Category Archives: Animals

Ka’u Desert Trail

A view of the Kamakai'a Hills on the Ka'u Desert Trail, Hawaii
My lunch spot with a view of the Kamakai’a Hills and various kinds and colors of lava.

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘I’d Rather Be…’ See more responses here.

It had been a while since I went hiking, for various reasons, and it’s something I was missing, something I’d rather be doing. So last week, I headed down to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to try the Ka’u Desert Trail. This backcountry trail has been on my list for a long time, but I had never done it before. For one thing, it’s about as far from my house as one can get on the island. For another, it’s directly downwind from Kilauea Volcano, so when the volcano is active and the trade winds are blowing, gasses blow across the length of the trail.

The latest eruption of Kilauea is currently either paused or over, so gas emissions are much reduced, and last week, the trade winds had given way to winds from the southwest. So off I went.

The trailhead is several miles west of the main entrance to the park, with a strip of parking along the highway. The first mile of the hike is also known at the Footprints Trail. It’s a sort of paved path that threads through ohias to a small building that houses footprints left by early Hawaiians in volcanic mud and ash. Alas, I couldn’t identify any footprints in the display. Shortly after the footprints, the path breaks out of the vegetation into open lava fields. This isn’t a tropical Hawaii walk, this a bleak hellscape Hawaii walk. Or is it?

The trail ascends gently to the only junction for miles around, at Mauna Iki. To the left is a trail back towards the heart of the park. The Ka’u Desert Trail heads to the right and into backcountry wilderness. Mauna Iki was the site of an eruption in 1919 and the trail traverses the lava fields from this eruption.

Much of the trail is over pahoehoe lava, which is rounded and much easier to walk on than jagged a’a lava. The trail is marked by cairns and single rocks placed alongside it. It’s pretty easy to follow with just one or two parts where attention has to be paid to make sure one doesn’t stray.

It wasn’t far along this part of the trail that I first encountered blue lava. That’s right, blue lava. Who knew? But not just blue. There’s bronze, pink, red, orange, gold, and who knows what. I’ve seen colorful lava on the Puna Coast Trail, but this was more varied and quite wonderful. In places the trail crossed this colorful lava and I felt bad for walking on it, though as I hiked I could see many more patches of color out in the lava fields. It’s not wise to leave the trail since there are many lava tubes, some with very thin ceilings.

This is an out and back trail and I turned around once I reached the Kamakai’a Hills, after about 5 miles. It’s another 2 or 3 miles to the next junction where there is a small cabin.

Also posted for Jo’s Monday Walk. See more responses here.

Colored lava on the Ka'u Desert Trail, Hawaii
The trail crosses one of the fields of colorful lava.

A bounty of butterflies

A Painted Lady Butterfly feeding on a tasselflower in Hawaii
A Painted Lady Butterfly feeding on a tasselflower in Hawaii

I’ve been seeing lots of butterflies around lately, and chief among them are Painted Lady Butterflies. Some I’ve seen when visiting areas I don’t go to often, but even my usual walking route at Upolu, where I rarely used to see them, is all aflutter with them. That’s where I saw this one, feeding off a tasselflower.

Where dinosaurs roam

A view of South Point from near Ocean View, Hawaii
A dinosaur looks out over Kau, Hawaii

I drove to the southern part of the island recently. Just past Ocean View is a scenic viewpoint that I stopped at. There’s a decent view towards South Point, which is a little farther on from the line of wind turbines in the top photo.

The land down to the ocean is mostly old lava flows with scrubby vegetation striving to maintain a foothold. It’s a bit bleak and primeval, the sort of land I could imagine being roamed by dinosaurs, so it was no surprise to see one on the wall of the viewpoint. It was pink and surprisingly small, but quite friendly-looking. I was not in fear for my life and did not run screaming back to the car.

The dinosaur came with a little note underfoot which said something about posting a photo on Facebook, but since I’m not on any social media, I paid no further attention. I suspect the idea was to have the photo posted and then the dinosaur moved to a different location. I’d have hidden it in a dark, dank place where it might not have been seen again for millions of years, so it’s probably just as well that I left it where it was and continued on my journey.

The scenery is greenery

Foliage at Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden

This week’s Sunday Stills Monthly Color Challenge is ‘Green.’ See more responses here. One of my favorite spots on the island is Hawai’i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden and I stopped by there again just last week. As luck would have it, I took a few photos – OK, more than 200; I can’t help it. Many of them – OK, all of them – featured some shade of green. It is a tropical garden after all. Here’s a selection.

All sorts of greens, all sorts of patterns!

Going green. That’s what fronds are for!

Why the long faces? things are looking up.

There’s a gecko in two of these photos. There’s probably geckos in all three, but two are visible.

For more information about Hawai’i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden, go to htbg.com.

Southern Green Stink Bug nymph

A Southern Green Stink Bug nymph in Hawaii
A Southern Green Stink Bug nymph in Hawaii

I saw this Southern Green Stink Bug nymph (Nezara viridula) climbing up a door and, since it was something I hadn’t seen before, I was keen to get a photo. With its distinctive markings, it was fairly easy to identify.

The bugs were first seen in Hawaii in 1961 and are considered something of pest.