Day 4 was a busy day and it began with our 1.2-mile trek through a lush forest to Puu Huluhulu. Puu Hululhulu is the name given to a mountain surrounded by a basalt plain with an elevation of 6758 ft. During the last volcano eruption, lava flowed around the base of the mountain leaving the peak untouched. Our guide, Brenda, regaled us with stories of past hikes to this spot with her former hike partner.
Our next stop was Devastation Trail, named for the area downwind of the volcano eruption in 1959 when all signs of life were destroyed by being covered in a layer of ash. Signs of life have returned to the trail but one can still see the bleached and twisted trees among the live trees to remind one of the devastation after an eruption. A pretty pink bloom and red leaves cover the lava creating a colorful landscape.
What I wore: a rain poncho. If you are in an area of intermittent rain, you can bring your camera; just bring a poncho to cover it up.
The morning hike mileage was 3.4 miles.
We continued around the coast to the historic town of Hilo and to the Hawaiian Resort Hotel. The hotel is right across the street from the Lili’ukalani Park. Nearby is the Coconut Island and in the distance, one can see the 13796′ high peak of Mauna Kea.
After lunch we were able to check into our hotel room and we had a wonderful view from our balcony of a small-protected bay and the ocean beyond. I got a nice panorama photo from the porch.
At 5 o’clock we traveled by van to an area where it is possible to see lava coming down from the mountain to the sea. We walked while it was still light through a lava field with a few homes scattered around.
As we walked along the road we could see where once stood a community of 180 homes, but now lava covers the land as far as the eye can see. We tried to imagine what the people who lived here felt when the lava began to engulf their neighborhood. We found out that the homeowners had enough advance notice to haul their homes away to a safe site.
We spoke with a man whose job it was to advise others not to go further into the lava field because of the danger. He told us that people have walked across the lava in the evening to see the lava flowing down the side of the Crater into the Ocean could potentially fall into a crevice of lava in the dark. A few people who ignored this advice have disappeared.
As we viewed the few homes now in the lava field, we thought at first the lava had spared them – but we learned that all of them were new builds. The people who owned the land came back, removed the lava and rebuilt.
We questioned the man who was living there currently. He bought the lot for $10,000 after the disaster; (fantastically cheap for waterfront Hawaii) because it has 180 degree water views. He hired a bulldozer to clean the rock off his lot. He built a house. There are no utilities. His electricity is all solar. Water is collected from the rain in containers, He has a septic tank. And he has all appliances, lights, satellite TV, Internet and hot showers.
As the sun set, we were treated to a colorful skyline. Lava was still flowing to the ocean down the mountain, but the lava was not visible because tubes had formed and the lava was running through the tubes.