3:30AM they said. Meet outside the cabin at 3:30AM. That’s the conversation that I overheard while quietly devouring my scrambled eggs, courtesy of the Kilauea Military Camp. That’s all that I needed to hear to know that these people, who were also enjoying the same fine eggs, were planning a trip to see the Kilauea lava flow at Volcanoes National Park. I instinctively interrupted their conversation and quickly asked, “do you have room for one more?”
They did. And a plan was set in motion. These fine people from Wyoming, who I only just meet three days prior, would be my companions to one of the greatest shows on Earth.
I was sure to pack my things the night before and set my alarm for 2:15AM. Warm clothes, water, and my camera were the must haves. 2:50AM and I was running out the door, making sure that I would not miss my ride. Our driver, Kristine, popped up and out of bed 5 minutes before 3:30AM and was ready to go. An eager beaver like me. And like that, we were off…into the darkness and in search of the lava glow.
I spoke to a ranger at the Volcanoes Visitor Center the day before. The directions were easy, drive to the end of Chain of Craters Road and then hike in 4 miles toward the lava. That’s exactly what we did. Along the way we would pass the Kilauea Ike Trail, Thurston Lava Tube, Puu Loa Petroglyphs, and the Holei Sea Arch.
At the very end of the road is a ranger station and a gate. There were already a few cars parked, maybe 7 or so. We got as close as possible to the gate and found a parking spot on the side of the rode. It was about 4:30AM by now and the sun would be rising soon. We had to move it.
The four mile hike in went by quickly. The “trail” is, for the most part, flat and paved. At a certain point, the paved road becomes a gravel road, but flat nonetheless. The four miles in took me about an hour. I was walking very, very quickly.
We reached the end of the gravel road a little after 5:30AM. The sun had already began to slowly rise. The lava glow, however, was still strong, still vivid. The entire time I was fixated on the orange and red glow of Madame Pele. I have lived in Hawaii my entire life and I had never seen anything like this. It truly was an awe inspiring experience. This was bucket list stuff.
Here’s a shot of some of the people who were there before us.
Stay behind the white rope.
All kinds of amazing.
Everyone had their cameras out, myself included. At one point, though, I just had to put the camera down. This was too good of a show to watch through a viewfinder or iPhone screen.
This is Kristine and Will. I hitched a ride with them. We were actually attending the same seminar at Volcanoes National Park. They are both professors from Wyoming. More importantly, they are awesomely fun people to hang out with!
This is Janice, the fourth member of our intrepid lava hiking group. She partakes in badass roller derby during her spare time.
On our way out. I could have stayed all day just starring at the lava.
If you visit, be mindful of the signage and rope boundaries…
…or else you might step into some hot lava.