Hawaiʻi 2017: Hawaiʻi Volcanoes NP

Day 6, Monday, May 15, 2017

After we climbed back up the road from Waipio Valley, we had lots more sightseeing to do!  Once again, we went to Tex’s for malasadas.  I got guava filling the second time.  So yummy!

Malasadas in the oil!

Our next stop was at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; unfortunately by then it was really raining hard.  We went to the museum near the crater (it is open later than the main Visitor Center).  From the patio at the museum you could see the glow from the crater after dark.  The sun was going down when we arrived, but you couldn’t see the sunset because it was so socked in with rain!  My camera battery died at that point but I did get a few photos with my phone of the crater glow with streaks of rain.  And I got the stamps for the park and some postcards at the museum store.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park


The crater glow with rain streaks!

Next we drove over to the Thurston Lava Tube, named for an influential family that played a big part in the establishment of the park.  Brandon and I walked down and through it in the rain – the rain flows through the porous lava and drips in from the ceiling.  Brent and Rich had already seen it and opted to stay in the car.  The tube was really cool – it was about 20 feet tall!  It wasn’t very long, but we didn’t go quite all the way to the end, because there was quite a bit of standing water at the end.  It was interesting to compare it to other lava tubes I saw a few months later in Idaho, Washington and Oregon!

The lava tube


Me in the Lava Tube

On my next trip there, I would really like to hike out to where the lava flows into the water.  The hike varies based on where the lava is flowing.  When I was there last May, it would have been about an 8 mile round trip hike.  It would be awesome to do it in the late afternoon, so I can see the sunset over the water, and see the lava flowing after dark.  Of course, the hike back would be in the dark with headlamps – fun!

Interestingly, Hawaiians used to sometimes bury chiefs in lava tubes.  They removed the flesh from the bones and wrapped them and placed them in a lauhala basket; they then placed the baskets and offerings into the lava tubes and closed them off.  I learned that there are a number of lava tubes in the cliffs on Hawaiʻi that have been sealed off that way.

Due to the rain, and the fact that it was getting dark when we got there, we didn’t get to see much of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.  A return visit is certainly in order, to see more and do more.  There is a scenic drive along the crater rim that we saw very little of, the Chain of Craters Scenic drive, which goes down to the water (part of this drive has now been closed due to the active lava flow), and over 150 miles of hiking trails!  One of the most fascinating things about the park is that while the lava continues to destroy things; 9 miles of the Chain of Craters road, a visitor’s center, a historic Hawaiian village, etc., it also continues to add new land to the island and the park.  I can’t wait to get back.

That night, we went to the Thai Thai restaurant – I had a Shrimp Wonton soup that was soooo good.  It had broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, cabbage, spinach and green onions.  And shrimp wontons!  Delicious!  I should have taken home leftovers. And now I’m craving that soup!

My Shrimp Wonton Soup – YUM!

We got home late that night. On our drive home, we passed South Point, which has one of only four green sand beaches in the world!  The sand is green because the lava there contains olivine, which gives the sand its green hue when the lava rock breaks down into fine sand.  Of course we just passed the turnoff on our drive home, and wouldn’t have been able to see anything anyway because it was long past dark.  I definitely want to go there on my next trip.

Volcanic glass with olivine

Our day was once again amazing and we saw really cool things.  We also had to pass up a lot of really cool things!  I have so many ideas for my next visit!


Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park History

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park was established on August 1, 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson.  It was the 11th National Park established in the U.S., and the first in a U.S. territory. It contains and protects two active volcanoes: Kīlauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the world’s largest shield volcano.  A shield volcano is one built almost entirely of fluid lava flows, and is usually lower to the ground than other types of volcanoes with gentle slopes; it is said to look like a warrior’s shield.

The park today consists of 323,431 acres (505.36 sq mi) of land, with more than 50 percent designated as the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes Wilderness area.  In 2004, an additional 115,788 acres of land were purchased through a partnership with the Nature Conservancy and added to the park, making it 56% larger than its original boundaries.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Historically, Kīlauea and the Halemaʻumaʻu caldera with it are considered by the Hawaiian people to be the sacred home of the volcano goddess Pele, and Hawaiians visited the crater to offer gifts to the goddess.  In 1790, a party of Hawaiian warriors (along with women and children) were in the area, and were killed in a violent and fast-moving eruption. Many of the Hawaiians killed and others left footprints in the lava that can still be seen today.

The first western visitors to the site arrived in 1823, and the volcanoes became a tourist attraction in the 1840s.  Several hotels and restaurants were built along the rim of the volcanoes to accommodate the tourists traveling there.  Now, Volcano House is the only hotel within the borders of the national park.

The park has an easily accessible lava tube that was named for the Thurston family, a family that was influential in the designation of the park as a National Park.  It is open and can be walked through, with only a short, paved walk to reach it.

There are also amazing hiking and camping opportunities – how often do you get to hike and camp on lava!  The park ranges in elevation from sea level to the summit of the active volcano Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet.  From ocean views all the way up to stunning and violent lava flows!  The climates in the park range from tropical rain forest, to a desert landscape.  I was consistently surprised by the range of climate and bio-diversity that I saw on my trip to Hawaiʻi.

There are also a couple of scenic drives, giving visitors amazing views of the volcanic craters and the ocean.  The Chain of Craters Road takes you past several craters from historic eruptions to the coast. However, some of the road has now been covered by more recent lava flows.  The landscape here is always changing.

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park was designated as an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980 and a World Heritage Site in 1987, designations that recognize its beauty and importance in nature.

It was a brief visit, and I didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked, but I will share my visit in my next post!

Hawaiʻi 2017: Waipio Valley

Day 6, Monday, May 15, 2017

Monday morning we got ready to go for some more sightseeing!  And out we went!  We stopped at Havi, a small town that is known for being an artist community, to have lunch with Rich’s friend at a local BBQ food truck.  It was so yummy!  I had BBQ ribs with sticky rice and macaroni salad, but there were lots of options for both the main course and the sides.  On my next visit, I would like to poke around in the local shops and explore Havi a bit more than we did.

After lunch, we drove up over the volcano again, so some of the scenery was familiar from our previous trip a few days before.  But this time, our second stop was in Waipio Valley.  Waipio has a really crazy one lane 4WD road down to the bottom.  You are on private property; they say you are supposed to be a local to go down there, but there are hikes down there and it is beautiful!  The road was very rough – it was nice to have the old, rickety Rodeo; it isn’t a road that is suitable at all for cars – although you can walk down to the bottom (and then back up!).


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Down at the bottom there are a couple of river crossings, and then we got to an amazing waterfall, a beach and the river’s tributary at the beach.  It’s even black sand there.

We wandered around on the beach for awhile.  Feeling the sand between my toes!  Wading out into the river tributary was so peaceful.  One day I really want to do the hikes in that area, and explore the jungle trail.  A friend of mine has done one (a 12 miler one) and had excellent things to say about the experience.



I saw a bird I had never seen before standing near the river fishing – it turned out it was a Juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron.  Rich took some great photos of Yellow-billed Cardinals that were eating from a coconut someone had split open for them.  The females aren’t as brilliant as the males, with brown backs and heads instead of the black back and bright red head of the male. We also saw several mongooses (what is the plural of mongoose anyway?) running in front of the truck too as we were driving on the road down into the valley, but I wasn’t able to get photos of them, despite my best efforts.  Those little guys are fast!



Next time, I want to spend a lot more time here!  The weather wasn’t that great when we were there, as it was periodically raining lightly and windy, so returning on a sunny day would be awesome!  Hiking, having a picnic on the beach, just hanging out listening to the crash of the waves.  Waipio Valley is one of my favorite places on Earth!


Hawaiʻi 2017: Beach Walk

Day 5, Sunday, May 14, 2017

After I swam with dolphins, Jay dropped me off back at the condo and that afternoon Brent and I wandered over to the market across the street and checked out the wares.  I didn’t buy anything then, but checked out things for gifts at home.  We also had shave ice!  So yummy!  Straight sugar and ice!  There were about 50,000 different syrup flavors (give or take a few), and I’m not sure I can really even tell the difference between most of them, but shave ice is so good!

Brent getting ready to dig in…


A gecko licking a peanut M&M (M&M not supplied by me)

We then went for a walk along the beach to work off our sugar high; it isn’t a sand beach but a lava beach.  I picked up some shells and coral and we poked around in the tide pools.  There is a historic kōnane board on the beach there too; it is interesting to think you are sharing space where people walked hundreds of years ago. We also saw some the rich houses that are nearby the condo.

This crab was dead. It just died upright like that. How?


The underside of a Helmet sea urchin

As we got back, there was a sea turtle munching on the algae just on the other side of the sea wall!  He was so close!  All in all, it was a relaxing way to spend a few hours.

A sea turtle at the condo

That evening, we made a dinner of BBQ burgers, salad and fresh papaya!  Yum! We made a pitcher of margaritas too and took them outside to the beach!  We chatted in the evening with some women who were vacationing in one of the other condos – they happened to be from Washington too!  Brent knew one of the women from previous trips because they had stayed at the same condo before.  Meanwhile, I chatted with the gang about astronomy and volcanoes.

We saw a toad!

We watched a beautiful sunset from the condo sea wall.  Such great company and an absolutely gorgeous view.

A boat and the sunset


Sunset from the sea wall


Hawaiʻi 2017: Swimming with Dolphins

Day 5, Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sunday morning I had plans to go snorkeling with an old friend who lives full-time in Hawai’i.  Who knew it would turn into a bucket list experience of a lifetime!

We went to Two Steps Beach, right near the National Historical Park I had visited on my first day.  We walked out over the lava rocks and found the spot to get into the water.  From shore, we could see that there were dolphins out in the water!  A man near us told us that they had been there all morning, but we didn’t want to chance it, so we got in the water right away and swam out past the reef to where the dolphins were.  It was pretty deep water there, but so clear that you could see all the way to the bottom.

The dolphins were swimming in a big circle, they would swim near us and then go on their way to complete their circle.  They would swim really close, and then swim away and disappear for awhile as we tread water.  There were a few dozen dolphins, including calves!  A couple of them would jump high out of the water and spin in the air, clearly happy and playing.  There was another that was slapping his tail on the water.

There were maybe 20-25 people who had swum far enough out to be so close.  You had to be a strong swimmer, as we were a ways out and the bottom was far below.  At one point, one of the dolphins jumped out of the water only about 10 feet from Jay!  It was an amazing experience.  The dolphins were coming so close to us with each pass; they were obviously very curious about us.

This was easily one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  I could see their eyes, as well as the bite that one had on his side from a cookiecutter shark (also known as a cigar shark).  I watched the baby dolphins swimming next to their mamas.

Jay and I stayed out there for awhile, until I started to get a bit cold in the water.  We swam back into the reef, and watched the fish that were swimming  among the coral.  We saw puffer fish, trigger fish, and lots of other tropical fish.  Sadly, we didn’t see any turtles swimming.

When it was time to go in, we swam back to the same spot, where there is a little shelf under the water to stand on to get out.  If you go, just remember to keep your feet flat because there are holes in the lava rocks with sea urchins in them!  Don’t curl your toes!

Of course I wish that I had photos, but the memories that are in my mind will last a lifetime.  Since I don’t have my own, please enjoy these photos from Wikipedia of Spinner Dolphins and Cookiecutter sharks.

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I am so grateful that Jay took me to this spot – I swam with dolphins!  In the wild!  Amazing!

Merry Christmas

The tradition of releasing Chinese paper lanterns is mysterious, but scholars generally agree that the first paper lanterns were created and launched about 2,000 years ago. They gradually became part of a festival tradition, and people write wishes on the lantern before lighting them and releasing them into the sky, where they float for a few minutes before burning out and returning to the ground.

I spent Independence Day weekend this year down at the Hood Canal with friends and we released our paper lanterns into the sky after dark one evening.  I can’t tell you what my wish was, as I’m still waiting for it to come true…

This photo of my friend Brandon releasing a lantern is one of my favorite photos of the year.  It reminds me of my new beginning; my chance to this time have my wishes come true.

To you and yours, Merry Christmas.


Art Brut 2011 Blanc de Blancs

As it is just a few days before Christmas, I wanted to treat myself, so I got a lobster tail and cooked it up alongside a medley of baked vegetables.  And what goes better with seafood than sparkling wine!

The ART BRUT 2011 Blanc de Blancs is a sparkling wine made in the methode Champenoise style by winemaker Chris Berg at Roots Wine Company.  It is named after the art genre Art Brut, also known as Outsider Art, Raw Art or Visionary Art.  It is a Blanc de Blancs, made from 100-percent Chardonnay sourced from the Sienna Ridge Estate in Red Hills.

Art Brut 2011 Blanc de Blancs – Roots Wine Company

Upon first opening the wine, there was a heavy taste of yeast and I worried that I had waited too long, but it settled down after about a half hour.  It is delicious – with just a bit of tartness balanced with the creamy Chardonnay light butter flavors.  The bubbles had mellowed after years in the bottle, but it still had enough to give that sparkling wine effervescence.  It paired very well with the lobster too!

I don’t remember the price I paid, but I think this wine was about $30.  I purchased it at the Bubbles Fest sparkling wine festival hosted by Anne Amie Winery in the Willamette Valley a few years back. It’s an awesome wine event, if you have the chance to go!

If you are a fan of charitable giving with your wine drinking, you will be pleased to know that a portion of the profits from all sales of ART BRUT wines were donated to the American Art Therapy Association.  Plus, it has horses on the bottle, and that is always a positive (even if they are heavily stylized)!

This wine is sold out, and I’m not sure that the winery is making sparkling wine anymore; all the sparkling wines on their website are from 2010 and 2011 and seem to be sold out.  Perhaps it is a wine I’ll never have again, and that’s too bad!

Happy Holidays – I hope you are all well…