Morning brought another good breakfast and good conversation.
And then... it was time to head south, to visit the Punalu'u Black Sand Beach. When I arrived it seemed as if every black rock was occupied with someone casting for fish. Ah, it's Saturday, and everyone is out, at play. I walked over some of the rocks, across the very black sand, hoping to see some sea turtles. The ever present turtles were missing from the beach today. Perhaps they were swimming, perhaps to escape the hordes of humans. The clock rolled past noon, and suddenly the ocean front spots were vacant. Ah, time for some camera play with uninterrupted vistas!
The sky was gray but still bright. It almost seemed to blend with the silver reflections in the water, contrasting with the very black beach and rocks. Fabulous.
I pulled myself away from the black sand, sea level, continuing north to enter Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The road topped out at 4000 feet of elevation, a bit cooler than it was along the coast, cloudier, and oh! is that rain? I headed in to the Visitor Center to chat was a ranger, to pick up information on trails.
I discovered that Crater Rim Drive can no longer be driven in a circle. It is open from the park entrance to Jaggar Museum (heading west), and from the park entrance to Chain of Craters Road heading in a clockwise direction. From the Closed Areas and Advisories page of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park web site:
A portion of Crater Rim Drive, between Jaggar Museum and the Chain of Craters Road junction, is closed indefinitely due to the new vent that opened within Halema`uma`u Crater in March 2008.
I learned a new word today - VOG, or volcanic smog. From the park's web site:
Visitor Alert - Kilauea is currently emitting elevated levels of sulphur dioxide gas and an ash-laden fume cloud from a new vent within Halema`uma`u crater.
Scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory continue to record elevated sulphur dioxide (SO2) gas levels at the summit of Kilauea volcano.
So far so good though. No noxious odors (other than the sulfur smell evident as I hiked through the Sulphur Banks this afternoon.
I visited the Jaggar Museum, then headed out to walk in somewhat damp conditions. The rain eased off to very light drizzle as I walked the Devastation Trail, through rain forest vegetation and on to stark black rolling hills, cinder fields left from the 1959 eruption.
From there I headed to the Sulphur Banks Trail, a thermal area with steaming cracks and bright yellow deposits of sulphur. That trail ended at Crater Rim Trail where steam rose along the very edge of the crater. A fascinating view...
My home for the night was a bit of a surprise. I thought that I had booked a room at the Bamboo Orchid B&B, but as it turns out the room I had chosen was at its sister property, Volcano Tree House. The room I booked was the smallest on the property, at a very reasonable price. When I showed up, I was told that my room had been upgraded (at no additional charge!) to the Tree Top Suite. It's high in the trees, the top floor of the building. Somehow the name made me think I'd need to climb a ladder to get to my room. No ladder, just outside stairs to the third floor. It's more than comfortable, and I can hear the sounds of insects in the night. Sweet. (Breakfast? Yes, it's still included, at Bamboo Orchid, just a few blocks from my home for the next 4 nights.)
Dinner tonight was a yummy vegetable curry at Thai Thai. If I remember correctly I ate at Thai Thai every night of my stay in Volcano back in 2004. I could very easily do that again, although there is one other restaurant in Volcano that looks interesting; I think I'll try that one too.
After satisfying my need for food, I headed back to the Jaggar Overlook in the park to see if there was a visible red glow from Halema`uma`u Crater. Not tonight... as I got closer to the overlook it seemed that the clouds (or fog) dropped close to ground level. Maybe tomorrow.
If you're curious about the volcano's activity level, click to view Recent Kilauea Status Reports, Updates, and Information Releases.