Hawaii can be a great place to see flowing lava. During my first visit in 2002 the flow was conveniently placed very near the end of Chain of Craters Road in Hawaii's Volcano National Park. We drove to the end of the road where further progress was halted by solidified lava:
|Solidified lava blocks Chain of Craters Road in 2002.|
|Feeling my hand slowly cooking near recently moving lava.|
|Molten lava conveniently visible in 2002.|
The day before the hike we took a scouting trip to the northern edge of the flow outside the National Park boundary in Kalapana where entire subdivisions were overrun by previous eruptions. It was amazing to discover people still living in isolated homes surrounded by acres of solidified lava!
It's hard to understand how plants and small trees can manage to grow on this lava plain.
It would have been fascinating to watch these twisted braids take shape from molten lava.
We walked to an observation point where we could see gases emitted by the distant flowing lava. (Click on the image for a better view of the gases.)
|White gas plumes rise from the light brown area sloping down in the middle of the picture.|
Fortunately, a friendly, knowledgeable guide happened to be waiting by the roadside looking for customers.
We made arrangements with friendly Cheryl to meet at 8:00 the next morning for a guided tour to the distant lava flow. Cheryl lives among the solidified lava and promised we would get close enough to molten lava to "poke a stick in it".
So, at 8:00 the next morning, we began our lava adventure. Ellen, Keegan, Keegan's Dad, Steve, and I followed Cheryl out onto the lava field.
|Ellen, Keegan, Steve, and Cheryl head out on the lava field.|
Unfortunately, on the day of our hike the volcano had "deflated". The day before, lava flows were visible on the surface. But for us, the surface flows had disappeared. They were still visible only where they entered the ocean. Our guide, a woman with incredible stamina, suggested going to the ocean entry point instead of further uphill where she had originally planned to take us.
|A guy actually lives in a house among the group of trees left of center in the midst of the lava flow!|
|Approaching the ocean|
|Steam plume from lava entering the ocean looms ahead|
|This was some very hot stuff solidified only the day before!|
|Viewing flowing lava from the cliff's edge|
|Walking on this recently solidified lava was like walking on a griddle.|
Steve stuck his wooden pole into the crack and it caught fire. This was the closest we came to poking a stick in molten lava.
At this point I was ready to head back. I had seen enough solidified lava to last the rest of my life!
The return hike was a death march for me. I had to walk slowly and cautiously to avoid hurting my recently injured knee. The cold I caught from my granddaughter, Sophie, now moving into my chest, was not helping. I kept falling behind the others. It was a humbling experience since I work hard to keep in shape. But this was not one of my better days. I've done a lot of endurance events in my life so I knew I could eventually pace my way to the end, but it was a real grind. The route back seemed a lot more uneven than the inbound route. The landscape was completely desolate. It was black, broken, rolling lava as far as the eye could see. On every step my ankles were twisting or slipping on the crumbling surface. I honestly don't know how I managed to avoid re-injuring my knee.
|Thanks, Ellen, for staying behind to keep me company on the long return hike.|
|Keegan, Steve, Ellen, and me, thoroughly cooked at hike's end|