Hiking Old Volcanic Lava Fields and Rain Forests

Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
Trip End Jan 31, 2012

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Where I stayed
Namakani Paio Campground

Flag of United States  , Hawaii
Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 1 - Visitor Center to Campground via Sulphur Banks and Rim
Had an early start with a 5am bus to get to the NP. Since the next one wasnt until 2pm didnt have much choice but to catch it. Ended up arriving at the NP at 6am and had a couple of hours to kill before the visitor center was opened. Wandered through here for a bit to find out which parts of the park were open and decided at this point it was to far to get to and from the back country hiking area.

Found that I wouldnt be able to circuit or cross the large caldera as I had planned to originally do since half the crater rim road was closed due to high SO2 levels.

From here decided to head to the campgound which was 3 miles away, via the sulphur banks.. These were basically holes in the ground which had steam coming out of them and sulphur forming around some of the holes.

After the sulphur banks crossed the road to get my first look at the caldera. Walked along the rim of a large caldera and past a number of steam vents while looking into the large caldera. Could see the remains of lots of old lava flows. Seems though Im 100 years to late to see the lake of lava that use to fill the caldera. Besides, knowing american these days thaey would probaly close the whole park if the caldera still looked that way. In the distance could also see a second smaller caldera inside the large one. This one must have had active lava in it since it was billowing out smoke from the center.

Would have loved to have gone down next to it but unfortunately the whole area was close. Didnt seem like all that much vog (white sulphuorus gas) around) and if I wouldnt have been in plain view I might have risked heading down. Especially since I would have been upwind of the gas coming out of the smaller caldera.

Kept heading along the rim for a while then headed along the road to reach Jagger Museum which is about as close as Im going to get to the small caldera. Dumped my pack outside and wandered through the museum for a bit as well as spending some time watching the smoke come out of the caldera.

Fom here wandered the rest of the way to the campground and set up camp. Not sure if its just that I havent carried a pack for a while or whether its the fact that the pack frame broke in Nicuragua but feeling sore from the short walk so decided to lie down a bit. Given I couldnt go round the back end of the caldera and didnt feel like heading back past the visitor center didnt really have any plans for today. Had though of going up Manua Lea but when the clouds rolled in to block any views I might have gotten and it started to rain I decided it might be better to just stay in the tent and read a book.

Finished the day cooking with the liquid gel fuel and found that while it worked it was hard to control the amount of heat getting to the fuel. Definately needed some kind of tripod to adjust the level rather than the two drink cans I was using.

Day 2 - Kilauea Caldera, Kilauea Ike Crater, Jaggar Museum
Decided to explore the Kilauea Ike crater which was accessable to the public. From the campground headed along the road back to the steam banks and then followed the rim back around to the visitor center. From here followed one of the many trails (rim trail in this case) to the crater. Saw a few interesting grouse along the way and once again surprised by the amount of bird life I can hear in the forest.

While following the rim trail and old rim crater road managed to get a few nice views back into the caldera and once again was wishing I could go down into it. Also read something and saw some photos showing how the caldera was full of lava pools 200-100yrs ago.

After a bit of walking through the rain forest (guess thats why its so wet) and past a few grouse, reached the trail that runs near the edge of Kilauea Crater. Had some nice views into the crater and back towards the main caldera. Also started walking past other day hikers along the way.

Eventually reached the other side of the crater and wandered into the Thurston Lava tubs. These were really well lite and not particularly long. Note that Lava tubes in general are created as lava flows through the ground. As the level of the lava decreases it causes a gap between the lava and ceiling and as a result of less and less lava flowing, a tunnel forms. Guess that must be why the floors so flat.
Tried to continue down into the less lite part of the lava tube with a candle but unlike the other times I've gone exploring caves with a candle I couldnt see much. Guess the tunnel was a lot bigger (too big) compared to the previous caves I've explored and so since the walls are so far apart, not enough light is getting reflected back for me to see.

From here headed back to the crater rim and then down into it before heading across it. Unlike most of the other people decided to wander around a bit (instead of walk straight across along the trail) up some of the broken lava and go look at a couple of steaming vents. Also wandered a bit up the sides of the crater to get a different perspective on the crater and a few photos. Lots of old lava flows around and bits that have been heaved up into the air. Also part of the crater wall was really broken up where there had been some relatively recent activity. Stop on one of these upheaved sections for lunch and took in the views.

After getting across the crater it was earlier than I had expected so went back to the crater rim trail. Decided to follow the ledge trail even though it had a sign saying no entry. Went down it for 1km or so before turning back when it started to head down hill into the caldera. Had a couple of nice views along the way but also found the trail extremely overgrown. Guess the trails been closed a while and talking to someone later, found the the back end of the caldera, which was closed, has been closed for a couple of years and isnt just something recent. Guessing NP doesnt want to be held responsible should something happen.Especially with the tendancy americans have to sue.

From here made one more side trip along devastation trail towards the other side of the crater. Managed to find one lookout into the crater from the trail but would have liked to have wandered up the nearby hill. Unfortunately this was closed off and I believe the reason for this was that there had previously been some activity here and the ground was a bit unstable. Never the less if I wouldnt have been sticking out in plane view I would have wandered up the hill for a look.

From here headed back to the vistor center. Did this by following a trail that took me down to the bottom edge of the large caldera and then followed it back up to the visitor center. From here followed the crater rim trail all the way back to Jaggar Museum. Once again had some nice views into the caldera. At time at different points time observed different amount of smoke billowing out. Guess it must have something to do with the level of the lava. Still pretty early so decided to head back to camp to have dinner before it got dark.

Ended the day at the Jaggar museum lookout where I could watch the red glow shining above the small caldera. Managed to buy a new torch from the museum shop, to replace my broken one, and so was able to stay until after dark. Would have hung around longer but it started to rain and so decided to head back to camp before it decided to pour.

Ended up taking way to many photos and my first battery is already starting to go flat.

Day 3 - Chain of Craters Road to Makaopuhi Crater
Nice weather for a change with some clear skies and a bit of sun.

Decided to have a long day and walk towards Pu`u Huluhulu cinder cone. Was guessing I could make it there and back in a day given the day before it didnt take as long as I expected to circle the crater. Wasnt sure how far I would get but given there werent really any other day walks to do in the area, decided to do it so that I could see a bit more of the park.

Hiked the road towards the steam banks and then the crater rim past the vistor center and onto devastation trail and the chain of craters road. Had better light today so took a few more photos of the forest and caldera along the way to the road. Even managed to find one more unique trail to take from the visitor center to the road.

Followed the crater rim road towards the Pu`u Huluhulu trail head. Nice part about this walk was the fact that every 20-30mins or so I came across an old lava field, cinder cone or crater. Saw some interesting lava formations as can be seen in the photos. Also found that some of the craters were older than others given the amount of vegetation that was growing on them. Guess this would have been an active part of the park in the 70's.

After walking for about 2 - 2.5 hours finally reach Pu`u Huluhulu trail head which then took me over the 1973 - 1974 lava flows to the top of a 150 foot prehistoric cinder cone. This cone was covered in vegetation. At the cone, had a bit of a wander around the rim and ended up having lunch and a rest here while taking in the views of Manua Ulu and nearby lava fields. 

By this point it was getting close to my turn around time (ie about 5hrs from when I started). Was thinking I should be heading back but given I had already gone this far ended up deciding to continue on towards Makaopuhi crater. On the way came across a sign saying you had to register with the visitor center even for day hikes. Since it was a 3-4hr walk back to the visitor center, decided to ignore the sign and continued on anyway.

Had a nice walk along the old lava flows with some interesting views of different lava flow formations. Had initially planned to just keep walking until the top of the nearby hill. In the end decided to walk all the way to the crater even though I kept looking and thinking about the time all the way there. In the end decided that I had time to make it back to the visitor center before dark and from there it wouldnt be to hard to follow the road back to the campground.

In the end made it all the way to the rim of the crater before turning around and quickly heading back towards the visitor center and my campsite. Managed to get back to the visitor center before dark though it was almost dark by the time I reached the Jaggar museum.

While walking back was thinking about the fact that I could probably make it to the backcountry in one day and be able to get in and out in 4 days. Fours days being the limit because I had other things I wanted to do and more importantly, four days because I really didnt have the food to camp for any more than that.

All I needed to do was leave a message with my brother or sister and let them know what I was up to. Thankfully managed to get through using a credit card and leave a message so was able to do the walk. Unfortunately found out later that a call that should have costed me no more than $10 ended up being $26. Not sure why and cant really argue given it was an automatic transaction, Maybe I got charged even for the calls that didnt connect. Anyways, that why I really dislike using credit cards for things like this since you never know what you'll get charged.

Ended the day by heading back to Jaggar Museum to watch the glow of the caldera. Observed that the light from the crater went from a dull red to a bright red on a number of occasions. Guess the amount of light depends on how high the lava is being pushed up from the underlying pressure. Would be nice to see an overflow but guess you either need to work by the side of the large crater or be extremely lucky

In the end had a long day walk of about 12 hours from the time I had left the campground until I reached Jaggar Museum. Also since I managed to get a call home and let them know what I was doing (foolishly failed to send an email home for a whole week before reaching the park) decided that I would do a hike in the back country. Originally this had been my only real plan for Hawaii and decided I would have a go at doing it even though it meant a long first day to reach the trail head. At least it was all downhill (towards sea) and the return trip could be broken in two by stopping off a a roadside campsite, even though it meant having to carry water for two days.
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