On the afternoon of our first day in the park, we looked at this crater, separated from the main Kilauea crater by a ridge, from an overlook near the Lava Tube trail. And we saw some people walking down in the crater. It didn't look too hospitable down there, but other tourists at our bed and breakfast recommended taking the hike, so we did it the next day. What great advice! It turned out to be one of the highlights of our visit.
This sign gives you an idea of the crater's fiery history. It put on quite a show in a 1959 eruption, in which the flat, quiet floor of today was a giant lake of lava.
Here are a couple of panoramic shots of this "little" crater from one of the rim overlooks
Here are some more photos taken from rim overlooks:
Two more shots taken the day before our hike, to give more of a feel for the size of the crater and the flatness of its floor (the long, smooth mountain in the background in the photo on the right is the beginnings of Mauna Loa):
Now, to photos take on the hike itself. First, a view from the top of the trail, one showing the nice shade as you go down to the crater from the rim, then one of Kathy and Sally about to set off across the crater, where it's definitely NOT shady!
Now some panoramic shots from the level of the crater near the beginning of the trail. Note figure of Kathy WAY in the distance on the left:
As you get closer to the other side of the crater, there are more piles of lava, some left over from the 1959 eruption ....
.... and vents of steam, reminding you that it's still hot down there, as the steam happens when groundwater hits hot rock:
There's also a rather impressive cave that Henry climbed part of the way down to, before coming back up to take this picture of Kathy and Sally, already well on our way out of the crater:
Some more views looking up from in the crater:
And you couldn't help but be impressed with the vegetation that is slowly taking hold in the inhospitable landscape:
And two more...
All in all it was a very enjoyable hike, if a little strenuous. But we were able to re-energize with our Cheezits before starting the climb out:
We split up after climbing out of the crater. Henry hiked around the other side of the loop back to the car while Kathy and Sally went on to the Visitor Center. Here are the signs showing how much farther Sally and Kathy had to go, and how far the whole trail is from our starting point:
You can even get back to the Lava Tube on this trail, if you need to:
Here are photos Henry took, looking back at Kilauea Iki. On the right, the rounded dome of rock was made by the 1959 eruption. At its base is the cave:
What was waiting for us at the Visitor Center was the latest eruption news, important for our next adventure—our hike out to see lava meet the sea; long drinks of COOL water; and a much-needed refueling, accomplished at the Volcano House hotel's scrumptious lunch buffet.
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