One of the things I definitely wanted to see on the Big Island was Kilauea, one of the still active volcanoes. Even though it was raining lightly, we decided to go to see some of the indoor exhibits in the morning, hoping that the forecast that showed the showers ending at noon would be correct. We enjoyed the visitor center, especially the ranger presentation on the five volcanoes that make up the island of Hawai’i, and braved the crowds at the Jagger Museum. We were also able to walk along a trail with numerous steam vents.
After lunch, it was still raining, so we decided to drive the Chain of Craters Road, a 19 mile road that descends 3,700 feet to the ocean. It used to be longer, but a 2003 lava flow covered the last ten miles. Because we were getting only intermittent drizzle, we walked the Devastation Trail, which goes through an area that was buried by cinders in a 1959 eruption. We could see the plants slowly making headway. My daughter Trinity, who spent a semester in Hawai’i with Cornell’s Sustainability Semester program, recognized some of the plants. We were also able to see a pair of large birds, not too far from the path, eating berries. (When we find out what they were, I’ll come back and edit.) Although there was a sign nearby instructing visitors to leave the berries for the nene, we know these were not nene.
As we continued driving, we would encounter patches of rain forest juxtaposed with lava flows, some with signs dating them. Some of the flows were pahoehoe, which is smoother or ropy in texture, while others were jagged a’a. You could see areas where the road had to have been closed for long stretches until the lava cooled enough to allow the road to be cleared. As we continued to descend, we reached an overlook where you could finally see the ocean. The showers had finally ended, so we decided to try the Pu’u Loa Petroglyph trail, which takes you along relatively flat flows to see petroglyphs carved in 400-700 year old stone. We were about half a mile in when the wind picked and the hardest rain we had seen all day blew in. By the time we made it back to the car, we were drenched to the skin.
I felt very intrepid for braving the elements, but I do regret that we had to turn back before reaching the petroglyphs. I had wanted to pray there for my daughters, both of whom have very special connections to Hawai’i. While I would pray to my God, it would be in keeping with the tradition of the natives of Hawai’i, who for centuries have visited the petroglyphs to pray for their children.