Sunday, March 29 - Puna, Volcano & Hilo
From the lighthouse we returned to Route 137 and made a left following the highway towards Kalapana. Along the way there are numerous places to stop and view wonderful scenery along the coast. It is important to respect the areas marked as private property but in between you can stop at tidal pools, black sand beaches and other view points until you reach the end of the road at Kalapana.
At Kalapana the road ends very suddenly where the town of Kalapana was obliterated by the 1990 Kilauea eruption. A brief climb up to the lava allows you to see the sulfur steam emanating from the current eruption at the Pu'u 'O'o vent. in the East Rift Zone. You can easily be fooled into thinking that you can hike across the cooled lava to get a better view of the vent, but even a half hour of hiking brings you no closer to the vent which is still over five miles away.
Before we headed back up Route 130 we stopped for a soda and a brief chat with the fellow who owns a piece of property right at the end of the road. This fellow purchased over 100 acres in 1993, about 5 of which are currently covered by lava. We asked him if he does not fear living where he does and owning land that can be overrun by Pele at any time. He told us that there is no other place in the world that he would rather live. Such is the beauty, wonder and attraction of Hawaii.
From Kalapana it was a much shorter return trip up Route 130 to Route 11 and on to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Along the way we encountered a rain storm which continued through much of our stay at the park. In fact, our stay was much shorter than we had expected. Luckily, we had seen much of the park on our last visit. The rain and vog (a steam and sulfur-like fog caused by the active volcano) made any outside activity very difficult.
We did have a nice visit at the Jaggar Museum which we will discuss in detail in a future feature.
The museum is well worth a brief stop. It provides you with an excellent overview of the nature of the Hawaiian islands and the volcanoes which have formed them.
We also hiked down to the Thurston Lava Tube only to find the inside cold, wet and filled with deep puddles. Where did the warm and dry weather go?
We made a quick decision that this was not the best day to visit the park so we decided to return to Hilo. When you reach mile marker 20, be sure to pull over and stop at the Hirano General Store.
From the parking lot of this store you get a great view of the Pu'u 'O'o Vent in the distance, the only good view that you can get from the ground. While you're there we made sure to stop into the store and make a purchase to show our appreciation for the view.
Along the way back to Hilo, we stopped at the Mauna Loa Macademia Nut Visitor's Center for some samples and shopping. They have a small but nice nature walk near the visitor's center. I have to admit I really am not a big fan of macademia nuts but even I enjoyed the honey roasted nuts.
From this stop it was back to Hilo and dinner. Be sure to stop by for tomorrow's report.