Wednesday, May 15th --
As expected, our friend arrived by 9:30. It was a long drive from Captain Cook so he was planning to stay with us for two nights while we hiked trails on this side of the island. Hale Ohana certainly had room for one more. We had the master bedroom with ensuite bathroom which faced the main house and front yard. There were two other rooms, both on split levels from the master. He chose the corner room with two screened windows facing into the jungle. It came complete with geckos.
Our friend had already eaten breakfast but enjoyed a second cup of coffee while we talked about the possible hikes for today. Yesterday we had already determined that we were not conditioned enough for the 8 mile backpack into Halape, carrying heavy packs down the Hilina Pali trail and then the hot 11.6 miles the next day hiking out on the Puna Coast Trail. Instead we were considering just a portion of the Puna Coast Trail, or the old Pu'u 'o'o cattle trail off the Saddle Road north of Hilo or a rainforest hike to within a mile of where Pu'u 'O'o was currently spewing lava into the ocean. Since it had rained hard last night and again this morning we eliminated the rainforest hike as being too muddy. We picked the Puna Coast Trail for today so off we drove to Volcanoes NP and down Chain of Craters Road.
Down on the coastal plain at the bottom of the Pali the prevailing wind was blowing and the temperature was already 81 degrees, more than 5 degrees hotter than at the top of the Pali. The wind was at our backs as we started walking towards Apua Point. Soon we were too enthralled by the infinite lava variations to notice the wind or the heat. There was plenty of 'Pele's Hair' spun years ago out of molten rock by the prevailing winds. There were tumulos formed by hot lava bursting through an already cooling surface. There were long ribbons of pahoehoe whose surfaces appeared to be painted by some modern artist using yellows, whites and reds to resemble snakeskin. There were layers of ochre, blue and black lava and glassy surfaces that looked still wet. The trail eventually came close enough to the rugged rocky coast for us to detour to a rock ledge for a lunch break. We estimated the distance we had covered to be about 3.5 miles.
The rock ledge revealed another world -- one of black crabs, snails, mussels and limpids being safely nurtured in the small tide pools fed by the relentless waves pounding this otherwise arid coastline. Too soon we had to begin our return hike, this time facing directly into the wind. The waves, lava, wind and sun were a humbling reminder of the power of natural forces. 7 miles of hiking was just enough to tire us out but not so grueling that we did not have time to enjoy the sights along the way.
We even had enough energy left to walk the short Desolation Trail, starting at the Pu'u Puai parking area at the intersection of the Crater Rim Drive and Chain of Craters Road. This trail passes through an area destroyed by cinders falling from the lava fountains of the Kilauea Iki eruptions in 1959. It is a great example of how pioneer vegetation and wildlife do eventually re-establish themselves on barren lava. We continued a short way off the paved trail towards the Byron Ledge Trail before turning back.
During our morning hike we had found an HTC Windows Phone so we stopped in at the Visitor Center to turn it in and took that opportunity to refill our 4 empty water bottles with pure filtered rain water. What great-tasting water!
The ingredients in yesterday's chili had melded nicely by dinnertime. Over rice and with a side of swiss chard it really hit the spot. The yogurt, honey and strawberries were a refreshing finish to the day. By 21:00 hrs we were showered and ready to fall asleep. It was a good day.