Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Big Island

**WARNING** Extremely long post, with a huge picture overload.

With the kids on Spring Break, and Grandma and Grandpa Lambert visiting, we decided to take a vacation to the island of Hawaii. We rented a cottage at the Kilauea Military Camp and stayed for 2 nights. The cabin was nothing spectacular, but we enjoyed being so close to the volcano. The camp is located in the Hawaii Volcano National Park.The first thing we did was go and see the caldera. There are a few craters in the caldera, one of which was active while we were there. The steam vents were amazing. They smelled a little of sulfur, and reminded me of our trip to Yellowstone a few years ago. It was a little chilly, so it was nice to be able to reach out to the steam to warm up our hands.Next we headed over to the Thurston Lava Tubes. This was one of my favorite things on the Big Island. Flowing lava had created these tube/caves in the middle of a rain forest. After walking around the main tubes (which were lit), we were able to go further into an unlit tube since we remembered to bring flashlights. It was a little creepy hiking in the near dark, but we had a blast. After coming out of the lava tubes we took a short hike through the rain forest. I was amazed at how dense the forest was, when just a few miles up the road was barren lava fields. The name of this crater erupting is Halema'uma'u. Ancient Hawaiians believed this crater was the home to the volcano goddess Madame Pele. After dark we went to the observatory to watch the plume glowing orange. The park ranger told us that the lava was about 300 feet below the surface. While watching the plume at night, we couldn't help but notice the stars on such a clear night. There were so many, and they seemed close enough to reach out and touch. We loved picking out the constellations, and finding the Milky Way.
The next day we did some hiking around the lava fields. We hiked Pu'u Loa Petroglyph Trail where we were able to see some of the petroglyphs left behind from some ancient Hawaiian villagers. There were hundreds (maybe thousands) of little man-made holes dug into the the lava rock. It was explained that these were where the Hawaiians had buried their babies' umbilical cord to bless them and connect them to the land. Here is a picture of Mom pointing to one of the holes.
We hiked down to the shore line to see where lava had spilled into the sea and left this natural arch.
Here is where the lava flowed over the road in the 1970's.
What!? The road is closed? Ya think?
Day three, we checked out of our cottage, and started our 130 mile drive around the island to our resort. It was supposed to only be about 2 1/2 hours, but we made a day out of it and made many stops. One of our stops was at a black sand beach. We were told these beaches were made when hot lava collided with the cold sea, and the lava shattered creating this fine, black sand. Corynn and Dallin had fun playing in the little tide pools. I'm not sure if they found any fish or not.Next stop was Pu'uhonua o Honaunau which means "place of refuge." It was a fascinating Hawaiian village which had been preserved, restored, and eventually made into a National Park. We learned many of the ancient traditions the Hawaiians observed. They had so many strict laws called kapu. To me these rules seem strange. For example, men and women could not eat together, or even have their food cooked together. Lower class people could not walk or even look at the same trail that the upper class used. A person's shadow could not cross the Ali'i (chief). The penalty for breaking these laws was death, and if the offense was big enough, then the whole family was killed. The Hawaiians were afraid if they let the offender go on living, the Gods would punish the whole tribe by sending tidal waves, drought, or even lava. If the offender could make it to this place of refuge before he was killed for his offense, then he was given a pardon. The Hilton resort was amazing. We rented a two bedroom suite, so we could all stay together for the four nights spent here. This is what we found on our bed when we got there. Pretty cool huh?
Day four we spent at the resort beach and pools. I just loved this picture of Masen. He is dressed and ready to hit the pool. He even has sunblock in hand.
Here is Mom and Dad sipping their Lava Flows. It's a Pina Colada with strawberry sauce. Yummm.
We rented a kayak for the kids to paddle around in the lagoon. It looked so fun, Mom and I gave it a try.
The Hilton's pools were pretty spectacular. We loved all the waterfalls and slides.
Day five was lots of driving and exploring. We stopped at another ancient village, and while looking out at the ocean we saw some water spouting up. We grabbed the binoculars, and sure enough, there were whales. We made it to the northern tip where the road ends, called the Pololu Valley Lookout. It was beautiful. Since Masen was asleep in the car, I stayed with the kids, while Mom, Dad, and Chris hiked about half way down. From their vantage point on the trail, they were able to see a whale carcass. Yup, it's that white thing on the black beach. Sharks had gotten to much of it, and I'm sure it stank. That would stop me from hiking the rest of the way down :)
While waiting for the hikers to return, Corynn made a new friend with this cute horse. She is still my little cowgirl at heart. We stopped and ate a picnic lunch at a beautiful ocean side park.
Later that night we grilled steak, and ate in our suite.
Ok, here's a funny story. While we were grilling the steak, the hotel was having a raffle/give away. My mother-in-law told me she was going to win. Sure enough, when they called the number, it was her winning ticket. She had won a free ATV adventure ride! When she talked to the guy to reserve it, she mentioned that she was here with some family, and asked what kind of deal they could give us. They gave us a pretty fantastic deal, (we paid for 1 adult and 1 child) so Mom, Dad, Chris, Corynn and Dallin spent the next afternoon on ATVs. AND it just happened to be Dad's birthday! What a great present!
Here is the birthday boy, himself. 65 years young!This is the Mule that Corynn and Dallin got to ride in. They loved their chauffeur, Budda.The "big kids" got a quick lesson on how to handle the four-wheelers........then they were off. Afterward, we went out for Dad's birthday dinner. Our last day on the island was spent traveling back to Hilo. We took the scenic route. We stopped at the Waipio Valley Overlook, but it was so rainy and foggy we couldn't see anything. Our next stop was Akaka falls. Chris and Mom were the only ones who would brave the rain to go see it. By the time we reached Rainbow falls, the rain had slowed a little.
We now know that there are so many waterfalls on the east side of the island, because there is so much rain!We wandered around Hilo for a while, and found this statue of King Kamehameha the Great. This king is the most famous, and well known king in all the history of Hawaii. From the stories I've heard, though, I don't know how great he was. I guess it all depends on your perspective.
Finally, on our flight home. No matter how great a vacation is, it's always good to come home.