Monday, August 4, 2008

Day 170. Kilauea Iki

Hmm, the day looks threatening. Maybe I should concentrate on nearby trails.

Fortunately there were a few very interesting things to look at near Park Headquarters. First and foremost is the Kilauea caldera itself. A caldera is a depression formed by the caving in of the roof of a magma reservoir. In other words, it is a huge hole in the ground, much larger than any crater. In the 1920’s the Kilauea caldera was flooded with magma, and literally looked like a cauldron from hell. But eruptions in the caldera are rare in comparison with eruptions along one of the two rift zones. I could thus consider myself lucky in that a vent opened at the side of the caldera early in the year, and although no magma has erupted, the vent is disgorging massive amounts of steam. Pretty cool!

At the far east side of the caldera is a large crater, Kilauea Iki, which saw a renewed phase of activity in 1959. In a matter of a few weeks a large volume of lava was erupted, and the old crater filled with yet another lava lake. The level of the lava lake rose and fell as the eruption proceeded, and at the end filled the 800-foot deep crater with nearly 400 ft of lava (leaving behind a neat “bathtub ring” that is nearly 50 ft high). The trail runs along the rim of the crater, passes near a cool lava tube (outside the crater), and finally descends into the now solidified lava lake. Weird to think that you are walking over what used to be a vast inferno as only Dante could have imagined.

No sooner had I returned to the car that the clouds burst into irregular showers. I hung around for an hour or so, and then went looking for drier climates toward the southeast. This time I followed the crest of one of the “pali”, and was gratifyingly rewarded by a rainbow over the lowlands.
Tomorrow I need to take the flight to San Francisco and then Mexico, so I think I will treat myself to a dry cabin, instead of braving the elements in my little tent (which so far has been wonderful and water tight).

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