Monday, May 1, 2017

Bull Island, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, SC


Bull Island in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, SC




Back in the 1600’s, the new King of England needed a way to thank his key supporters that had just help him to retake the throne. He did this by giving them land grants in the New World. But they were sort of crafty grants, they didn’t out and out give them the land to sell, but rather they gave them what amounted to tax rights on goods generated on those lands. And they were very specific rights. A certain percentage of the profits from Indigo, Rice, etc. So if these guys wanted to make it rich, they had to create and foster settlements and plantations in the Carolinas.

3 ships set out, all aiming for a place a bit south of where they ended up. But they made land fall, and found a nice little place to build a fort and start some deer skin trade with the local Seewee people. The barrier island they were on was called “Island of Birds” in the local language. The English stayed there for a while but eventually were convinced by the Seewee to try a place they knew that was up a river not far south of their current camp. This new place was called Charlestown Landing and eventually (with just one more small move) became Charleston. On a side note, the reason the Seewee were so friendly was evidently because they had found out that the Spanish were working their way up from the South. The Spanish had a bad reputation as being only interested in conquest, not trade or cohabitation. So the Seewee were probably trying to use the English as a protection from the Spanish.

Some of the English stayed on The Island of Birds, however, and continued to trade and to map the area. One of the map makers was Mr. Bull, and the island started to be referred to as Bull’s Project or Bull’s Island.

That island, and the area around it, was name a national park in 1933. It is backed up on land by a huge national forest. The area hasn’t been fished or hunted in a long time and some of the area is considered class 1 wilderness by the US Government.

And that is where we are going hiking today: Bull Island.

We road over to the island on a little pontoon ferry with 20 other folks. The little history lesson above and most of the nature facts below were told to us by the ferry captain and nature guide (who's name,  I think, was Will).

Table of stuff found on Bull Island (on the Ferry Ride)
A Handsome Couple on the Ferry

We had a pleasant 30 minute ferry ride out to the island. As I mentioned, Bull Island is a Barrier island. This is an island formed by wave action that deposits sand. The sand builds up, eventually grass and such start to grow. You build up top soil, you get more substantial oak and pine trees growing, and now you have a long skinny island. 

The straight distance from the ferry pier at Garris Landing to the Bull island dock is not that far, but the actual path involves weaving through the tidal marsh and picking out the deep water channel. On our outward trip, the tide was very high, the marsh grass roots were all awash and the oyster beds were deep underwater. Our Captain pointed out across this wide bay and told us that it might look safe to cross, but at low tide all of that was either oyster beds or mud flats.



I lived in the low land Carolinas when I was a teenager. I worked on the waterfront at a boy scout camp for a number of summers and have certainly spent my time in the marsh. But I guess I never really looked or thought about what the Marsh is actually made up of. Here is the deal, the marsh is a large mud planter bed in which grows one kind of plant, the marsh grass. Try this out. Try to think of a place you have been where, over hundreds of acres of rich fields, there is only one species of plant growing. Everywhere you look, miles of this one plant. Nothing else competes for that space or those resources. The mono-culture is everywhere and all of the other animal species that are there are ultimately dependent on that plant for their food source. Why is there only the one plant? Evidently because it is the only grass that has evolved to live in salty water. In fact, it has the ability to squeeze the salt out of the salt water and excrete it through its leaves. Ok, it isn’t actually salt water, it is brackish water. The marsh only grows where there is an inflow of fresh water to create the brackish water marsh. The marsh grass converts sun and salt water into plant. The plant dies and the local bacteria breaks down the matter into the super organic mud that is the bed for the marsh. The mud is a fine grain mud called Pluff mud. I always thought it was called that because that is the sound a rock would make if you threw it it as it sank out of sight. This mud is sticky and smelly and often very deep. It looks like it might be solid, but if you step in it, you might just sink up to your thighs in the stuff. And it also hides razor sharp pieces of oyster shell, so stepping into it isn’t something you want to do. The plantation owners and farmers back in the 1600’s and 1700’s knew that the mud was rich in nutrients and they would go out and dig up the mud and plow it into their fields. In fact, that is really where the name of the mud came from. Plow Mud. Except in those times plow was spelled Plough, which got mispronounced into Pluff (like enough). (At least, that is what Captain Will told us). 

The Marsh Goes on for ever.
The oysters grow on any hard thing that sicks up out of the mud. Usually an errant sand bank or other oysters. The oysters are filter feeders. They eat the bacteria growing in the mud and other yummy things floating around. They filter the water in the estuary and keep the marsh clean. I mean, muddy but clean. If you pull out a chunk of oysters, you will find a bunch of oysters that are all glued to each other. Many times a large one with many smaller ones glued around it. The large one is the female, and the smaller ones are her boy friends. The males want to be close to the females as oysters do broadcast fertilization. When the female dies, the oldest largest male in the cluster will turn into a female. In fact, all oysters start life as a male.

After our boat ride out, we docked at where a little tidal creek comes close to the land and were told we had a 1.5 mile walk out to the beach.




Bulls Island has a number of roads on it. But be careful about trusting the maps that are available. I think a lot of the old roads are not maintained and may have grown over. For instance, I saw no evidence that Mills Road ran very far from Beach road, even though the map advertised that it ran south all the way to the end of the island.

Our captain had recommended that we spend our time (3 hours) either by walking directly to the beach and then going beach combing (a popular option) or taking the “Turkey Walk Trail” around the fresh water ponds on the island. This was the most likely way to see Alligators. My partner had listed “seeing Alligators” as one of her trip goals, so we went that way. Our guide had also told us to be wary of Mosquitos on this trail. Consider yourself “Foreshadowed”.

One of the Dike/Roads that go through Island

We set out down the trail (which starts as the Spring House road) and then turns left to run parallel to Beach road out through the set of fresh(er) water ponds. The two roads that run from the estuary toward the beach are actually dikes. They are 20 feet wide and about 3 feet above the water level in the ponds. There is a water flow control mechanism that is in the middle of the dikes. I think this allows water to only flow out of the fresh water areas when they are full, but I am not sure about that. I came to Bull Island once in High school. I think it was part of a trip I did with my Explorer troop that was sponsored by the local Wildlife research center on James Island. My memory is that we were taken out on a government boat and given a tour by a uniformed woman. But… that was 40 years ago. My memory is that the fresh water ponds were then used as fields for growing rice. You had to be able to flood the fields, and thus the dikes and water control. When walking across the dikes, we wanted to see Alligators. And there one was, 100 yards ahead lifting himself up and walking across the dike into the water. Oh My. 5 or 6 foot. A real live Alligator right there in the sunlight.

aa

 



This guy is swimming


As we approached the place where the gator had slid into the water we noticed that there were several other heads milling about. 1,2 3,…. at least 5 gators floating around and eyeing us rather suspiciously. We got close enough that we could see their bodies under that water and much to my surprise I see that, when motionless, the gator eyes and nose are above water, but the body is hanging up and down in the water. I had always thought that the body would be splayed out behind them, but that only happens when they are swimming, which they do by swishing their long tail back and forth.


Fresh Water on the Left. Salt Water on the Right. Funny Hat in the middle.

This is when I realized that on one side of the dike-road the water contained water-lilies and cattails. The other side had marsh grass. Therefore one side was a fresh water pond and the other side was brackish water marsh. Now, this is a barrier island several miles off shore and surrounded by either brackish marsh or salt-water ocean. Where did the fresh water in the pond come from? Is it all rainwater? or is there some sort of fresh water springs in the area. That is possible, I know there are artisan springs in Charleston.


This looks like something out of Jurassic Park. I need a pterodactyl

After the dike-road crossed the pond, it entered an oak and palmetto forest and angled left back toward the ocean road. This was all well and good except that we were immediately set upon by a pack of ravenous mosquitos. These babies were aggressive and out for blood!. Me and my partner's blood, to be precise. We had squirted down with some Jungle formula OFF but the little buggers were still coming in to at least check us out. We were walking fast as to try and create a little of our own breeze and get through the swarms, but this meant they were hitting me in the face and mouth. Ugghhh. My partner said I had a huge swarm behind me; landing on my back and head. I got a few bites right through my sun shirt and cotton undershirt. Wow.



We finally came out back on Bcean Road and hiked the rest of the way out to the beach. South Carolina beaches are long, sandy, and very flat. The difference in the width of the beach between high and low ties can easily be 100 yards. And this beach was empty. I mean, there were 20 people on it, but they were spread out over a few miles, so…. empty.


Now that is a big empty beach

This beach has a reputation for being a great place to go beach combing. You are allowed to take a small bag (a grocery store plastic bag) full of shells back with you. You can take anything that was once alive but is now dead. So, shells and such are OK, but no artifacts. No bricks or pieces of pottery. Down at the North end of the beach is a place called Bone Yard beach. It is an area that used to be woods, but current sand flow patterns have cause it to be in the surf. We didn’t get there, but it is supposed to be a great place to visit. Our boat captain said that if a person wanted to go to Bone Yard, they had to either hustle, or come back another day on the morning Ferry (we rode the afternoon ferry out, which returns promptly at 4:00).

As it was, we didn’t get to the beach until around 2:30. So only a half hour before we had to be headed back toward the landing. We pick out a nice spot on the beach and sat and ate our lunch. The sun was hot, but the breeze was cool. We spent a few minutes walking in ankle deep atlantic ocean. The beaches here are so gradual that we probably could have walked out 50 yards in the ocean and still stood up, but ankle deep was good enough for today. Then time for the return. We still had that 1.5 miles back to the boat landing. Turns out you can do 1.5 miles on flat grass a lot faster than 1.5 miles on steep Oregon Mountains. Who Knew?

We stopped at 3:30 at a little park area next to the house that is on the island. This parks has a number of picnic benches, a set of bathrooms, and a storm shelter. The storm shelter is covered with walls and doors. It has benches for like 30 people and a pot belly stove. I guess it might snow in the winter, or a winter storm could trap some people out there.

Back to the boat, which left promptly at 4:00. We actually left just little before 4:00, they must have been counting heads.

On the way back we saw a few dolphin.

Did you know that the dolphin you see in the estuaries along the Carolina coast live their entire lives in the estuaries? They are actually a different subspecies than their larger cousins that live in the oceans. They might meet each other and interact with each other at the mouths of the rivers, but the estuary guys stay in the little tidal creeks and the ocean variety stay in the ocean. Estuary Atlantic Bootle nose dolphins usually get to 400 pounds. The ocean guys get up to 1000.

The dolphins have to learn all of their complex behaviors. This mainly means they learn how to hunt. They have several techniques they use to cooperatively hunt fish. There is one method, however, that has only recently been discovered. This method is called strand fishing. The dolphin work together to drive the fish such that they strand themselves on the beach. Then the dolphins come sliding up on the sand, always on their right sides, and catch the stranded fish with the sides of their mouths. Dolphins that feed this way have developed calluses and such on the right side of the bodies and heads. This behavior used to only be seen around Bull Island, but in the last few years it has spread a few hundred miles north and south. The speculation is that the idea on how to hunt this way is being spread by the ocean dolphins somehow communicating it (by doing it?) to other estuary dolphin groups.

Want one last fun fact before we get back to shore?

The loggerhead turtle also nests on Bull Island. They come up on the beach and make nests during the right season. Well, the local wildlife groups have been protecting and counting the nests for the last 30 years. A strange thing happened the last two years. The number of active nests has been around 1000 since they started keeping records (30 years ago) but in the last two years the number has jumped to 2000 active nests. What is going on? Well, what they think is this: The time it takes a loggerhead female to reach sexual maturity is around 30 years. And the females come back to the same beach from whence they left. So the females that the conservationists starting saving 30 years ago are now returning to lay eggs. The project is working. Perhaps Signifcantly.

And with that, it is time for the captain to stop telling stories and to dock our Ferry. We are home.

Wasn’t that fun?
























Saturday, April 15, 2017

Hawaii Adventure - Big Island National Parks

On National Parks.


There are 5 National Parks on the Big Island, and we went to all of them. The first 4 all either have the same name or close enough that I can’t remember the difference. The 5th is Volcano.

OK, I will try to pronounce the other names. The truth is that I feel a little deficient not being able to easily remember and pronounce Hawaiian names. I mean, they are a native American language and one of the few highly organized civilizations that we didn’t wipe out with small pox (sorry, in this case “we” = “white guys”) so I should at least be able to remember and pronounce some of their big location names. I mean, I remember Yosemite and Multnomah.

Pu`uhonua O Hōnaunau

Often called “The city of Refuge”. This is the place to go for a lovely picnic or to park your car safely while you walk over to 2-Step beach to do some snorkeling. It is also a national historic site and a place of significant historic and religious significance to the Hawaiian people. There is a very impressive stacked stone wall (dry stone masonry wall). The Hawaiian people built a lot of structures and walls out of stacked lava stones. These walls and building foundations are made of carefully stacked stone with no dirt or mortar filler. Why? probably because they had no dirt or mortar. But they did have a lot of lava stone. The walls at this location are well preserved and around 8 feet tall.


Hawaiian Native Dry Mortar Technic. This has got to be hard to do

The Boat House. I would note that though this is supposed to be a
authentic recreation, the rope is synthetic. In my mind, rope is the hard part
here and needs to be made from natural fibers or you are cheating
 


The “City of Refuge” is an area out beyond the wall where a fugitive from justice or a loser in ritual battle can run to (or swim to) and seek refuge. If you make it there, no one can kill you. And eventually the priests will perform the rituals to allow you back into society. If you visit the Kona area, ask local people about the City of Refuge, you will get a different and interesting story from each one. 

The temple there is also an important historic and religious site. It has been well maintained and still has the remains of many Hawaiian chiefs and kings. I have some pictures of some of the excellent carvings of gods and such that are found around the temple area. I did not discover how old these carvings are. I don't know if they date back to actual pre-west contact times or have been carved recently. Articles I can find on the net imply that most of the non-stone things are reconstructions.  Also in this area is a fish pond (for growing local fish) An area where the chiefs lived, and part of the ancient road that goes around the island and is hikable in many locations.

So romantic. A stroll on the beach with the god you love



He is very popular



I would like to restate the “nice place for a picnic”. If you drive down past the parking lot, down a little lava road, there is a stretch of parking for picnic tables and charcoal grills in the sand and coconut trees right up against the stark lava shoreline. It is beautiful.


Pu`ukoholā Heiau

We stumbled onto this park by accident while we were out looking for a good beach on which to boogie board. The main attraction here is a large lava stone temple that Kamehameha built to sanctify himself before setting out to be the King of all of the Hawaiian islands. There is a nice visitor center and a path to the stone temple platform. 


Kaloko-Honokōhau

There are extensive lava flows on the Kona side of the island. The lava is often broken and does not provide a means for surface water (creeks) to form. So the water usually flows underground, seeping through the broken rock. But it still flows with the shape of the land, which means the underground rivers get to the shore as a large flow. People cannot live on the lava unless they can access this water. The Hawaiian people would go to areas where brackish lagoons formed with the fresh water mixing with the sea. They would accentuate the lagoon with stacked lava rock walls to form or extend fish ponds. They would actively farm these fish ponds for protein. There would be holes in the lava near the fish ponds where the water would be fresh enough to drink. Kaloko is one of the best preserved (and repaired) fish ponds. There is a nice 4 mile hike around the area. Gives you a very pretty walk on the beach, but also a good view of the lava and the inherent difficulties one might face trying to live there. There are many ancient structure remnants to be seen while hiking around, including many circular sets of stones that were effectively raised garden beds.






Part of the extensive wall that extends the fish ponds



Hawaiian Built wall, sea on the left, fish pond on the right. Pretty Girl in the Middle.
The way the fish ponds work is interesting. They have the long wall, this keeps out the storms and keeps in the fish. There is an opening (or 2) in the wall where a 30 foot long, 6 foot wide, slot is created. The Ocean (and some fish) go in and out here with the tides. Once a lunar cycle, on the lowest tide of the month, the opening is blocked with weaved baskets or nets and fish trying to get out of the lowering water are caught.

Ala Kahakai

This is a historic trail park. It used to run around 3 quarters of the island and much of the trail is still in place and can be hiked. There is a portion of it that can be readily seen running through the lava fields at each of the first 3 parks mentioned above. My partner and I hiked this trail for a half mile or so during our walk around Kaloko. It is about 6 feet wide and straight as an arrow, though not at all smooth or easy to walk. The movable rocks have been stacked on either side of the path (well, perhaps small road) and some of the deeper holes filled in, perhaps as broken rock was available, but it is not level and non-trivial to walk.

Does she have the gear or what?
All of these 4 National parks seem to be in big lava fields. At some restored and maintained ancient historical sights. I asked my partner why the ancients would live in the tough landscape of the A’A’ lava. Nothing to grow there. Very little water. Maybe some advantage in that where the lava hits the ocean is where the fish ponds either naturally occur or can be built. She said that these are just the only places that were left to make into parks because the Resorts didn’t want them because they were too hard to build on and no sandy beaches. Hmmm.

It does seem that there are little signs marking ancient burial grounds all over the shore. Which makes sense if the Polynesians lived here for 2000 years before they got wonked by the Europeans (that includes the Americans).

You find these strange structures in many places out on the lava.
No one knows what they are.

There are a few petroglyphs at Kaloko. This is one of a guy standing on his head
At the parks there was one interpretive trail that talked all about the religion of the Hawaians and how it made them one with the land and the mana of the land. How it kept them happy and family oriented. But then I read in wikipedia how the religion and Kapu was used to subjugate the masses. So which is true? Perhaps both.


Hawaii Volcanos

I am currently out sitting in a very pleasant little Hawaiian garden belonging to the little art enclave that owns the bungalow in which we are staying for a few nights. We are down in the Southeast rain forests now visiting the Volcano National Park. It is very strange to be within a couple of miles of an active Volcano and yet be surrounded by a lush rain forest. I can parse about 5 different bird songs from where I am sitting. Much of it is the common twitter you might hear anywhere, but there are also the longer more complex and exotic songs that have vague familiarity but are clearly different from mainland birds. Like last night. There was a lone night caller near our cabin. It sounded somewhat like a whippoorwill but with an alien cadence. 

Our Artist Bungalow. Great Walk in Shower!



Little art areas just everywhere in the Garden.

The garden itself I imagine to be an eclectic collection of all of the art and interests of the various artists that have passed through this way. Much of it is oriental, a lot of little budha sitting around blessing the various parts of the gardens. But there are also a number of areas where an artist just took over and made a statement. Over hanging from a little tree in the distance, along with what appears to be Spanish Moss, are little bird houses made from colorful ceramic tiles. A flock of them of slightly different colors and styles. Behind that is a little faux vegetable plot planted with the pots and ceramic pumpkins. I am sitting at one of a group of round patio tables centered in a large, well tended low grass area. Sort of like a little golf course. A little pound tended by a likely buhda sitting in front of me.

 




 




 


My partner and I have been having a busy last couple of days. Yesterday was spent with some medium intense exploration of the National Park.

The Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is an unexpected treasure. Perhaps I should have thought about it more. The elevation here near the Caldera lip is about 3700 feet. So things are a good deal cooler than down in Kona. The uphill side of the volcano is heavily wooded. Trees about 5-20 inches in diameter rising from undergrowth of tree fern and local blueberry. When you run into bare areas, however, you can usually see steam rising from vents at various locations ahead of you. And then, of course, if you go over close to the Rim, you can see the Caldera.

Native Orchid
Smokes rising from the main Crater.

The Caldera is formed in steps. The outside rim is that which has been colonized by the trees and birds and we few invasive mammals. That is where the Crater Rim Road and trail are found along with the park headquarters (get your passport stamped here!) and the Volcano House hotel and restaurant (and Gift Shops). A 400 foot (or so) step down from that is the Inner Caldera. This is a several mile diameter circle of medium old lava. I need to research to see when this was last filled with molten rock. Then, off in the south west corner, is the active volcano itself. This is a quarter mile diameter hole of another few hundred feet drop. And in there, in a smaller hole yet, is the current active lake of molten pulsating lava.

The lava doesn’t usually come up out of this lake into the larger caldera. It generally just comes up high enough to build up pressure in a rift zone farther down the mountain. It makes a hole and goes rushing out down there and so to the sea. Currently (and for the last 33 years) the lava has been coming out of a hole called Pu'u O'o and running down the mountain to the sea at the south east edge of the park.  We haven’t seen that yet. But plan to go out to see it tonight. That particular area used to have people living there, so I expect to see roads and yards and houses and such partially engulfed by the lava. Sometimes the lava moves very slowly. Just oozing along like the Slime Monster, but other times it runs like water shooting down a little river at 25 MPH or more.

Kilauea Iki



As our adventure thing for Wednesday, we did a hike into Kilauea Iki. This is a smaller (though still a mile across) caldera that abuts the main Kilauea Crater. This little thing had a rather spectacular eruption in 1959 that was well documented at the time. We did a 4 mile loop hike through the middle of the Caldera with around a 400 foot altitude change. Along the rim is all lush and green rain forest with lots of signs to teach you biology lessons. Then you quickly descend into the crater. The lava level is very clear and striking. In 1959, for a few days, this crater was filled to a certain level with molten rock. When the event ended, the molten rock drained back into the exit vent and the remaining solidified stuff stayed up on top. The area of lava right at the height of the flow is called The Bathtub ring. Very appropriate.

 


A view down into the Caldera

Those be large fiddle heads

Imagine what this would look like by envisioning a model we shall build using water.

Let's pretend were are standing by an empty lake in upstate North Dakota in the middle of winter. It is -36 degrees outside (C or F?, doesn’t matter). We begin to fill the lake from a spout on one side. We fill it with hot water that shoots up from the ground in a 50 foot wide jet spurting up in the air higher than the Empire State Building. Most of the water falls back into the lake bed and begins to fill the lake. But it is so cold that some of the water mist freezes in the air and falls as snow or ice chunks. Over a short period of time the lake fills up. The top of the lake starts to freeze, especially that part touching the banks of the lake. Some of the water splatters up on the shore and freezes there. The water spout is so violent that waves are generated that break on the far shore and freeze there. on the Land side of the spout, the falling frozen water begins to mound up. Not a very strong mound and it often breaks under its own weight to go crashing back down into lake. Eventually the lake gets so deep that it drowns the spout. For our experiment, we will shut the spout off. The top of the lake has frozen into a smooth surface. But the water underneath is till fluid and hot. With the pressure on the spout off, the water goes back down the spout like it was a drain. The weight of the ice on top is too heavy to stand and it all breaks down into large smooth plates with sharp edges sticking up a haphazard angles. The shoreline is littered with especially sharp and chaotic boulders; a ‘bathtub ring’ of ice fragments.

See the "Bath Tub" ring?

The rock has lots of gas bubbles. Makes it light but with sharp edges.

A place where the smooth surface broke when the lava underneath drained back out
That is the very short and simple story of it. Actually the spout cut on and off several times over many days, and, of course, it was molten rock, not molten water. But I think the science was very similar because the rock was acting very much like water acts (and I find it easier to envision).

The smooth (now rock) lake bed and how it collapsed when the lava underneath drained out is very evident as you hike across this huge expanse. The big cinder cone that was created by the molten rock blowing into the air and then freezing and falling back is still there. Many steam vents and wonderful rock formations out in the caldera.  And this just happened in 1959. It could easily happen again and the entire caldera re-fill with molten lava and wipe out the little foot prints that humans have been making.



The Buckling of the smooth lake surface




There are a lot of old lava flows that are clearly delineated as you take the road from the Caldera down to the ocean. After driving through rain forest for a while, you suddenly find yourself out on the bleak and bare lava flows. Miles and miles of it. There are some trails going through the flows, they are marked with the occasional Cairn and some scuffed lava from the treads of many boots.

At one spot down close to the ocean, we parked and walked a mile out on the lava to find a little circle of wooden boardwalk that protects and points you at a number of petroglyphs. A sacred place where the Hawaiians would bring the umbilical cord of their babies to bury in a little carved depression in the rock to sanctify the birth. The family histories can be seen by the grouped depressions.

 



 


Martian

The little holes are burial sites for Umbilical cords.


Boat
Down at the end of the road, there is a path that one can hike out for 5 miles to come to where the lava is currently entering the ocean. You can see the steam coming off the water even from the start of the trail. We walked out on what is currently called “The Emergency Road” for a ways, but didn’t really have the time or determination to do the entire 10 miles. The last mile is raw (recent) lava, and the best viewing is done at night. Which means you have to cross that mile back in the dark. We went up to the Lodge for Dinner instead.

Some new A'A lava on top of the older lighter flow.

Hey, Some coconuts. We ate lunch there

Where the Lava meets the Sea

Road going out through the lava
On our last night in the park, we went up to the lodge that overlooks the Caldera for Dinner. We got a seat by the window (OK, all of the seats are pretty much at the window) where we could look out the two or so miles to the actual lava lake. At night, the orange glow was lighting up the entire caldera. With the smoke rising and swirling 1000 of feet in the air it looked like a gigantic orange Lava Lamp. Lava Lamp…. get it?

Reading your Menu by Volcano Light



After dinner, we drove back around the Caldera to the observatory. We could pretty easily see the bubbling lava from the viewing point (need some magnification, we used our cameras to good effect but a big pair of binoculars would have come in handy).

We could have spent another couple of days exploring the park. In particular, I would have liked to try a hike out across the lava to one of the lesser visited old craters or perhaps down to the ocean. There are some primitive campsites you can access at the beach on the South West side of the park. No roads, just a walk in across the lava with a trail marked by cairn.