Volcanoes National Park contains the summit caldera of both the Mauna Loa and Kīlauea active volcanos, although the former has no visitor facilities and requires a strenuous several hour hike – minimum – to access, while the latter has plenty of paved road and ample tourist amenities. There is a lot to see in the Kīlauea portion of the national park – there are miles of hikes you can take, not to mention the miles of paved road running around craters and over fresh lava flows.
Anyway, upon reaching the park, the first place we stopped at was the Sulfur Banks and Steam Vents, a location on the northern rim of the Kīlauea caldera where steam continually rises from the ground. It's quite strange to see a constant stream of steam wafting up from the ground. It's unfortunately also hard to photograph, so I only have the one photo of one of the areas steam was coming from:
|My friend Graham next to a steam vent. The hole is only about 6 feet deep, the steam rises off the floor.|
|Mauna Loa panorama from near the summit of Kīlauea. Mouse over to see the original panorama.|
From an overlook on the north rim of Kīlauea caldera, we got an excellent overview of Halemaʻumaʻu crater within it. Halemaʻumaʻu crater has an active lava lake within in (though it is too low to be seen from the overlook at the moment), and has off and on for a few dozen years now. Below is a picture of Halemaʻumaʻu crater, with large clouds of poisonous sulfur dioxide gas rising out of it:
Kīlauea is a rather unusual volcano in its near-constant, yet gentle activity. Very, very few volcanoes actually have sustained lava lakes – in fact only four of them exist in the world at the moment. And most volcanoes when they erupt tend to do so much more violently, making it incredibly dangerous to be around them while they are active. Yet Kīlauea repeatedly has mild, effusive eruptions of lava that tends to move slowly enough not to be a threat, to the point where it's completely normal for people to walk up and poke sticks into it. It offers an almost completely unique chance to experience an active volcano without a corresponding probability of death closer to one than to zero. It's utterly fascinating, and if you ever get the chance to visit, do so.
Now, this has been a short post, but the next one will have a lot more pictures as it will deal with the incredibly cool Kīlauea Iki hike that we spent a few hours on. A hui hou!