The beaches of Hawaii may be exceptional but the volcanoes are absolutely unique. There are only a few spots on Earth where you can walk on ground younger than you, the Big Island is one of those places. It’s got plenty of youthful dirt and more fiery births than Baby Story.
The waves at South Point were the biggest I’ve ever encountered.
The Big Island is home to five volcanoes. Only two of them, Kilauea and Mauna Loa, are currently active but that couple’s commotion more than makes up for the sleepiness of the others. Kilauea is the most active volcano in the world. It has been continually erupting since 1983 and spews somewhere between 300,000 and 1,000,000 cubic yards of lava out every day. Additionally, Kilauea’s Halema’uma’u Crater has the divine distinction of being home to the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, Pele. She knows how to pick quality real estate but her residence was a bit disordered during our stay.
South Point is not safe for swimming…or anything else really.
Although Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, which contains all of Kilauea’s craters and rift zones, was more than a couple hours from our hotel, we decided it couldn’t be missed. We therefore planned a two-day excursion to the brink of that federally-funded inferno.
Halema’uma’u Crater was a blistering wound on the blackened landscape during the wee hours of the morning.
We took our time heading to Kilauea, pausing for a few distractions. South Point, the southernmost spot in the United States and a great place to witness the awesome power of the ocean, was our first diversion. There, the currents are so strong that if a vessel ventures out too far its next stop will be Antarctica. (Fishermen tie their boats to the shore when at South Point to prevent unplanned penguin parties.)
Kilauea Iki, a pit crater next to the main caldera of Kilauea, erupted in 1959. Its cracked basin looked more like a manmade mess than nature’s handiwork.
We also detoured to Punalu’u. This black sand beach, curiously, had lots of sightseers milling about on it like they didn’t know what to do with a beach. Incompetent tourists or just confusing colors?
Construction rubble or baby stone?
Later that afternoon, we arrived at Volcanoes…along with a whole bunch of other people. You see, a few days before our southbound journey, a series of small earthquakes blocked Halema’uma’u’s vent forcing lava usually hidden 100-200 feet below the crater floor to spout above ground in a breathtaking display. Nothing so dramatic had been seen at Halema’uma’u since 2008. While we were thrilled that we happened to be on the island at the right time to catch this magma magic, we weren’t the only ones eager to observe it. The locals were pouring in from all over the islands to witness Pele’s tantrum and congest my park experience.
These streaming rocks resulted from a 1972 eruption of Mauna Ulu.
After walking a mile that evening around the Sulphur Banks Trail, which showcases colorful minerals deposited by volcanic gases, we went to bed early and woke up at 3:30 AM so we could see Halema’uma’u’s glow show minus the crowds. It was spectacular but freezing, despite the 1500-degree magma.
Holei Sea Arch, hollowed from lava rock by the relentless ocean, epitomized the everlasting battle between fire and water.
Following an indispensable three-hour nap, we did several more hikes in Volcanoes. Our first was through Thurston Lave Tube, a 500-year-old cave formed by lava flow. Next, we hit Kilauea Iki Crater. Kilauea Iki, which is offset from the main Kilauea summit, exploded in 1959. We trekked four miles through the leftovers of that eruption. The scene looked more like a demolition zone than a piece of nature. Finally, we rambled a mile and a half to the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs, the biggest petroglyph field in the state. Thousands of markings stud the frozen lava in this area. It was a fascinating glimpse into Hawaii’s past.
Jason “sensed” lava everywhere.
That was the end of our volcanic adventures. Pele was a mesmerizing yet violent hostess.
Next time, for the last part of our Big story, I will recount the highly engrossing tale of our journey through the skies and history of Hawaii. Plus, there will be seahorses.
Jason and I have traveled to a number of the Hawaiian Islands but we hadn’t journeyed to the mass from which that archipelago gets its name until our last big trip.
Snorkeling gear is about as sexy as it gets.
This spotted eagle ray didn’t seem intimidated by me but it wouldn’t get near Jason.
The island of Hawaii, commonly called the Big Island to avoid confusion, is, well, big. It’s larger than all of the other Hawaiian Islands put together and is a place of unexpected extremes. It boasts two peaks above 13,000 feet that accumulate snow but it also harbors scorching craters where the fire of new earth is continually smoldering.
This sub made catching some underwater action easy.
This shipwreck was real and this skeleton was real plastic.
Our first day on the island was all about relaxing or at least unwinding underwater. We snorkeled in King’s Pond, a pool carved out of natural lava rock that’s fed by subterranean channels and rises and sinks with the tide. King’s Pond holds 1.8 million gallons of water and 75 species of fish, including a spotted eagle ray. Its brackish alcoves weren’t the most pristine we’ve snorkeled in but its fish were abundant and they weren’t too shy around us human folk.
This broken mast had a massive moray as a tenant.
During our second day, we spent some time in Kailua Bay aboard a submarine. This vessel descended 111 feet below the surface to tour stretches of coral reef and skirt sunken ships. We saw countless fish, a huge eel, two shipwrecks, and even a shark while onboard. Not too bad for an undersea excursion that didn’t even require us to get our feet wet. Yup, it was basically scuba for the lazy man.
These ki’i surrounded the Hale o Keawe, the house that once held the bones of 23 chiefs.
Before heading back to our hotel at Hualalai, we detoured to Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, a national historic park. The ancient Hawaiians were governed by the kapu system. In this strict code of conduct, a commoner could be put to death, or become a human sacrifice, for breaking any of a long list of taboos. Their family might also share their fate. However, they had one hope for forgiveness. If they could make it to a pre-designated area of asylum before being caught or killed, all would be forgotten and they could return home in peace. Pu’uhonua o Honaunau served as such a place of refuge.
Konane was a strategy game played by the ancient Hawaiians.
Pu’uhonua o Honaunau’s grounds conveyed a lasting peace.
Although the kapu system disappeared nearly 200 years ago, the life-saving amnesty Honaunau once offered still permeated its quiet bay. With swaying coconut trees and lapping waves, this park was about as tranquil as it gets. We enjoyed the hush of the day slipping into twilight among its protective ki’i.
“Perfect” describes Hapuna perfectly.
Smiles, even crazy ones, were hard to contain on such a heavenly shoreline.
The following day we continued our therapeutic salting by visiting Hapuna Beach, which is consistently rated as one of the top ten beaches in the world. With fine golden sand that slopes gently into crystal waters, it’s no wonder. We boogie boarded for hours at Hapuna while sea turtles swam around our feet. Honestly, I highly doubt we will ever have a beach experience as nice as that again.
Hapuna was the stuff that sandy dreams are made of.
Boogie boarding is one of my favorite beach activities.
With visions of impeccable shores I leave you until next week’s sizzling recollections.
Doctors know the secrets of the cosmos but the secrets of making a cape? Not so much. If you didn’t attend Rowley Con this year, in addition to missing out on a profusion of sweat-infused gaming, you skipped something the universe may never see again: Doctors giving stitching lessons.
Jason and I modified our plunge TMNT costumes for Rowley Con. Green tabi boots added another reptilian-ninja element.
Milo was one of the few kids that actually tried to stitch on their own.
Our friend Jeremy puts on a nerd-saturated gathering every spring called Rowley Con. This congregation of the play minded encompasses an entire weekend. Board games, videogames, cosplay, and anime are all included. This year I volunteered to tap into my costuming passion (i.e. obsession) to level up the powers of this assemblage.
In one day, ten superheroes were created thanks to our tutelage. That’s a better statistic than radioactive insects or toxic sludge can claim.
Jason and I came to Rowley Con’s second day as the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, specifically the 50th anniversary versions of them.
Men in tights will always have an unfair advantage in this world. Drew beat Jason in the male costume contest on tightness.
Jason and I helped ten students, mostly children, create their own logoed superhero capes in the first Rowley Con cosplay class ever. We taught this group while costumed ourselves as the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. Our Padawans loved designing their insignias. Those emblems were comprised of everything from rainbowed unicorns to death ray robots. The rest of the procedure, unfortunately, didn’t hold their interest as much. It took about four hours in total for us to finish up all the capes, mostly because the kids’ usefulness waned drastically. It’s a good thing that sewing machines have moving parts and are susceptible to sonic suggestions.
Jacob commandeered Jason’s newly-made cape and posed for a slew of ridiculous pictures.
I didn’t make these entire costumes but I did sew my waistcoat. Due to its fanciness, that piece took a lot longer to put together than expected.
Here’s my Oscar speech. Thanks Jason for spending many hours cutting out all of the fabric; I couldn’t have done it without you. And thanks Jeremy for hosting another fine meeting of the geeks. Without you, the unshowered masses would neither be all dressed up nor have anywhere to go. Now, instead, they can be mistaken for birds and planes in style.
The next day we headed down to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park to hike to Druid Arch. Druid’s path followed a wash for almost half of its 11 miles. That wash bed was sandy and boring. Thus, our going required extra energy input and extra monotony seemed the only output. (Dun, dun, duuunnnnn.)
The Needles is partitioned by banded stone that has been whittled into eccentric shapes.
However, this outing wasn’t all sand-induced tedium. A ladder, metal rod, and some boulder scrambling were required to finally reach Druid Arch’s imposing position atop a ribboned plateau. Cool. Plus, the arch itself was magnificently massive and angular and the view from its perch was extraordinary. By the way, I wouldn’t take young children on this hike. The mileage alone would probably do them in but the ledges could literally finish them off.
Cryptobiotic soil is living dirt. It’s vital to the life of the desert and a curious thing to behold.
Our last day in Moab we chose to check out a couple sections of the Klondike Bluffs Area Trails we’d never been on. We planned on pedaling up Jurassic, an easy 3-mile path, and then coming back on Dino-Flow, a moderately-difficult route. Jurassic turned out to be joyfully fast and curvy. It coiled through mounds of mauve and emerald clay left by a tidal area 150 million years ago. Its track occasionally even became a river of crimson dirt swimming through a land of jade pebbles. How bizarre.
Most of the wash we trudged through heading to Druid was relatively dull so this wavy stone was a nice change.
The path to Druid had some tricky sections, this steep face for one.
When we neared the end of Jurassic, where we would be catching the junction to Dino-Flow, sand, like the coarsest of ninjas, launched a sneak scratch assault. The Moab desert is crisscrossed by washes you intersect constantly when biking, dips in the terrain caused by the rapid flow of water. These depressions are almost always dry, unless it has just rained, and they are consistently sandy. As I was traversing one such wash, I hit a patch of sand that was unexpectedly deep. That sand caused my front tire to halt abruptly and skid, which ultimately resulted in my bike summersaulting through the air as I flew over its handlebars.
This was one wall we didn’t have to hike around.
It felt like this over-the-handlebars maneuver happened in slow motion but there was nothing I could do to stop it. I ended up thudding into the ground hard with my bike landing on top of me, still tangled amongst my limbs. My arm was scraped and bleeding and my hip was raw and sore but worse my confidence was unraveled.
Druid Arch is bulky and jagged and spectacular.
It was windy on the plateau adjacent to Druid Arch but the view was wonderful.
Unfortunately, we were almost at the furthest point in our ride when this happened so I had to get back on my bike with shaky hands and unnatural caution and pedal the distance back to our car. At first we kept to our original plan of using Dino-Flow for our return journey but about a mile into that trail we both realized that I currently just didn’t have the brashness necessary to enjoy its bumpy terrain. So we rejoined Jurassic at the next intersection and resumed on it. We biked around 7 or 8 miles that day but our total will forever remain approximate because the crash shattered my odometer.
The Jurassic Trail snakes through Brushy Basin, one of the strangest landscapes we’ve encountered biking.
The desert is full of life if you take the time to notice.
And that is the end of my tale of persistent grit. Incidentally, I developed blobs of bruises on my left side from my hip to my ankle due to my unrehearsed handlebar acrobatics. Plus, I ruined a shirt (Thanks a lot elbow for being so bloody leaky!) and some gear. However, no bike overturn could overturn my love for Moab. Sand, nice try but we’ll happily be back for some more of your grind again soon.