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Mari and I got away for Labor Day Weekend 2003 to one of our favorite places - Volcano, Hawaii! What a great trip! Hurricane Jimena was headed our way, but the weather-guessers predicted that it would not be a threat until Monday or Tuesday.

We arrived on Friday and made our usual rounds of Hilo (Ken's House of Pancakes for brunch; Mehana Brewery for brewskis; KTA for food, snacks, water, etc.) before heading down to Volcano Village. We were staying at Hale Iki, part of a number of B&B homes in and around Volcano Village managed by Joan Earley of The Country Goose - we HIGHLY recommended checking with Joan if you need a great place to stay in the Volcano area and LOVE a great breakfast!

On Friday night, we went down to the end of Chain of Craters Road to view the lava, which was flowing approximately 1 and 1/2 miles from the end - we were expecting (and ready for) it to be quite a distance out as it was on our previous lava viewing adventures. There were quite a few visitors to the lava, most of which were so unprepared for the hike out or the fact that the sun was about to disappear that we determined that the "stupid bus" must have dropped off a full load at the end of the road. Anyway, Mari had a blow-out of her favorite hiking boots (which had perhaps 500 miles on them), so we had to cut our viewing short so that we would be able to run back to the Walmart in Hilo and try to obtain a descent pair of boots for the subsequent hikes we had planned for the weekend. After stopping off at "Pizza Hut" (Kealakomo Overlook) along Chain of Craters Road for a wonderful, romantic dinner of tortillas, cold cuts, cheese, fish steaks, crackers, and beers using our headlamps for light, we went back into Hilo and got some boots that we knew would be good for at least one weekend.

On Saturday, we stopped by the Visitors Center of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to check on trail conditions and weather as well as get information in preparation for a 50-mile hike our Boy Scout Troop 164 is planning for next summer in the park. Our hiking adventure began from the behind the Volcano House (across the street for the Visitors Center) and down Halemaumau Trail into the caldera. Then we went almost all the way across the caldera and turned left onto the Byron Ledge Trail. That took us back out of the caldera, up a ridge, and over to Kilauea Iki Crater. This part was a reverse of the trip that we took almost five years ago. We went down into, across, and up and out of Kilauea Iki to Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube) where we turned onto Crater Rim Trail and headed back towards where we started. We stopped for lunch overlooking Kilauea Iki where we saw and feed a tiny little mongoose. The end of the hike was tough for Mari because those new boots were really rubbing her feet and jamming her toes into ends.

On Sunday, we decided to take it easy rather than hike for a number of reasons. Due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Jimena, all the backcountry trails in the park were closed. Also, Mari's poor little toes needed a break from breaking in the boots! So, we did a little drive around the caldera including a stop and walk out to Kilauea for a few photos before the storm came. Then, we headed towards Hilo, stopped for a visit at the Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo near Hilo. Afterwards, we stopped for lunch in Hilo and then headed up Saddle Road to check out the trailheads for a couple of hikes we had read about. Before you know it, we were at the road that leads up to Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Center on Mauna Kea. The last time we were here (almost five years ago), we had been up there as part of a tour that took us up to the top of Mauna Kea on evening of January 1, 1999.

From the visitors center, we could see the leading edges of Hurricane Jimena coming our way, so we blazed a trail down the mountain, back into to Hilo for emergency supplies (radio, batteries, beer, large pizza - the essentials), then got back to our little cottage in the jungle just before the rain really starting to come down. After cleaning up, we listened to the radio, rain, and wind, wined and dined (beer and pizza), and play cards until midnight. By morning, the hurricane had died down to a tropical storm (big deal!), so we packed up and headed home (after a stop at Joan's for another YUMMY breakfast)!

What a great trip! We can't wait until we go back again!

Click here to view the pictures