Friday, April 7, 2023
Welcome friends, to my Travel Friday’s B.R.E.A.T.H.S. blog where I share my traveling experiences from driving across the United States from September 2020 through June 2022. Since the next month of May is recognized as Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I will get a jumpstart and dedicate the next four Fridays to discussing the National Parks I visited found on The Big Island of Hawai’i. This first week, I will share about my experience exploring Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park (see video at end of post).
First Day on The Big Island
My first time visiting The Big Island was July 2021, I was staying for the first two weeks, and the first site I was eager to visit was the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. I was staying at the Northern tip of the island in a small town called Hawi. The volcanoes were located about two and a half hours away at the southern part of the Big Island. I packed up for a full day of driving and hiking. On my way there, I stopped to capture a beautiful full rainbow over a grassy field looking out towards the ocean.
Kilauea Visitor’s Center
The first stop I made at the top of the volcano was Kilauea Visitor Center where I picked up some pamphlets and maps. Next, I walked around the outdoor information center soaking up information about the surrounding volcano environment and checking out art in the volcano house. I noticed a hiking trail that led to some crater views and started my trek. As soon as I got to the Kilauea Caldera, I snapped a quick photo of myself in my doctoral regalia before it blew off my head.
I was excited to visit the Kilauea Caldera Crater Rim Tour since it had recently been active with lava lakes forming. However, the eruption had paused while I was visiting. At the caldera crater view overlook, I witnessed a man climb over the wooden railing to get closer to the volcano opening. Curious about what he was doing, I started recording him on my phone. He had a small bag and pulled out a conch and something wrapped in ti leaves. He proceeded to blow on the conch and offered the ti leaves as a gift to the Volcano Goddess, Pele, then started chanting a prayer. I was mesmerized by that experience as I felt the power of the volcano beneath my feet and the love of the prayer felt in my heart. This is indeed a sacred and spiritual place filled with lots of history and culture.
From the Kilauea overlook, I continued my hike. My second stop was at the steam vents. There are giant holes in the ground with metal rails around them to protect people from falling. There was a family from India there with me. We all leaned over the rails and felt the very warm steam breathing on our faces. We were all silent, soaking in the breath of the volcano coming from the center of the earth. The steam vents brought huge smiles to our faces as we realized the volcano was alive and well.
Chain of Craters Road
Once I got back to my car, I continued driving on the Chain of Craters Road that had several viewing spots as it winds down the side of the volcano. I was following a tour van that had that family in it and we saw each other at almost every stop almost as if we were on this trip together. We stopped at Ha’akulamanu sulfur banks and Thurston Lava Tube (Nahuku). There were several craters we would stop at to see old lava paths with dates of their eruptions. I also noticed this particular tree with a bright red flower that was growing between volcanic rock called, Ohi’a lehua, which has a unique legend behind it’s name.
A little over halfway down the volcano is the Kealakomo Overlook where you can see miles of igneous rock that reach out into the Pacific Ocean. It is very windy here, when I got out of the car, my hat blew off, and I had to run after it for about 50 yards where it got stuck in between some rocks where I was able to retrieve it. Even after that experience, I really didn’t understand the power of the wind until just a bit further down the road.
Holei Sea Arch
At the very end of the Chain of Craters Road is the Holei Sea Arch. This magnificent view right on the edge of the island is where hot lava met cold ocean waters. The lava had frozen in time as it looked like a hand stretching out into the ocean of the ever changing coastline.
Ending with a Windy Situation
Making my way back up the volcano on my way back out of the park (one way in and out), I stopped at the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs. As I made my way around the corner, I stopped at a sight which I would call a marvel, was bright green patches of foliage forming on dark black igneous walls. It looked like life growing on death. I got out of the car to take a picture, and the wind violently ripped the car door from my hands, bending the door back so far it broke the hinges, and dented the fender. I was in shock and tried to close the door myself, but the wind kept ripping it from my hands. That family in the tour van saw my distress and came to offer help. We managed to get the door closed, but I would not be able to use it for the rest of my trip.
Conclusion of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
My tour of the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park was truly one I will never forget, especially the power of the wind! I realized I did not get a picture of the petroglyphs due to the car door incident, but I did have memorable experiences at all the amazing stops. Next time I visit, I want to explore more of the volcano through hikes since most of the driving roads are closed.
Thank you for reading and viewing,
Dr. Jaime Brainerd, E.d.D.