Saturday, March 11, 2017

Little Trip to the Big Island (Part II)

I'm just gonna go ahead and say it. I miss winter. I realize that many people move to places like Hawaii to escape the cold, dark days of winter. But I must be one of those anomalies that instead feels a twinge of sadness, living here in the tropics, whenever one of my friends posts a beautiful snowy scene. Or maybe just wears a scarf. Wears socks. Drinks hot coffee in the middle of the day. You get the picture.

Ergo, one of the allures of the Big Island for me, personally, was its snow-capped peaks. You could view two of them from almost any of the places we were at that week. And one of them you can actually access with a vehicle. Or attempt to. Unfortunately, on the day we chose, the top half of the road was closed due to high winds. But even if it had been open, it's not recommend for young children since the high altitude isn't good for their developing lungs. Or something like that.

We discovered this when we arrived at the Visitor's Center halfway up the mountain. And while I walked away a tad dejected that I wouldn't be making a snowball that day, the wind and chill (50-some degrees) at 9000 feet was enough to give my [non] winter blues a bit of a boost. There was a small mountain/hill/slight rise near the visitor center that we decided to hike instead. And after watching the kids get blown about and all of us struggling to catch our breath, it's probably a good thing we never made it to the top of Mauna Kea. But the views were top notch.

The Big Island has a lot of variation. Some parts were almost tundra-esque, like the area around Mauna Kea.

Others were a touch more forested, like our drive as far up Mauna Loa as we could get.

Some areas were quite jungle-y, like when we went on a short hike to explore a lava tube.

Some stretches were farmy and reminded me of our roots back in Central Pennsylvania.

And a very large chunk of the island is desolate and recovering from total volcanic annihilation. We spent half a day exploring that area of Volcanoes National Park, which was basically views upon views upon views of lava rock.

We followed Chain of Craters road all the way down the mountain until it hit the sea. And then we picked our way across the rocks to view this stunning arch made by lava.

We're on the other side of the lava flow from where we road our bikes.
We also had the opportunity to view this bonus attraction: a selfie-taking tourist hiking lava rock in 3 inch heels.

Second from the right, not to be confused with the selfie-taking tourist NOT wearing heels.
I'd say this is a rare sighting but... it's not. I could write an entire blog about the fashion and photo-taking habits of some of our favorite tourists. Moving along.

One of the highlights of our trip was visiting the Jaggar Museum at night to view the hot lava. Despite being dark and late, the scenic overlook was packed full of people. We could only get a few quick glances in between shoulders and behind bushes. But then the fog rolled in and the people rolled out. We decided to hang tight a bit longer and, sure enough, it cleared back up in a few minutes and we got front row standing plus some really amazing views of hot, spewing lava!

View of the hot lava from the overlook.
I'm glad I was able to capture a few shots from the overlook because I ended up spending a good portion of the evening parked outside the restroom. And this is my beef with our four children. While they are regularly inspired by one another's potty habits, they're never synchronized. So usually one of them realizes he/she has to go right about the time another one is coming back. I feel like I spent just as much time in and out of restrooms on our vacation as I did doing some actual sightseeing.

View of the hot lava from the restroom entrance.
While you can't see the lava spewing out of the earth from this vantage point, it still proved a photo-worthy opportunity. And isn't this what family vacations are all about? Not just checking items off your bucket list, but experiencing new and exciting ventures with my people and seeing it all from their perspective. It just so happens that we're at a stage where those perspectives often include cement block walls and a toilet. Here's to the next milestone: kids old enough to use restrooms unescorted!
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