March 04, 2010

Hawaii - Part 2 (Hawaii Volcanoes National Park)

After thoroughly exploring the Kohala Mountains, we traveled across the island to visit the other hiking mecca on the Big Island, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  This new side of the island was dramatically different from where we had just come both from an ecological and geological perspective.

Views at the start of our hike to Halape

The lava flows were much more recent, including rocks that were less than 40 years old.  The ecological consequence of this was notably sparser vegetation; and as far as we were concerned, a severe lack of shade.

This plant seems to love growing out of lava rock - weirdo

We spent most of our time on a three-day hike to Halape, which was recommended to us by Megan (my cousin who studied Hawksbill Turtles there in the past).  We shuttled a car so we were able to hike in from the north, and out along the coast to the east.

The occasional vibrant flower seemed very out of place on our hike in

After losing about 2,600 feet of elevation in 8 miles, we arrived at a surprising oasis in the middle of an otherwise bland and inhospitable desert.

The Oasis known as Halape

Just as the map Megan hand drew for me at Christmas predicted, there was a brackish pool of water only a couple hundred feet from where we camped.  This pool was perfect for rinsing the much more salty ocean water off after swimming in the bay.

The Pond

One fun side experience was trying to break into a coconut.  I felt a bit like a primitive caveman, or possibly an ape, learning an elementary skill for the first time.  I eventually came up with an easy method for getting at the meat of the coconut while salvaging most of the milk (basically setting coconut on a rock and throwing another rock at it, then drinking the milk as it spilled out in a semi-controlled fashion).

After 1.5 coconuts, we couldn't stomach any more.

We spent most of the second day exploring our immediate surroundings.  Before long, we located the other spot shown on Megan's map: Halape Iki.  This was another oasis about a third of a mile west of where we were camped.  There was obviously much less people traffic here as it's not listed on any of the national park maps.

Halape Iki (we later confirmed our suspicions that "iki" means little)

When we returned from lounging at Halape Iki, we found that almost a dozen people had moved in where we had camped all by ourselves the previous evening.  To escape this unwelcome ruckus, we packed up camp and moved east along the coast to Apua Point, yet another oasis miraculously formed where the lava rock meets the sea.  This evening move turned our 11 mile hike out on the third day into about a 6.5 mile hike.  It was nice to break this up as the entire 11 miles was across barren lava rock, which grew monotonous after less than a mile.

Turns out I have a pension for taking pictures of waves as they crash into rocks

Our camp at Apua Point

We woke up early the next day to grind out the final 6.5 miles to make it back to our shuttled vehicle.  We stopped there briefly before continuing on past the car for 3/4 of a mile to the densest known zone of petroglyphs on the island at Pu'u Loa.

Classic shot of where the lava used to flow straight into the sea less than 40 years ago

A couple hundred year old chiseled turtle

After giving the petroglyphs their due admiration, we continued on the tourist path to the end of the road to take the picture of the sea arch that everyone else takes (for good reason, I suppose).

Holei Sea Arch

After that, we finished our tour of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park with a 4 mile hike around and through Kilauea Iki.  Unfortunately, there was no lava flowing within the park boundary.  We got word from a reliable source that we could go on a 6 mile round trip hike in the dark across private property to have a chance at seeing an active lava flow.  We opted not to.

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