Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Days 1-2: Hilo and Volcano

We got back from a weeklong vacation in Hawaii yesterday. I understand that we missed a cold snap in Los Angeles, record low of 35 degrees or something like that. People were talking about it on the islands...big news, I guess. More reason for me to gloat when I go back to work tomorrow.

We had so many adventures that I won't chronicle all of them in one post. I have a short attention span and can't write for that long.

We flew into Hilo and drove to a B&B in Volcano Village on the first day. It was part of the Chalet Kilauea chain and we stayed in the Lokelani room at the Volcano B&B. The Volcano B&B is a hundred-year-old house. Three stories high, 6 bedrooms, and a large living area with kitchen and dining rooms. It sounds charming to stay in a hundred-year-old house, but it's not. A house that old smells funny. And the bathroom has outdated fixtures, and moths come into the shower with you. The man renting the bedroom next to ours had bronchitis and stayed in his room coughing at all hours of the day and night.

Hilo and Volcano are on the rainy side of the island. I think the usual rain is a little mist. Our trip coincided with an actual rainstorm. I know this because I checked Yahoo Weather before we left. So it was very soggy on our first day.

We got up early to get the "breakfast" part of the B&B. It wasn't very hearty. The landlord didn't stay in the hundred-year-old house with us. She just got there early in the morning and set out pineapple and boxed cereal and called it breakfast. We ate until we couldn't handle listening to the guy with bronchitis anymore. Then we headed out to the volcano.

The volcano is an active one, for those of you who don't know this by now. It erupts constantly, usually at a very slow rate pouring lava into the ocean. I was very excited to see lava. It was misty but not pouring rain, so we were lucky. We stopped at the visitor center and the docent or whatever was complaining about the weather, but we didn't mind it. He said we wouldn't be able to see lava flow until nightfall. But during the day we could drive around the crater and stop at various sights along the way.

The first stop was to view steam vents.
And steam vents there were...hundreds of them. A sign pointed us to a trailhead. I wasn't sure where it went, but we followed the trail. At the end, there was a fence. It was only when you got to the fence and looked over it that you saw a big, giant, black crater. So huge I don't even know how many football fields would fit inside of it. And black, nothing growing in it, just black lava interrupted by holes in the ground with steam pouring out of them. It took my breath away and I even allowed myself to get tears in my eyes for a minute. Or maybe it was the sulfur that took my breath away and caused the tears. I don't know. We walked the trail for a long time. There were steam vents everywhere, but outside of the crater, near the vents, there was so much life growing on the volcano.

The whole thing amazed me and Mike took half a dozen home movies of me walking around looking stupefied. When we had our fill of the steam vents, we drove on to the next stop, which was an area where the earth had huge rifts torn into it. We amused ourselves by posing in the rifts.

If you're not careful, you could fall in.

Just kidding. Mike is posing in that one, too.

The landscape near the rifts makes Hawaii look like another planet.
We drove on around the crater to a place where you can actually go in and get right up close to the vents. There is a warning sign posted that says that breathing the sulfur can cause severe problems including death. That is something interesting about Hawaii. They warn you about danger but leave the choice up to you. If it were CA they'd have it enclosed and be charging people for gas masks. Anyway, we talked about it and decided to go in and risk it. Maybe 20 yards into the crater I started coughing like mad and couldn't even get whole words out. "Respa" "tory" "problem" was all I could say before turning tail and running. The trouble with running is that you are on a volcano and there really isn't any fresh air anywhere nearby. I went to the middle of the parking lot which is the furthest place I could find from the vents. Here is video that Mike took of the vents. That is me coughing in the background in the first half of the video.

The last stop along the crater is the lava tube. I don't really have good photos of the lava tube on account of it is a very dark tube of lava. It is like walking through a sewer pipe, but it smells better. Not that I have ever walked through a sewer pipe, but I've seen it in the movies. The lava tube is very wet and there is moss growing everywhere and puddles on the ground.
At night we went back and drove this road called the Chain of Craters which takes you down 3500 feet all the way to beach. Then you park at the end of the road with about a hundred other cars and you walk and walk and walk on a paved road. When the road runs out you keep walking on a bed of lava which is very rough and the rangers have attempted to mark a "trail" with little yellow stickers. At this point it is pitch black and of course there are no lights so everyone is walking with flashlights. If you don't have a flashlight you are really screwed. Mike forgot his headlamp but we did have a teeny light attached to my purse. The kind you get for a dollar and you squeeze it to turn the light on. That little light got us to the edge of the lava bed where a ranger had set up a telescope so we could see the lava flow better. There it was: liquid fire pouring into the ocean. One of the strangest and most wonderful things you could ever see. Again, our little cameras could not capture it, but that's why there are professional photographers. Later at the gift shop, we bought a photo that matched what we saw.

1 comment:

Shannon Kristine Croft said...

I love the picture of Mike! I really enjoyed reading about your Hawaiian vacation. Each day I was waiting for more.


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