|A volcano crater, blue sky and clouds on the Big Island (Bonnie Schupp photos)|
Tops no longer blowing,
Big Island volcanoes
back in visitor business
Lava leaves its mark... for a very long time
When you think Hawaii and volcano in the same sentence these days, the immediate image that comes to mind is last year’s eruption of Kilauea that consumed nearby communities, forced some 2,000 residents to flee and sent ash and fumes skyward as molten lava flowed into the sea. It put a damper on local tourism, even giving Bonnie and me second thoughts about the where and when of visiting.
But it’s been calm there for months, and volcano country was the goal of our longest drive around the Big Island from our hotel in Kona on the last full day of our initial stay there – heading south, then east and northward along Route 11 for about 100 mostly scenic miles to the national park entrance. (Views of the Pacific Ocean are a constant distraction, of course.)
We had to stop at one beach, drawn in by the roadway sign – for the Punalu’u black sand beach. It is the result of countless centuries of ocean waves pounding lava rock into submission. It felt like ordinary sand, and many families were there enjoying the surf and sun. It is sand, but it just looks odd.
|RIP Jack memorial at black sand beach|
We found on the beach a memorial fashioned from lava rocks, with a small smooth stone that had the word “happy” on one side, and RIP Jack on the other. Perhaps some of his ashes had been left there as well. Who knows? But it was beautiful and eloquent for this Jack, who must have loved this unique place.
During the drive, it became apparent to us that we both had forgotten to bring our lifetime senior park passes.
Admission to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is $25, but the nice ranger lady at the gate suggested buying an annual seniors pass for $20 – saving us money there and, later, at National Park Service attractions on Maui and Kauai.
|End of the crater road, where waves meet lava cliffs.|
Rather than driving back the way we came, we navigated further northward toward the town of Hilo and found dinner at a small Korean-American restaurant. Bonnie had a rice dish and I had my favorite on unfamiliar culinary turf: A hamburger. And it was pretty good. Then, in darkness, we drove for more than an hour across the island on a middle route known as the Saddle Road – rising across mountainous terrain, through mist, fog and rain, and back to sea level at Kona… pretty much exhausted.
The next morning took us back to the airport, returning our upgraded and relatively luxurious “full size” Nissan Altima and flying to our second island – Maui.
Up next: More beaches, scary roads and a better volcano!