“Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park displays the results of 70 million years of volcanism, migration, and evolution — processes that thrust a bare land from the sea and clothed it with unique ecosystems, and a distinct human culture. The park highlights two of the world’s most active volcanoes, and offers insights on the birth of the Hawaiian Islands and views of dramatic volcanic landscapes.” (HVNP website)
Usually when driving towards the national park the group has the opportunity to see Mauna Loa mauka (to the mountain side) of the road and cinder cones on Mauna Kea makai (to the sea side). On this particular day it was rainy and misty though so no views were possible. The group discussed the Ohia Lehua trees visible from the vehicle. After, the group reviewed the life cycle stage of each of the island’s volcanoes. When the group arrived at the park they first headed to the Kilauea Iki trailhead. From there views into the crater are magnificent. Active steam rising from the vents below gives one a sense of the liveliness of the park. The group descended the trail into the crater and learned about Hapu’u fern, Ohia Lehua, ferns and ginger. At the bottom of the trail they reviewed the how the “bathtub ring” was created, where the enormous pile of cinder came from and why the steam vents exist. The group hiked across the crater and got close up views of the steam vents.
After ascending the trail on the other side of the crater the group hiked to the Thurston Lava Tube and through the surrounding forest. The group learned of the creation of lava tubes and then got to see one first hand, both the lighted section and then the part of the tube still in its ‘natural state.’ Luckily the group had their headlamps and were able to explore. The adventure culminated when the group completed the last half mile of the loop they had begun at the Kilauea Iki parking lot a few hours before.