12-01-11 Royal Gardens Lava Flow


I made another visit to the current lava flow. The lava has made its way into the upper remaining Kipuka’s that have small sections of pavement. My goal was to hike to those streets but, once I arrived at the flow front I could tell there was no reason to hike up any farther.

It was a cold clear night with a strong north wind. My favorite time for any photography as it leads to stunningly clear skies and horizons. I’ll take a great clear morning twilight image over any sunrise or sunset. This is why I hike all night to my destinations. Overall the flow isn’t all that large but, its headed directly towards a large gulch area between a kipuka and the high area created by the past 3 years lava flows. Once in this low channeled area it will consolidate and pick up speed. Also the terrain gets much steeper. (Since my visit, the flow has progressed rapidly)

I didn’t take many photos during my 6 hours up there. I mostly shot video with my GoPro HD Hero 2 camera. (Be sure and watch the GoPro opening page video) When I’ll ever get that processed who knows. I need a new PC to handle the large files. It was a pretty cold night and very windy. Had to stay close to the flow to stay warm. Morning twilight was beautiful. Can you guess which image is my favorite from the hike? I was situated at the bottom of a steep grade. The flow was being steered towards the south southeast by the higher terrain that’s covered by a very large A’a flow from the 1980’s.

I decided to hike straight down the path I expect the lava to head down. This would take me to Jack Thompsons street. This is a steady down slope that turns near vertical the last 400′-500′ of elevation. I’ve hiked this many times before so, I knew what to expect. That vertical wall is very tricky. I advise people to avoid this area. One fall and your in serious trouble. My last video battery died just as I got to that last big drop. I did have my great Goal Zero solar charger but, I forgot the GoPro’s cable. I also had my Goal Zero Portable speaker for the hike. First time I ever hiked with anything other than the voices in my head 🙂 Its absolutely great. Just plug your MP3 player into it and close and listen. It lasted the entire 9 hours of actual hiking. I even dropped it several times. I had in the top of my pack at night and in my chest pack on the hike back. All in all it was a great hike. My new Merrel hiking shoes were a bit of a challenge but, nothing new laces and different socks shouldn’t cure. Not one blister! 3 hours non-stop up and 4 hours back due to my challenging route choice. I enjoy challenges.

Its appears the flow will again come close to the last residents location. Jack is still perched at a slightly higher elevation then where the lava is heading but, his worry could be fire depending on the weather and the duration of this lava flow. We will know soon enough.

Yes, its the Don’t try and do what I do time.

This hike and area have many hidden dangers as I’ve shown on the USGS image that was posted today. Also the flow will move very fast once it hits the very steep section from the 700′ elevation on down. You can’t out run it. The area I marked slightly east is full of shallow and hollow lava tubes from the 2008-2010 lava flows. Not too mention this flow is still a very long hike. On this day I had the worse hiking conditions you can have. Bright sunny skies with what I called a Thermo Nuclear wind blowing in my face the entire way back. Heat stroke is a real danger. I strongly advise against people doing tours to the flow if it stays miles from the end of 130. Can you carry someone back if they pass out? I’m a strong seasoned hiker and those conditions still have a great effect on me. Even with me being completely prepared. Nothing worse than the inexperienced leading the even more inexperienced into an area like this. Like I’ve said before, this isn’t the half an hour walk to the past 3 years lava flows. This gets serious. Those that really know me and what I have done over the years will take my advice seriously. I wish the flow had gone further to the west closer to Chain of Craters road in the National park. I hate to see the Kalapana circus come back to life. Its probably a love hate thing for the few residents of the area.

Like I said, I took very few photos. You can see them here. 12-01-11 Royal Gardens Lava

I had more to say but, I can’t remember it right now 🙂

Lava flowing through a Kipuka of trees

My new Merrell hiking shoes. Right one has my homemade 5/8 lift. I'm way more messed up than I appear. © Bryan Lowry / lavapix.com

USGS Image 12-02-11. The X at 12-01-11 shows where I was.


Bryan Lowry

All text and images are copyright protected ©Bryan Lowry/lavapix.com. Use without my permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.
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4 thoughts on “12-01-11 Royal Gardens Lava Flow

  1. I fully appreciate what you mean by the “Kalapana Circus”, but I am looking foward to an accessible flow that does not require a full day and a ruined pair of boots to get to.

  2. Its still gonna ruin your boots 🙂 It might stay a 4-5 hour rt hike. Friends who live there told me they are ticketing cars after hours. Even towed some away.

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