Volcano National Park (posted Sunday December 28th from Kona).


The main reason to stay on the Eastern side of the island in the aptly named town of Volcano is to visit Volcano National Park.  We’re staying just minutes away from the park entrance.  After a hearty breakfast, we head to the visitor center of the park.  Here we get a local update on the volcanic activity, road closures, and recommendations.


Our first stop is the Thurston Lava tube.  We go here first since it gets very crowded later in the day.  It’s a giant lava tube that we can walk through- with plenty of room to spare.  Because the lava rock is porous, it’s still dripping wet inside.  The first part of the tube is lit by light bulbs, but you can continue on in the unlit portion.  We explore a bit with our headlamps on.  It’s neat to see, and with the lights off, completely dark.


Returning to the tube entrance, we join up with the Kilauea Iki trail.  “Iki” in Hawaiian means small so this small Kilauea, the small crater of the volcano.  We descend through the tropical rain forest, emerging after about a mile on the floor of the crater.  We’re now standing in an area that 50 years ago was full of molten lava when the volcano erupted.  We can see steam rising in various places.   This is from water seeping down a few hundred fit and coming in contact with hot rocks. 


We continue through the crater taking in the sites on the informative parks hiking guide.  We take note of the main source of the eruption from which lava shot over a thousand feet into the air during the eruption.  I’ll note also that it is now raining substantially, but we’re okay in our full rain gear.  We make it to the other side of the crater and start ascending back through the tropical forest.  Because of the winds during the last eruption, this forest survived.  Continuing on the trail we loop back to the car after a total of 4 miles.


Stopping for lunch at Volcano House, we can now see the Kilauea caldera.  It’s huge.  Visibility is not great because of the weather, but the caldera is enormous compared with the crater.   The road around the caldera continues from here looping back to the entrance; however, about half of it is closed because of toxic gases coming from the volcano.  Since the visitor center informed us of this, we knew we needed to head back the way we came.


After lunch we head down Chain of Craters road towards the ocean.  It’s raining a bunch so we only make a quick stop to view a lava pit from a previous eruption.  We take the road until it ends.  It ends because lava went over the road and it’s impassable.  From here we can see steam at the ocean a few miles away where the volcano is currently spewing lava into the ocean.  Finally, we are in sunny weather which is a nice change for the day.  It’s also considerably warmer. 


After viewing the lava on the old road, we return to the car and drive back up the road to stop at the petroglyphs.  The Hawaiians have carved over 25,000 petroglyphs into the volcanic rock.  We hike in the 0.7miles to the raised boardwalk trail that does a short circle around some of the petroglyphs. 


It’s now getting late in the day, but we decide to press on to try and catch the lava viewing.  Underestimating the drive, we get to the lava viewing site an hour or so later, right around sunset (which is actually perfect timing).  The current eruption is not in the park, but there is a road and marked hike to get you there.  There are reflectors on the lava rocks we’re hiking on to indicate where to go.  It’s all pretty tame and there are plenty of people here.   Even from the start of the walk, you can see a faint red glow in the steam that is coming up from the ocean.  As it gets darker and you get closer, it only gets brighter.


We reach the closest point they will let us get to.  Since our eyes have now adjusted to the darkness, we can see the eruption.  Mostly we see the red reflected in the steam, but every once in a while a little spurt of red shoots up and falls down which we can only assume is actual lava.  While we’re still a safe distance away, it’s an impressive site.  We watch the volcano for awhile, and then I attempt to setup the camera and tripod to get a few pics.  I know I’m not going to win an award with National Geographic, but a few of the several second long exposures did at least come out.


As we’re contemplating returning back to the car, the weather goes from comfortable to a torrential down pour.  We don our rain gear as best we can, head back to the car, and return back to the room exhausted from our 12 hour day of tourism.


Jump to the Day 2 photos.