Monday, April 30, 2007

Hawaii trip - day 6, part 2

Friday, April 13th continued...

After stopping for lunch in Hilo, we continued south to Volcanoes National Park, where there was a lot to see. It's helpful not to think of the volcano as just a single mountain peak that might erupt from the cone (like Mt. St. Helens) but as a volcano "complex" with numerous potential points of eruption, along with subterranean lava flows which occasionally surface above ground, and lots of other evidence of volcanic and seismic activity.

Many areas of the park convey a sense of what the earliest days of Planet Earth might have been like... barren landscapes with no vegetation, rising steam, interaction between rock and water and fire. In a very real sense, the world here is "not finished" yet; in fact this part of the earth is just being born as the Kilauea volcano continues to dump lava into the ocean, expanding the island to the southeast.

The steam vents were among the neatest attractions -- not to mention being the easiest to view -- at Volcanoes National Park. Warmed by underground volcanic heat, rainwater rises as clouds of steam from holes in the ground. Lower your hand or fingers toward one of the vents, but be prepared to pull it back in a hurry... it's HOT! This might be the closest most park visitors get to feeling the volcano's thermal power.

steam vents along Crater Rim Drive

checking out the steam vents

ignoring the signs
We drove Chain of Craters Road from its intersection with Crater Rim Drive near the 4000-foot elevation, east toward the coast. We got a great view of the ocean beyond the lava fields as we approached sea level. Eventually, we reached a point where the road was closed, blocked by a 2003 lava flow (and others dating back to about 1983. Beyond that, it's hiking country... we didn't have time to walk the 4+ miles each direction to view the active lava flow, but we did walk to a spot where we could see large clouds of steam and smoke rising from the ocean -- this was where the new lava was entering the water.

right through a lava field - Chain of Craters Road

heading toward the coast - Pacific Ocean in the background

These portable park buildings had to be re-located in 2003 before an active lava flow consumed them.

Road sign encased in lava from the 2003 flow

remains of a road covered by lava

on the side of a volcano - heading uphill on Chain of Craters Road
Even though we didn't have time to hike to the active lava flow, we still enjoyed our visit to Volcanoes National Park. It's not every day that you can see volcanic-heated steam rising from cracks in the ground, or walk on a part of the earth that's younger than your kids!

After leaving the volcano, we continued south to Punalu'u State Park (which we had hoped to visit on Wednesday but we did South Point instead). Punalu'u has a black sand beach, and is well known as a nesting location for sea turtles. We were a little disappointed; the beach was small, the sand was coarse and difficult to walk on, and the turtles all appeared to be sleeping. The black sand beach at Pololu was a lot nicer. We started back to our hotel, stopping for dinner at Quizno's in Hilo. We arrived back at the hotel around 2130... 14 hours on the road! Saturday would be our last day on the island, and in the afternoon we'd be starting our journey back to Texas. Stay tuned ...

np: Adrenalin O.D. - Humungousfungusamongus

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