Hiking to the Lava Flow

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Travel Blog

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Jess and I

Jessica and I went to the Big Island in May as part of a group with the HSTA, our teacher union.  We stayed at Kilauea Military Camp in Volcanoes National Park.

I was extremely excited to be going to the Big Island and especially excited to see Kīlauea.

Super Jess! Our room at KMC.
  I really didn’t know what to expect when it came to the volcano.  I have to admit I was also a little bit nervous.

We made sure to wake up early on the morning of our volcano trip.  Part of the group went for a ride along Crater Rim Drive, which is something I would like to do if I have the opportunity to visit Volcanoes National Park again.  I chose to hike out the volcano; I figured that would be a once in a lifetime experience.

The ride to the entrance of the hike took a little while.  Along the way we got to see many of the old lava flows.   Seeing the old flows is pretty remarkable.  When you look at the mountainside there is a long path of black, surrounded by vegetation.  It really gives you a sense of the destructive and unpredictable force of the lava.

We set out on our hike, which according to the posted sign would be about 5 miles roundtrip.

Entering Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
  There is a nice path that gets laid out most of the way by the park rangers.  They put out small yellow reflectors for the hikers to follow along the safest path.  I couldn’t stop signing “Follow the yellowbrick road…”

Hiking on the lava was more difficult than I had anticipated.  Since it is so uneven you sometimes ended up hopping from spot to spot.  After a while Jess and I picked up our pace because we found it easier to run.  Who knows why?  Our “jog hike” lasted until we got close enough to smell the sulfer.  It had been hot the whole way, walking on BLACK lava under the Hawaiian sun, but that sulfer WHOA!  The smell was overwhelming, like rotten eggs.

We finally made it to where the lava was flowing into the ocean, and we came across a park ranger that took our group shot for us.  She was sittng on the edge of a cliff observing the flow, so we figured we’d do the same.

  Must be safe enough right?  She was very nice and explain all the workings of the lava bench and why it was so dangerous, as depicted in the cartoon on the sign at the entrance to the hike.

With the smell and the heat becoming overwhelming, the ranger said she was heading inland to check a flow and asked us if we would like to join. We tagged along for a bit, but the further inland we got it became apparent that the lava was much closer to the surface.  By that I mean, our feet.   My feet were BURNING and my soles of my sneakers started to melt a bit.  So we thanked the ranger and headed back.

Hiking to the volcano is a definte must and I am so glad that I was able to have the wonderful experience I did.  I am also grateful that I returned safely.  The warning signs are posted for a reason, and I ended up being pretty lucky.  I went to the volcano in May, and that following November the cliff that I was sitting on collapsed into the ocean along with the lava bench.  The result was the last picture, which I found at http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/pressreleases/pr11_29_05.html.  

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Jess and I
Jess and I
Super Jess!
Our room at KMC.
Super Jess! Our room at KMC.
Entering Hawaii Volcanoes National…
Entering Hawaii Volcanoes Nationa…
Jess and I had a ways to go.
Jess and I had a ways to go.
So much for the speed limit
So much for the speed limit
On the road again...
On the road again...
Old flows
Old flows
We are heading out to that plume o…
We are heading out to that plume …
I felt like I was in outerspace on…
I felt like I was in outerspace o…
HOT HOT HOT lava bench
HOT HOT HOT lava bench
It was worth it.
It was worth it.
We made it!
We made it!
Absolutely worth it.
Absolutely worth it.
Closeup of lava firehose, East Lae…
Closeup of lava firehose, East La…
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
photo by: mrgishi