Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park: Steam Vents

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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After visiting Volcano House and the park’s visitor center in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, our tour continued on to the Steam Vents parking lot. We walked through a grassy meadow to the caldera’s edge.

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From this paved path, we could see steam billowing out of the earth in places.  A few feet down, the ground is so hot that trees can’t take root here, but the tall grasses thrive.

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The steam vents are caused by groundwater seeping through to the hot volcanic rock below. When it makes contact with the hot rocks, it is expelled back up through fractures in the earth as steam.

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At Steaming Bluff, a cliff overlooking the caldera, we paused for some photos of the crater. Then we walked a short way on the trail leading away from the overlook along the rim.

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You can’t go very far on the rim trail because the 2018 eruption destabilized parts of it. The Jaggar museum still sits on this trail, a little further down, but it is no longer structurally sound and so is closed to visitors.

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After we’d seen our fill of smoldering fields, we headed back to the bus for our next destination in the park.

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Hilo Posts:

  • Volcano House
  • Steam Vents
  •  Kīlauea Iki (Coming Soon)
  • Chain of Craters Road (Coming Soon)
  • Big Island Candies (Coming Soon)
  • Rainbow Falls (Coming Soon)
  • Richardson’s Black Sand Beach (Coming Soon)
  • Mokuola (Coming Soon)

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Location: 1 Crater Rim Drive, Volcano, HI 96718

Designation: National Park

Date established/designated: August 1, 1916

Date of my visit: April 16, 2019

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Diamond Head National Natural Landmark

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Diamond Head is a dormant volcano crater. It provides the iconic backdrop to Waikiki Beach on the island of Oahu.

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Hawaiians called the crater ‘Le’ahi’ (Tuna Ridge, because it resembles the fin of a tuna.) Western explorers thought they saw diamonds sparkling on the crater walls as they approached from the sea which is how it got the name Diamond Head. There were no diamonds.

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The military built the trail to the top in 1908 and defensive bunkers were built at the summit during World War II. There are still antennae up there in use by the government.

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The hike to the summit is the most popular trail on the island, so we Ubered over to the trail head at the crack of dawn. The car dropped us off in the parking lot where there is a small visitors center kiosk and some restrooms.

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The trail head begins from the parking lot, which is already halfway up the crater. It starts out as a steep sidewalk and then gives way to rocky, slippery switchbacks.

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Near the end of the switchbacks is a side trail leading to an overlook. This is a good pace to take some photos, catch your breath and drink some water.

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The trail is only 1.8 miles round trip, but it’s steep.

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Further up the trail, the switchbacks lead to an even steeper staircase. After climbing the stairs, you get to huff and puff your way through a narrow tunnel blasted through the rock.

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Once through the tunnel, there are more stairs to the bunkers on top. We climbed up there for breathtaking views of Honolulu, the Pacific and Diamond Head Lighthouse down below.

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Once we got back down to the trail head, we continued walking past the park’s entrance to the farmer’s market, about a 1/2 mile down the road. There are dozens of food stalls with fresh fruit and specialties from many different countries. We snacked our way around the world and then were off to our next stop.

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Oahu Posts:

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Location: Diamond Head, Honolulu, HI 96815

Designation: National Natural Landmark, State Monument

Date established/designated: 1968

Date of my visit: April 13, 2019

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Haleakalā National Park

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Haleakalā is Hawaiian for ‘House of the Sun.’ The demigod Maui is said to have imprisoned the sun here to lengthen the day. And so we took an afternoon excursion to the summit to watch the sun set from above the clouds.

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Haleakalā was originally part of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, along with the two volcanoes on the Big Island of Hawaii, designated in 1916. In 1961, Haleakalā was broken out into a separate National Park.

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First we stopped at the Park Headquarters at 7000 feet. Our guide pointed out some ʻāhinahina (a type of Silversword plant found only on Haleakalā.) There was also a Nēnē crossing sign in front of the center…these Hawaiian geese had died out in the park, but were reintroduced by Boy Scouts in 1946.

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Our next stop was the Haleakalā Visitor Center at 9700 feet. This was a far as the tour bus could go and we would watch the sunset from here. The visitor center itself was closed as it is opens at dawn for the bigger sunrise crowd.

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We could see the observatory at the 10k ft summit. We walked towards it a bit while waiting for sunset and saw some birds running around in the lava fields.

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At first we thought they were the Nēnē we’d heard so much about, but upon closer inspection, they turned out to be Chukar. This is a type of pheasant, originally introduced into Hawaii for hunting. It has adapted well to the cold climate of the volcano’s summit.

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Before the sun set, there was mist rolling through the Haleakalā Crater. The crater is seven miles across and 2600 feet deep. We could only see part of it.

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Finally the sun began to set and paint the sky in rapidly changing hues. The fog rolled in and obscured it one moment and rolled out the next to reveal a diffused alien-looking sky.

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Maui Posts:
  • Kahului Harbor
  • Haleakalā National Park
  • ʻĪao Valley State Monument
  • Maui Tropical Plantation
  • Maui Ocean Center

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Location: 30000 Haleakala Hwy, Kula, HI 96790

Designation: National Park 

Date established/designated: July 1, 1961

Date of my visit: April 14, 2019

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The Aloha Tower – NRHP

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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The Aloha Tower is a lighthouse on Pier 9 of Honolulu Harbor. When it opened in September 1926 it was the tallest structure in Hawaii at 10 stories. It cost $160k to build, a huge sum at the time.

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Like the Hawaiian Statue of Liberty, the Aloha Tower welcomed immigrants for decades. During WWII, it was painted camouflage. Today, it has an observation deck on the 10th floor, is surrounded by the Aloha Tower Marketplace (part of Hawai‘i Pacific University,) and welcomes cruise ship tourists to the port of Honolulu.

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Oahu Posts:

Location: 155 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96813

Designation: National Register of Historic Places

Date established/designated: May 13, 1976

Date of my visit: April 13, 2019

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Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park: Volcano House

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Volcano House is a historic lodge in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the rim of Kilauea’s Halema’uma’u crater. The hotel began as a simple shelter in 1846, 30 years after the park was established.

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In 1866, the shelter was replaced with a four bedroom hotel and hosted famous guests, including Mark Twain. Twain wrote about it in his autobiographical travelogue of some of his ealry adventures.

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The hotel burned down in 1940 and was rebuilt as a 24-room lodge a year later.

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When our cruise ship docked in Hilo, we took an excursion with Robert’s Hawaii to the National Park. Our fist stop was to the visitor center. After looking at the displays there, we walked across the street to Volcano House.

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From the veranda in back of the hotel, we had our first glimpse of the massive crater. Native Hawaiians believe the volcano to be the home of Pelehonuamea, the fire goddess. Legend has it that Pele fled to Kilauea from her home after angering her sister, the goddess of the sea.

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Visitors are prohibited from taking the lava rocks, lest they anger Pele. When I visited here in the 80’s, before the 2018 eruption closed the Jaggar Museum, I’d seen a display of letters to Pele from around the world, apologizing for taking her rocks after experiencing a string of bad luck. This rule is enforced more seriously today..a man in front of us in dock security was stopped from boarding the ship because he was caught with rocks in his pockets.

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In 2018, Kilauea erupted explosively, destroyed over 700 homes and extended the island a mile further into the sea as the lava lake in Halema’uma’u crater drained and flowed to the ocean.This was the culmination of a 35-year-long eruption that began in 1983. There is currently no molten lava to be seen here, but there is steam rising from the volcano which is still considered active.

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Hilo Posts:

  • Volcano House
  • Steam Vents (Coming Soon)
  •  Kīlauea Iki (Coming Soon)
  • Chain of Craters Road (Coming Soon)
  • Big Island Candies (Coming Soon)
  • Rainbow Falls (Coming Soon)
  • Richardson’s Black Sand Beach (Coming Soon)
  • Mokuola (Coming Soon)

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Location: 1 Crater Rim Drive, Volcano, HI 96718

Designation: National Park

Date established/designated: August 1, 1916

Date of my visit: April 16, 2019

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Polynesian Cultural Center

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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The Polynesian Cultural Center is a theme park dedicated to the preservation of the cultures of  Polynesia. It is on the northern shore of Oahu, and is owned by The Church of Latter-day Saints

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We spent the day at this park…it’s like EPCOT (the world showcase part) for Polynesian nations. Our reservations included transportation from our Waikiki hotel, access to each of the villages, an afternoon floating pageant in the central lagoon, a luau with entertainment and an evening theatrical performance. It was a full day, but lots of fun!

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The park is organized into six villages, each representing a different Polynesian culture, on the banks of a central lagoon. Most of the center’s performers are from the areas represented and receive scholarships to the Church of LDS’ Brigham Young University – Hawaii.

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We took a canoe ride to Tahiti, watched a man make poi out of taro root in Hawai’i, attended a Maori warrior dance performance in Aotearoa (New Zealand), and laughed at a Tongan drum performance involving volunteers from the audience.

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In Fiji, we kept the rhythm by pounding bamboo sticks in time to the music. In Samoa, we were treated to a fire dancing performance, a coconut husking demonstration and then two young men scaled palm trees in their bare feet to retrieve some more coconuts!

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In the afternoon, there was a performance in the lagoon on canoes, featuring the dances of all six regions.

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We cooled off for a few minutes in the IMAX theater with aerial photography of Hawaii. Then it was time for the luau!

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At the luau, the roasted pig was unearthed from its fire pit with much fanfare and then there were more performances while we ate. (And yes, we did try the poi, and while we didn’t care for that, the dinner rolls made with taro were quite delicious.)

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Afterwards, we headed over to the Pacific Theater for the theatrical production of Hā–Breath of Life. This was the only place were weren’t allowed to take photos.  It is a cross between a Broadway play and Medieval Times performance, telling a story of ancient Polynesian traditions and history, interwoven with song and dance in arena-like setting.

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Oahu Posts:

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Location: 55-370 Kamehameha Hwy, Laie, HI 96762

Designation: Cultural Theme Park

Date established/designated: 10/12/1963

Date of my visit: April 12, 2019

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Kahului Harbor

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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After departing Honolulu, our cruise ship docked in Kahului on the island of Maui. It was very windy that morning with rough waters, so our snorkeling excursion was canceled. So we decided to explore the port area for a little while since our Haleakala excursion wasn’t until the late afternoon.

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Kahului is the business center of Maui, with shopping malls and shipyards. This town was rural and undeveloped until the sugar cane industry boom. Then, the sugar companies built a railroad to haul their crop to the harbor.

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In 1900, the bubonic plague swept through Kahului. Officials burned down the town to staunch the epidemic. In 1948, the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Company built the planned community that is modern day Kahului.

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The sugar plantations are gone now, the factories shuttered. Kahului is still important to Maui as a port, bringing needed supplies and tourists to the island on a regular basis.

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We walked past the industrial cargo container yards and strip malls and found a decent beach. There were windsurfers and kayakers in the water here and a few sunbathers on the sand. Not exactly paradise, but clean enough to dip our toes in the water before heading back to the ship.

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Maui Posts:

  • Kahului Harbor
  • Haleakalā National Park (Coming Soon)
  • ʻĪao Valley State Monument (Coming Soon)
  • Maui Tropical Plantation (Coming Soon)
  • Maui Ocean Center (Coming Soon)

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Location: 100 W Kaahumanu Ave, Kahului, HI 96732

Designation: Harbor, Public Beach

Date of my visit: 4/14/2019

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