Kīlauea Iki is the name of a pit crater that developed to the east of the main Kīlauea caldera in 1959, catching vulcanologists of the time by surprise and forming a lava lake measuring 0.7 by 0.4 miles. You can see it below as it looks from the trail head up on the top of the surrounding cliffs:
|Kīlauea Iki, seen from the top of the cliffs around it.|
The trail makes a loop around the north rim of the pit, then dives swiftly down to the floor of the frozen magma sea and cuts across it back to the base of the cliffs below where the trailhead is, before steeply ascending to come out near another famous park sight, the Thurston Lava Tube (alternatively you can walk the trail in reverse order, that's just the way we went).
|Here you can see the floor of Kīlauea Iki. The gray streak from left to right is the path.|
Eventually we wound our way around the crater rim till the trail began to switchback steeply down the inside of the bowl, until we got to the bottom where this sight met our eyes:
|Panorama of Kīlauea Iki. Ignore the horribly overexposed sky.|
|ʻŌhelo berries growing in Kīlauea Iki crater.|
Near the base of Puʻu Puaʻi I found a large crack in the ground about as deep as I was tall, and tried to pose for a picture of me desperately hanging onto the edge. The lava turned out to be a lot sharper on bare skin than I had anticipated, however.
I did, however, manage to get the picture below:
|Hang in there!|
At a few places on the crater floor steam was rising from the ground in a continuous display, reinforcing the Mordor look. You can see one such place in the picture below:
I investigated one to see if the steam was coming from a crack or other aperture, but it simply seemed to be rising straight out of the ground.
From across the floor of the crater we took one last look back at Puʻu Puaʻi across the frozen lava sea before turning and beginning the torturous ascent back to the crater rim.
I would have to say that this hike across Kīlauea Iki was the high point of the trip for me. There's just something incredibly cool about walking across the surface of what was a roiling, boiling lake of molten lava a little less than four score years ago. If you ever visit Volcanoes National Park, have the time, and are prepared for a hike of several miles, I would definitely recommend going on this one. Especially if you read some of the helpful information boards at the head of the trail first.
As a final photo, have this picture of an ʻōhiʻa lehua blossom that I took at the side of the trail along the rim of the crater. They're quite spectacular up close.
Anyway, that's been part two of my photo series. Tune in next time for the last part of our trip, and to see what happens when lava runs over a modern asphalt road! A hui hou!