Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Week In Hilo

By Murph

So I'm back on the mainland now, hanging with my bro and his family for a week down in Houston. Overall I had a blast in Hawaii, I still can't believe some of the things I saw down there, and my week in Hilo was a fantastic way to finish things off. I have a new photobucket album set up now: http://www.photobucket.com/scottamurphy_bigisland_hilo (not nearly as many pictures as the other albums, the views were just as spectacular, it's just that I'm SICK of taking pictures, I feel like I was beginning to live life through a lens, I pretty much hate my camera now!)

The weather wasn't great for the week, but that's par for the course in Hilo for this time of year. It's amazing to think that the town has rebuilt itself TWICE over the course of 60 years due to Tsunami's decimating the town itself. What's even scarier is that the last Mauna Loa eruption stopped 4 miles short of the town, and it's OVERDUE for another eruption with the possibility of covering the town with lava. Strange place, huh? There is always a worry of a Tsunami coming into the Bay and ruining the town, and on the inland side there is a threat of a Volcano (Mauna Loa especially..) covering the town in Lava.

I basically banged around the area with some people I met while watching the Superbowl that were from all over the place. I know pretty much every bar in town, and we even got a movie in one rainy day- "Taken", it's not too bad, not a bad way to spend a couple hours....anyway, the two basic things I wanted to accomplish last week I did: 1) getting to the top of Mauna Kea for stargazing/sunset, and 2) hitting Volcanoes National Park and watching molten lava run into the sea.

Let's go over the Mauna Kea trip first. Before I get into the actual trip to the summitt, we stopped by Rainbow Falls on the way. It's this 80 footer that's really roaring, and was right off the main road outside of Hilo, pretty cool. Here's a couple pictures from there:

So the summitt of Mauna Kea is 13000+ feet, and we were able to get up there shortly before sunset. You can actually drive all the way up to the top. The road is pretty developed due to some of the world's finest telescopes being located there. There are 13 countries that all work together on something like a dozen telescopes that are located at the summitt. The height and remoteness of Mauna Kea creates an environment that is like no other for the astronomers. Here are some photos from the top (the "ball-like" telescopes you see have diameters around 30m to give you an idea of how big these bad boys are), and a couple pictures of the actual sunset (temperature at sunset was roughly 30 degrees, and the North side of the moutain doesn't get much sun hence the snow coverage, the name Mauna Kea means White (Kea) Mountain (Mauna)):

After the sun was down we had to head back down to the visitor's center in order to check out the stars. Nightly they have some astronomers running some smaller-scale (the biggest was probably around 15 feet long) telescopes that you can look through and check out some planets, etc. The stars alone, with no telescope, were ridiculous up there. It was just so clear. The stars were even brighter and more plentiful than the ones I saw from the top of the Haleakala Crater (in Maui) prior to sunrise that morning a couple weeks back. We stayed up there for a couple hours and then took the trip (about an hour and a half) back to Hilo. The trip was super cool. From up there you could see the Haleakala Crater in Maui, as well as the adjacent Mauna Loa in the Big Island (the peaks are within the photos above), and after the sun went down the views of the stars and planets were unreal!

The next day we did some more exploring in Hilo hitting up some more of the town parks (everything close to the ocean now is a town park because they fear building ANYTHING on top of the ocean now due to the threat of a Tsunami at any instant), including Coconut Island (where they used to send the "bad" people way back in King Kamehameha's day). Here are some pictures from all over the town:

On Friday we finally got over to Volcanoes National Park. I was really hoping to get two days over there, but the weather didn't really allow it. They had a phone number to call and check the weather at the park and Friday ended up being the only reasonable day to head over. What a cool place. On the way we also swung by this little coffee roasting/growing place. The coffee was unreal, the best I've had since I've been down here...I picked up a pound that I brought back, it was $30 for a pound of the best they had, I can't wait to tap into it when I finally get back. On to the national park- you head right up to the top of an ACTIVE volcano, the most active in the world actually, Kilauea, and it's currently erupting so a great time to check it out. The eruption is actually currently out the side of the Volcano in the east drift zone, but I'll talk about the real lava flow in a few minutes. At the top of Kilauea you can actually see the volcano venting (half of the park is currently closed due to Sulfur Dioxide emissions) within the Kilauea Caldera (a "Caldera" is just like a crater, just craters over one mile wide are called "Calderas"). The Kilauea Caldera is roughly 3 miles by 2 miles big. Here are some photos of the volcano venting at the top:

We were able to go halfway around the caldera, as well as check out a couple of the adjacent craters near the top. There are some more cool pictures at the photobucket site of different views as we made our way around the park, check 'em out. Another neat part of the park is that it's probably the most dynamic national park in the country. After each eruption the landscape of the park physically changes as lava flows decimate vegatation and create "new land". We walked around a lava flow that was from the 1984 eruption of Kilauea. It's kind of crazy. You're just walking around on this hardened lava where a forest used to be. The lava just basically bulldozed and covered everything on it's way to wherever it wanted to go. Here are a couple pictures from walking around on the old flow:

There were random lava tubes and crazy formations all over the place. Super cool. There was also this MASSIVE lava tube that was like 8 feet high and 400 feet long. Park of the park is a walkway through part (about 200 feet of it) of this huge lava tube, here is a photo of the entry way and one from inside the tube:

I don't want to get into all the details of the volcano, lava flows, lava tubes, etc. But let's just say I learned a TON about volcanoes, and if anybody has ANY questions about anything let me know, I found the stuff fascinating and took in all I could. I think the park rangers were beginning to hate me. I'd wear one out by asking a ton of questions, and then move on to another one....they loved it at first, but then would give me the "enough-is-enough" look. We spent most of the day at the Kilauea Caldera area of the park exploring the things I spoke of above, but as sunset was coming upon us it was time to head down to where the lava was flowing into the ocean (best seen at night when you can actually see the glow of the lava). It was about an hour or so drive, and along the way we stopped at this tiny little state park that had "lava trees". A lava tree is basically a lava formation that was created by a flow that wrapped itself around a tree and hardened. The tree most likely caught fire and "disappeared", but the lava flows remain. Here is a picture of a lava tree, and one from a random stop we made along the way at a cool coastal spot:

In 1990 a town in Hawaii, Kalapana, was almost completely destroyed (it's beautiful beaches, and 90+% of it's houses) by a lava flow, this was only 19 years ago! It reminded me of the Family Guy where Peter buys "Volcano Insurance" in Rhode Island, but it's no laughing matter here! There isn't much left of the town itself, but it did get a quarter mile of extra land leading up to a black sand beach. So basically if lava flows OVER your land you still own that land, but if lava ADDS to the island (as it flows into the ocean new land is created, the same way all the Hawaiian Islands were created, from lava flow) the new land is owned by the State. So after the 1990 flow the State got hundreds of acres of new beachfront property. It was crazy to walk out to the new black sand beach on this "new land" where ocean used to be. Anything that is "green" or appears "living" has been planted there post-flow in a beautification effort. Here are some pictures from there (the huge plume you see in the background in the last picture is where the lava is flowing into the ocean further down the coast, we got it on a good day, more on that later...):

So one more stop to make- the lava viewing area. Last March Kilauea blew a hole in an east drift zone and lava began flowing into the ocean at this spot. Right when it began you could basically walk right up, as close as you could get without endangering yourself, to the lava with no problems. Well some idiots basically killed themselves, or burnt their foot/feet/hand/hands off (no joke) by stepping-into/touching the lava or taking in some gaseous emissions (Hydrochloric Acid readily made by the lava entering the ocean) near the flow despite the warning signs that were apparently all over the place to not get too close (not recommended to get within 100 yards due to changing winds and worries of taking in some toxic fumes). Due to the fatalities the county set up this "viewing area" that is probably a quarter of a mile out from the actual flow. As it got darker and darker the flow became more and more incredible. I only have a couple pictures from there (the first is on the walk out when it wasn't so dark) where you can kind of see what's going on (the second one is tough, you can kind of see it if you blow it up to size):

I was basically looking through some binoculars the entire time and it was like a fireworks show. We were witnessing "heavy-flow" that night (thought I'd never use THAT term in THAT way if you hear me..) and sometimes lava would just fire out, hit the ocean and explode like 50-100 feet in the air, it was amazing! There were "ooooohs" and "aaaahhs" from the crowd after each mini-explosion just like a fireworks show. I knew I was flying out the next morning and it was just an amazing way to end the trip. The lava flow as actually creating new land, and the Big Island of Hawaii was actually growing right before my eyes. It's the only Island in the world that is expanding faster than it's eroding, it's truly amazing and a sight to see. I was mesmerized by the flow and didn't want to leave, I could have watched for days. It's kind of like staring into a campfire and completing zoning out by watching the wood or whatever burn. We got kicked out (everybody else was also taken by this, even the people who were thinking it wouldn't be that cool...) and had to leave there around 9pm or so. I was like a little kid out there, I just couldn't get enough of it. The whole day was just incredible.

Saturday morning I flew to Honolulu early in the morning and took a cab to Waikiki. I had to get a couple bags back from the Surf Shop (let I had left there over a month ago), and hung out at the beach all day (my flight out wasn't until 5pm that day). The beach was full of Pro-Bowl fans, and the place had quite a little buzz, I was tempted to change my flight for the next day, but I knew it was time for me to get out of there, and I had a tee time for 1pm the next day with my bro and a couple of his friends (I landed at 11am after flying all night, and was on the course 2 hours later, not pretty, but not TOO bad...). The flight back was great (first class is the only way to go, even better on the way back, a true life saver for the red-eye flight), and I'm having a blast here in Houston (they actually live 30 miles north of Houston in the Kingwood area) with my brother and his family. We're hitting a Rockets game tonight (they're playing Sacramento), and I'm taking the kids to an amusement park (by myself by the way...all four of them: Kindergarten, 2nd grade, 4th grade, and 6th grade...WOW, Uncle Scotty will truly be tested). I'm also planning on playing a couple more rounds of golf. I actually cooked Chop Suey for the kids for dinner yesterday, and they loved it! A couple of them actually, shockingly, asked for seconds....no stomach aches this morning, praying my cooking doesn't cause one of them to call home sick today...and I'm NASTY at 2nd grade math by the way.....NASTY. There's also a Science Project in the works, I'm thinking about dropping some knowledge Volcano stizyle- the 4th grade teacher will be SHOCKED.

Well, I hope everybody enjoyed the blog. I had a lot of fun writing it and hopefully I can get a chance to go back and read the entire thing over in a few weeks. It was an unreal trip with countless unforgettable memories. I saw so many incredible things, had an absolute blast, met a bunch cool people, and basically just took it day-by-day for weeks down there. It was so much fun to just figure out what you want to do each day! I'm pretty burnt out though, and am ready to head home, but thinking of "work" makes me cringe. I'll be ready to go on March 2nd though, my first day back. Thanks for reading the blog and for all the emails and calls on the side while I was down there....I'll see some of you next week! Aloha and MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA-Halo!

With Aloha.


Anonymous said...

It has been so enjoyable reading all of your adventures. I hope you realize how lucky you are and that the memories you have made are priceless. Thanks for including KJ in part of your journey.
I'm sure he was impressed with your blog's journalism and photography. It helped that the subject matter was so outstanding..

Thanks, Darlene Cardinal

Darlene Cardinal

Anonymous said...

Wow, I finally had the time to read EVERYTHING on this site, and I'm not going to lie...I desperately want to go to Hawaii now. I'm so glad ya'll had such a great trip :) Sorry you had to go back to work Scott...but did you at least get that Monday off due to snow?

Katie Cardinal