jen yu: hawai'i 2005 - day 1

hawai'i 2005 - day 1

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volcanoes np
february 3, 2005
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We awoke at 5 am and it was dark and rather warm (55-60?). Some students piled into the bathroom and talked loudly for everyone else to wake up to. We packed and drove to the Visitor Center to use their public restrooms and look for the non-existent weather forecast. They didn't open until 7:45 so we went to see tree molds (remnant forms from lava that encased trees during flows) and hiked a kipuka off the Mauna Loa Road. Kipukas are small patches of forest that were spared by lava flows - like little oases in fields of barren lava rock. This jungly kipuka had a lot of Kalij Pheasants running about - always in male/female pairs. They made noises that reminded me of Kaweah when she was a puppy.

We returned to the visitor center to get the lava flow update and to be told by an uptight ranger that it was 30 degrees on Mauna Loa, and that a winter storm was coming. My frustration with rangers is that they treat everyone like they are idiots. However, based on the incessant and stupid questions some other people were asking ("How do we know when we are near the lava?" and "Can we touch the lava?") I guess it is safer policy to treat everyone like an idiot than to assume any responsibility on the part of the visitor. We spent 20 minutes watching what Jeremy called "an incoherent mishmash of amateurish footage" - aka the visitor center movie. After checking out the Volcano House (a hotel in the park) for views of the Kilauea Caldera, we began our tour of Crater Rim Drive, which encompasses the caldera.

We stopped at the Kilauea overlook, the Southwest Rift Zone (very cool), and then the Halema'uma'u Overlook when it began to rain and thunder and then pour. Postponing our hike of Kilauea Iki, we drove into the town of Volcano for lunch at the Lava Rock Cafe (decent food). It stopped raining and we resumed our tour of Kilauea after grabbing a nice campsite in the campground that had been vacated that morning. We began the 4 mile loop at the Kilauea Iki Overlook. Most of the tourists coming to Hawaii Volcanoes NP are not interested in hiking and they seemed even less interested in getting out of their car to walk 20 feet to the overlooks! All the better for us to enjoy the hike. We set off in the drizzle (which quickly became rain) along the rim of the crater where the lush forest of ginger, fern, tree ferns, and other beauties distracted us from the steaming crater below. The crater floor was fascinating as this used to be a lake of lava as recently as 1959. Magma was not far beneath us! The floor looked like waves frozen in time.

We climbed out of the crater to the Thurston Lava Tube. This lava tube was enormous compared to the one on Rangitoto in New Zealand. At the end of the lava tube, I noticed an open gate across the exit. The sign invited us to further explore the remainder of the lava tube which was unlit, uneven, narrower. Jeremy didn't have his headlamp, but I did! We ducked into the darkness while seniors from a tour bus made their way up the stairs to daylight. I get clausterphobic, and while Jeremy was thoroughly enjoying himself, I was in control of the headlamp and wanted to head back halfway through. I shut off the lamp to see how dark it was. Pitch dark. I felt deprived of sensory input. We finished hiking the last half mile along the crater rim to our car. By then it was raining hard and we drove to the Devastation Trail for a quick 2K roundtrip. Jeremy promised we could return in better weather for pictures. The weather cleared as we approached the campground.

In camp, while we ate dinner, it began to sprinkle. I suggested putting the tarp up, but Jeremy didn't think we'd need it. I recounted the last time we opted not to set up the tarp in New Zealand and ended up for hours in a torrential rain. By the time the tarp was up, we were in a downpour which lasted over 12 hours. All night we listened to the wind whip the tarp around and the rain pummel our tarp and tent. We found out the next day that it had dumped 12 inches of rain that night. Welcome to the wet side of the Big Island. At 4 am, I turned to Jeremy and said in colorful language, that we should postpone our second day in the park and drive to the west side of the island early. He agreed.

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