Welcome to my blog

Thoughts on ordinary and not so ordinary adventures in the life of one Mom

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mother Nature

        Many people have told us that if you want to see the real Hawaii, you need to get out of the city.  We did just that this week.  We traveled to the Big Island of Hawaii, the biggest and newest of the Hawaiian Islands.   After a short 40 minute flight, we arrived in Hilo, early enough to start our adventure.  

        I was first struck by the beautiful, sunny weather.  Yes, sunny weather is not uncommon in Hawaii, but the last time we were on the Hilo side of the island, it was rainy all day.   Our first order of business was to return to Akaka Falls.  We saw them clearly from the viewing area this time and the gorgeous rainforest looked even more beautiful in the dappled sunlight. This time of year, the rains come at night.

        After a lovely lunch at Cafe Pesto (highly recommend) in downtown Hilo, we headed straight for the Kalapana viewing area, an area at the end of Highway 130, which the county set up to view the latest lava flows.  The lava has been flowing actively near here for a few months now.   In fact, the last viewing area, further down what used to be highway 130 was covered in lava about a month ago.   As we drove to the area, I got so excited to see a plume of smoke that looked like a very low lying cloud out on the horizon.  This was the steam and gases caused by lava flowing into the ocean.  We reached the viewing area some time before sunset, so there was no glow.  We explored the most recent flow which decimated this residential neighborhood.  There are still a few houses and a bunch more "For Sale" signs  (For Sale: Ocean View Property).  It's a real bargain.

Plume from Lava entering Pacific Ocean
        There was no surface lava that day (it had been diminishing over the past week), but as the sky grew darker, we saw the puffy white plumes change to light pink and then to a deep orange.  It was amazing to watch the plume change color and shape as thousands of gallons of lava spilled into the ocean creating more Hawaii. The lava was flowing underground in a tube to the ocean.  You could see steam rising from the ground

just above the tube up the slope of Kilauea.

       When we finally tore ourselves away from this extraordinary scene and made our way back to the parking area, we were treated to another once in a lifetime sight.  Now, rainbows are pretty much a dime a dozen in Hawaii.  We have seen one every evening from our Honolulu apartment since we have been here.  We weren't expecting to see one in the darkness, at 8:00pm, though.  This "moonbow"  is a rare rainbow lit up by the light of the full moon.  It was unbelievable.  We could see all the colors from end to end and portions of the secondary rainbow.

       When the rainbow faded, we headed closer to the car, but were stopped by another sight, this time, man-made.  Vendors have set up booths to sell arts and crafts.   Leigh Hilbert's booth of lava photos were marvelous.  As we chatted and perused the artful photos, I realized that I had been visiting his blog for a month now, in preparation for our visist.  You should too, at hawaiianlavadaily.blogspot.com  Leigh's information is so up-to-date and layman-friendly, and his pictures are terrific.  If you care to see exactly what we saw, check out his August 25 blog.

        As if that wasn't enough of mother nature for a while, our vacation continued at the summit of Kilauea volcano at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park,  a must see for any Hawaii visitor.   Over the next couple of days, we spent our time exploring old lava fields, driving down chain of craters road to see the lava rock sea arch,

Holei Sea Arch
learning the difference between pahoehoe and a'a lava, looking down tree molds (the holes left by trees that fell victim to a lava flow), deciphering the Pu'u Loa petroglyphs and visiting the Thomas A. Jaggar museum.

         The Jaggar museum is a wonderful site overlooking Halema'uma'u, the active crater of Kiluea caldera and the home of Pele, Goddess of the Volcano.  During the day, you can see the vast caldera which is about 400 feet deep and two miles across, with smoke plummeting out of the Halema'uma'u crater opening.  There is a lava lake whose surface is currently about 100 feet down. The noxious sulfur dioxide gases are so bad that they have closed at least half of the crater rim drive.   The museum is upwind and houses many educational exhibits about Halema'uma'u.  At night, you can see the glow of the molten lake below.  The white smoke turns a deep orange as the sun sets and you can easily fool yourself into thinking you are see the actual lava. 

        We were also treated to a Volcanologist-led tour of the park, where we learned about and explored fissures, sulphur banks and a lava tube.  The kids learned so much on this trip and as part of their home-learning, they participated in the Junior Ranger program which is available at every National Park.  After completing age appropriate learning and conservation activities, Joseph, Alex and Nicki took their Junior Ranger oath, logged their names in the Volcano Junior Ranger book, and earned their badges and a poster each.  We were so proud.

        On our last day on the island, we ventured  to the southernmost community in the U.S., Naalehu, and ate breakfast at the southernmost bakery in the U.S.  Heading back north, we stopped at the Punaluu black sand beach.   The black sand is caused by the eroded lava flows.  The sand was a lot softer than I expected but still grainy.  The big draw here are the native residents, the green sea turtle, or honu.  We saw several in and around the flat rocks along the shore and a large one, relaxing in the sun.   I loved seeing the turtles up close but at least 15' away for their protection.

Honu - Green Sea Turtle
        The final sightseeing stop of the day (before dinner at Ken's Pancake House) was about 7 miles north of Hilo, the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.  If you know a of tropical plant from around the world, you will probably find it here, from Beehive ginger to Monkeypod tree.  Many people feel that introducing new plants in this environment risks invasive species taking over the landscape.  Considering so many of the plants we associate with Hawaii actually originated elsewhere (Macadamia Nuts from Australia and Pineapple from Paraguay), I find it hard to believe a well maintained botanical garden will cause much damage. Frankly, putting a non profit tropical garden here is far superior than a resort.  The garden itself is set along the Hamakua coast on Onomea Bay.  Aside from the gorgeous flowers, it has picturesque waterfalls and a beautiful coastal view.  

Steve and Nicki at Onomea Bay
         As we flew black to Honolulu, it was hard to escape the symbolism of our return to the city.  Leaving the natural paradise of the Big Island, we encountered a drunk local on the airplane.  He was admittedly headed to Honolulu for the weekend to party.   We were clearly on our way back to the city, but notwithstanding the drunk guy,  it has charms all its own.

For tons more pictures, visit www.aidaspics.phanfare.com

No comments:

Post a Comment