Friday, May 24, 2013


On day 4 of our trip, Rachael and I went to the Volcano National Park in Volcano, HI. The first thing we saw was the Thurston Lava Tube. A lava tube is essentially what is left behind when lava flows and cools on the outside (forming rock) and the inside stays hot and gooey and keeps flowing. What you get is a hollowed-out cave thingy that you can walk through.

Us at the entrance to the Thurston Lava Tube.

Here is a picture of the tube from the inside.

Note that there was a sign (below) that explicitly said - clearly - "Do not go in here under any circumstances. It is dangerous, illegal, and you will die a horrible cave death." Rachael decided to go in anyway.

**Interjection by Rachael: Yeah, I did! Because it's the continuation of the lava tube and at the very back there used to be a PVC pipe with a booklet inside that you could sign if you were brave enough to venture back there and I wanted to know if it was still there.

Anyway, the next part of the day involved a 4 mile loop hike. You basically walk around a mountain down into a crater, walk across the crater, and then walk back up the mountain. Here is what we saw along the way.

Here is a shot of the crater as we start our walk.

Here is another one of those spiral plants, only this one is hella big.

Another shot of the crater.

And another.

An 'ahu' is a bunch of stacked rocks. You have to follow the ahu to know where the hell to go because it is a big crater.

Here is Rachael adding to an ahu.

Here is a shot inside the crater. Totes cray cray, omg.

Another shot of the crater. Pretty sure that you could host the next annual Hunger Games here. It's large, circular, and arena-like. Throw a bunch of weapons in here, and you could easily have gladiator death matches with starving teenagers.

This is where they hide the feral dogs that look like fallen tributes.

According to Koa (our guide from the Kalapana lava tour), red flowers like this one are the most common ones on the ohi'a lehua tree. Orange and yellow ones are extremely rare.

What have we here? WE FOUND AN ORANGE ONE!!! UBER-RARE!!!

A steam vent.

Sulfur pits.

This pheasant (and his unseen mate) were circling around the parking lot like vultures trying to nab treats from tourists. This one is pretty much saying 'hello there' and seeing if Rachael will give up a papaya treat. Unfortunately, there is a sign that says that we shouldn't feed them.

A pretty sea arch.

These are petroglyphs. Hundreds of years ago, Hawaiians carved pictures into stone - remember that they didn't have a written language. Some of them carved holes into the rock and buried their umbilical cords as well (they still do this, too).

The different striations of stuff from various lava flows. Lava, grass, older lava, etc.

The crater at sunset. Going...



Monday, May 20, 2013

Day 3 - Snorkeling at Richardson Ocean Center and our cabin in Volcano

This morning we went snorkeling at Richardson Ocean Center, a beach park in Hilo. The waves were a little choppy so the water was cloudy and I didn't get the kind of photos I got at the Kapoho Tidepools. But I did figure out that my camera has an underwater mode, so that helped. I still got a couple good ones though.

I got to see this fish who almost blended in with his surroundings.

And best of all, I had my very first turtle sighting! I looked to my left and there was this guy, just swimming along beside me.

After snorkeling, we stuffed ourselves full of the best sushi ever and headed to our next stop: Volcano, Hawaii. (Yes, that is really the name of the town. Yes, we sent Ansley a post card from there.)

It's about 20 degrees cooler in Volcano because of the increase in altitude, and the climate is really different too. We picked up our keys and checked into a jungle cabin that has nearly fulfilled my childhood fantasy to go to Jurassic Park.

Here is the "driveway".

Here is the path you take, hoping it will lead you to a cabin because you still can't see one.

The cabin starts to take shape amid the jungle plants.

Isn't it gorgeous?!

I loved the porch - it wrapped around the entire cabin.

But the best part was easily the bathtub. It even had windows that opened out to the jungle.

Sigh. The only thing that could make this view more perfect is a velociraptor walking by the window.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Elusive Mongoose

Did you know there are mongooses (mongeese?) in Hawaii? I didn't. In fact, when one ran across the road in front of our car on our first day here, I pointed at it and yelled, "Look! A squirrel-like creature!"

Our friend Eric informed us that the squirrel-like creature was a mongoose and that they were brought here to get rid of the rat problem, but since rats are nocturnal and mongooses are diurnal...Invasive Species Fail. Seriously, people, I know better than that, and everything I know about mongoose diet comes from Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.

Mongoose Diet Fact #1: They eat snakes. (Um, and there aren't any in Hawaii.)
Mongoose Diet Fact #2: They also eat bananas. (This knowledge was gleaned from my favorite line of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, "It was a temptation to eat the whole banana, but Rikki-Tikki-Tavi knew a full meal makes a slow mongoose.")

So, anyway, being the Rikki-Tikki-Tavi lover and mongoose enthusiast that I am, I just HAD to have a photo of one of these little guys. But despite the fact that we had dozens of mongoose sightings (those little guys are everywhere!), most of our photos looked like these. Can you spot the elusive mongoose in these photos?

Here are some close ups to help you out.

Day 2 - Kalapana Lava Fields!

This hike was the experience of a lifetime. It was exciting and challenging and awe-inspiring and maybe a little terrifying too. We went with Kalapana Cultural Tours, and they were fantastic. Here's our guide, Koa, leading us through the lava fields.

The lava fields stretched on as far as the eye could see - it was like being in one of those post-apocalyptic movies - and I was amazed that he could guide us when, to me, everything looked the same. It was also amazing to me that life was still able to spring up in these types of conditions, like this ʻōhiʻa lehua tree.

Here's a picture of the hardened lava up close.

And here's another just to show how different the lava can be.

This was no easy hike. As our guide said, "If the lava looks like it's going to crack, it will crack." The unevenness of the terrain meant you had to be very careful about where you put your feet. And the lava is SHARP. I sat down for a minute, and when I got up there were half a dozen small holes in my yoga pants. Just from sitting! An older couple in our group slipped and got some pretty bad scrapes (we're talking a lot of blood here), but they got bandaged up and kept on trekking.

You had to think about every single footstep you took, so it was both mentally and physically exhausting, but Zack and I had fun with it. Whenever he stepped on lava that cracked or moved or otherwise made him lose his footing, he would say, "J..." and I would nudge him and say, "Babe, Jehovah starts with an 'I'". Since we both love Indiana Jones and we are both huge dorks, we thought this was hilarious.

If you have no idea what I am talking about (i.e., are cooler than us), here's a clip from the movie.

Challenging hiking aside, we finally reached the place where the active lava flows into the ocean (and as you approach it, the air gets hotter and hotter - it's kind of scary). Here are a few pictures as the sun sets.

Next we hiked up to where the surface flows are visible. Mind you, this part of the hike and the ENTIRE hike back are in pitch black darkness. With small flashlights. Over those same treacherous lava fields.

But it's totally worth it if you get to see this.

One of the guys on our hike had a walking stick that he had been using the whole way, and when we got to the surface flows, he pulled out this crazy metal cage attachment thingy and proceeded to roast hot dogs over the lava. It was awesome. So, if you end up doing the lava hike at Kalapana, I have two words for you. Bring. Marshmallows.

Day 2, Lava Tree Park and Ahalanui Park

Today we went to the Lava Tree Park near Pahoa. In case you're wondering, a lava tree happens when lava sweeps through an area and makes molds of the tree trunks. Here's what they look like.

These lava trees are scattered throughout the park. Also scattered throughout the park are signs like this one.

And in case you are like, ‘wtf is an earth crack?’, here you go.

They’re actually kind of scary, and we did not veer off the path. I think my favorite thing about the park was how a lot of the vegetation didn’t even seem real. It seemed more like something out of a movie.

Jurassic Park, for instance.

Or Resident Evil (why, hello there, creepy man-eating shrub).

Here's one of Zack doing his best Sampson impression.

And here's one of the spring fed pool we went to afterwards. Ahalanui is volcanically heated and has little fish swimming in it. It was the perfect way to recharge before our evening hike through lava fields (see next post).