Times Are A Changing!!

I haven’t posted anything in a while because truthfully there wasn’t much in the way of changes.  Lava was pouring out of fissure 8, earthquakes were happening at the summit of Halemau’mau and from Pahoa town at night you could see the glow of the lava river.

Yesterday, some MAJOR changes happened which is worthy of disclosing!

Fissure 8 down in Pahoa slowed down the amount of lava it was pumping out.  The river of pahoehoe that was rushing along at 20+ miles per hour is starting to crust over and now is slow moving a’a lava.  The lava headed towards the Pohiki boat ramp has also come to a standstill.

Here at the summit, at Halemau’mau, earthquake activity has slowed WAY down.  While there are still a few an hour, most of them are small and we haven’t felt one in going on 48 hours. (Which considering we were feeling up to a half a dozen a day at least is a major change!)  The crater seems to not be slumping or collapsing in on itself any more.

What does this mean???  There are two plausible scenarios.  The first one (and the one we are all hoping for) is this is the end of this event.  The second, and less popular scenario is another major collapse at the summit DOES happen and this creates another surge of lava flowing in another direction somewhere along the lower east rift zone.

It’s too soon to tell for sure which scenario this will be, but thought it was worthy of a note to mention to our guests.

What has changed in the last 24/48 hours for sure is that you can no longer see the glow of the lava from Pahoa town.  As of last night, the sky was dark instead of crimson for the first time in 3 months.

Yes, Hawaii Volcano National Park here in Volcano is still closed and will be for some time to come.  Even if this is the end of the cycle, once they get the all clear to go into the park there will need to be major assessments of structures, roads, and trails. This will take time to do.  It could easily be 6 months to a year before the park can reopen.  Roads and structures will need to be assessed first, and then repairs to them (if possible) or decisions on what can/can’t be repaired and what to do about it.  Trails will have to be assessed and determined how safe and passable they are.  I assume they will work to get at least part of the park open as soon as possible, but again depending on the amount of damage they find that may take some time.

In the meantime, the Kahuku Unit of the Hawaii Volcano National Park is still open along the slopes of Mauna Loa.   I know already covered this area in a previous blog, but yesterday we went with a friend from out of town to hike the park.  She really wanted to hike on lava so this was pretty much one of our only options.  I have to say, we hiked several of the trails in about 2.5 hours.  None of them were super strenuous, and they were quite beautiful in their own way.

We started with hike 2 on the ranger map, which is Pu’u o Lokuana Trail. We walked to the trailhead from the parking lot across from the visitor’s center. This took us through some old ranching roads and across very green pastures until we reached the 1826 lava flow (I think it was 1826, I know it was 1800 for sure).  It was quite beautiful how we seemed to walk through a portal of time where this lava field was surrounded by pasture land on one side and one you crossed through it was a completely different landscape.  We continued down an old airstrip to the main road and crossed over to another trail which took us up the backside of the Pu’u o Lokuana Cinder Cone. Dazzling colors of the cinder cone in reds, yellows and even some blues contrasted against the green of the pastures surrounding it. We accented to the top (less than 300 ft) and then walked down the front side of the cone back to the parking area.

We hopped in the car and drove to the Lower Palm Trail.  Here we hiked through some old a’a lava fields from the 1868 Mauna Loa lava flow until we passed over into some pasture land again.  The elevation gain is less than 400 feet and once we reached the Upper Palm Trail Head we walked down the road to the car parked at the lower Palm Trail Head.  All in all about 2.6 miles for this hike.

If you haven’t hiked on lava fields before, both hikes are a great jumping off point.  Hiking on lava is unlike anything I have ever hiked on before.  It is easy to get turned around as the fields often look the same and there is very little vegetation to help differentiate where you may be.  Often stacks of rocks call Ahu’s are posted along the trail to help you navigate, but even these can be hard to find against the dark black of the lava field.  Until the Kilauea portion of the park reopens, this may be your only opportunity to get to hike on a lava flow so I recommend checking it out since you are here now.  


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