As a frequent visitor to Yellowstone National Park, I am incredibly fond of our National Park System. For most of my life I have lived within a few hours of Yellowstone, so road trips and weekend getaways to the Park were easy to pull together. Sadly, throughout all of my visits I never really stopped to think about just how lucky I was to have such easy access to this incredible Park. It was during our visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park that I finally understood. Just as I had traveled thousands of miles to visit the Volcanoes, others travel just as far to see the park right in my own back yard. It was a humbling experience.
The first logical stop when visiting any National Park is to stop by the Visitors Center. Kilauea Visitor Center had many great exhibits, photos, and interactive displays to teach visitors about the park and its many craters, calderas, rifts, vents, and active flows. One of the most helpful aspects within the Visitor Center was the itinerary wall where suggestions were made on things to see and do depending on how much time you had within the park.
After a quick stop at the Visitor’s Center, we drove south on Crater Rim Drive and made a pit-stop at the Steam Vents. These two vents felt like a Sauna the moment that you stepped within reach of the steam, and the potent sulfuric smell had me beelining to fresher air immediately, after a quick photo opp of course–I did not want that smell stuck in my clothes and hair for the rest of the day. 🙂 While parked at the Steam Vents, we walked the trail to the edge of the massive Kilauea Caldera and were rewarded with an incredible view of the Halema’uma’u Crater.
When you visit the park, the Jaggar Museum is a MUST. The overlook perched on the edge of the Kilauea Caldera provides an up close view of the volcanic plume emitting from the volcano below. Aside from the incredible view, the Museum has scientific exhibits, displays, and interesting facts about the Volcano.
Chain of Craters Road is where the full power and destruction of the volcano really starts to set in. Miles and miles of lava rock surround the two-lane road–at times as far as the eye can see–and if you look close you will notice that newer lava flows have buried the older flows, slowly continuing to build the beautiful Island of Hawaii.
Standing within the open expanse of black volcanic rock is a humbling experience–you feel so small and powerless. The area is rugged and fierce, raw and exposed, and at times so empty. No matter how many times humans try to change and build upon the land, more powerful forces can destroy our creations within seconds.
Yet, within the barren, lava rock graveyard, life begins to emerge; trees, plants, and even flowers have grown out of the cracks within the rock, offering hope and a new cycle of life. Upon closer inspection, there was extraordinary beauty amid all of the destruction.