Today I’m sharing our experience at the Volcano National Park. We started the day by going out to the overlook we’d visited the night before which was located at the Jaggar Museum. It was amazing to see the view during the day, having first seen it in darkness under the glow of Kilauea.
In addition to interesting exhibits about volcano stats there were several artistic depictions of Pele and other Hawaiian gods at the museum. As someone interested in Greek and Roman mythology I found these very interesting. This one was so large I had to use the panoramic option on my phone to get it all in one shot, which distorted Pele’s face a bit. Hopefully she’s understanding and forgives me.
This was one of my favorite depictions of Pele interacting with the water goddess.
There were also depictions of the stories about Pele’s vengeful nature such as this.
I also found the statistics about the local volcanos interesting, especially when paired with other famous volcanos for reference.
There were several displays of various types of volcanic materials which showcased the diversity needed to study these evolving formations.
Although I hadn’t considered it before, this display showing how geologists can determine the temperatures of lava from its color made perfect sense.
There was an active seismic monitor for all of the local stations at the museum along side an area where you could jump or stomp to create your own “earthquake” on a separate monitor, which was fun to test. This legend of how different seismic activity are depicted was good info – especially for those of us who live on the ring of fire!
This damaged uniform was on display to showcase the dangers of working around volcanos – even for the professionals.
It was amazing to see historical photographs of how residents of the island have lived alongside the volcanoes as they change the landscape.
It’s easy to see why people would come to watch the eruptions, they are amazing and so little was known about the dangers that it wasn’t really considered. I thought this display should have been titled ignorance is bliss!
Even Mark Twain stuck around to watch the action and described it in his writings and drawings.
At one point while we were touring the museum several visitors, including myself started coughing occasionally. Just as I noticed that others were coughing consistently as well, the ranger on duty went around closing the windows and doors noting that the air quality had decreased on her monitors. Because the air quality was changing, we finished up inside and decided to head out to the other areas of the park. Outside the smell of sulpher was stronger than it had been when we arrived so I snapped this shot of a sign about the formation of the caldera and we headed to the car.
Next we visited the steam vents, where pressure from the lava turns rain and ground water to steam and it is released through cracks in the ground. There was a strong sulpher smell here as well.
We walked out a short trail to see the steaming bluff, where vents in the side of caldera release steam up the cliff.
The view across the caldera showed where the lava had pooled in times past and gave a different vantage point of the active portion of the crater.
There were dozens of these pretty orchids growing everywhere along the trails. I was surprised to see them growing like weeds, when we have to coddle them in Alaska to keep them alive. I later learned these are not native plants, but bamboo orchids brought in from Asia.
Next we walked the trail to the Sulpher Banks, where we saw more steam vents on either side of the path.
Eventually the trail opened to a meadow along a hillside where mineral deposits from the venting steam have colored the rock.
We also saw many of these flowering bushes, which apparently like the sulpheric conditions and are often the first plants seen on new lava flows.
We stopped for lunch at the Volcano House, where we enjoyed the view as we ate and it seemed appropriate to try the “volcano” drink while doing so.
After lunch we headed down the Chain of Craters Road to see the other sites in the park. Starting out it was a beautiful road through a lush rainforest, but soon we were crossing several ‘recent’ lava flows like this one from the 70’s. You get a whole new perspective on the massiveness of the flows when you’re standing among its formations and caves.
These forms in the lava are called tree molds and are created when the lava flows around a tree which eventually burns leaving a cavity in the cooling lava.
There were several areas where the road had been cut back into the landscape through a lava flow which sat as an impressive reminder on either side of the road. But the it also created uniquely beautiful landscapes along the way.
At the end of the road is a sea arch formation created by the pounding of the waves against lava deposits. I’ll share a video of this location on my Facebook page later today for you to enjoy. The view out the other side of the lookout was just as amazing.
Although the lava can be devastating to vegetation, it also becomes home to new life as it cools and solidifies, creating pockets where seeds gather and grow such as this interesting flowering bush. We later learned the legends surrounding this plant also involve Pele, you can read about them here. There were also some pretty yellow flowers that gave quite a pretty contrast to all the dark lava.
Looking back up the hill we had traveled down it was easy to see the course each lava flow had taken and imagine the sight it must have been as it coursed down over the ridge toward the sea.
When we stopped at one of the pull offs we realized that the road had previously been covered by a lava flow a few feet away. If you look carefully you can see patches of pavement that survived in the left side of this picture.
Our final stop was the lava tunnel, which you can walk through. You’d never even know it was here if they didn’t point it out as it’s at the bottom of a dense rainforest area. It was cool to see the roots from the plants above hanging down from the rock and considering the whole structure had been carved out by molten lava.
Upon exiting the tunnel we went up a small set of stairs and found ourselves on this beautiful trail where the birds were in a constant chatter of songs. At the end of the trail there was a sign about the many unique creatures that call this spot home and aren’t found anywhere else in the world – such as the happy face spider. I wouldn’t want to interact with him but he’s still cute.
We had a bit of time to kill before sunset so we decided to check out the Muana Loa lookout on the suggestion of someone we’d met the day before not knowing that the road became more primitive as you climb the mountain. We drove for several miles on this single lane road, spotting numerous wild chickens but not much else. When we finally made it to the top just before sunset we found a stone structure with a view of the caldera and signs describing an intense hike to an overnight cabin farther up the mountain.
We enjoyed a beautiful sunset from atop the mountain and then headed back down.
Which proved to be even more of an adventure than going up the mountain!
Once we’d found our way back to the main road, we decided to get some dinner and looked up a delicious Thai restaurant. The food was so good it didn’t last long enough to be photographed but I did get a shot of my passion fruit margarita, which was so fresh it had seeds – those little black dots you can see there.
We ended the evening back out at the overlook watching the glow in the caldera and listening to the rumble of the lava. This time I had the DSLR and got several good shots of the steam rising from the crater along with a few videos as well. I’ll share one of those on my Facebook page as well.
Next up will be our adventures in Kona where we saw a sea turtle and swam with the manta rays! Until then enjoy reading these other Hawaiian legends you should know about before visiting.