30 June 2008 - It was pitch black and very voggy (not a typo) when we arrived at the Volcano House last night (just inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park), so we didn’t see the caldera of the Kilauea volcano till the next morning. Sean and I woke up early to go to the Jagger Museum to partake of their overlook at Halema'uma'u crater (within the Kilauea caldera). While it was belching smoke and looking sufficiently primeval, we had gotten there a little too late to see it glowing in the darkness. No worries though because as the sun rose, the far wall of the crater and the belching smoke were beautiful in the morning light.
After having our fill of the sunrise at Jagger, we went back to fetch the rest of the family and make our way to Thurston Lava Tube. We took the short hike to the lava tube and marveled at the huge tunnel the lava had been able to flow through. Interesting fact about lava - when traveling through these sorts of tubes, the 1000-2000 degree (Fahrenheit) liquid rock will most likely lose only about 20 degrees as it travels miles from its underground reservoir to the sea (or other eruption site). We continued making our way around the crater rim stopping at various past lava flows and lookouts along the way. The landscape was surreal – crusty black lava rock on either side of the road, sometimes as far as the eye could see. Bits of it had cooled in such a way that it had crusted over and cracked and to me looked very much like the top of a pan of freshly baked brownies.
Next we drove down Chain of Craters road (the one that ends abruptly where lava flowed over it and hardened) and saw the huge plume of steam and volcanic glass shards that occurred where the crazy hot lava met with the sea. We saw more examples of old lava flows along this drive. One of the more interesting parts was to see the newer lava flows overlaying the older ones, often with completely bypassed swaths of green thrown in here and there. We also stopped and walked a trail full of old Hawaiian petroglyphs.
After we had had our fill of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, we made our way east to Hilo to try and catch a camera store. Darci and Sean trekked all over Hilo and after much searching, a suitable camera was found and order was restored to Sean’s world. Later that evening, we ate at Kuhio Grille - proud home of the one pound lau lau. I had chicken lau lau which was simple and satisfying (and WAY more food than I could eat). Sean had the KG saimin, which was probably not as good as the first saimin we had, but a fun discovery in its own right in that we learned a new technique for enhancing one’s saimin enjoyment which I will call “the hot mustard dunk”. They give you hot mustard in a little dish, you mix it with shoyu (soy sauce), and then after you pick up your noodles with your chopsticks, you dunk them in the mixture and slurp happily. It was delicious.
After food was consumed, we decided we’d go lava hunting after dark, so Harry, Sean and I drove out toward the active lava flows from the Hilo side of the volcano. We couldn’t get very close at all (so no good photos were taken), but we did get to see the eerie glow. The real treat of the evening though was seeing the clear night sky and the impressive number of stars visible in the sky. We even got to see the cloud of the Milky Way - it was incredible.