How it feels to have a leap-birthday. Happy Birthday, Elena!
Our stay in Volcano ended up being fairly rainy, even by the standards of the wet side of the island. It wasn't until the day we left for the Kona coast that they actually had a clear day with no rain. Still, we managed to stay dry on most of our hikes. On the few occasions we did get soaked, the Breakfast Lanai had a very handy hot tub in a nice glass porch area. Not a bad place to eat, either.
Breakfast at the Breakfast Lanai
Up to this point, our closest brush with real flowing lava had been at Halema'uma'u Crater, the giant hole in the Kilauea Caldera floor, which looked pretty stunning at night. But that would all change soon...
At night, the glow from Halema'uma'u is visible from the Jaggar Museum (compare to daytime picture in previous post)
On the last day of our stay in Volcano, we got the surprise news of the week, and perhaps of the trip and/or some of our lifetimes. Paul Karabinos, ever the showman, waited till the morning of to let us know that we would be hiking out from the town of Kalapana to see live lava flows from Pu'u 'O'o. Like, up-close and personal. So, we saddled up with enough water and food to last us a day in a lava desert, and set out past the partially overrun town on jagged, glassy lava flows that were only a few years—or months—old.
A very large, translucent, crystallized volcanic glass bubble
As time went on, we began to see signs that we were getting close. First, the flow-colonizing vegetation disappeared, then we saw smoke from burning vegetation on the big fault scarp, then the distant heat waves coming off the flows, then suddenly we saw a dim orange glow in the daylight and the heat stopped us in our tracks. Several people didn't even bother taking off their packs, they were so awestruck. For literally hours on end, we threw rocks at it, burned articles of clothing with it, and scooped up molten material with a rock hammer until our hearts were content. When the sun went down, the glow from the hills mixed with the glow from the plain and made for quite the dimly lit, warm, and romantic dinner spot.
Because of Kalapana coast's closure to the public, being able to see live lava this close was quite rare, even for seasoned geologists. We were amazed to hear that even Paul, once-upon-a-time a grad student in igneous petrology, had never experienced it up close before. We were truly blessed to have had this opportunity.
Kalle burns the brim of a hat as a memento to this geologic rite-of-passage moment
During the day, we took big scoops of the good stuff...
...and at night, we sat and admired lava rivers that could be seen in the hills.
The next day, our travels took us to sunny Puako, on the Kona coast, the land of macadamia nuts and delicate coffee flavorings. We took to the beach, doing enough Sand Sumo, two- and three-person tall chicken fights in the water, and double-back-flip throws to make us sore all over. Every day was a constant strength session! Add in two hours of body surfing in six foot surf at Waipio Bay and we were soon covered in all sorts of bumps, bruises, and sore muscles.
Mastering the art of the frontflip backflop
Decidedly, another one of the group favorite destinations was Waipio Valley, a sparsely-populated remote agricultural settlement with some fantastic views, great surf, and a tendency to be hit quite hard by tsunami.
In Waipio, we discovered Paul's showman's surprise for the second week more by show and less by tell. After walking down the "steepest road in the world," dropping 800ft at 25% grade for .6 miles, we came around a corner and saw the most unbelievable waterfall. The hike in to the fall was slow-going, but an extremely fun and rewarding way to get to the waterfall itself (think lots of branch-grabbing, slick rock-jumping, and river-fording.
One poorly practiced climbing move on the trail to the falls and I was in the water with my boots on...
...and then Kalle was too.
The rock face stands over 1600 feet high, and water cascades straight down the side of the canyon for most of that distance. Kalle and I thought Casey would be decidedly skeptical of dropping over it in a kayak.
We found it exceedingly difficult to breathe with 40mph wind blowing water up our noses, the effect of which may have added somewhat to our elation.
Kalle defends the troop from unseen danger with his knifle
Kalle and Elena watch for the green flash on our last night in The Aloha State
We arrived back in Williamstown today, depressed and jetlagged after 22 straight hours of travel, but with no regrets and surprisingly much more physically ready to begin the training season than expected. I think we can safely say that that was the school field trip of a lifetime!
Photo credit: Tommy Gaidus, Elena Luethi
Photo credit: Tommy Gaidus, Elena Luethi