the one of your son in the ferns.