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. 


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.




The little holes are burial sites for Umbilical cords.

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.