2013 - 2014, Arts & Community, Travel
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Volcanoes Galore!

Explore Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park

By Maria Karin Walczuk, Arts and Community Editor

Kilaeua Iki. Photo by Sam Clubb.

Kīlaeua ‘Iki. Photo by Sam Clubb.

The stillness captures you, as drops of pristine water dance upon the gigantic ferns.  A canopy of greenery surrounds the descent, beckoning your steps to continue. Nāhuku (previously known as Thurston lava tube) is a ⅓ mile trek through a lush forest, easily accessible and satisfying.

Initially you walk down into an old crater now enveloped with native and non-native plants and species.  Twittering birds can be heard, especially if you pause taking your time. There is no need to rush – the walk is at an average of 20 minutes round trip.

Usually Nāhuku is quite crowded, with plenty of tourists coming in rounds. But that’s the necessary toll: I suggest that you walk in the lava tube in silence because you can experience the quietness between the swarms of rowdy flybys. The lava tube itself is similar to a cave, but you have to remind yourself that what you are walking through is much more particular:  lava flowed through this area forming dried layers which eventually came together to form a continuous ceiling. You can walk through noticing lava skylights above,  lava stalactites and air roots peeking through from the plants.

I believe that what the tourists can take most for granted is the experience at the end of the lava tube, as you exit back into the lush forest. Your aural senses are heightened and you are able to tune into the singing larks, the movement of foliage, the pleasure in treading upon the ground, over roots and soft earth. Enjoy, take your time – your ride will still be waiting in the parking lot.

Kīlauea `Iki Hike

The descent is bright and swift, it can go by quickly.  I suggest keeping your head down all the while, so that when you reach the bottom, you can all the more take in the majestic beauty of being within a once active, recent eruption. As you arrive you really have to pinch yourself twice.

If ever a landscape resembled another world, this could be your closest bet. The punctured lava, dried bubbles of eruption, expansive and dark land create an unusual atmosphere. There is great mystery to the area and visiting any time of the day provides different feelings.

Depending on the wind direction you may feel the effects of carbon dioxide from Pele’s sulphurous vents. However the fumes rising from within this smaller crater are deceiving -they are non-toxic water molecules heated from below. Do be brave, because it looks scarier than it actually is!

The Volcano Summit Lookout

My favorite time of day to visit the lookout point of Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent is before dusk, when the sky is still light. You have the chance to stand along the “edge,” embracing the seemingly endless land before you as Pele does what she does best.

As the sun sets in the west, the wondrous, fiery glow of Pele reveals itself. Consider yourself very lucky if you do catch her. People from all over the world travel to come visit our active volcanoes, getting as close as they legally can. Go take a peek for yourself, see if you can see Pele glow.

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