Big Island: Lava, Part 1

After leaving Volcanoes National Park, we headed for the Hawaii County lava viewing area to get a better sense of where the lava was flowing and how we could see it. We’d learned at Jaggar Museum in the park that the lava was flowing and entering the ocean near the park boundary. The official word was that you had to join a guide service to go out on the lava.

Ocean view from the hike

At the viewing area, we spoke with the attendant who just happened to be a resident of the community at the end of the road. He told us that the county had hired people like him to tell us not to go, that we’d be trespassing on private property, and that the county had condemned all the recent flows and closed them to the public. The general word around the viewing area was that “those who are going to go, go. Otherwise, hire a guide.”

Our first glimpse of the steam plume

With the local guides charging about $100 (or more) to walk the two plus miles over the lava, we decided to go for it on our own. We headed out just after dawn by following a trail near the Kalapana Village Cafe towards the water. Upon reaching the ocean, we made a right and followed the coast towards a group of trees on a raised chunk of rock. After scrambling up onto the rock, we followed a path through the trees and along the water. Continuing further to the west, we left the vegetation just as the plume from the ocean entry was in sight.

Forrest and the ocean entry

Ocean entry

Watching the lava enter the ocean and actually extend the land was particularly facinating to me. The ocean entry wasn’t the only show, however, there was a good sized lava flow to see (and play with). Seeing and hearing lava was an absolutely astounding experience. Forrest had been sure to grab a stick so he could play with the molten rock. There was no one else on the ground at the flow so we had everything all to ourselves.

Forrest approaching the lava flow
A totally different kind of red rock.

After playing with the lava for a bit, we headed closer to the ocean entry for a better view.

Up close and personal with the ocean entry

F also decided to boss the lava around a little bit:

Forrest tangles with Pele.
Lava and a rainbow

We covered somewhere around four and a half miles on the lava. Going out and back plus our time at the flow took us somewhere in the ballpark of four and a half hours.

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