Hawaii, the Big Island
Dec. 25 - Dec. 31, 2005
|The Big Island of Hawaii, youngest and southernmost island in the Hawaiian chain, is almost twice as large as all the other islands combined. Born less than a million years ago, the youngster is still vigorously growing. In spite of its Big Island title and its area of 4050 square miles, Hawaii is a small piece of land to contain two single mountains that are probably the tallest and bulkiest on earth: Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa rise 30,000 feet from the ocean floor. Kilauea (on Mauna Loa's southeast slope) is the most active volcano on the planet. It has sprouted off dozens of times in the last few decades, and its most recent eruption began in 1983 and is still going strong as today. There is an amazing variety of terrain, scenery, climate, and things to do on the Big Island: tropical beaches, grassy pastures, rain forests, and snow capped mountains, all within a few hours of driving.|
|We had an early flight to Honolulu and a
transit flight to Hilo. The flight to Honolulu was very
bumpy that we did not have any service for the first two
hours. Although Linus has taken some air sickness
medicine, he still did not feel well and finally threw up
a few times (I used all the plastic bags I have
prepared). We had to wait at the Honolulu airport for
about 3 hours so we had plenty of time to eat and walk
around the airport.
We will stay in Hilo as our base for the next week because it is closer to the Volcanoes and also much cheaper than the resorts at Kailua-Kona on the west side. After checked in the hotel, we still had some time to walk to the Coconut Island in the Hilo Bay to stretch ourselves after a full day's journey.
[Day 1/2/3] [Day
- Steam Vents
After the short film at the visitor center, we stopped at the Steam Vents for the first look of the Kilauea Caldera. Although there was steam everywhere, we did not smell any sulphur or other strange odor.
- Crater Rim Drive
We stopped by many view points on the Crater Rim Drive. One special place was the Southwest Rift where we can see the caldera on one side, and a long deep fissure on the other side. Mauna Loa is so massive in the background that its gentle slope makes it look so flat and it is hard to feel that it is actually 13,677 ft (4169m) tall.
- Halema'uma'u Crater
Halema'uma'u, the legendary home of Goddess Pele, is a gaping crater within Kilauea's submit caldera. It was a boiling lava lake for the most of the 19th century, and has risen and fallen over time -- going from 1335 feet deep to overflowing its top. Today it is nearly 300 feet deep and 3000 feet in diameter. We started on the Halema'uma'u trail and walked toward the floor of Kilauea caldera. Since Iris was already tired and hungry, only Linus and I kept going for about half a mile to the floor of the caldera.
- Thurston Lava Tube
After lunch at the Volcano House, we went back to the Thurston Lava Tube. The lava tube was formed 300 to 500 years ago when a channelized lava flow crusted over. When the eruption stopped, the hot fluid core drained away. The Thurston Lava Tube was probably one of the most popular sights in the park that many big tour buses jammed in the parking lot. The tube is pretty wide and smooth and well illuminated, therefore Linus and Iris were a little bit disappointed that our flashlights were not useful at all (however, we learned that a cave without any light was beyond our capability at the Kaumana Cave in the next few days). After the exit of the Lava Tube, the trail wound through a rain forest with dense tropical plants and shade.
- Pu'u Pua'i Overlook and Devastation Trail
From Pu'u Pua'i Overlook, we can see the Kilauea Iki Crater, which erupted in 1959 with its lava fountain reaching 1900 feet. From the viewpoint, we decided to take the Devastation Trail, which goes through the remains of a forest devastated by high lava fountains in 1959. I actually did not go hiking with my family; instead I drove the car the other end of the trail to wait for them. It turned out that their hiking speed was not much slower than my driving speed.
- Chain of Craters Road
- Pauahi Crater
At the Pauahi Crater, we saw a couple of Hawaiian geese (they have an interesting native Hawaiian name: "Nene", if you know how to speak Chinese).
- Along the road
We stopped by a few vista points and walked into the lava fields which cover the land from the hills to the ocean. There are a few places where two types of lava, pahoehoe (with smooth surface) and a'a (more jagged), coexisting and just next to each other. Linus and Iris were so excited that they were all surrounded by such a massive field of lava.
- Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs
The trail leads to an area with a large concentration of petroglyphs carved into 500-year-old lava rocks. It was a fairly easy hike and Linus and Iris led the way all the time.
- End of the Road
The highlight of any Volcano visit is the lava flow viewing. The current lava flow was pretty far away from the end of the Chain of Crater Road, and the park rangers have put in some restriction about how far for people to go. When we got there at about 5PM, the road has already had cars parked along the roadside for quite a long line. We started the hike after waiting for Iris for a long time (to let her relieve herself ....). It was only about 0.25 mile to the view point for the lava flowing into the ocean, where we can see the steam and cloudy constantly floating overhead. We went on and follow the trail marked by reflectors for about another 0.5 mile where it marked the end of trail. We decided to keep going for a few more hundred feet since there were many people everywhere. We stayed there and waited till sunset and getting darker, and we started to see glowing red lava flowing downhills. We were all thrilled to see the lava flow in the dark even though we were still probably miles away from it.
[Day 1/2/3] [Day 4/5/6/7]
[Back to Photo Page] [Go to Hawaii Gallery]