Finally Hawai’i Volcano National Park (HAVO) on the Big Island of Hawaii www.nps.gov/havo
As I said in my last blog, the last time I was on the Big Island of Hawaii was 21 years ago – December 1995. The national parks were closed because the Republicans decided to have a show-down with Pres Bill Clinton – Lenny and I never got to see the crater or any features of HAVO.
But I’m in Hilo now, the big city closest to Volcanoes NP with my son and family. The first day, we got to the park at 8:30, before the Visitor Center opened. So we started hiking. True to its name, the main attraction is the crater. We took the Crater Rim Trail past steam vents and through a jungle of trees and vines. OK. The park doesn’t call it a jungle, but a tropical rain forest.
Overlooks had been place strategically so we could stare at the huge volcano below. It seemed endless.
After about 2.5 miles, we reached the Jaggar Museum within an observatory. This is where we saw the volcano still burning. The park had placed a couple of telescopes so we could see the fire at close range. Though it was so, so far away, it was pretty impressive. You can’t see it in the photo but the fire is there.
The museum grounds were crowded with people who drove right to the overlook. As soon as we started back, the people disappeared.
When we reached the visitor center about noon, the place was a proverbial madhouse. The rangers and volunteers were doing crowd control and trying to answer simple questions without being too short. But it was difficult.
The park film was a disappointment. It focused on safety around the lava and volcanoes. Stay away from the hot stuff, basically. It never told me anything about the park itself. After that, it was gridlock on the road and around the buildings.
Second day at Volcanoes National Park. We started early again and drove the Chain of Craters road to the Lava Tubes parking area. First, we walked the Kilauea Iki Trail, down to the crater. Though it erupted in 1959, all seems to be quiet now, at least quiet enough for hikers to walk a four-mile loop.
The trail starts and ends in a rain forest but the highlight is the black, black lava rock. Steam vents are still active but the trail keeps away from them. Since so few people were in the crater this early, we made some friends.
By the time we walked back up to the rim, bus and family groups were meeting us to start down. When we reached the top, we crossed the road to take in the Thurston Lava Tube.
In a half-mile, you walk into a tunnel that had been created by lava, now well solidified. The park had installed lights so you really didn’t need a flashlight.
We spent the rest of the day driving and stopping on the Chain of Craters Road. And that’s what it was – crater after crater, each with its own characteristic. At the end of the road, you meet the sea with an impressive sea arch. Another four miles of walking (one way) would have taken us to see molten lava. But none of us felt like starting an eight-mile round trip hike after lunch.
We could have used another couple of days in this park.