Exploring new places is one of my favourite things to do anywhere I go, especially when it’s a place called Volcano National Park. This national park is in Hawaii, located on the Big Island. To put the Volcano National Park in perspective, it was bigger than the entire island of Oahu which is the island I spent the first part of my trip on and is the most populated. A place this big has lots of opportunity for exploring and I found some of the coolest things I’ve ever seen, and I even got to see LAVA!
There are 2 active volcanos in the park and each year they spew out new lava that forms more land or lava tubes, while also posing the risk of destroying forests, threatening homes, and covering roads. The start of this trip had us arriving at the park around 4:00pm (I don’t really remember the time – I think it was earlier) and we got to see the steam vent fields, and when I say fields, I mean it! There had to be 30+ steam vents in this area and huge clouds of steam were coming out of small holes in the ground that collected rainwater that got super heated from the lava and it came back up as steam. What came with the steam was the smell of volcanos. If you’ve ever been to a natural hot spring, a geyser, or a volcano itself, you’ve probably encountered the smell I’m about to say: eggs. But like rotten eggs. It does not smell good and sort of ruins the awe-inspiring scenery. In reality, it’s just a mix of Sulphur and Phosphorus (I think) that create the smell. Consider this your warning for when you get to a volcano. Below are the photos of the steam vents.
After the steam vents, it was time for the meat and potatoes, the lava pool at Halemaʻumaʻu crater. Picture it a giant pool of red-hot molten rock… That is not something you see in everyday life. I know I said this was the meat and potatoes but I lied to you, I’m sorry I had to! This visit at around 5 was just to tease you and me. When I got out of the car and looked at the crater, it just looks like a crater with a hole in the middle with more steam, not much to it. The lava sits around 30 meters below the surface and this was just to see what it was like in the daytime. When you go back at night, you get to really see the glow of the lava, see it splutter and pop out of the lake. You’ll have to wait until later to see the glow just like I did. But fear, not the view was still amazing during the day.
All over the park, we saw different signs of lava and the damage the unstoppable force can cause, but it was time to explore more the park and see the lava fields from when the volcano erupted in the 60’s. A short drive from the crater and we came to the fields. Just as the sun was setting, not only were we standing on lava fields, but also the sky itself turned into a sky filled with lava. We got to see a lot of the park, even the giant fissure that you couldn’t see to the bottom of (a fissure is a giant crack in the earth’s surface, I googled it). We also saw MASSIVE fields of just black lava rock, with some parts so smooth you didn’t need shoes, to parts that were so sharp and jagged you couldn’t even touch. The diverse scenes from the lava were incredible, and we even got to see where lava encountered a tree. I know you’re thinking about what I just said… “Lava and a tree meet? It would just burn to the ground,” but you’d be wrong in some circumstances. When lava is moving super fast it can reach and surround the tree and engulf it with molten rock, however it then cools, as the lava flow keeps moving. Since the lava was moving so fast, the tree couldn’t burn fast enough, therefore leaving a lava mold around the tree. The tree mold can be so detailed to the point that you see markings from the bark. This was probably one of the coolest things I saw in the park, but don’t take my word about the different things I saw in the park look at these pictures!
The hollow casting of the tree wasn’t the only tube in the park; one of the more famous attractions at the park is the 600-foot mega lava tube! The lava tube is an enormous tube much like a subway tube that is underground yet is not man-made like a subway (duh…). It forms when lava is flowing again at a fast rate and it cools around the molten lava in the middle that keeps moving. Think of it like a straw the liquid is moving through a hollow tube, that’s how the lava tube is formed and when you’re walking inside the tube itself, it is magical. The tube is imperfect and the size varies throughout with some sections going up to 20 feet high, and some sections where I had to duck to keep walking. It is just raw and natural inside. I would highly recommend the tube at night, or rather when the park isn’t busy. It’s kind of eerie when inside.
The sun had set, we had explored the park and it was finally time to head back to Halemaʻumaʻu crater to see the glow of the lava lake. It was very different to drive up to the crater at night; you could no longer see steam, just the glow from the lava. There was a bright orange hue coating the crater and while you couldn’t see the source yet, we all knew that it was a lake of lava. I wish we were allowed to get close to the lava however it’s a national park and there are obvious safety concerns with that. However, I did snag this photo of a lava splashing through a telescope, and let me tell you I looked through that telescope in awe for a long time just thinking about how cool it was that a lake of lava was right in front of me!
It is now time to get back to my reality of the cold Canadian winter. My trip to Hawaii is over, but there is always an adventure at home! See you at there!