So, in Halema'uma'u Crater within the summit caldera of Kilauea, our actively erupting volcano, there's an open vent with a lava lake in it that's been steaming away since 2008. Before 2008 you used to be able to drive down into the bottom of the caldera and drive right up to Halema'uma'u and walk to the edge and look in, but since the vent opened up the entire bottom of the caldera has been closed to the public because of Danger. You can stand on the edge of the caldera and see the steam coming out of the vent and at night it makes a gorgeous glow, but you can't actually see the lava lake.
So we decided we wanted to see the lava lake.
I've actually done this before, about six months ago, but I don't think I talked about it anywhere other than Twitter, and I'm not sure I posted any photos. That time, we crossed the caldera at night without flashlights (to avoid detection) on one of the old hiking trails, and let me tell you, even with a half moon it is a pain in the ass to follow a trail over black lava rock marked out by black lava rock cairns in the dark without flashlights. But we got there and back and I feel pretty badass about my navigation skills, actually.
This time we walked down the road, which is a MUCH SMARTER WAY TO GO.
Anyway, I can't... I can't properly describe to you what it's like. I've been getting up close and personal with molten lava my whole life, but where watching lava trickle into the ocean is fucking amazing, standing on the edge of a cliff and looking down the throat of the volcano into the molten lifeblood of the Earth is FUCKING AMAZING. It's this whole other level of astonishing. It's the closest thing to a religious experience I've ever had. It reduces you to idiotic babbling.
The lava lake was even more exciting than the last time I saw it, too. It was much closer to the edge of the vent, and much more active. Louder, a constant low rumble, and constantly bubbling, and at one end a spatter fountain kept flinging lava into the air and onto the surface of the lake with audible splashes.
Pictures don't do it justice, but here's one anyway. I took video also (still doesn't do it justice) but I haven't had time to upload and knowing me I NEVER WILL so here's one of look_alive's.
I'd like to thank Pele again for being gracious and hospitable and allowing us to admire her in all of her fiery magnificence and walk safely away again. Mahalo nui loa, seriously.
...Anyway, off to Hakalau again tomorrow. For the past three weeks, and for the foreseeable future, I'm spending three days a week up on the refuge harassing birds for science. I spend all day in the beautiful forest, and then drink a lot of beer and eat amazing food. I fucking love my life, you guys.