Saturday, November 29, 2014

Along the Chain of Craters Road

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

This 40 mile round trip road from the visitor's center down to the the ocean gave us a good overview of the entire park.  I've noticed all of our national parks have the short version and the long version of sight seeing, depending on how much time you have.  If one day is all you have, there is always a main loop through the park.  If you have a week, there are miles and miles of trails to explore.  Although the rangers say it takes about three hours to drive this road, out and back, it took us twice that long because we stopped at all the turn-outs and took a few short hikes--the best of both worlds.

The above lava field of Lua Manu is a great place to get out and stretch your legs.  Marvel at the plants growing between the cracks of the older hardened lava.
As you drive further, the lava fields are newer and there are fewer plants.  Closer to the ocean, the wind grew a little more fierce.  There are trails leading down the cliffs to the black sand beaches, but these are among the roughest in the park.  Stone cairns mark the way, but there are deep cracks in the earth, many loose rocks and the lava is still thin and crusty.  We stayed put, enjoying the views from the wooden platform.
At the end of the road is a beautiful sea arch.  Where the lava hits the sea, massive cliffs add land to the island, only to be eroded over time. This arch was formed by the relentless power of waves and wind.
Here you can park your car and walk a little further to witness first hand the power of Pele.
 No kidding!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Walking Through a Lava Tube

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

The destructive path of a lava flow on the island of Hawaii has been front page news of late.  Much of the flow is inside a tube, but what exactly does that mean?  The short, but thrilling hike through the Thurston Lava Tube in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, gives one a good understanding of this geological formation.

Large rivers of lava form a channel and the current is stronger and hotter in the middle.  Therefore, the sides cool and thicken before the center does.  Eventually a crust is formed which insulates the interior flow.  Once the eruption stops and the lava drains, it leaves a tube.  Bats, spiders and insects had to be cleared from this one before tourists were allowed in.  It's well-lit and eerily beautiful. Walking through a forest of ferns on the way back to your car is an extra special bonus!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Mentors and Muses

Art in Public Places

This monumental sculpture won a Santa Barbara Beautiful Award in 2002.  It is actually a fountain so at its best, water cascades down the sidings, turning the bronze into shimmery black slabs.  Because of the severe drought, all water has been drained and it looks completely different.  In my opinion, it's still beautiful.  It overlooks the Pacific Ocean on the western campus of Santa Barbara's City College and on any given school day, it is surrounded by students.  Once upon a time, both my sons were among them.

But what I love best about this sculpture, is its name:  Mentors.  Mentors are so important in our lives.  If we are lucky we have several of them as we make our way through time.  At this college, each of my sons had a mentor who nudged them into their current professions.  I had a mentor in high school who nudged me into journalism.  Now I have Mimi.  She doesn't nudge; she PUSHES.  Everyday, she pushes me to be a little more creative in the way I dress.  Fashion has become an art form to me, as it has to many fellow bloggers.  That is why I am sharing this post today with Visible Monday and Share in Style.

I love art, music and literature, but can barely draw a stick figure, sing off tune and struggle with putting words together, but clothes?  Clothes have become a medium for artistic expression.  Does that make me an artist?  Mimi, my mentor and muse, says ABSOLUTELY.  I'm not so sure, but I'll indulge her only because I'm having so much fun!

 Me?  An artist?  Imagine that!
The sculptor of Mentors is Aris  Demetruis who was born and raised in Massachusetts.  His sculptures, both monumental and small, can be found across the country.  Some notes of interest:  His father studied under Rodin and his mother was the author and illustrator of many famous children's books including Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.

I realize calling myself an artist is a stretch, but the truth is, such sculptures inspire me to think a little bit grander and a little bit outside the box.  Above all, great art instills in me a desire to surround myself with beauty each and every day of my ordinary life.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Steaming Vents

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

     My eyes follow my nose down into the abyss, blinking to avoid the reeking steam.  About a dozen feet down, lodged on an outcropping, lies a man.  His skin is lobster pink.  His lips are puffy.  His eyeballs bulge like poached eggs.
     He isn't climbing out on his own.  He's been boiled alive.

                                                                       from Murder at Volcano House
                                                                        by Chip Hughes

Why do I do this to myself?  Read these murder mysteries while exploring our national parks.  Night of the Grizzlies while camping in Glacier National Park.  Nevada Barr's Ill Wind while touring Mesa Verde.  And Murder at Volcano House, the night before I hike to the steaming bluffs on the big island of Hawaii.
My senses do not need to be elevated.  The beauty and mystique of these parks should be enough, shouldn't it?  But, oh no, I need to scare the living crap out of myself before I venture into the wilderness.

This particular hike, out to the Steaming Vents, from the Volcano House is scary enough.  I mean, it's truly unbelievable that we tourists are even allowed out here.  There are many warnings to stay clear of the volcanic gas if it becomes too thick.  Like smog.   We could definitely smell the sulfur dioxide as we walked (quickly) by these potholes of steam.  Fascinating.  But unnerving.

Do yourself a favor though.  Don't read Murder at Volcano House BEFORE the hike.  Wait until AFTER!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Glimpse of Fall

While the rest of the country is plunged into a premature winter, we Californians are just now getting our first glimpse of autumn.  It's a short season, but a wonderful one.  Out come the vintage sweaters, the candles and the favorite recipes for mulligatawny and beef stroganoff.

Growing up in the midwest, I'm still not used to this condensed version of fall.  It is very subtle. Our dry season slowly turns into a wet one.  Pink roses are replaced with bouquets of red and orange chrysanthemums, sunflowers and lilies.

If we're lucky and the temperatures drop even more, we can light a fire in those rarely used fireplaces.  We can add those family heirloom quilts to our beds.


Fall is short and sweet.  Believe me, I am not complaining.  I don't want to be buried under six feet of snow but a little rain would be nice.   A long, wet, soggy California winter.  Hopefully, it's just around the corner.

Sharing with Happiness at Mid Life.  Thank you, Alice, for inviting me to your Link Up.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Nights at the Volcano House

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

Volcano House sits on the rim of the giant Kilauea caldera on the big island of Hawaii.  We had hoped to see the flow of lava cascading down the eastern side toward Pahoa, but it was strictly off limits and most of it inside a tube.  There were some illegal tours available, but after talking to the staff, we decided it wasn't too smart to join one.  People were losing their homes.  Many of the people working at the hotel were waiting for word on mandatory evacuations.  This volcano, a tourist destination since the early 1800's, was once again causing massive disruption to the local population.

Many discussions at the hotel's bar centered on Pele.  The locals have a very fatalistic attitude about living here.  They can't buy insurance for their houses anywhere on the island.

"A steam vent could open up right here beneath us," the bartender said as he handed us our second mai tais.  "And Mauna Loa is starting to stir."  Gulp.

We took our drinks to the observation room and watched the continuous plumes of smoke rise from the lake of lava.  The truth is, in California we live with the same threat under our feet.  A massive earthquake is due any day now.  And yet, we shrug our shoulders and move on, hoping we aren't in the wrong place at the wrong time.  At least we can buy insurance!
When Mark Twain visited Kilauea in 1866, he witnessed a nighttime eruption of the volcano.  Despite warnings from the Volcano House staff,  he walked out to the crater and looked into the bubbling lake.  He had to navigate around the flow of lava all by himself since the guides refused to go with him.  Stupid?  Oh yeah!  But what a story.  He made Kilauea and Volcano House famous, by writing (so eloquently) about his foolhardy adventure in Roughing It.

Today, of course, the caldera is off limits, but there are many trails around the hotel and this is one reason we stayed here.   The element of danger, the smell of sulfur and the lush plants, all evoke a prehistoric era.  But the 21st century awaits in all its splendor once you're back safe and sound.  A great bar, a great restaurant and unparalleled views of the crater from every room.  I had that "no place else I'd rather be" feeling the whole time I was there.

The historic Volcano House is one of the most fascinating hotels I have ever stayed at.  I hope and pray Madame Pele leaves it alone!!