Ditch wheels for great crater-rim tour
By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Assistant Features Editor
By Wanda A. Adams
During a recent daylong excursion to the Big Island, I joined some Mainland friends in a flying visit to the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. They wanted to take the drive down Chain of Craters Road and hoped to see some lava but I wasn't into hours in the car. I wanted to be out in the fresh air, even if it was air with a fairly high particulate count. So I joined a free ranger-led "Summit Walk," a 45-minute to 1-hour ramble along paved roads and pathways held twice daily along the crater's rim.
Ranger Adrian Boone led a dozen or so of us along a section of the Crater Rim Road no longer open to vehicular traffic because it partly collapsed some years ago. Vegetation is slowly reclaiming it but it provides a convenient, flat walking or wheelchairing surface. Charming and voluble, Boone touched on everything from native and invasive plant species to the difference between a caldera and a crater. He kept things moving, both physically and verbally, making jokes, asking trivia questions, showing historical photos. We saw flowers, birds, pig trails and, in the culminating moments when we reached a convenient overlook, Kilauea Caldera and the steam vent with its plume of steam.
For the chance to get away from 21st century rush-rush-rush and to breathe deeply without having to invest in hiking shoes, it was the best free hour I've spent in a long time.
Summit Walks: 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. daily. No reservations are necessary; just hook up with the ranger at the large relief map in the visitor center and take off. There's also a 20-minute walk if your time is very tight.
Keeping up to date: Volcano activity, being under the control of the gods, of course changes from day to day. It's best to check with the park Web site, nps.gov/havo/planyour visit/hike.htm, and also to call the visitor information number 808-985-6000 (press 1).
Hours: The park, off Highway 11, the Mamalahoa Highway about 40 minutes from Hilo, is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The Kilauea Visitor Center is open from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Jaggar Museum hours are 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Fees: $10 per vehicle, or, if entering on foot, $5 per person. A number of passes provide discounts; see Web site for details.
Where to stay and eat: Volcano House, across the street from the Kilauea Visitor Center, operates a hotel, restaurant, snack bar and gift shops. Volcano town is home to a number of bed and breakfast operations and vacation home rentals, and several restaurants.
Reach Wanda A. Adams at email@example.com.