Category Archives: Volcanoes

Ohia

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Geometric–explore various angles.’ I’ve focused more on the ‘various angles’ than the geometric.

Ohia trees (Metrosideros polymorpha) are endemic to Hawaii and the flower of these trees is the official flower of the Big Island. Depending on growing conditions, ohias can vary from ground hugging shrubs to 50 foot trees. They grow at sea level and at elevations up to 8,000 feet. They’re probably most noted for two things. One is their brilliant display of flowers. The other is that they’re usually the first plants to recolonize lava flows.

They grow in lava is because their roots reach down into lava tubes and tap into the moisture available there. But ohia can also put out aerial roots to gather moisture. They’re very flexible in this way.

The puffball flowers are actually clusters of flowers. Each flower is made up of a bunch of stamens (the male part of the flower) and a single pistil (the female part) which is thicker and longer than the stamens. When the flowers have been pollinated, the stamens fall away until only the pistil remains. This too will disappear as the calyx, where the seeds are found, develops. Eventually, the calyx will dry out and release the tiny mature seeds, to be dispersed by the winds, and hopefully grow into new ohia trees.

Also posted in response to Becky’s July Squares challenge theme of ‘Trees.’ See more responses here.

A tree growing out of a tree

A tree growing out of a lava tree

Becky’s Squares challenge theme for July is ‘Trees.’ See more responses here.

Trees tend to be vertical and thus represent a bit of a problem for a squares challenge. However, I am nothing if not devious, and a rectangle can be nothing more than a collection of squares! By way of compensation, these images feature two trees for the price of one.

The lower part of the image is a lava tree. This is the lava formation that can be left when a living tree is surrounded by a lava flow. But that lava tree then can be a platform for plants to grow in the hollow center. In this case, the plant that’s growing is another tree.

I’d add something about this representing the cycle of life, but that’s circular and thus wildly inappropriate for a squares challenge! For a little more about lava trees, see here.

The great outdoors

A view of Hualalai from the water
Hualalai from the water.
A sailboat enters Kawaihae Harbor
A sailboat returns to harbor.

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Great Outdoors.’ See more responses here.

In Hawaii, people spend a great deal of time outdoors. It’s common for people to have an outdoor kitchen, sometimes their only kitchen, sometimes a second one where a barbecue is the featured cooking apparatus. Carports often feature chairs and tables with cars parked elsewhere. The lanai, or deck, is as well-used as any room in the house.

Outdoor activities are popular here, too. Many involve the ocean and its inviting water: swimming, snorkeling, paddling, and of course surfing. Plenty of people go fishing and hunting, longtime sources of food for the table.

For me, experiencing the great outdoors primarily involves hiking and snorkeling. Hiking isn’t especially popular here, especially along the coast where it can get quite hot. I get strange looks when I hike the length of popular beaches togged out in hiking gear, including shoes, hat, and fanny pack loaded with water. For most, the beach is a place for stretching out and broiling in the sun, not actively working up a sweat.

The vast majority of photos on this blog are taken in the great outdoors. These photos are a small selection of things I’ve seen while out and about, from sweeping views to birds and bugs.

A view of Kohala Coast from Koai'a Tree Sanctuary
A view of the south Kohala Coast from Koai’a Tree Sanctuary
View of Mauna Kea from Pu'u Wa'awa'a bench
A view of Mauna Kea from Pu’u Wa’awa’a.

Halemaumau Crater

A view of Halemaumau Crater and Jaggar Museum in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

The latest eruption at Kilauea Volcano has recently been declared paused. It was never an especially dramatic eruption, but when I went down a few days after it began (here) the sky was illuminated by the activity. In recent weeks though, the lava lake formed by the eruption crusted over completely and lava from the active vent was also hidden from view.

The photos are two views of Halemaumau Crater, taken before this latest eruption. In the top one, the collapsed floor of the crater is on the left. This is what the new lava lake was filling up. On the ridge, to the right side of the photo, is the low profile of the Jaggar Museum, which was closed after the 2018 eruption and likely won’t reopen.

The bottom photo shows the easternmost edge of Halemaumau Crater, which wasn’t greatly impacted by this eruption or the events of 2018. Consequently, the walls of the crater are quite green and the floor is dotted with plants. These plants are mostly ohia trees, which are among the first plants to grow in lava fields, in part because their roots will tap into lava tubes to find moisture and nutrients.

For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Kilauea’s eruptions, go to nps.gov/havo/.

A view of Halemaumau Crater from the Byron Ledge Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Atop Mauna Kea

Three telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea at sunset
A wind turbine with snow covered Mauna Kea in the background

This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Mountain Top.’ See more responses here.

Mauna Kea is the highest mountain on earth, when measured from its base to its peak. It logs in at 33,476 feet, 13,803 of which are above sea level.

The top photo is a late afternoon view from near the summit of Mauna Kea, with the Subaru Telescope on the left and the two Keck Telescopes to the right. The top of the cloud layer lies a thousand or more feet below them, which is one of the reasons it’s such a prime site for astronomy.

The second photo is a view from Upolu, showing the summit with a lot of snow on it. While this photo was taken in February, the volcano is high enough that snow can fall at any time of year.

View of the coast at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

A view along the coast at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Chain of Craters Road is the route down to the coast in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. As the name implies, it passes a variety of volcanic craters, which were the scenes of eruptions in years gone by. But as it gets close to Hilina Pali, a series of great views open up. This one looks to the west and southwest, the backcountry part of the park.

For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to nps.gov/havo/.

And now for something completely different

Black and white photo of Mauna Kea from Pu'u Wa'awa'a, Hawaii
Black and white photo of a wharf on the coast of Hawaii
Black and white photo of a tree on the coast of the Big Island, Hawaii

The current Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Something Different.’ See more responses here.

I think in my 6+ years of doing this blog, I’ve posted exactly one black and white photo. So a selection of black and white scenes seemed like a suitable response for this challenge.

The top photo is of morning clouds scudding over Mauna Kea as seen from the top of Pu’u Wa’awa’a. Second is a shot of surf crashing against an old wharf in North Kohala and, yes, I was secretly hoping the man on the wharf would get soaked! Third is a tenacious tree on the coast near Kawaihae. The bottom photo shows a small fishing boat in the ʻAlenuihāhā Channel, as seen from the North Kohala coast.

Black and white photo of a fishing boat off the coast of Hawaii

A walk around Kiholo Bay

Kiholo Bay sits midway between Kailua Kona and Kawaihae on the west side of the Big Island. There are two main access points to the bay. One is via a gravel road south of the Kiholo Scenic Overlook on the main highway. This road takes you down to Kiholo State Park Reserve where there’s a campground and access to the beaches. I usually go that way, but on my last visit I wanted to try the hike from the main road.

There’s an unmarked parking area north of the scenic overlook. From there it’s about a mile to the coast, along a dirt and gravel road. This passes through scrubby trees where it’s likely goats will be encountered. They’re abundant in this area. The private property alongside the road is well marked, as is the public trail through to the beach. This trail comes out near a funky building decorated with things the tide washed in.

I headed to the right, along the beach towards Wainanali’i lagoon. There are a couple of houses along here, a palm-circled pool, and usually a canoe or two under the trees. Beyond the houses, a small bridge traverses a channel which connects the ocean to Wainanali’i fish pond. This is believed to have been built by King Kamehameha I, as part of an extensive fish collection and farming operation in the bay.

A bit farther along, a blue Kiholo Bay Fisheries Management Area sign marks where the trail forks. To the right, inland, it follows the old King’s Trail to Keawaiki. To the left, it hugs the shoreline heading north alongside Wainanali’i lagoon (top photo). The trail is loosely marked with white coral and/or cairns, but it’s not vital to follow them. I stick to the shoreline.

The lagoon is the remnant of a much larger fishpond, which was around 2 miles across and protected by a 20-foot wide lava rock wall. Much of it was destroyed by a lava flow from Mauna Loa’s 1859 eruption. Today, the lagoon is a prime area for seeing green turtles. They haul out on a rocky island marking the mouth of the lagoon and on the spit that separates it from the ocean. This is where they rest so it’s important not to get too close and disturb them. I also usually see turtles in the water. They putter along the edge in blue-green water, which can give them a wavy appearance. Small fish are abundant here and are often seen.

Once at the head of the lagoon I watched humpback whales splashing and slapping offshore. It’s possible to walk down the spit (not disturbing the turtles), and if it’s calm you can wade or swim across the lagoon entrance back to the trail. Following the coast northwards will take you to Keawaiki, but I retraced my steps until I got back to where I first reached the coast. Then I carried on along the beach.

The waves were rolling in, good news for surfers. The beach here is sandy and vegetation borders it. If the tide’s in a bit of paddling is required. On the other side of this, some private houses border the beach including the Bali House and a sprawling, yellow structure.

Farther along, behind the beach, is Keanalele waterhole, also known as Queen’s Bath. This is a collapsed lava tube, filled with a mix of freshwater and saltwater, where it’s possible to take a dip in the manor of Hawaiian royalty of yesteryear. The parking area for Kiholo State Park Reserve, back in the trees, is followed by the Loretta Lynn house and the campground.

Here, along with several places along the walk, a fair number of birds can be seen including black-crowned night herons, wandering tattlers, Pacific golden plovers, yellow-billed cardinals, and northern mockingbirds.

The southern end of the park is marked by Waia’elepi anchialine pool. Anchialine pools form in volcanic rock and are connected underground to the ocean. The water is brackish, but the pools can be home to a wide variety of species. I saw goats drinking here as well as a variety of birds and insects flying about.

From there, I headed back to the car on the gravel road which parallels the coast and connects to the trail I came down on. My walk was about 5 or 6 miles, but I took more than 4 hours to cover that distance since I do tend to stop a lot!

For more walks worldwide, see Jo’s Monday Walks. Also posted in response to the current Friendly Friday challenge theme of ‘On The Way.’ See more responses here.