There is a remarkable poster of the Hawaiian islands that shows the land beneath the sea. Well, really what it shows is the mountains that make up the land that became the islands. Every island has a volcano, because that’s how they were formed. When we arrived here we were told there are thirteen micro-climates from desert to rainforest, and, I guess, everything in between, thanks to the three mountains that make up the Big Island. The mountainside near the volcano is lush, with ferns, huge ferns, moss, palm trees amid lava rocks. Humid, wet air surrounds you, the dampness a bit chilling, but not cold.
The Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is part of the National Park Service. It’s funny, no matter what park you enter in the US, continental or not, the design of the Ranger Station is the same. They give you a nice little brochure and direct you to the Visitor Center where you learn that this is a big mountain, and if you really want to see lava flowing you need to be prepared with boots and gloves and a long hike. So we drove. Our first stop was The Crater. A huge overlook, a big hole in the ground and a lot of steam and a warning that this volcano has erupted almost regularly since 1984. Life is amazing, you have to appreciate that when you see plants surviving where there should be nothing but black stone and gravel. There are trails to hike, but I think the most interesting thing to see was the Lava Tube. You walk down stairs spiraling, finally flat land and a bridge. Overgrown with vegetation, the land can be dark and gloomy.
Cross the bridge and you walk through an old lava tube, dank, watery, dark with some human made light. What we walked through was the Thurston Lava Tube, five hundred years old. Lava caves are formed when a river oflava gradually builds solid walls and
a ceiling.There are signs, Visitor Alert! High amounts of dangerous sulfur dioxide gas, keep your windows closed when it’s visible. A reminder of the potent force that is our planet. It is hard to see the volcano, and since Kilauea is the most studied volcano on earth. We opted for the video.