Volcanoes National Park: Visiting the World’s Largest Active Volcano

Kilauea Volcano's smoldering caldera 3One of the most unique opportunities in Hawaii is visiting Volcanoes National Park. Nearly 2.5 million adventurers see this world heritage site every year. Volcanoes National ParkVolcanoes National Park was established in 1916 on 121,000 acres of Hawaii’s “Big Island” to preserve the incredible diversity of nature surrounding two of the world’s most acclaimed volcanoes. Fern Forests in Vocanoes National ParkThere are seven ecological zones in the park, from sea coast to fern forest…Tiny flowers blooming along Devastation Trailall the way up in altitude to the alpine zone!  Mauna Loa and other mountainsMauna Loa is the earth’s largest subaerial volcano,
and if you consider its mass from the floor of the ocean to its peak, Mauna Loait is also the tallest and largest mountain in the world (18,000 cubic miles;
the mass of Mt. Everest is about 365 cubic miles from sea level.) Mauna_Loa_from_the_air by Brocken Inaglory. Wiki 2009*Since 1843, Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times, most recently in 1984. Lava_entering_sea_-_Hawaii. by Jennifer Williams Wikipng**Kilauea Volcano—also within Volcanoes National park—
most recently erupted in 1983,  Looks like the pit of Hell. Halema'uma'u Crater.and it’s actually still erupting at two locations within the park today,
making it one of the longest-duration eruptions in the world. Lava flowing onto highway in Hawaii***Since June 27, 2014, a steady flow of lava has been creeping
from Kilauea’s Pu’u O’o vent toward Pahoa in the Puna district, Trees burning from lava flow. Mt. Kilauea 2although this movement can’t be seen without the aid of a helicopter
(or by special permission). Halema'uma'u Crater at duskHowever, in Volcanoes National Park,
there are many fascinating things you can see. Summit of Kilauea VolcanoThe best first stop is to the Kilauea Visitor Center to get oriented. Map of Volcanoes National ParkThey have maps, posters, guides, and an excellent 25-minute film presentation.Steaming Bluff overlooking Kilauea Caldera Due to “Vog” (volcanic gases with high concentrations of sulfur dioxide), Chain of Craters Roadwe couldn’t make a circle tour on Crater Rim Drive,
and parts of Chain of Craters Road are often also closed. Steam VentIf you go, be sure to check out the steam vents, but stand upwind Steam Ventsso your babies and small children aren’t breathing the toxic gas! Sulphur BanksThe steaming bluff and Ha’akulamanu (“Sulfur Banks”) are worth a walk.Steaming over Kilauea CalderaThe colors aren’t as remarkable as those at Yellowstone but are still attractive. Thurston Lava Tube Hawaii“Nahuku” (aka Thurston Lava Tube) makes for a fascinating short walk Entrance to Thurston Lava Tube. Hawaii through a cave-like channel that was created by lava flowing from the volcano. Thurston Lava TubeThankfully, once the lava stops flowing, the conduit cools and hardens, Thurston Lava Tubeleaving a safe adventure to cool you down on a hot afternoon!  Walking across Kilauea IkiIf you’re fit and have all day, take a hike on the trail across Kilauea Iki Crater. Kilauea Iki Crater from the OverlookOr, you can just admire the view from the Kiauea Iki Overlook, like we did!  🙂Sign explaining the formation of the Kiauea CalderaOne of the most memorable hikes for us was along “Devastation Trail.” Hiking Devastation TrailIt was an easy 1 mile round trip on a paved surface, 1959 Eruption of Kilauea Iki but it gave us insight into the devastation still remaining from the 1959 eruption.Tiny yellow flowers along Devastation Trail. HawaiiStill, there were signs of life emerging along the trail (50+years later), Kalij Pheasants in Volcanoes National Park. Hawaiiand pheasant cocks were staking out their territory despite the lack of ambiance. Kilauea Iki CraterThe highlight of the day for us was really the low light. Kilauea Iki Crater. 2As the sun began to sink, Kilauea Caldera
(the 3-mile-long crater formed by the cone cooling and then collapsing)
became all the more beautiful.  Pu'u Pua'iWe stopped at the Pu’u Pua’i Overlook—
nothing left but smoldering lava, cinder and ashes…black, dead, desolate! Steaming Bluff above Kilauea CladeraFrom there, we went back to the Volcano House,
where evening shadows were recasting the scene as a hazy watercolor painting.Sunset over Halema'uma'u Crater and Kilauea CalderaSunset over the Halema’uma’u Crater Overlook was so peaceful! Sunset from Volcano HouseAs twilight dawned, the fire from the Halema’uma’u Crater glowed brighter  Halema'uma'u Crater 2and brighter. Mauna Loa Lava LakeAfter dinner, we went to the Kilauea Overlook by the Jagger Museum.  Halema'uma'u Crater 3From there, we could see lava bubbling up from the vent
within Halema’uma’u Crater. Fire and Steam from Halema'uma'u Crater.I’ll never forget that site…it almost felt like I was looking into the pit of hell!
But, I was comforted to remember that for the believer
—even if we experience fiery trials that seem to burn up our entire existence— Kilauea CalderaGod will eventually cause new growth and beauty to emerge from the ashes.Vegetation Returning above Kilauea Kik Crater“Appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations” (Isaiah 61:3-4).

(*Picture from Wiki by Brocken Inaglory, 2009; **Picture from Wiki by Jennifer Williams; ***I took several photographs of pictures and posters at the park, this being one of them. I took the rest of the photos in January, 2016.)


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