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7.22.2011 - 10 comments 

What can you say about a first trip to the Big Island other than... it sure is big? Well there is plenty that can be said about it. But its bigness is the first thing I noticed about it other than how much black lava there is on the island. It is so big in fact that it is almost twice as large as all of the other Hawaiian Islands put together.

Of course you know that my first adventure on any trip that has a National Park is to knock off one more line item from my personal "Bucket List". For me this National Park was one that I was really excited about because of the fact that it had a real active volcano in it.

This park was founded in 1916, and it encompasses 333,000 acres from the summit of Maunaloa to the sea. Here you'll be able to find 150 miles of hiking trails through volcanic craters, scalded deserts, rain-forests as well as a museum, petroglyphs, a walk-in lava tube called Nahuku (Thurson's Lava Tube) and two active volcanoes: Maunaloa, which last erupted in 1984 and Kilauea which has been erupting since January 3rd, 1983. In fact this caldera in Kilauea was making lots of gas and noise when we were there and then the very next day after we were there, it erupted.

The extraordinary natural diversity of the park was recognized in 1980 when it was named a World Biosphere site by UNESCO and in 1987 when the park was again honored as a World Heritage site. As you can see from several of these shots below and the one with the title, Thurson's Lava Tube was a highlight to my park visit. You started off in a beautiful rain forest and then you got to what looked like a fern covered cave opening. Then as you strolled through the lava tube, it was lit in several places by lights so that you could see where you were going because the tube was long enough that you could not see the other side where it came out.

As you exited the tube, you had to climb up what looked like 15-20 feet worth of cement steps. At that point you were back in the rain forest again. It was a wonderfully beautiful walk and the trip through the tube was one of many highlight features of a wonderful trip just I will expand on later blog posts.

Kilauea is sometimes called "the world's only drive-in volcano." This prolific volcano currently produces 250,000-650,000 cubic yards of lava per day, enough to resurface a 20-mile-long, two-lane road daily. As of January 1994, 491 acres of new land have been created on Hawaii's Big Island. The current eruption may last another 100 years or stop tomorrow. Pele, the volcano goddess who the Hawaiians say lives here, is very unpredictable. But the chance to watch Kilauea's blistering lava flows meet the sea is just one of the reasons to visit. It was really a wonderful sight to see but at the same time, it was a rather eerily scary and deadly looking one too.

The shots I am adding to this post hopefully will give you some kind of vision of what we saw while in the National Park itself. But you can't really appreciate the smells and odors that came with these shots. Nor can you feel the sense of heat and deadness that the black lava everywhere had.

“The glowing magma emerges like redhot toothpaste from a long, wide crack and then crawls into the Pacific, creating a tall, furious cloud of steam." ~ Robert Gross

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