I don’t know about you, but one of my childhood dreams was to visit an active volcano. I was able to make that dream come true by camping in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park at Nāmakanipaio campground, where I not only visited an active volcano, but pitched my tent on one. This park doesn’t offer white sand beaches and warm weather, but it does have, something you can’t find anywhere else, spectacular views of the largest active volcano in the world.
According to GoHawaii.com, the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park encompasses 333,000 acres from the summit of Maunaloa to the sea. Here you’ll find 150 miles of hiking trails through volcanic craters, scalded deserts and rainforests as well as a museum, petroglyphs, a walk-in lava tube and two active volcanoes: Maunaloa, which last erupted in 1984 and Kilauea which has been erupting since January 3rd, 1983. Geologists estimate it took nearly 1 million years to build Hawaii, from the first time lava punched through the Pacific Ocean seafloor to the island we see today.
T’s highlights & gratitude’s
Watching the red-orange lava glow at of the Halema’uma’u crater (part of the Kilauea volcano) after sunset, a truly breathtaking sight. Because of safety issues the access to the crater is restricted, but we had a stunning overview of the crater at about 1 mile distance.
Spotting large flightless Hawaiian Geese, aka Nene, which are endemic to Hawaii and the state’s official bird. Just for fun, T picked a nene berry, officiall called ‘Aiakanene, and ate it (with no ill effects).
Going past the ‘safety’ rope to explore the sulfur vents.
Hiking Devastation trail whose terrain went from volcanic to tropical so quickly it gave us whiplash.
R’s highlights & gratitude’s
Descending into the Kilauea Iki, an old volcanic crater, the uncontested winner of the trip. It was a profound experience and felt like entering the heart of the Hawaiian Volcano Goddess, Pele Honua Mea. Even after 50 years of inactivity, the surface of the crater is still warm to the touch. T & I saw the spectacular ‘heart of Pele’, found pieces of raw peridot & completed the moderate 4 mile hike (we lucked out, experiencing nearly no sulfur dioxide fumes).
Taking the Hawaiian culture walk (which was not a kitchy as it sounds). Our tour guide and park ranger told us about the Native Hawaiian’s mythology and taught us Hawaiian words. My favorite of which being, ‘makawalu’ meaning literally ‘different perspectives’ – it’s a way of looking at situations through the lenses of everyone involved, rather than seeing if just your own perspective.
I was accepted into Antioch’s Clinical Psychology program (to become a licensed marriage and family therapist) in Santa Barbara! While this is wonderful news, I’ve decided to defer for (at least) a year. This is because I’d like to give myself an opportunity to find rewarding work in SB – if that fails, back to school I go!
Doing Crater Rim Drive, which is the 10.6-mile drive that circles Kilauea Caldera and offers spectacular views of the coast line.
And the Thorn(s)
Learning about the many disasters which spawned from bringing (with the best intentions) outside wildlife into Hawaii, where they inevitably became invasive species. For example, in order to control the rat population (which had a taste for sugar cane, Hawaii’s cash crop) Small Asian Mongoose, called ‘Iole manakuke’, from Calcutta were introduced to the islands. So what’s the problem with mongooses? Well, they hunt during the day… and the rat is nocturnal. With no rats to hunt, mongoose developed a taste for birds (& especially bird eggs). Rats were already endangering native populations of ground nesting birds – rather than fixing this issue, bringing the mongoose only exasperated the problem. Ooops!
If I were a more paranoid person, and thought mother nature was an actual entity, I would probably feel like her newest mission was to make my life miserable what with the sulfur dioxide clouds, altitude sickness, freezing temps & daily rain showers. Since I do not believe that, I have to concede to the fact that my genetic “gifts” are, in fact, to blame. Camping on an active volcano means we are putting ourselves in a little bit of a risky situation, as it is constantly spewing noxious fumes.
Only one can really kill you (sulfur dioxide), so T and I do our best to stay upwind of it. This is a relatively easy feat as the rangers monitor sulfur dioxide particulates in the air 24/7 and post it on a website for easy access. There is a threshold where it becomes dangerous for sensitive folks and a few notches up it becomes dangerous for everyone else. During a ranger led hike, I had to admit to the ranger that I fell into the former category (highly sensitive) and for the rest of the hike, fellow hikers approached me with what they thought of as sympathetic remarks. One older woman simply looked at me and said, “I read about people like you at the visitor center.” Oy vey.