Hawaii trip - day 6, part 2
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.
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 ...