8-17-11 Kau Desert


Had to make a trip to the Volcano Art Center to re-stock my prints so, I decided to do some exploring at the Kau Desert. Could have mailed them but, I really wanted to do a hike. A long time friend met me there and we set out via the Mauna Iki trail passing through the 1790 foot prints area. These are foot prints that have been preserved in the fragile layer of ash from that ancient summit explosion. Erosion has taken its toll on them. Images from a hike 4 years ago can be seen here. Our destination was the Crater cone and the Twin pits. We explored along the way. It was roughly 12 miles round trip. As always the desert lived up to its name with searing heat and blustery winds. On occasion the summit eruptions plume would come near us and even over us for a brief period. I had my respirator if but, it wasn’t needed. It was like we had a force-field over us as the plume would rise high into the sky and then back down again well to the west. This entire area is dominated by mostly ancient lava flows and some 1970’s lava flows. Lots of ash layer from 1790 and pockets of thick and long Pele’s hair. Some was up to 3′ in length.

What is Pele’s hair? A description from the USGS site. (A single strand, with a diameter of less than 0.5 mm, may be as long as 2 m. Named for Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire, Pele’s hair is formed from lava fountains and rapidly moving lava flows (for example, lava cascading over a cliff).

Much of it survives by clinging to small trees and bushes or piling along the leeward base of high lava flows. Theres also quite a bit of sand in this area. It’s also common to find unexploded ordinances. We came across one that appears to be maybe a 50 caliber tank shell from WWll training exercises. Of course we let it be. I tried to talk my friend into carrying it back for me. I would get a half mile head start. He wasn’t game. On the way to the Twin pits there are a few large old cinder cones. Most notable is Puu Koa’e. It’s a cone within a cone. The Twin pits are basically right next to each other with the crater cone directly to the east. All three are very deep and have lava tubes at the bottom. The 1974 flow made its way into the more northern pit. An interesting bit of info was the group of  White-tailed Tropicbird – (Phaeton lepturus) that followed us all the way from Mauna Iki to the Twin pits. They circled above us most of the way and on many occasions flew down close and just hovered watching us. While we were resting on the rim of Crater cone they were diving into each of the pits two at a time. Looked like they were feeding on insects. Maybe my friend looked like a giant insect to them and they were hoping for a feast. This is but, one small area of the Kau desert. Its a vast area of ancient flows with a few newer ones mixed in. Definitely worth hiking. Be prepared for very hot and dry weather. Also, the possibility of the summit plume moving in. I carry a respirator just in case. I started out with 4 liters of water but, 2 miles into the hike I went for a drink from my Camelback only to find out it was rancid. Had to dump that to rid myself of the weight. This left me with 2 liters for the 12+ mile hike. Not what I wanted in that heat. 4 liters would have been plenty. Needless to say I was struggling the last 2 miles. I did steal 1/2 a liter from my friend which helped immensely. Took lots of electrolytes too.  

All in all it was lots of fun as always on my hikes. Some of the images are similars. People, no people, birds no birds, different depths of field etc… I do this for publisher options. I used my F-stop Tilopa camera backpack for this hike. Click here to view the images. Enjoy. I hope to have a sample of Pele’s hair to view at two of the retail shops in a couple of weeks. Krazy About Kona in the Kona Inn shopping village and Trudy’s Island Arts at the Kona International Market. The samples were collected in an area I know of outside of the National park. Do not remove articles like rocks and Pele’s hair from the park.

Twin Pits and the Crater Pit © Bryan Lowry / lavapix.com


Bryan Lowry

All text and images are copyright protected ©Bryan Lowry/lavapix.com. Use without my permission is prohibited.
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One thought on “8-17-11 Kau Desert

  1. Hey Brian
    Thanks for all the volcano swag, enjoyed working with you at Kry for Kona. See you around and hope our winter is filled with plenty of sick surf. Aloha Heather

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