Two months before our trip to Hawaii, lava started flowing on the Big Island, where we planned to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Two weeks before our trip, lava reached the sea! An opportunity.
There are several ways to get to the active lava flow. After past lava flows overran the coastal road, a gravel emergency road was built on the lava flows. Tourists can drive to within a few miles of the active lava flow and hike or bike on the gravel road.
I biked to the lava flow in the late afternoon from the Kalapana side, outside the Park, and this worked well. During the summer, the trade winds usually blow from Kalapana into the Park. They were blowing that day — blowing the heat and fumes from the lava into the Park and away from those of us coming from Kalapana. In contrast, a volunteer at the Park had driven to the lava flow from the Park two days before, and her lungs were still smarting from the sulphur fumes.
In 1990 a lava flow destroyed many homes in Kalapana. Some people have moved back to their land by the emergency road. Lucky for them, the 2016 lava flow is a few miles up the road. The smoke on the far left is from the current lava flow.
Lava flows down the cliff, forming a lava delta of new land. See the people standing near the triangle of red lava that just broke loose. Shown in the top photo, some people take a small boat to see the lava.
We walked inland to get a closer look at the lava. A light-gray crust quickly forms over the red-hot lava. “The dark red lava often seen slowly crawling across parts of Hawaii, measures around 895 F.” The black lava is old and safe to walk on.
Fast-moving lava glows red or yellow. As the lava slows down and cools, it turns gray. As the sun sets, the red-hot lava appears brighter.
After dark we returned to the coastline and the lava delta, where glowing lava illuminates the smokes and waves.
A spectacular finale. Riding a bike back on a gravel road in the dark is challenging but part of the experience.