While the blog posts have been about our adventures on the road in the Roamer, the desire to travel after retirement was fueled by our great family vacations even when we were both working and the kids were in school. Even now we still get together as a family for an adventure once a year.
We had company coming in for the Christmas holiday so the four of us took off for the big Island of Hawaii earlier in December. The boys had never been there, and Pam and I had not been there since our honeymoon nearly 33 years ago.
If you go to the big Island you have to see Volcano National Park, so we found a VRBO in Volcano, HI to rent for the week. The place was just outside of the park and about 4,000 feet in altitude. It does snow on the Island since Mauna Kea reaches up to 13,800 feet at its peak.
It didn’t snow on us, but it was cold at night and the wood burning stove was a necessity.
Volcano National Park is a pretty cool place if you like beautiful volcanic landscapes. This is one of the huge calderas located in the park. The floor of the caldera, where we hiked across, was once lava that took sixteen years to cool enough to cross.
Thurston Lave tube is a volcanic cave where the outer lava cooled and the inner lava flowed away, leaving the 10 foot diameter tube that you can hike through.
Outside the tube and around the caldera is lush vegetation.
One of the calderas is still active and at night you can watch the lava explode inside the center. Because the ground near the lip is very unstable, you have to enjoy this from some distance. One Ranger told us of a time in the past when you could go out the edge and luckily a group of visitors were pulled back just before a 20 acre chunk of earth fell into the molten caldera.
The lava finds its way from the active calderas to the ocean, reshaping the island and creating new landscape.
There are two types of lava, A’a and Pahoehoe. A’a is the rock mound type of lava. It moves as a wall of rocks, creeping along it set path. Pahoehoe is the more liquid flowing rock that looks very much like the top of brownies when it stops and cools. Lava was not flowing into the ocean when we were there, but there is a constant battle between lava and the ocean as the island tries to grow.
We didn’t expect to find petroglyphs in the lava, but we came across these in the park left by some ancient Hawaiians.
Hilo was the closest city to where we were staying. We toured the city one day and its beautiful parks.
And of course there was a waterfall too.
We drove up Mauna Kea as far as our rental car agreement allowed, about 9,000 of the 13,800 climb – lol. The last few miles require four wheel drive to get up and great brakes to descend safely. The panoramic view out over the island was nice from up there.
We also visited Waipi’o Valley on the northeast side of the island. You can see the Maui on the horizon from this point. We hiked the 25% grade road down to the beach and back up. Tough hike but the beach was nice and we had lunch there for an enjoyable afternoon.
On the southern side of the Island, we hiked out to the Papakolea Green Sand Beach. There was some serious erosion where folks have been driving out to the beach. You needed a vehicle with some ground clearance which our rental car did not have. The Roamer would not have fit these roads.
The two mile hike made swimming at the green sand beach that much more refreshing. We caught a return ride in the back of a local’s pickup truck.
At the southern most point of the US, and Hawaii, is a 20-foot cliff to the deep blue ocean. There was also a tidal blow hole that Tom and Taylor swam into, mostly carried by the wave currents. One lady there looked down, saw them in the hole and asked, “Where is your Mom?”. Pam answered, “I’m right here – and they’re fine”.
We also visited Lava Tree State Monument. This is where lava had flowed through a forest, wrapped around the trees, cooled and then the tree burnt leaving a hollow vertical column of lava.
One day we drove to the southeastern side of the island, rented bikes for the three mile ride to the end of the road and hike across a lava field to an active lava flow.
After about a mile into the hike the ground was getting noticeably hotter. When we looked down in the cracks in the rocks it became obvious why it was warmer.
Pam turned around at this point, but the boys and I continued until we got right next to the above ground flowing lava coming down the hill and making its way to the ocean.
On the western side of the island is the Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park. This place was the royal grounds for the ancient Hawaiian families and also the place of refuge. Nearly all crimes had a death penalty, but if you made it to the place of refuge before you were caught then you were spared. You lived with the priest there until he said you were absolved, and could then rejoin the outside world.
Further up the west coast of the island we stopped at a beach Kaloko-Honokohua National Historical Park. We shared the beach there with some sea turtles basking in the afternoon sun.
This was another great trip with the boys.