On Saturday, the Housemate and I drove around the south point of the Big Island and back up to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, on the east side of the island. This route took somewhere around three hours which, considering that you can get from one corner of Oahu to the farthest corner in about an hour, seemed like a very long way--it's like being on the mainland! Anyway, we made it to the visitor center in the early afternoon (we'd had a relatively late start that morning) and put together our plan. We'd drive around Crater Rim Road, stop at a few sites with short hikes or scenic views--Halema'uma'u Crater lookouts, steam vents, the Thurston lava tube, and Kilauea Iki--then at sunset drive outside of the main park area and make our way to the site where you can sometimes see hot lava flowing into the ocean in the distance. Grab dinner around 7:30, be on the road again by 8-8:30, home around 11. Nice plan, right? Well, the first part worked out pretty well, but the last part about dinner and home by 11 was not to be. More on that when the time comes.
They had a large chunk of Crater Rim Road, the road that goes around the Kilauea Caldera, blocked off, due to the unusually high levels of poisonous sulfur dioxide gas being spewed into the air by the Halemaumau Crater. Luckily the wind was blowing relatively steadily one way, so we could still safely view the crater from certain directions.
Here's the crater (inside the larger caldera) from one angle.
And from another angle. At this site, you could just start to smell the unpleasant odor of the sulfur. We made this stop a short one.
Last time I visited Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, with my family in 2007, we were able to drive around to the closer lookout of the crater, where you now see the plume of smoke covering. The sulfur dioxide plume apparently started up in 2008, for the first time since 1982.
Back towards what in the photos above would be the "left" side of the caldera (away from the smoke plume), we stopped at the Thurston lava tube, decidedly longer than the lava tube by the highway in Kona. It's a very short and easy hike (slightly steep, but with a well-traveled path) to get to the lava tube, and the first part of it is well lighted.
The Housemate makes his way down the lighted portion of the tube.
The second part of the tube is not lighted at all, and it's really pitch black, so only people with flashlights can go there safely. We had the LEDs on our cameras, so we thought we'd go down a bit.
Coming up tomorrow: Kilauea Iki, a lovely crater that we hiked down into.