Craters, caves, and tubes! Monday, 10/06/14
Also known as Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, with Kilauea and its ongoing eruptions being the star player. Continuing our Monday jaunt, we left Hilo and aimed for the park. We knew in advance that a large section of Crater Rim Drive, which encircles the summit, was closed due to "elevated levels of sulphur dioxide gas" and related volcanic activity. We had a few hours to explore the area, look in the caldera, and take a walk in the dark -- Nahuku, Thurston Lava Tube, a 500-yr-old lava cave. Our first stop is always a VC (if there is one) and Volcanoes Nat'l Pk had a great VC. It was also very popular, because it was jammed wall-to-wall with people milling around.
I did. Twice. Refreshing and Perfect.
Kilauea Caldera - 400 ft drop from rim to floor. Smoke/fumes rise from the vent within Halemaʻumaʻu crater, upper left of photo.
Thoughtful people don't simply discard their leis in the trash, they hang them in a tree or bush, and here on the Big Island, we spotted quite a few placed near the caldera, honoring Pele.
Legend has it that Pele lives in Halemaʻumaʻu crater (Kilauea). Isn't this a striking picture?
We walked the half-mile rim trail thru lush forest to the Thurston Lava Tube. No guard rails protect the unwary from a 400-foot-straight-down plunge to the floor. That light-colored line above? A foot trail. Enlarge the photo and look carefully and you might see people on the trail ... they look like ants. Amazing sight! A ranger told us that hiking in there was like walking in a Costco parking lot ... hot, with no moving air. Guess so! We passed on this one!
This handsome dude (posing nicely) is a Kalij Pheasant. He sat on the log for a minute, hopped off, and disappeared into the forest. We felt privileged to see him, 'cause no one else did.
We saw a lot of Uluhe - an interesting climbing fern with wiry stems that divide into double pairs of twin fronds.
I always ask Jimmy's input on which pictures to post. This is one he picked, with the caption of "goobers." Jimmy, Tom, and Diane are poised at the lava tube entrance. Ready to enter, like inner sanctum! The path down to the tube is overshadowed by towering, dense plants, and as we descended, the trail became darker and wet with earthy smells. Ripe. Almost rank.
This tube is 600 feet long and lit by electric lighting. The ceiling was high enough so we didn't feel too claustrophobic, and water dripping from the ceiling nailed heads and shirts the entire stretch. Puddles of water had us carefully choosing our footing. It wasn't too scary, but it is always good to see the sky again!
This lava configuration is visible all over the Big Island ... and in some mainland National Parks, as well. Very, very strange to witness.
Buddies at the steam vents. I can tell you from firsthand experience -- if you stand over the vent, you will discover how hot a steam vent is!! Yeow!
A shot of Halemaʻumaʻu crater from the overlook. Takes your breath away, and I don't mean from the foul VOG that it's producing.
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We were starving by the time we left Kilauea. In downtown Hilo Bay, we stopped at Cafe Pesto, located in a turn-of-the-century building that's withstood earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and devastating tsunamis. We gobbled up our 3 pm "lunch." Originally constructed by the Hata Family in 1912 and known as the Grande Dame of Hilo, the building was restored in 1992. Nearly empty when we arrived, the restaurant was rapidly filling up by the time we left.
Seafood panini with pesto, served with purple tater salad. Seafood bisque came first. Delish!
Tom drove us back to the condo on Rte 200, otherwise known as the Saddle Road which traverses the width of the island -- it's the shortest driving route from Hilo to Kailua-Kona. Leaving Hilo at sea level, the road begins an ascent that seems never ending, took us into heavy fog and low visibility, and then rain. At the 6,632 summit, the cloud/fog/rain curtain lifted to reveal a stunning view of Mauna Kea volcano, tho its main peak remained hidden. Flocks of sheep grazed roadside, and when we approached the west coast with its ocean views, the sunset was dramatic.
From the moving car, capturing a good sunset picture was impossible. Believe me, it was dazzling!
We talked about another round of Mexican Train Dominoes and, while tired, everybody wanted to play; no time like the present! Also, I was bound and determined to "get back in the game," so to speak. (I had a good evening!) It was bunches of fun for all. Tomorrow is our last day on the island -- oh boy, it'll be a special day.