Saturday, August 11, 2012

I Love the Smell of Sulfur in the Morning

Day 2 (Saturday): I couldn't sleep past five. I WAS SLEEPING ON A VOLCANO. I finally sneaked out of bed at five thirty and hoped Drew could sleep through my fumbling coffee-making-in-an-armoire (not an exaggeration- the coffee pot was in the armoire). Luckily, Drew is pretty good at sleeping through stuff. We pungled together a breakfast of poppyseed bread, apple bananas (which are small bananas), and mangoes and set out for our Volcano Adventure 2012. 

At the visitor center, we learn for sure what we've been gathering through visits to the website: no current lava flowing. DAMMIT. I WAS HERE FOR LAVA.

Momentary disappointment. Onward. Next must-do was to drive the rim road of Kilauea. Turns out it is closed due to highs levels of sulfurous fumes. DAMMIT. Wait- no lava but tons of sulfurous fumes? What the hell, volcanologists?

Turns out that the Halema'uma'u crater inside Kilauea's crater (Pele's house) is acting up again and spewing steam and gas like nobody's business. This is more like it. I will not leave this mountain until I see something orange coming from the dirt.

Drew in front of the volcanous spew

Turns out you can sure see the steam rolling out, but you can't see the heat until nighttime. That gives us all day to look at less orange things, then we can come back to the Jaggar Museum on the rim road and see the orange heat of the Halema'uma'u Crater after 7:30 or so. 

We see steam vents and Japanese camera tourists, we see sulphur vents and oddly dressed American tourists, we beat the hordes of tour buses to the lava tube, we see the entirety of Kilauea and lots of park rangers trying to keep tourists from doing stupid shit, we hike on lots of small side trails to more or less interesting things, we stop and have a surprisingly good wood-fired oven pizza for lunch, then plunge down the side of the mountain toward the sea to see the most recent lava flows. 

We hike out to an area of older lava where there are some ancient petroglyphs preserved for viewing by walking over wooden walkways. Turtles, people, untranslatable squiggles, holes made to hold the umbilical cords of babies dead a thousand years. Awe inspiring, but this particular one and a half miles over lava with the warmest, moistest wind I've ever felt blowing on us was a bit of a cheek-pinkener.

At the black lava beach, the cameras click like an army of bugs. The surf pounding on the lava is beautiful and stark, but it's hard to take a picture without people in it.  Why did we book this vacation so that my volcano adventure time was on a weekend? Dumb. The most Japanese moment was when we took our last bit of energy that we could muster (me because of anemia and recent surgery and Drew because walking must be done without the aid of bicycles) and walked the half-mile out to the end of the road to see where the lava had rolled over the road and ended the road there its own self, and found six people: two children posing on the lava and four adults snapping pictures. All with cameras that cost more than my car. We take our own dumb pictures and head up the mountain for dinner. (Thai. Thumbs up.)

BACK TO KILAUEA. It is time to see some murtherfurking LAVA. Now that it is dark, we should be able to see the current eruption in all its glory. With a couple hundred other people who had the same idea! Ugh. This is not ideal, but I am not leaving without a clear shot of orange. I couldn't muscle myself into a space by the ledge (no muscle) so I stood behind a couple by the ledge and waited for them to get bored. It didn't take long. Luckily, I am unable to be bored by a VOLCANO. I was able to use an interpretive sign to steady my camera and took a long, flash-less exposure. 


LAVA ACCOMPLISHED. We can now continue our vacation with this bucket list task CHECKED OFF.


hedera said...

I agree, Halema'uma'u must be seen to be believed. I've never seen it cut loose, even with steam; the one time we were there it was quiet. It still freaked me out. On that same trip we drove up to the top of Haleakala on Maui, too; also dormant but really impressive.

If you'd like some vicarious lava, find Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii. I read it at the time. When he was there, Halema'uma'u was brimful of red wet stuff and nobody could get closer than the main crater rim. His description is impressive and scary as hell.

Now you've been initiated, remember this the next time you go to Yellowstone: the whole Yellowstone plateau is the caldera of a "super volcano." Where do you think they get all the hot springs? Shortly before our last visit, Scientific American ran an article on super volcanoes; I confess it made me a little edgy.

piglet said...

I enjoyed Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii. I also heartily recommend Sarah Vowell's Unfamiliar Fishes.