12-05-11 Royal Gardens and 12-10-11 Ka’ili’ili ocean entry


I’ve been a bit busy so, I’m way behind on posting anything. This post will cover two separate lava flow hikes.

The first was on Dec. 5th when the lava flow was blasting through the lower part of the long ago abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision. Now let me set the facts straight to begin this. Jack Thompson, the lone resident wasn’t evacuated. It’s funny how these rumors come about. He had a dentist appointment. His place remains elevated enough to protect him from lava flows.

I wasn’t able to arrive early like usual so, I did miss the sunrise. On this hike I also chose to stay at the flats and the leading edge of the huge A’a flow at the base of the pali. Having witnessed many flows like this over the years it wasn’t a big deal not heading up the pali. Beside, I had a newbie with me who didn’t have the best footwear for an adventure like that. But, the growing A’a flow was quite a sight. The large streams flowing down the steep pali would merge into one area forming a large moving pool of A’a lava. Sometimes it would advance slowly and other times it would burst open with large gushes of lava. This is the typical scenario with these pali flows. Soon fast-moving pahoehoe flows would advance out of the large A’a pool. For now it was a relaxing day with the A’a lava. If you haven’t ever had the experience of seeing one up close, let me tell you the heat radiating from these types of flows is tremendous. Its nothing like the visitor friendly pahoehoe flows most people are used to. It was also for the most part a nice cloudy day which allows for better lava viewing. I took only a few photos. I have many from similar events in the past. At that same location too. The flow pretty much did what I expected it to after my Dec 1st hike. Our hike back had persistent rain the entire way. It felt great.

I returned to the lava flows for the total Lunar eclipse Dec. 10th. On this hike I hiked straight out across the flat until I hit the lava flow. At the time I wasn’t sure if there was a new ocean entry or not. The bright light of the full moon dominated and no glow was visible away from the pali. At times I was wondering if maybe the flow had stopped. Finally after two hours I could see a rather large slabby pahoehoe flow heading away from the pali and then to my left towards the ocean I saw a faint glow and knew right away it was an ocean entry.

I was about 30 minutes mauka at the time but, got there in a hurry as my adrenalin began to take over. Oh, forgot to mention it was freezing that night. The sky was as clear as it could be and the wind was howling out of the NE. I couldn’t wait to get next to some hot lava to warm up. The new ocean entry was at the Ka’ili’ili area. An eruption from 10 years ago left a sizable chunk of stable new land attached to the old coastline and the lava had flow over it first before hitting the ocean. There was a second separate ocean entry a short distance to the west. Did I mention it was windy? It usually is out there but, it was exceptionable this night. The ocean entry wasn’t visible from the Kalapana side due to the landscape. I would be the only one out there during my 8.5 hour stay. Only the Lava Ocean Adventures tour boat would show up at sunrise. They had a great view. We would talk back and forth on occasion. This area near the coast drops off very quickly with 30′-40′ sea cliffs. It makes for dramatic lava falls. There always best viewed at the start as one can get up close and personal without worry.

Just in case I forgot to mention it, it was windy! Had a few things blow away down onto the new bench. If you let it go for a second, it was gone. My goal for this hike was the Lunar eclipse but, what I had in mind wasn’t possible due to the landscape and how high the moon was in the sky. So, my only option was wider angle shots where the moon would be small in the image. The viewing of the eclipse was perfect. As the total eclipse neared the surface flows above the ocean entry started to fade and I was quickly losing my beautiful foreground. So, my few total eclipse images have only a small bit of glowing lava. As the eclipse waned I went to the wider shots so, I could capture the ocean entry and the moon. Of course this meant the moon would be small but, printed at a larger size it would be just like your standing there. I like how that perspective turned out.

Viewing the ocean entry from the east wasn’t very good as the old bench and the growing one were facing away to the SW. So, before morning twilight I decided to try and cross the shallow hot flow for a view from the west. Now let me say, don’t ever try this with such a hot flow. I have lots of experience crossing these types of flows. It’s an art in its self. Certainly there’s no stopping and sometimes no turning back. There were many surface flows breaking out so, timing was everything. It was most definitely hot but, I did make it and only part of my new shoe lift melted loose. I carry screws and a screw driver to fix it. Ok, so now I’m on the western side and the view is fantastic. Lots of steam but, the strong winds keep it low to the ocean most of the time. The fast growing bench could be clearly seen along with the many cascades of lava pouring over the sea cliff.

Clouds started to appear on the distant horizon and I knew it would be a nice sunrise. Morning twilight and sunrise were all I could ask for. I stopped taking eclipse images as the setting moon was now behind me along with a dark landscape. The more western ocean entry was to my right. Cell phone reception was spotty out there and even when I could get a call through the wind made it nearly impossible to talk. I always have to let mom know I’m fine and I send here video and photos. She usually knows about lava flow events before most of the people who live here. Of course from me. Right around sunrise a real nice stream of lava broke out and started pouring over the sea cliff where I could stand right next to it. Well, as close as the heat would allow. The strong winds worked in my favor as they kept the extreme heat low to the ground. This also helped when crossing the flow. I did manage to capture some nice images of this event with the sunrise. Test prints have been ordered along with the Lunar eclipse images. I will have them for this weekends art fairs. More on them later.

Now it came time to make my way back over the hot shallow flow back to the east side. This would prove to be even more difficult as the flow was much more active. Theres no worry of falling through as it’s an inflating pahoehoe flow. It’s just hot. I got across without incident and spent a few more hours there.  I would spend the entire morning enjoying the activity. Now it was time to head back. For once I had a nice cool gale force wind that felt really good. The entire hike back was like a trip down memory lane as I passed by and over older lava flows. My Goal Zero portable speaker and mp3 player entertained me. I’m really liking having music playing on my hikes. This was more like a leisurely walk compared to most of my other hikes. About 15 minutes from my Jeep the first part of the heavy rain hit. It also felt great. About the time I started to drive away, the torrent of rain started that would last for days. My timing was perfect. Thank you mother nature!

With this I don’t really need to give my “Don’t try and do what I do” speech. This is no different then years past when lava was in the park. It’s all about common sense. Stay off of the new land. It’s a long walk so be prepared. If you think you might get lost, don’t go!! Carry plenty of water and good flashlights. One per person. I think its best viewed from the National Park side. You don’t even need to hike the entire way. Maybe as far as the old Laeapuki ocean entry. You will be about 2 miles away but, you will have a direct view. One warning is to stay away from the immediate coastline as the sea cliffs are unstable. Check in at the park visitors center before attempting this hike to be sure there aren’t any restrictions. This helps you to avoid the hassle of driving to Kalapana and the limited parking issues. How long will this new ocean entry last? Who knows at this point.

Images from both hikes can be seen at the following links. 12-05-11 Royal Gardens and 12-10-11 Ka’ili’ili Ocean Entry Lunar Eclipse

As I mentioned earlier, I will be doing two fairs this weekend the 17th and 18th. The 17th will be at the Keauhou Sheraton and the 18th is the monthly Kona Stroll.

The Sheraton is from 9:30am to 7pm and the stroll is 1pm to 6pm. This is my first time doing the Sheraton event. I will have a nicer set up as we have much more time to get everything together.

I have plenty more adventures planned now that I’m back in prime shape. Theres also video from these hikes but, who knows when I’ll ever find the time to edit them. For these hikes I went back to my F-Stop Tilopa camera backpack as its so easy to load and access my gear. To make the torso length fit better I added 2 inches of memory foam to each should harness. It worked out great.

Streams of lava and an advancing A'a lava flow

Ka'ili'ili Ocean Entry & The Lunar Eclipse


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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