Volcano in Hawaii puts on a superheated show
Kilauea has been active since 1983, and on any given day, a hike as short as two hours can land you right next to molten rock oozing out of the barren volcanic surface. Be warned, though: The hike can be treacherous. It requires walking on uneven lava flows that have crusted over, hardening into sharp rock.
A fall usually results in cuts, not bruises, so authorities advise wearing long pants, shirts and tennis shoes. A well-prepared hiker should also take along a backpack containing plenty of water, bandages, sunscreen, food and a flashlight. (The lava is at its most spectacular at dusk, which means part of your hike will have to be in the dark. Traversing the uneven terrain at night without any light is dangerous and exhausting.)
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has a "travel at your own risk" policy after a half-mile authorized trail ends near a road that has been encrusted with rock from a past flow. Areas near the ocean are especially dangerous, since the shelves of lava are weaker there and could break off unexpectedly. Usually these areas are roped off, but a good rule of thumb is to stay away from anywhere lava is going into the ocean; one of the byproducts of lava hitting the ocean water is spray containing hydrochloric acid.
On the Web
For more information about Kilauea and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, visit: hvo.wr.usgs.gov/kilauea/update/main.html
Volcanoes National Park revamps visitors center
The Associated Press
VOLCANO, Hawaii — Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has revamped its visitors center to give the public a better overview of the park's environmental, historical and cultural features.
Located near the park entrance, the center is typically the first stop for the 2.6 million people who visit Kilauea volcano, Hawaii's most popular tourist attraction, each year.
One of the center's primary purposes has always been to provide the lava flow updates. New exhibits at the center, which reopened in April, explain ecological and environmental features of Hawaii.
Visitors learn that before the Polynesians arrived new forms of plant life came to Hawaii at the rate of one every 30,000 years, often from birds blown off course by hurricanes; that because there were no natural predators, successive generations of plants lost their thorns or other defense mechanisms; and that mosquitoes first arrived in 1826 in the water casks of a British whaling ship.
Throughout the planning for the new center, a dozen Hawaiian elders met regularly with park officials to ensure that indigenous culture was accurately presented.
A portrait of volcano goddess Pele hangs near the entrance.