Saturday, October 24, 2015

Hawaii with Kids: Volcanoes National Park

It's the Iceland of the Pacific, the Yellowstone of... anyplace other than Yellowstone. It's a place where you can tromp up to telephoto distance of the crater of an active volcano.

It's one of my most favorite places on this planet, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.

I LOVE earth science. I love extreme weather, I love the ocean, I love geology. I love it when our planet is spitting something at us, or something is oozing out of it towards us, or smelly air is wafting from its bowels and coming our way. Matt has gamely hung out with me within touch of flowing lava, and definitely within scalding distance of spurting geysers, and I've been really excited, the past couple of years, to do a lot of that with the kids, as well. We didn't come within touching distance of flowing lava this time (unlike the last time Matt and I were in Hawaii together, and there was lava flowing within the boundary of the park and you could hike there, this time lava was flowing on private land, out in the middle of nowhere), but we saw every single other thing you could possibly see in this park in one day, of that I am sure.

Even our entrance into the park was heralded with excitement as our very own fourth grader used this opportunity to hand in her certificate and receive a free national park pass for the entire year, thanks to the Every Kid in a Park program:

It was a Big Deal, and an especially sweet experience because it was clearly a Big Deal to the park rangers, as well. Actually, everyone was super excited *except* for poor Syd, who'd been woken from a sound sleep in the back of the car for this.

I made it up to her by taking her picture standing in the fumes from a steam vent:

Here she is when the wind's blowing the other way:

Notice how responsibly Syd is standing on the near side of the fence, the other side of which has lots of signs like this:

Here's our little Riptide standing in front of the same vent:


Although you can't get close to the crater, itself, even from a distance it's impressive:
We could see the fumes brown against the clouds miles before we even entered the park, and could see the fumes from the lava flow outside the park from even further away, I think.

 Of COURSE there's a Junior Ranger program here, and the kids happily worked on their books throughout the day. One of the activities in the book asks the child to create a poster detailing an important rule in the park. The children were both inspired by this, and spent quite a lot of time creating the bloodiest, most brutal posters that they could think of:
There's an axe murderer waiting for that litterbug.
 I'll tell you about our petroglyph hike in this park later, but we also spent quite a lot of time just aimlessly rambling about one of the old lava flows. It's a rocky barren, with strange hills and valleys and crests and ridges where all the things used to be that the lava burned.

It was wonderful.

I love this picture of Matt. My favorite man on my favorite lava flow--it should be the centerfold of a calendar.

We drove around the park to see other old craters--

--and a rocky arch extending out into the sea--
There was a sea turtle messing around in the surf here.
 --and catching sight of the plume from the far-away lava flow--

--but we also took time to hike a lava tube, something that I had been really, really, REALLY wanting to do!

A lava tube is an amazing thing--round and smooth, and the roots of the plants above stretch down through the roof and drip water onto you as you hike through it.

 And outside, it's a jungle:

The big show here in Volcanoes National Park is watching the sunset from the balcony of the Jagger Museum. We settled in while it was still daylight-- 

--and it occurred to me that this particular view looked familiar. We'd seen this exact view from the park's webcam, for months and months now! Hmmm... could we find that webcam?

Reader, we could!

The children turned in their Junior Ranger books, and along with the regular coolness that is a park ranger discussing their work with them and telling them even more cool facts and myths and interesting stories, something extra cool happened. He brought out a book, and explained to the children that from the very first Junior Ranger, every single child who has ever become a Junior Ranger has signed their book, with their name, where they're from, and the date. When a book is filled, they bring out a new book, and the old one is sent to the national park's archives, where it is kept forever. A hundred years from now, someone can pull out this book and see that these two kids from Indiana became Junior Rangers on this day.

So cool, right? So, so cool.

Although during the daytime, all you can see from the crater is the plume, as the sun sets, you start to notice this happening:

And then when it's dark, it looks like this:

They're terrible photos, but you get the idea: the crater GLOWS. There's magma boiling down there where you can't see it, and at night it makes the crater and the plume glow, and reflects off the clouds above it.

Soo... volcanoes, lava, jungles, caves, Junior Ranger program, petroglyphs, evening show, and a gift shop that sells the small collectible sea turtles that the children both became obsessed with during this vacation.

Just another perfect day in paradise.


Tina said...

I have been to Sunset Crater Volcano in Arizona and it was pretty cool. Seeing a live volcano would be even cooler!

You all look like you had a great time and wow is Syd's hair super long!

julie said...

I feel like her hair got long just all of a sudden, because we've all been noticing it recently.

I was worried that I'd feel worried, being on an active volcano and all, but honestly, being at Yellowstone freaked me out more. Yellowstone is the supervolcano that's going to one day end life as we know it!