Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hawai'i, Part 3: The Big Island (Day 1)

I know you've all been on pins and needles waiting for the next installment of our Hawai'ian adventure. Here it is.

Early Friday morning, we took a short flight from Honolulu to Hilo, the largest city on the Big Island (which is, of course, Hawai'i, but called "The Big Island" to eliminate confusion with the state of Hawai'i, which includes all the islands). We picked up our rental SUV and drove to Volcanoes National Park, where we had a room for the night at the famous Volcano House. We were all settled and ready for a tour of the park by late morning. Robin, our tour guide (in the hat to the left), showed us key plant life in the rain forest which inhabits the park, except for the parts that have been covered in lava in the last 50 years. It was my first time in an actual rain forest, which was pretty cool, and it was especially convenient that it was a beautifully sunny day.

This particular fern has soft, fuzzy hair near the base, and is named after a pig somehow (botanist and Hawai'ian folklorist, I am not).

This is a type of ginger plant that produces a beautiful blossom but is invasive and damaging to the native plant life.

This tree, the name of which I can't remember, grows all over the park and is pretty blah-looking. That is, until you spot one of its bright red blossoms.

Our short nature tour concluded with a stunning view of the Kilauea Caldera, which we could also see from our room in Volcano House. Kilauea is the volcano which is currently active, though this crater (called a caldera because it is more than one square mile) stopped flowing lava years ago. However, when Volcano House was very popular many years ago, it was filled with glowing lava, which must have been very breathtaking at night.

After the tour, we piled into our SUV and drove around the park. First stop: steam vents, where water seeps down into cracks in the mountain and is heated by the magma and mixes with the volcanic fumes. They smell pretty bad.

Some people throw coins down there. Not sure why; seems like a waste to me.

This is how excited Erich, the amateur volcanologist, was to be experiencing volcanoes first-hand.

This was a lava-flow site from the 1970s, I believe. I find it so fascinating to see the plants that insist on growing in such a stark environment. See the fern growing in a crack slightly right of center in this photo.

Closer view of the caldera (and my dreamy husband).

This was a flow site from the 80s or 90s called Devastation Trail, in part because it destroyed an ancient temple. To see these places--what was once civilization turned to rock--is indescribable.

I did appreciate what we were seeing very much and I have wonderful memories of the Big Island, but truth be told, I was not in a very good mood that day. The main reason I was not in a good mood is linked to the proof that there's no honeymoon baby.* I tried to smile, sometimes. A forced smile is worse than no smile.

This is a hike through the rain forest to a lava tube (minus the lava, obviously).

There was water dripping from the ceiling I obviously loved. I also loved the crowds and crowds of Japanese tourists. Wait, is "loved" the right word?

This crater looks pretty big, right? In the next photo, I zoomed in toward the cliffs in the distance, a little right of center.

Click on this picture and see if you can find two hikers. Yes, this crater is HUGE.

We returned to Volcano House and I needed a rest. Erich, the amateur volcanologist, wanted to continue the adventure. He decided to drive up Mauna Loa, the Big Island's tallest volcano and the world's most massive mountain (and the world's tallest, if you measure from the ocean floor, where it begins).

Pretty road with a lot of those trees whose name I cannot recall.

The Mauna Loa view of Kilauea, the smaller but currently much more active volcano.

This is an example of a'a lava, which is cooler (temperature-wise at the time of formation) and more jagged than pahoe'hoe lava, which is cooler (awesomeness-wise) and will be pictured a lot in the next installment.

Just after sunset over the caldera.

The view out of our window in Volcano House. Notice the cloud formation. Next came some much-needed rest before our next adventure-filled day on the Big Island!