This morning we got up relatively early to head out on our drive to the Hilo area. I really love the 2-hour time difference we have when we go to Hawaii. It makes getting up early feel not early at all. We had already seen most of the sights along the upper road on previous trips, but we’d never explored the sights on the east side of the island before, so we just drove straight over, making our first stop Rainbow Falls. This is when we realized there was a drought in Hawaii.
I had mentioned this thought to Steve on the drive over because so many of the trees lining the road seemed to be brown and dying, but we were on the drier west side so we weren’t sure. But seeing this waterfall down to barely a trickle in the middle of the rainy winter months left no doubt. We also asked a local guy who was at the falls and he confirmed that they hadn’t had a decent rainfall in 2 months.
Although the waterfall wasn’t as spectacular as we’d hoped, the dry conditions did allow us to hike right to the top of the waterfall and peer down to the pool below. Or allow Steve to peer down anyway while I peered at a 75 degree angle. I wasn’t about to get close enough to the edge to see straight down.
From there, we followed the rode up to Boiling Pots and Pe’epe’e Falls. When the water is really running, the series of holes downstream of the falls that make up the Boiling Pots creates a churning whitewater effect that makes it look like the water is boiling. Today it was a mild simmer.
But there was a bit more water at Pe’epe’e Falls than there had been at Rainbow Falls (a lot of water is lost as it seeps into the porous lava rock on its path to the sea), so we went on ahead up the road to Wai’ale Falls. I’m quite certain this was not as impressive as it usually is, but at least it looked like a proper waterfall.
We hiked to the top of the falls and sat up there to eat lunch. Again, we sat in a location that, under normal circumstances, would have been awash with a wave of water. Yes, we did keep an eye on the skies for any hint of rain inland and were on the lookout for the possibility of flash floods.
From here, we headed to the Kaumana Lava Tube. Steve has gone caving in the past and really likes going into these tubes. I enjoy them and find them interesting, but I’m not a caver. I’m a smidge claustrophobic and won’ t go if the path is too tight or if any shimmying is required. Fortunately, lava tubes tend to be fairly open and the only smaller spots occur where part of the tube has fallen in. There also don’t tend to be any side spurs that you can wander into and get lost; lava tubes are pretty much a straight shot through. So in we went. The entrance is actually a location where the tube has fallen in, so we could go either to the left or the right. We started off down the right path heading down for quite some distance.
I even made it through a couple of tight spots that required duck walking. I went through these areas because I could see it opened up just ahead and I had no fear it was going to stay this tight or that I would get stuck.
Finally, we reached the “end”, meaning a place we would need to crawl to get through. Steve concurred and we headed back to the entrance and then down to the left side path.
This section was even more open and cavernous, although there were spots with tricky footing to maneuver.
We got to the “end” where a couple of fall-ins made the path ahead too narrow. Overall, I was pleased with myself for going as far as I did. It bodes well for our “Wild Lava Tube” hike at the volcano park on Wednesday.
Steve revealed to me later that at some point in the hike he couldn’t help but think of the movie “The Descent”, a thought I had also had. When I saw the entrance to the tube shimmering in the dark ahead of us, I had had a sudden thought of cannibalistic cave people grabbing my ankle as I tried to exit.
From here, we continued down to Puna where we stopped at the Lava Tree State Park. Lava trees are formed when a lava flow encounters and engulfs a very wet tree. When the lava recedes, the tree is still standing, albeit covered with lava and dying. After it dies and the wood rots away, a column of lava is left standing.
Whil driving to the state park, I noticed a surreal, almost texturing to the sky through the trees. The way the branches of the trees spread out to create a lace overlay to the sky was really beautiful, and a bit dizzying while driving along.
The last stop on our day trip was the Ahalanui thermal tide pool. This is a manmade swimming tide pool; when it was first built, the water was very cold, but the geothermic pathways shifted after the 1955 and 1960 Kapoho eruptions and now the water is bathwater warm. I had gotten a couple of scrapes climbing around in the lava tube and, while I really wanted to go in, the overly-cautious part of me didn’t want to end up on that “Monsters Inside Me” program with some parasitic or bacterial infection. So we left this for another trip. But I did stick my hand in and can confirm that the water was downright balmy, all the more amazing as we watched it flow in directly from the ocean.