My first real look at Halema‘uma‘u was walking a closed-to-cars portion of Crater Rim drive,* coming over a ridge, and seeing smoke just billowing out of the earth. It didn’t emerge in one continuous cloud like it does from a fire. Nor was it a small controlled emission like from a smokestack. Instead the earth was breathing and alive and awesome. Impossible to take my eyes off of it. Impossible to even really wrap my brain around it. And that was just seeing the smoke.
*Because it was erupting the road was closed to everyone in the down-wind section. The segment we walked had no good turnaround spot for cars.
We’d noticed clouds at the end of the Kīlauea Iki crater but hadn’t paid them much thought. It was only after driving and walking closer that we realized we’d been seeing evidence of the main vent the entire time. The portion of the road we walked on went through some even-more-recent lava flows and land which is still reeling from getting destroyed by volcanic activity.
We later drove around to the other side of the crater and saw much more of the main vent from the Jaggar Museum.* The photos don’t, can’t do it justice. It’s huge and feels even larger. It’s both compelling and intimidating. I want to go closer yet I can see how powerful it is and that it deserves as much respect as I can give it.** I could have stayed all day on the crater rim and just watched it breathe.
*I’ve not much to say about the museum itself beyond that it’s a good primer on how the islands were formed and how volcanos work.
**As a Californian who’s grown up with a healthy respect for the ocean this falls into the same category of an elemental which I refuse to take my eyes off of because it’s both amazing and dangerous.
We left before it got dark. It would’ve been fantastic to stay and see the smoke light up from the glow of the lava. It would’ve been much less fantastic to drive home in the dark. Plus it had been a long day of hiking so it was also time to go home and rest before it was too late.