You might know that I have been vacationing in Hawaii – the Big Island – for the past several winters. And I plan to continue doing so until I run out of miles, points, and money. With each trip, I stay on the Kona side and take a day trip to Volcanoes National Park. Because it is a volcano. And it is active. And that is cool. This is the view from one of my favorite lookout points:
When you walk up to that ledge, and look down, you can see a great big, flat surface of lava rock. And depending on the weather, there are hikers down there. The first time I saw it, I went right back to the car to look at the map and try to figure out how to drive down. I couldn’t figure it out. It took two more trips (there’s other stuff to see!) before I realized that the only way down there is to hike it – the Kilauea Iki Trail. And of course, if you hike down there, you have to hike all the way back up.
This year, I looked at the map and read the stats: four miles and 400 feet – which doesn’t sound bad at all. The catch was “moderate to challenging”. The estimated time to hike the loop is two to three hours. I had one bottle of water and one package of trail mix. It was 10am, the sun was shining and I had stopped to pee a half hour before.
I went for it.
Obviously, the climb back up is physically more difficult. But mentally, when one might still change one’s mind…the entire climb down, there was an argument in my head:
Voice 1: It’s not too late to turn back.
Voice 2: Shut up.
Voice 1: You’re old, you’re fat, you’re out of shape. You think one yoga class a week makes you a hiker?
Voice 2: …..
Voice 1: Look at this pre-Columbian staircase! If your mother could see this…
Voice 2: (starts taking steps two at a time)… (Not really)
Voice 1: You’re going to pass out! In public!
Voice 2: It wouldn’t be the first time! Wouldn’t even be the first time in a National Park!
Strictly speaking, that second part isn’t true, either. But you get the idea.
And then, I was at the bottom of the lava lake.
The trail is not difficult to follow, once you figure out which “stacked rocks” you are supposed to follow. And once you’re at the bottom, there is nothing to do but keep going. I did see a couple of fools hiking around in flip-flops, though. And you know what? The climb back up was not a problem. I turned back for a last look before leaving the rock and getting back on the dirt trail, and I realized that I’d already been climbing. I was all, “That must have been 100 feet! Only 300 more!” It was probably less than half that, but whatever. The steepest part of the climb was more of a natural ramp than stairs, so I picked the right direction for my loop.
This was easily in the Top 10 Best Things I Have Ever Done on Vacation. For 1.4 seconds, I considered taking a selfie. I’m totally doing it again next year.
(Note to self: Parked at the first lot, as opposed to the Lava Tube lot. And turned right, away from the Lava Tube.)