Saturday, August 13, 2016

Hawaii: Day 3 ~ Volcanoes National Park

Warning: this is a super long post that will probably be boring if you have absolutely no interest in volcanoes.

Ever since I learned there are places where active volcanoes slowly spew lava, I've been fascinated by the idea.  I wanted to visit such a place.  It's one of the top reasons I was excited to see Hawaii.  All the Hawaiian islands were created by volcanoes, and the Big Island is still growing.  You can drive around and see various degrees of age.  There are huge lava fields with no vegetation, older lava fields where small shrubs and grasses have moved in, areas with the addition of small trees, all the way up to the most lush vegetation possible with every square inch covered in green and mammoth trees you can't believe actually exist.

On day three, we visited Volcanoes National Park.  The higher elevations gave us welcome relief from the humidity, and it was an educational playground.  From the Kilauea Visitor Center and Jaggar Museum to the Thurston Lava Tube and Chain of Craters Road, this was THE place for volcano enthusiasts.

The terrain in Hawaii is interesting anywhere you go.  The Big Island has 11 of the world's 13 climates, so it wasn't just stages of plant growth altering the landscape, it was climate variations.  You could see the land changing drastically over short distances.  It was incredible, and I couldn't get enough of it.  I loved cruising down the highway in the car with the AC on, drinking in scenery.

All the pictures in the area below came out poor, but the vegetation combined with lava rock to make a unique and interesting landscape, beautiful in its own way.

Greg saw that someone had stacked rocks and decided to make a couple stacks of his own!

The first place to head to upon entering Volcanoes National Park is the visitor center.  Just outside is a crater letting off steam and occasionally giving a glimpse of red.  It's called the Kilauea Caldera.  Tour companies bring people here after sunset to see the red glow after dark.

In the shot below, look for the tiny spot of red near the middle of the bottom edge of the crater rim.

People were pretty excited about that little vanishing speck of red.

One of the star attractions is a large crater with viewing points from multiple sides.  Once we caught on that they kept sending us to the same crater, we quit stopping at every viewing point.  It's called the Kilauea Iki Crater.

It was a lava lake in 1959.  That would have been something to witness.

This sucker is large!  The white horizontal stripe two pictures up?  We zoomed in on it to observe miniature people crossing.

No wonder they kept sending us to it.  Pretty big deal.

There was a tree next to the crater with several necklaces hanging from its branches.  There are a couple white ones in the pic below.

We learned a lot about the traditional Hawaiian religion and were surprised to discover that many people still honor the gods today.  I didn't expect that in the U.S.  Maybe a few people, but not on this scale.  Volcanoes play a big part in their beliefs, and these necklaces are left as gifts.  We saw many other examples elsewhere.  Our tour guide the next day told us that so many gifts are left some places, they occasionally need to be cleaned up.  Otherwise, it would become a mess of litter.

Lots to learn at the museum and visitor center.

Here we see Dr. Jagger, who "laid much of the foundation of what is known today as volcanology".

There are lots of steam vents.  This large one sends out hot gusts of putrid air that smells like burning matches: sulfur dioxide.  Not good to breathe, although Greg thought it was an improvement over the rotten egg smell at Yellowstone.  It's bad for the eyes as well.  And the gusts were so hot, one actually made me yelp and run when it hit me.  (Other ladies reacted strongly, so I wasn't the only wimp.)

We could see steam vents to our heart's content.  They were all along this winding path.  Everywhere we saw a wisp of smoke, a steam vent was sure to be found.

I was glad Greg took pictures with our other camera.  He got a lot of good ones.  He was my picture buddy.  I sure do love this man.  :)

Our favorite part about the park was the Thurston Lava Tube.  It was SO cool walking through a black cave knowing lava flowed through it at one time.

Heading down to the lava tube entrance.

Going in.

From just inside.

And back out.

We headed over to Chain of Craters Road where we saw some of the best views the whole trip, a visual phenomenon.  You're looking at a lava field stretching out to the horizon.  There are clouds floating in the middle of a blue sky, but wait . . . is that . . . ocean . . . ?  It couldn't be!  One of my boys - I think it was Kylen - told me they thought it was ocean.  Noooo!  Can it be?  You study it a moment.  Yes, the blue below the clouds could be ocean.  But the two shades of blue are so perfectly matched, they are almost indistinguishable.  It was one of the most awesome visual experiences of my life.  In fact, one of my favorite things about the Big Island is that you often see the ocean on the horizon just past the land, and it surprises you.  Or you see what looks like a whole new land area rising up on the horizon that doesn't look like it belongs to the land you're standing on.  It was super neat, and I didn't experience it as much on Oahu.  Oahu felt more boxed in to me, the greenery blocking the view of the ocean so you could forget it was there.  But on the Big Island, no matter where we drove, we kept seeing that ocean rising up from the land, connected to the sky by a wall of clouds.  For me, it was one of the best parts of our trip.

There is ocean below those clouds!

A viewing area down the road where more grass is growing.

Some of the lava was smooth so that the light reflected off and made it look shiny.  I never got a shot I was happy with, but this gives an idea.

They closed a large part of the road, because of fresh lava flows.  This was the way to see fresh lava.  I wanted to see it SO bad!!!

I walked pretty far down the highway before I discovered it was several miles.  I might be willing to walk one mile in the sweltering heat for lava.  Certainly not two.  My feet were killing me, and most of the hiking was off road.  Greg got a shot of Kylen and me coming back.  I just can't imagine why they would want to make it hard to see fresh lava?  ;)  A copter ride might be in my future.  Or an ATV trip.

Greg's favorite memory of our time on the Big Island was on this day.  We didn't stop and take pics, but at one point we were driving through a rain forest where greenery surrounded us on both sides and above due to the trees.  He loved that beautiful drive.

And that was day 3!


Karen's Cake Shoppe said...

So cool, Farrah! THIS is why I'd want to go to Hawaii.

Farrah said...

I can TOTALLY picture you there, Karen!!! You'd love it!