We decided to hike once again to watch the active lava flow of Kilauea volcano at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. We have done this many times now, but wanted to do it once more – plus, we have some new camera equipment that we wanted to try out. As usual, we stopped in to the visitor’s center to ask them about the lava conditions and how long the hike would be (the conditions change almost daily). On this occassion it turned out to be about a 3.5 mile hike each way.
We chose to start the hike in the late afternoon to ensure we arrived at the viewing spot prior to sunset – that way we get to see the lava flow as the sky and sun change in the early evening. Also, this way we only have to hike one way in the dark. We were prepared with sturdy hiking boots, lots of water, jackets (it frequently rains here), one flashlight per person, and of course our camera equipment including tripod.
It was not surprising to see so many people unprepared for the long hike – many with open-toed sandals, many without water or even a flashlight. On our return hike from the lava flow back to the car, as we crested a hill, we came across a young girl about 20 years old, alone and crying in the dark. We tried to console her and see if she needed any help – it tourned out that the hike was too long and she did not want to go further, so her friends just left her on this hill in the dark with no flashlight, in the wind with a light rain beginning to fall! At this point she was about 1.75 miles from the car and the same distance to the lava flow – too far to walk alone in the dark with no light. The last group of hikers we saw were starting their hike at 8:00PM – which puts them back at the start somewhere around 1:00AM! Be smart when you hike in Hawaii – nature can be unforgiving.
The hike was definitely worth it – it was a surreal setting with the crowd silent in the dark watching the dramatic lava flow as the sun set in the background. The bright flashes of lava entering the ocean, and the hard-hitting waves pounding the shore mesmerized you. We got back to our car at about 9:00PM and we were starving! I had left me dinner in the car not thinking that I would be hungry long before this – so we chowed down on some stir-fried noodles that we had bought earlier and then drove back to Hilo for the night.