Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park: November 16th and 17th, 2012

     After much prodding we tore our selves away from generous cousin Sandy's comfy house in Kailua-Kona, borrowed another sleeping bag and a cooler, bought food that needed neither cooking, or cooling (well except for that can of Turkey Spam, though it didn't need to be cooked, it certainly tasted better that way:) and headed on our way at the break of day, well maybe noon. Okay maybe after 2.
     We arrived at Namakani Paio Campground, within the park, just before sunset and scrambled to set up camp before dark dark dark hit us. As an Alaskan, who is very used to the extremely long dusk and dawn periods each day, this business of when the sun goes down, it is dark in 20 minutes has taken a bit getting used to. Howard went to the site next to us to borrow a match (you always forget something....)  to light a fire. The folks next to us were Alaskan too, with kids the same age doing the same thing we were, homeschooling and traveling the world. As we talked we realized that Avery and their Dylan had gone to Kindergarten together at Winterberry in 2005. Then another member of their party showed up, and it was Mike Thompson, a ranger from Wrangell St Elias, who I know through work. (Can you hear the lyrics?: "its a small world after all, its a small small world).
     After we ate our flame broiled turkey spam, put on our layers (it is chilly at 4000 feet), played a rousing game of flashlight tag, and admired the amazing stars, we hopped in the car and drove over to the Jagger Museum overlook to see the glow of lava. It was a misty night, and that combined with not having seen it in the daylight made the view rather discombobulating at first. Depth perception was very off, and it seemed like we were looking at a  smoke machine with orange light bulbs about 50 feet away. After blinking, thinking, and reading the signs we realized that we were truly looking at the Halema'uma'u Crater, about a mile away, with its golden orange glow and steam. Halema'uma'u Crater is an active crater with in the Kilauea Caldera, and the active flows are attached to the same magma chamber, but coming out of a vent (Pu'u O'o) miles away along the east rift zone.
     In the morning we started our explorations of the park, and while Howard hung out in the car talking on the cell phone, taking care of Wrangell Mt Center business (he is on the board), the kids and I checked out the visitor center and watched the park movie, with great footage of spewing lava. We learned about the devastation the wild boars do in the park and on the island, destroying forest, which destroys habitat of endangered, endemic Hawaiian birds and plants. (new word for the kids: endemic.  meaning found only here in Hawaii).
     The first real stop was the Thurston Lava Tube. The literature told us we would be able to scramble in the unlit half of the tube, so we were ready with hiking shoes and headlamps.  No such luck, closed off for of all things because of hazardous volcanic activity. Who would have thought?

E, A and O in the Thurston Lava Tube
     The lava tube was cool. I could have driven our truck right on inside of it. Amazing to think of it being filled with hot hot flowing rock. It reminded me of the tunnels in the glaciers back home, that funneled water downstream.
     Next we got ready to take a hike through the rainforest and into Kilauea Iki Crater. (but first Howard needed to take a nap) (Daddy always needs to take a nap......) We donned our rain gear for the misty rainy walk, and realized that we were quite the colorful group.

Rainbow brights, taking a hike

      The trail took us along the rim of this old crater, through the rainforest and then slowly descended into it.

Howard and Owen at the transition zone

Lost in the mists of Kilauea Iki......
Kilauea Iki Crater is another crater within the Kilauea Caldera. This one exploded in 1959, making the rock we were walking on 1 year younger than Howard! (math word problem: How old is Howard?) The crater had already existed, and was about 800 feet deep. When it erupted it filled the lower basin with lava, then it would drain back down the vent, then reflood, drain, reflood etc.  It filled in the basin with over 400 feet of lava, creating quite an impressive lava lake.  The 36 day eruption, of 2100* F lava, took 36 years to cool down! The surface cooled fairly quickly, but the inside stayed liquid for along time, sort of like a molten lava chocolate cake, (Yum Yum).

The plant succession begins.......fern on lava

'Ohi'a tree, another pioneer

The Lehua flower of the 'Ohi'a tree
A, H and O: Buckled lava flow

After our hike we went and checked out the Voclano Art Center, located in the 1877 Volcano House (the old hotel that used to house the visitors after their horseback ride up). We were very impressed and inspired by the Hawaiian artists work that was there. Like this Hawaiian outrigger canoe made out of Koa wood, and the pottery and felted runner. The kids decided to participate in the ranger artist program and then spent the evening rummaging about the woods of our campsite to find materials to create natural sculptures in the firelight, which they then presented to the Art Center the next day. (sorry no pictures, lame mommy)

     To get that firelight we had to go beg yet another lighter, and found another group of Alaskans, with mutual friends amongst us. It was a drizzle night, so not much star gazing. We woke up to a Mozen wrestling match in the tent. Boy that was fun. Some of us liked it better than others. Then on our way, to the Tree Molds, and no I don't mean fuzzy green mold as big as a tree, I mean trees that created a mold when the lava flowed around them. The tree has enough moisture in it that is doesn't immediately ignite on fire, the lava cools just enough to form a firm mold, so that when the tree does burn, it leaves a cavity where it once stood.

Howard, always the rule follower, showing us the size of the tree mold hole.
 It was about 8 to 10 feet deep.

     After an ear popping descent from 4000 feet to sea level, we found ourselves at the end of the Chain of Craters road.  We poked about and checked out the lava cliffs and sea arch. We decided that this was not a good place to take a swim, for it would be very hard to get back out. And it would be a long time treading water waiting for a boat or helicpoter to come and get you.

    We followed the road on foot, hmmm wonder why the road is closed to traffic.

What is that blocking the road?

Oh, it just some lava

Do not cross the white line please!

Owen running across lava that is younger than he is!!

No duh

Limpet shells by the hundreds. Bird dining room

     As we went to leave the park we stopped and walked along one more trail, the Mauna Ulu trail.

Can you find Owen?

     What we found was some more  awesome tree molds. These molds still had the trees in them (sort of)! These flows were from about 1970. When the tree burnt, and then fell, the surface of the lava had cooled enough that the trunk did not burn away, so there was a little forest of collapsed trees and there molds.
Howard pointing to the hole, and Owen next to the downed trunk. 

Schooling in action, look at that engrossed student!! (do you
think we posed this picture?)

The steam in the background is from Halema'uma'u Crater, (the one we looked at glowing in the dark.) It is part of the Kilauea Caldera, home to Pele, goddess of the Volcano. We are hoping she will be kind to us and let us get a glimpse of the lava flowing.

     So we finally boogie out of the park and drive down to the Hilo area, buy fresh tangerines along the side of the road and make it to Other side of the Chain of Craters road about 3pm near what used to be the town of Kalapana.  We had been trying to piece together the vague and contradictory  information about hiking out to view molten lava. What was most concrete was satellite images on the web showing the lava to be closer to the county side of the flow (maybe a 6 mile hike roundtrip), and out of the park(which would have been a 12 mile roundtrip hike), and about 1/2 mile from the coast. So we parked the car along a sad stretch of road, in the middle of a lava field, that used to be a subdivision. houses dotted the landscape, some abandoned, others lived in, other burnt to the ground or obliterated. We set off a little after 3pm, keenly aware that is was dark by 6pm. But we were prepared with headlamps, snacks and water. Hiking across the Pahoe'hoe lava was very much like hiking on the Root and Kennicott Glaciers back home (except hot and no water)(we were very lucky with the weather, overcast so not to hot). Up and down, jumping crevices, winding back and forth route finding. The lava is so sharp it cut my hand when I fairly gently leaned on it. Finding red hot lava is a bit like fishing, sometimes your are lucky, sometimes you are not. After and hour we hit the jackpot! It was actually very hard to see from a distance, the cooler surface was a steely grey that blended into the black of the older stuff, but the shimmering heat waves gave it away (as well as the 2 ladies standing next to it gawking). 2,100*F rock oozing at our feet. What an amazing privilege to be able to watch this for a little while.
Howard, playing with fire

Awesome Family photo!! 

    Many years ago a friend showed us his lava ring, from when he had taken a stick out to the lava and poked it in and 'made' him self a rock ring. We have fantasized about doing that for years, so we made sure we had our sticks to poke poke poke. (I had marshmallows in the car and didn't even think to bring them!! How cool would that have been.......lava burnt 'mallows!)

to close for comfort

proud of her blob

    Each kid came back with a lava blob that they made.   Created by Pele, shaped by Avery (or Owen).

These are now the kids official
 2012-13 school year photos, Avery: 7th grade and Owen: 4th grade. The world is our classroom.

Yes, it is 80* out, and she is standing a few feet away from 2000* rock.  But she rocks the wool hat!!

The flame is from the stick we threw in

     At 5:05pm we pulled ourselves away and power hiked back towards the car. In the deepening dusk we returned to a small group of people, corralled in a viewing area with no view (i guess sometimes you can see the lava at night from there). We were tsked, tsked by the man in the lawn chair. We had 'snuck' by him (he wasn't there at 3, though the signs said "area open at 2")Apparently we were not supposed to go out to see the lava up close. Like I mentioned before, misleading and contradictory information, but heck! it worked out in our favor!  A very full day, with a great family; awesome hiking kids and my sweety. A big big Mahalo to Madam Pele for allowing us to see this most amazing of sights.

1 comment:

yearinbolivia said...

This is so very Hot and Cool!!!
Amazing! such great photos.
Captain Cate