A group of PQ students recently has an adventure at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park! The group packed up the cars and headed up the Southeastern coast towards the park, listening to music and playing fun games along the way. The car ride followed a highway that took the group past stunning panoramic ocean views over Whittington beach park, where everyone could see the Pacific ocean spanning off into the horizon. The group also drove through the Ka’u desert, into the lowland Ohi’a Lehua forest on the gentle slopes of Mauna Loa, and finally into the national park and its vast, lush expanses of tropical forests.
The first stop on this outing was the Thurston Lava Tube. Known as Nāhuku, the lava tube was discovered (or possibly re-discovered) in 1913 by Lorrin Thurston, a local news publisher at the time. The group stopped for a brief lesson on how lava tubes are formed before setting off on a winding trail through a forest of tree ferns. At the bottom of the trail the large, ominous mouth of the lava tube became visible and the group was soon inside it’s lighted passageways. The group entered the tube and took a moment of stillness to observe the cavernous silence of the tube, imagining a river of molten lava flowing through the spot where they were standing over one hundred years ago. After this moment, the group took a few group photos and then made their way through the remainder of the tunnel, pausing to touch the walls of the tube, feel the moisture and moss, and observe spiderwebs hang from lights lining the tube. At the end of the tunnel, everyone made their way up a series of winding staircases that joined a path to complete the trail loop. After the lava tube, everyone was ready for lunch. The group enjoyed a picnic while a student read stories about Pele, the goddess of fire, and her journey through the Hawaiian islands before finally finding a home in a crater at the national park.
After lunch, the group was ready to head out on the next excursion, a trek that would take them around and across the floor of the nearby Kilauea Iki crater. Descending again through the lush rainforest, the students arrived on the crater floor. The crater’s most recent natural history is dominated by a 1959 vent eruption that spewed a curtain of lava 1900 feet into the air for five weeks. This eruption filled the valley floor to create a lake of lava weighing an estimated 86 million tons and rising to a depth of 400 feet. As the group walked and talked together, they couldn’t help but pause periodically to marvel at the natural beauty of the crater as everyone looked out in awe over the crater, under Mauna Loa, and across the steam vents.
As the group continued across the crater floor, everyone paused to learn about and observe some of the steam vents, and look for interesting geologic marvels such as ‘Pele’s Hair’ – thin strands of rock lifted from the lava lake of Kilauea’s caldera and blown by the wind to settle in cracks and crevices all over the surrounding area. Students marveled at the Ohi’a Lehua trees that took root in the otherwise desolate crater floor, ruminating on how life finds a way to endure, even in the harshest conditions. Everyone hiked back up the switchbacks on the opposite side of the crater and made the short hike back through the rainforest to where the cars were parked. Just before leaving the crater, the group stopped at an overlook to take one last look at how vast the crater was and how far they had come. A tired, but very fulfilled ohana climbed back into the cars to relax and reflect on the ride back to Pacific Quest.