Heaven on Earth - Fall 2006 travel blog

Ken at Lava Tree SP

Ahaluni Warm Springs

black sand beach

touring lava field

lava field

lava with glassy coating

lava street


steam vent


more flowers


seed pods

It was raining when we arrived in Hilo. From what we know it pretty much always rains in Hilo. This did not make much difference to us, because we got in a van and headed toward the lava. When we were here three years ago we spent lots of time hiking on the lava toward the point where it has been flowing into the sea since 1983. It was so fascinating we did the same hike again at night which was eerie since the sky and the lava were so black. We also had explored the old caldera and lava tube in the national park and thought we had done a good job of lava to the max.

But our tour today enhanced our previous visit. We started at Lava Tree State Park where an earlier flow had covered some tall trees. The lava cooled before the trees rotted away and what remains are tree trunk shapes made of lava. It reminded me of petrified wood. The park was full of wild flowers, orchids blooming without anyone misting them six times a day. Our next stop was Ahaluni Warm Springs where the geothermal forces heat a mix of fresh and sea water in a natural basin formed in the lava. This was a spot that merits a lengthier visit from me wearing a bathing suit.

But the real goal of this tour was to the spot where the town of Kaimu stood until 1992 when the lava overflowed the town. The lava moved slowly and the residents had plenty of time to think about what to do before their homes were totally obliterated and engulfed. They rolled a small painted church to a safer location and packed up their belongings and drove away. There was no loss of life, but the dilemma these folks faced made me think of the Hurricane Katrina victims. The lava flow was capricious. As we drove on a normal paved road, it was interrupted repeatedly by fingers of lava flow and we were glad our van had four wheel drive. You could look at this lava flow as a blessing. If you can wait for twenty years, much new ocean front property is being created and as we drove over a new road carved into the lava field, we saw some squatters were pioneering on this property. They live without any city services, but you can't ask for a better view. The fanciful shapes and textures of the lava made me wish that I was an artist. In some areas the silica in the lava cooled in a rainbow of colors.

Tonight's sailing route took us past the lava flow late at night. We were four miles away and could already see the orange tongues creeping down the hills. As our ship drew less than two miles away, numerous other seep holes were also visible amidst the clouds of steam as the sea water vaporized in the heat. It was awesome and awful.

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