Laura and Lee's Big Island Bash

March 13-19, 2004
Part 2

Monday, March 15 - Volcanoes National Park

Pahoehoe lava
I heard it raining periodically through the night...I hoped it would get it out of its system so that we would get some clearer weather!

I didn't wake up at 5:00 this morning...it was 5:30. :-) I got up around 6:00 and worked on this trip report and listened to it rain some more. At least the clouds don't look as thick today. Our host arrived around 6:30 and started working on breakfast.

Breakfast was really good and included a papaya boat with bananas as well as delicious macadamia nut pancakes and sausage.

It was still raining lightly but we hoped that in one of the three different (drier) climatic zones around the volcano (we got that from Ranger Dave) we'd find better weather.

Back at the Visitor Center we got a free permit to hike beyond the normal visitor area, though the ranger warned us that viewing toward Pu'u O'o, the currently active area, was probably not going to be very good. But we wanted to keep our options open in case the weather improved.

We drove along the Crater Rim road and saw a lovely rainbow though it was still raining lightly. Saw lots of craters, too, imagine that! We went down Chain of Craters road where we could see lots of sun and blue sky to the southwest - I said I wanted to go there! :-) But at least it had stopped raining. It was very windy along there but by the time we arrived at the end of the road we'd dropped almost 4000 feet and the temperature had risen 20 degrees. Even I was comfortable in t-shirt and shorts.

Arch of the Day!
Holei Sea Arch
The road used to go all the way to Hilo, but a lava flow blocked it back in the 1980s and additional flows have now covered about 12 miles of it. The road ends quite a bit sooner than it did when we were here in 1987. We were able to walk over to the cliff edge and see the Holei Sea Arch - my first (and probably only) arch of the trip. And therefore Arch of the Day! Though technically it's a bridge rather than an arch, since it was formed by water instead of wind and erosion.

It's actually about a half mile from the parking area to the real end of the road where the lava covers it, so we walked there and climbed around on the lava a bit. When Madam Pele says "No Parking", she means "No Parking". :-)

We went back up Chain of Craters road and stopped at the Pu'u Loa petroglyphs. These were made by ancient Hawaiians, but a lot of them looked similar to those we saw in Utah last year. Lee wanted to know how many years it takes before "graffiti" is considered to be a "petroglyph". :-)

Walt, Barb and Lee looking over Kilauea Iki,
which erupted in 1959...not long after Walt was born.
Coincidence??? I think not...
The Devastation Trail was our next stop - it's a one mile trail through an area that was deforested by the 1959 eruption of Kilauea Iki. There actually wasn't as much "devastation" as I was expecting - the plants seem to be doing a good job of reclaiming it.

We had lunch at the Volcano House - it was a fairly good buffet and the dining room has a great view looking out over the Kilauea Caldera Halema'uma'u Crater in the distance. We had a table right next to the window. The weather had improved but it still wasn't clear.

We visited the Volcano Arts Center - lots of nice work by local artists, but VERY expensive.

By the time we left it had started raining lightly again, but we decided to go to Kilauea Iki and do our planned hike there anyway. We had some mist/drizzle for most of it, but no real rain, and considering that part of the trail was about a mile across a black lava field that would have been very hot on a sunny day, we were just as happy to have the cloudcover.

The trail goes down about 400 feet from the crater rim to the floor of Kilauea Iki (Little Kilauea) which erupted in 1959. For 36 days it put on quite a show, with fountains of lava up to 1900 feet high - not to mention traffic jams 10 miles long. The lava took 36 years to solidify and even now it's still hot under the surface - rainwater that percolates down comes back to the surface through many steam vents. That was one advantage to being here after a good rain, we saw lots of those.

It was pretty cool walking across the lava - we felt like we were in Mordor, though at least we weren't being chased by orcs and Nazgul! :-)

That Atkins logo is *everywhere* these days!
The trail is a loop - you go down, across the crater and up the other side, then back along the rim to where you started. It's about 4 miles, and we thought it was an excellent hike, though I would not want to do it on a hot sunny day - that would be a little *too* much like Mordor! :-) It would have been nice to have a little clearer day for photos, though. But we figured if the weather was better on Tuesday we could do a quick turn through the park on our way out.

It had been a pretty long day and it was around 5:00 by the time we arrived back at the B&B. We took advantage of the hot tub, which felt pretty good! For dinner we walked maybe a tenth of a mile to the Kiawe Cafe. It was NOT rated in BIR (I think it's too new) but it was pretty good. Each couple split carrot soup and a salad and then we all shared two pizzas - pesto and a white pizza. They had a real woodfired brick oven for the pizzas.

The only problem was that they didn't have any desserts since the chef hadn't made any that day, but Walt quickly popped next door to the Volcano Store (literally as they were closing!) and picked up some brownie mix - since we had a full kitchen available for us back at the B&B.

The brownies turned out well and we shared them with the other two couples who seemed to enjoy them, too.

It was much warmer than it had been the night before, probably because it wasn't raining and didn't have that extra humidity in the air. I called Darin who said it was clear and warm over on his side of the island, so we should get a lot more sun from now on!

(Left to right: antherium, some kind of butterfly, lehua blossom, LOF, and pink hibiscus)


Tuesday - Volcanoes, Beaches, Sea Turtles, South Point

I was awake by 5:00 and up before 6:00 again, despite going to bed at a more "normal" time. Oh well, it gives me time to get caught up on the trip report!

It was a beautiful morning - mostly blue sky with a thin layer of clouds.

Breakfast was the papaya boat again plus French Toast. It was ok but nothing special - didn't even use sweet Hawaiian bread. The macadamia nut pancakes were a lot better.

There were several geese around the place but for whatever reason they were afraid of me - I'd walk toward them and they would waddle away. It was pretty funny. Speaking of geese...the Nene (Hawaiian goose) is native to that area, and we saw lots of signs in the park like this one. But unfortunately on this trip there were no-no nene sightings for us! :-)

We were packed and on the road by 9:00. The other two couples were also headed to the town of Captain Cook, but not staying at the same B&B.

Since it was a beautiful day we went back to Volcanoes to see some of the views that we hadn't been able to see because of the cloudy conditions.

So we took the 11 mile Crater Rim drive again. We visited the sulphur banks and stopped at a couple of places to look at the Halema'uma'u Crater. It is HUGE - that's the area that was a sea of lava during the 1800s. Even today it's still venting a lot of fumes, and there's a warning for people who might be more susceptible, like children, pregnant women and those with breathing problems.

We stopped at the Jagger Museum - named for Thomas Jagger and not Mick. :-) Though he DID deal with rock in its liquid form...would that make him a Roiling Stone? :-) It was a very interesting museum - we learned that the Big Island is actually composed of five different volcanoes that merged together. (The Big Island is almost twice the size of all the other Hawaiian islands put together!) Lo'ihi, the new one off the coast, will eventually (in a few million years) join up with the rest of the island to make it even bigger. We also finally found out the difference between a crater and a caldera - Crater Rim drive goes around the Kilauea Caldera. A crater is a volcanic depression, and a caldera is a very LARGE crater. It's like one of those logic questions from the SAT test..."If all volcanic depressions are craters, and all calderas are volcanic depressions, then all craters are calderas...True or False." (It's false, by the way.)

Pahoehoe lava

We eventually worked our way back to the Kilauea Iki overlook, where, on our third day at that particular overlook, we finally had a clear view of the crater. And that was it - time to say goodbye to Volcanoes and head over to the Kona District - and what should be the drier side of the island.

Our first stop was just a short distance away at the Volcano Winery. I'd read about them in BIR and seen the wine bottles in the Volcano Store - some interesting types of wine! So we did a wine tasting at 11:00 in the morning. A bit early for me. :-) Most of their wines are a blend of grapes and fruit, and they are sweeter than regular wines. But I think that's good because I like sweet wines! We got bottles of the guava white wine and the Volcano Blush, which is a blend of grapes and jaboticaba berries. Jaboticaba berries are rather strange - they grow directly on the trunk and branches of the tree rather than at the end of a branch.

They also had a honey wine made from macadamia nut honey, but to me it had a strange aftertaste. I didn't find it to be as sweet as I expected, either.

Continuing southwest around the island we got down to lower elevations (Volcano is about 4000 feet) - all the way to sea level actually, since our stop was at Punalu'u black sand beach. We'd been told by several sources, including Darin and BIR, that you could see the green sea turtles here. There were several swimming just offshore feeding on the limu (algae) on the rocks. And one that was napping on the beach just along the water's edge. Walt thought it was dead, until we saw it move its head several times. We were surprised there weren't people crowded around it, but of course how interesting is a sleeping sea turtle? But because of the way we approached the beach we hadn't seen the signs asking you to stay 15 feet away. Oops.

Continuing down the road we had lunch at the Na'alehu Fruit Stand and bakery. This was the only place BIR really steered us wrong - it implied that there weren't really any other food choices in the area and highly recommended the macadamia nut shortbread. All the bakery had were some not-very-inspiring pre-made sandwiches, and the shortbread was good but not great. The pineapple coconut bread was pretty good, though. As we went further down the road we saw several other eating establishments that would have been a lot more promising!

Not much further down the road we took the barely-one-lane road to South Point, which as the name implies, is the southernmost point in the US. The road was in good shape, though, with plenty of grassy shoulder for passing. Once we left the main road there were no signs to tell you where you were going and when you arrived - good thing we had the book! It was a pretty area - rolling hills with lots of cows and horses. It was quite windy, and you can definitely tell which way the wind normally blows! :-)

We backtracked a little bit to the turnoff for the road to Mahana Bay - a *green sand* beach. Several of our sources had recommended this. With our SUV we were able to go a little further down the road than most cars, but it was still a two mile walk each way. Which is no big deal for us, of course. As it turned out the road was good enough that we could have easily driven it without feeling too guilty about our rental agreement, but it was a nice walk.

It took us about half an hour, and then we spent about ten minutes trying to figure out how to get down the cliff to the beach itself - we could see a path but it wasn't obvious how to get there - we had to scramble about 5 feet down a rock face. There was no one there when we arrived, but about ten other people showed up later. We thought that was surprising since it was almost 3:30 by the time we got there. Walt, Barb and Lee went swimming and had a good time playing in the waves.

It was a very pretty place - the sand was a combination of green olivine and black. We obeyed the admonitions of BIR and a local sign and didn't take any sand other than what might have stowed away in bathing suits and shoes.

It was almost 5:00 when we got back to the car and we were surprised to see several other groups still headed out there...tropical night falls *very* fast so I hope they had flashlights!

We arrived at our home for the next three nights, Rainbow Plantation, about 6:30. We had the Fern Room and Walt and Barb had the Hale Huna in a separate building. Private bath here, which was nice.

It's kind of a funky eclectic place - which is what we were expecting after seeing their web site. It's a farm with Kona coffee and macadamia nuts and they also have quite a collection of animals - chickens, a miniature horse, two pot belly pigs, koi ponds, and lots of bird cages with a variety of parrots, lovebirds, cockatiels and others I didn't recognize. And lots of peacocks, including a free-ranging male that unfortunately liked to perch in the tree outside our window around nightfall and screech. At least he stopped before bedtime! Oh, and they had a dog, too. :-)

For dinner our hostess recommended Billy Bob's Park and Pork, which was just down the road. The southern-most Southern BBQ place in the world. We thought it was very good with lots of food for a reasonable price. And we were hungry and ate most of it!

For dessert we went to the grocery store and got ice cream and hot fudge sauce - the B&B had an outdoor kitchen that guests could use.

One disadvantage of this place is that it was down the hill and we had no cell phone service there, and no phones in the room. So I called Darin from the grocery store and we made some tentative plans for the next day, though he had to work in the morning.

We got an interesting surprise when we turned our lights out - someone had put glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling and walls, and it looked like we were sleeping under the stars!


Other Links

Part 1
Part 3
Tigger's Hawaiian Hukilau
Trip Photo Album - Just the pix, ma'am!
Back to Laura and Lee's Vacation page


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Text and photographs copyright © 2004 by Laura Gilbreath. All rights reserved.