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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Our Date with Pele

Small Indian Mongoose near the patio in Kona

Not all that bright and early, Ron, Jeannie, Stephie & I headed for Volcanoes National Park.

Yellow-billed Cardinal eyeing my burger buns

We took our time, even stopping for an early lunch of burgers and fries at the Shaka Hut in Naahehu. I enjoyed my lunch, but enjoyed the birds there even more; Northern Cardinals, the ever present Common Mynas and some Yellow-billed Cardinals.

We were in for a series of surprises. Our first stop in the park was the steam vents, where hot underground volcanic lava sends steam out of fenced holes large enough to lose an elephants in.
Ron & Jeannie enjoy the free facial steam treatment provided by the park

Steam rises from the ground in the meadow opposite the fenced vents
We intended to continue on the auto drive that circles the caldera rim, but it was closed. Gak! It was open on my last visit in 2005. A ranger told us the Kileaua volcanoe's activity was sending clouds of deadly gas, wafting over the rim drive so it was no longer safe to visit. Wow! The volcano only seemed to be resting - it is currently reaserting itself as a LIVE volcano.

We stopped for a view of the Kilauea Volcano. Though we were all impressed by Kilauea, I was thrilled to at long last see four White-tailed Tropicbirds rise up from the caldera, soaring high in the sky, their streamer tails whipping in the wind and shut up, no I couldn't get photos of them and NO, I don't want to talk about why!  [Management regrets Ms. Miller's sulkiness over the Tropicbirds business, but have no fear, she'll blabber on any second now... Oh, there she goes!]
Stephie, Ron and Jeannie hiking over to the Caldera overlook
View from the overlook - Halema'uma'u is blowing steam!
Photo-op at Caldera Rim
Our next stop was the main Hawaii Volcano Observatory & visitor center. Closer looks at the steaming vent were possible there. I was excited to find a coconut on the overlook wall. I asked a Ranger about the coconut and he confirmed my suspicion - the coconut was a present left for Pele, the Volcano Goddess by some of her many admirers. The name of the steaming vent is Halema'uma'u (House of Ferns) and that is Pele's home. I suspect Pele is keeping the home fires burning.
An offering for Pele sits on the rim overlooking Halema'uma'u
After touring the visitor center, we went to the Thurston Lava Tunnel. Ron, Jeannie & Steph went for a hike through the tunnel, and I opted - no surprises here - to instead do a little birding in the upper trail amid the rain forest trees. Afterwards we piled into the car and headed down to the oean to see what the volcano was up to on that end of the island. Again, we had a surprise! The drive takes one along a lava strewn hillside, with the ocean at the bottom. I looked and looked for HUMONGOUS steam cloud that was present in 2005, and guess what - it is gone.

My photo from 2005 of the ocean bound lava stream

Back in 2005, an underground stream of liquid magma poured into the ocean. The new lava had buried under the oceanside drive, almost cleaving the ocean rim drive in two. A makeshift interpretive center had opened and people hiked a meandering trail out to see the lava enter the ocean. Back then, just hearing the trail was a balmy 110 degrees due to the hot lava - not to mention hearing a tourist had been sucked into a suddenly appearing lava hole, easily convinced myself and Jeannie from attempting the hike. But now, in 2012, the lava flow into the ocean is, for now, ended. We parked at the old interpretive center and climbed down to for a view of where the hot lava had previously boiled the ocean water.

The Lava no longer flows into the ocean along the shore - for now
The Gang of Three enjoying the ocean view
Stephie ignored signage and didn't realize she was
squatting on top of the lava arch over the ocean - YIKES!
At the ocean's edge, once back on solid land with the rest of us, Stephanie said she was hoping a whale or some Spinnner Dolphins would swim by. I said, "there are turtles out there too..." and just as I said that, a Hawaiian Green Turtle popped up out of the surf just below us.

Catching it's breath before diving back below
Next on our Park tour, as we headed toward the road that would take us back up to the Kileaua Caldera, we spotted the Pu'uloa, 'the long hill' where ancient Hawaiians carved and chipped petroglyphs on the lava rock. Ron and Stephanie headed out over the nearly non-existant trail while Jeannie and I kept the car seats nice & toasty.
Far on the horizon you can see Ron & Stephanie about to disappear as they headed out
 They hiked the 1.4 mile trail and brought back these interesting pictures of Pu'uloa. They said there was a long boardwalk surrounding the ancient artworks.

You can see bits of the old carvings and holes left by Hawaiians long ago
I thought the neatest carving was this one of a sea turtle like the one we saw a little earlier in the day

A carving of an ancient warrior
When Ron & Stephanie returned we headed back up the hill,where the gang hiked the Thurston Lava tube while I did a little birding. Afterwards, it was twilight and Ron drove us back over to Kilauea. We wanted to drive to the main overview by the volcano museum but it seemed half the island had the same idea, so we were directed to the smaller overlook we'd visited earlier in the day where I had viewed the White-tailed Tropicbirds. There, we were awestruck. We learned how Kilauea got it's name as we viewed 'Ke 'ā weo i ka lani': the 'reddish glow lighting up the sky'.

Ke 'ā weo i ka lani, (Reddish glow lighting up the sky)
We all wanted a closer look a the hypnotically glowing pit. Jeannie and I stalled at heading off with Ron & Stephanie for the museum and its overlook. By the time we headed out, they were long gone, it was passing twilight and the trail - we couldn't even see it. As we galumphed along, stopping for gawks at the firey volcano, at one point we realized we skirted a sheer drop off into the caldera to our left. Yikes! It was time to put in a praise or two to Pele, in hopes she wouldn't want us to visit her in her Halema'uma'u home down below. Finally, after much careful stepping and guesswork as to where the trail might be, we reached a spot where we could look up and see the stone wall that surrounded the museum. Now - how to get up there!

Full moon on the right, flaming crater in the middle, the steep climb upward to the right where the sun attempted to set.
What was before us was steep incline, 2 ft wide with the climb about one story high. The path upward was strewn with lava rocks, from bowling ball size down to golf ball sized pebbles. Knowing we were, as they say, 'asking for it' we gingerly teetered up the rocky slope. The footing was as unsure as I've set my fat feet on in decades. About half way up the narrow path we crossed path with others on their way up and I marveled they could managed to shimmy past the fat lady (who would be 'moi') but they managed. Then Jeannie got ahead of me and bless her heart, she reached out for me, "Need help?"  How adorable was that! I knew if I took her hand and slipped we'd both careen down steep sides of the ramp and break every bone in our bodies. The only reason we made it up the remainder of the slope was further up the slope,  a man and his wife, with one flashlight between them, shone the light down at our feet. That allowed Jeannie & I could make reasonable guesses where we ought to put our feet. Then we made it to the top - Eureka! We were alive and miraculously, sound of limb!
A bundled offering made of coconut leaves I spotted earlier in the day,
certainly an offering for Pele - the sort of thing my ankles owe Pele for her assistance
We enjoyed our viewing of the flaming gleaming pit. You couldn't see any flames but the whole of the Halema'uma'u pit glowed red and billows of steam continue to pour out of it. It was just as firey in the day time of course, only the bright daylight kept the presence of the lava flames invisible. When we met up again with Ron and Stephanie they were astonished that we had even thought to, much less managed to climb the rocky slope. They'd have bet the mint we would have stayed put in the lower caldera overlook area. Nope! Jeannie the nimble and Claire the bumble-footed had done the impossible and come out of it, sound of limb. I think we owe Pele a coconut or other emblem of respect for her assistance in our twilight climb. Next time Pele! Next time!

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