i LAVA the lava – Lava Hike

We hired Ahiu Hawaii tours to guide us on our hike. We rode out as far as the government will let you, in the back of a pick up truck (legal in HI) and the kids were super excited about that! The crazy thing about Kalpana is that the land in the lava fields is for sale (cheap) and several people have taken up residence, building tiny houses on stilts over the lava. Our guide Krista told us they were mostly hippies, and often seen dancing naked in the steam vents. Cheap oceanfront land in Hawaii exists, friends! You may just have to be “adventurous” to live there. The hike was unlike any hike we’ve ever taken before. We felt like we were on another planet! We hiked on miles and miles of volcanic glass. The lava crust ranges in color from bronze to gold and silver with every color of the rainbow (trapped gasses and minerals) glinting in the sun. The lava glass crunches under your feet as you go. My daughter said it felt so satisfying!

We hiked about 3.5 miles past steam vents, and smoldering lava tubes with faint red glows receding into the ground.  You could really get lost out in the lava fields where everything starts to look the same, the further out you go. You can easily lose your sense of direction or just wander for hours (days?) without seeing anything. After about 3.5 miles (following our guide) we came upon a small lava flow. We were already so amazed. She left us to take pictures while she scouted out the source of the flow hoping for a bigger area.

Krista promised us we would see lava and boy, did we see lava! The heat was so intense it was like standing inside an oven! We would look for a few minutes and have to turn around to let the breeze cool our hot faces. The silver layer on top is the quickly cooling lava crust that would harden in mere minutes. It is a very cool thing to see, the lava is so soft like slowly expanding water, exploding in bubbles and waves like a river, yet so destructive that nothing could survive its wake. We were so blessed to see and feel this spectacle with our own eyes! Husband was so giddy- he got to throw a hammer into the lava and pick it up! Of course this was with Krista’s guidance- you can’t just go doing that on your own without almost dying.

Lava here, lava there, lava everywhere. So many people were out on the fields without a guide. I am so glad we were not. I can’t even imagine the injuries that happen everyday out there. There are hundreds of reasons to hire someone to take you out! Let me just name a few not so obvious ones. Krista scouted out the area and expertly knew how to find fresh flows. There were other people wandering aimlessly out there. When they saw us with our guide, they quickly and cleverly followed us. We did not mind, but were glad that we didn’t waste hours because we did not know what to look for.  Krista gave us safe boundaries. I wasn’t worried about us falling accidentally into the lava or getting too close.

Of course the heat was an active deterrent, but you really could just lose a foot or leg if you stepped in the wrong spot. There’s no caution tape roping off unsafe areas, the flow changes by the second, so there’s no way to know where it will happen. In the area where lava was actively flowing- Krista knew where it was safe to set our packs down. I can imagine that things like expensive cameras and nice equipment get swallowed up by molten hot magma (did you say that in Dr. Evil’s voice too?). Krista knew how to get us back to the main road in time, before darkness set in. A few hours out there, and you not only lose your sense of direction, but sense of time too. She knew how to pace out the hike so we could get the most viewing time in and to get back before dark. Please, hire a guide if you hike the lava fields! Wear good covered hiking shoes, long socks and long pants (preferably not almost white- light blue ones like mine- duh).

Watch as we completely geek out while watching the lava move! What an extraordinary day! I’d love to go back and do a night hike (with a guide of course). What can compete with an adventure like this? Check out my post on the Manta Ray Ballet!

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