Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Basking in Steam and Sulfur

We are leaving Island Hawaii today, but first....I want to stop off at Hawai'i  Volcanoes National Park, where our own personal volcanic steam bath awaits.

Interesting highway signage on the way.....Don't think I've seen 'Volcano' listed as a destination (like a town) before now.   It's just 19 miles straight ahead.   Evidently.

There's allot of Old Hawai'i to be enjoyed along the way, 
like this quaint little white Hawaiian church ~

And it's quaint little (adjacent) cemetery.

This National Park is home to two of the world's most active volcanoes ~  Kilauea (which we flew over in the helicopter) and Mauna Loa; it was created to preserve the natural setting of the volcanoes, and in the process, also serves as a refuge for some of the island's native plants and animals.  

We have to pause here to interject a 'Thank you!' to our friends V & S, who purchased our life-time National Park Pass for us when we drove through Zion Natl Park together;  (I skipped over referring to it as a Senior National Park Pass, 'cause.....I didn't want to offend my Mr. C);  so our day at Volcano Natl Park was totally free ~ it's one of those gifts that keeps on giving.......even in the middle of the Pacific Ocean ~ thanks to the both of you!

We were greeted with dubious signage about the active gasses and hazardous breathing conditions.   I particularly like the line, 'This Gas is a Danger to Everyone.'   (It did not leave any questions in my mind ~ how 'bout you???)

I think the bottom line message is:  Don't mess with Pele'.

I was immediately impressed when we stopped at the visitor's center, which was well-manned with Forest Rangers answering questions and dispensing valuable information.

I especially appreciated the priority postings:  "If you have limited time in the park, start with this and this."  "Or if you have longer, add this and this and that."  "But if you are here for the entire day, we suggest this itinerary."   Our plan of action was "pre-pared" for us, and we wasted no time picking out the trail that heads to the crater overlook.

My personal recommendation would be:  Take a walk!   I think you can drive the rim ~~ but don't miss the stroll!   The 'hike' or 'walk' or 'stroll' is what changes it from something you just 'see' to something that you get to experience.

I always appreciate stumbling upon 
the unexpected cultural preservation's 
such as this 'outdoor stage, or 'dance platform' along the way.


This is magical.  (And you would miss this if you were just 
driving the rim ~ just sayin').

Because there are two paths, we chose to take one heading out and the other to head back.  Travel tip here:  Why would you want to see the same scenery twice??  If you have the chance, always take an alternate route!

And again with the safety signs.  Beware of those Earth Cracks for sure!

This was a real volcanic experience, coming up,  let me tell you!
(And you don't see any of this if you are 
driving to the rim ~  just sayin'!  
You can see that there's nothing difficult about this path!)

We are taking the "Sulfur Banks Trail", which is a path that turns into a board walk through the active sulfur pits. Again with the 'hazardous to your health and life threatening' signs.

You can sure 'nuff tell that the sulfur pits are active, both by the puffs of gasses erupting all about, and by the distinctive, noxious odor of the sulfur;

As well as the yellow sulfur crystals 
that collect at the mouth of these sulfur vents.   

And here's a  reminder, posted along the path, of what just might befall those who choose to ignore the warnings;  'Don't mess with Pele'! 

It reminds me a bit of the boardwalks at Yellowstone National Park that take you out to the geyser fields.

Even this terrain is vastly varied.  Some of it looks really barren; 

And some is not-so-barren. 

And, again, you would miss all this were you not 
taking this little stroll.   

Ahhh, but now it changes.  Next the path leads us to where the steam vents are huffing and puffing out this fabulous, warm, hydrating steam.  

They are everywhere ~ in the trees, and along the path ~ 

I am fascinated!   

It's not continuous; meaning it poofs a little and then rests a bit and then puffs some more. It feels marvelous on the skin, like a high-priced sauna at some fancy spa.  No fumes here, just steam.  

I am soakin' it up.

 You really get the feeling that you are experiencing a living being; 
indeed, it is literally the earth itself breathing, 
right from it's very core.

The ferns adore all this moisture, and they 
show their approval by thriving here.

To be fair, I must include a photo from the overlook at Crater Rim.  This is the view you are rewarded with if you decide to drive.  
But you will have missed much on the journey.

Alas, it's (already) time to head back to our car;  we have to catch a plane back to our own island of Oahu.

This is our alternate trail back; 
and, yes, it was just as awesome as it looks.


And there are other sights to be savoured along the way ~ 

I think it's a tombstone of some sort, but I really don't know ~ 

And I have to wonder, are his pictures so much better than mine?!?   That's one mighty big camera right there!

Lotsa' things here that we're not used to watching for while driving back to the airport ~ in addition to last night's,  'Invisible Cows'  there are donkey crossings; there are cattle crossings (of the non-invisible nature); there are these sheep crossings ~ 

And there are Nene crossings (of course I thought of you, NaeNae!)  This is the State Bird of Hawai'i, albeit rare (it's the world's rarest goose).  It's thought that it was once common, something like 25,000 Hawaiian geese living here when Captain Hook arrived in 1778.  But when he introduced predators such as mongoose, pigs, & cats, it reduced the population to just 30 geese in 1952.  Ouch!

The good news is, the result of active breeding in captivity has resulted in numbers like 1,000 now in zoos and collections, and an estimated 800 in the wild.

So the real question becomes, how on earth do they know?  How do they know where these random Nene's might just happen to cross the highway???   I'm so intrigued!

And here's a funny story to end the day ~ Mr. C has allotted enough time on our way to the airport to stop in the little town of Pahoa to take some photo's ~ 'cause, there's a real likelihood that Kiluea is going to wipe this little town off the map (the lava flow is a mere .4 miles from the town, even as we speak); and he thinks we should have 'before' pix to counter the 'after' pix.  

All that's fine & well, and we show up and take a few photo's for posterity's sake.

Except we were in Pahala, not Pahoa.  Close.  But even Mr. C doesn't get it right every single time.  Such is life on the Hawaiian islands.

So  as we bid farewell,  cheers to Island Hawai'i, and a wonderful Anniversary Island Hop.  We've had a marvelous time!  (This was one of the best Mai-Tai's of my short little life!)  

And we arrive back at our own little corner of Paradise (on Oahu) in time for sunset.  Wow, you are amazing!  Thank you, Mr. C, for all the travel adventures, always. and for always making me feel like a princess!


  1. Oh wow! A natural spa day!! I agree, I was reminded at times while reading this of Yellowstone, all but the end of the day photos! (No palm trees in Yellowstone – I don’t think.)
    What a wonderful adventure packed full of great photos and details! That darling little white church! These past few years you’ve been to the magnificent cathedrals and humble quaint churches! Thanks for sharing another wonderful getaway adventure!

    1. The little white church photo was while we were just zippin' by.......Google + liked that one, too. And you're right, lots of magnificent cathedrals, and some of these humble quaint churches ~ it's quite the span from splendor to simple.
      So the one thing I neglected to talk about in this article was the effect of the volcanic gasses and debris in the air. As we left the park and drove the west shore of the island (where the wind blows all the VOG), after an entire day of breathing that air (top down in the convertible) we found that our eyes were stinging and our throats were raw. We could literally taste the VOG. It's the real deal there!


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