Goth Panda

Hawaii: Volcanoes, Helicopters, and Stargazing

The first thing I did this morning was to check the view of the volcano from Volcano House. It was clear and sunny, so the view was terrific.

Clear and sunny at the volcano this morning.

After breakfast, we went back to the Jagger Museum Lookout to get closer photos in the daylight, and to actually go into the museum. I was most interested in the display of volcanic glass, which Hawai’ians call Pele’s hair, and the webcam from inside the caldera. Also apparently Hawai’i is made up of five volcanoes – and a sixth is projected to eventually meet up with them, which will provide some new island real estate.


Volcano from the Jagger Museum Lookout

When we got back, we hiked to the bottom of our caldera, the one that Volcano House overlooks. We couldn’t go all the way, because part of the trail was closed due to toxic gases. We did make it to the bottom, though.

We hiked down to the bottom of our caldera, Halema'uma'u. This is the one Volcano House overlooks.

While hiking back up past steam vents, Mike changed his mind about taking a helicopter ride over the volcano. I’d suggested it earlier since there was no flowing lava we could see. Neither of us had ever been in a helicopter, and Mike is prone to motion sickness and wasn’t sure if he wanted to try it. When he changed his mind and said yes, I booked the tickets for that afternoon out of Hilo airport.

It turns out the helicopter ride didn’t make either of us sick, but it did make for some good photos of the volcano.

Top of the Volcano

Top of the Volcano

Top of the Volcano

Top of the Volcano

I’m not sure I will want to do another helicopter flight anytime soon, however.

After the helicopter flight, we drove around the Hilo area, stopping at a few scenic waterfalls, and then we had dinner in Hilo. After dinner, we headed up Mauna Kea for the Visitor Information Station, which has stargazing programs every night. Due to the elevation (9,300 ft.) and the mountain range that surrounds it and keeps back the clouds, Mauna Kea has clear skies almost every night. There are telescopes set up for public viewing, and the staff gives a “star tour” with a laser pointer. Once we got there, I had to change into long pants and a fleece sweatshirt since it was so much colder at that elevation. It was hard to get photos without a tripod, so we balanced our cameras on a rock wall outside the station.

Sunset at Mauna Kea Observatories

Sunset at Mauna Kea Observatories

The next day, we drove back to Kona for our flight to Honolulu for the second half of the trip: Waikiki. We waited for the flight at the open air Kona airport for longer than the flight actually took.

Aloha from Kona airport, where you check in, wait for your flight, and claim your bags in the open air.

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