Hawaii – Days 17-35: Hawai’i (aka the Big Island) – Hiking Across Volcano Craters and Discovering a New Love of Snorkeling

Brittany Swanson   August 9, 2016   Comments Off on Hawaii – Days 17-35: Hawai’i (aka the Big Island) – Hiking Across Volcano Craters and Discovering a New Love of Snorkeling

I arrived on the Big Island of Hawaii on July 1st. I’d arranged to WWOOF (world wide opportunities on organic farms) with a bee farm for the entirety of my time on the island. The deal with WWOOFing is free food and shelter in exchange for a certain number of hours of work a week. The bee farm and I agreed on 25-30 hours a week in exchange for all my meals. The work could range from cleaning the house and making meals, to helping the owners’ two kids with their school work or teaching them art or, more likely packaging and labeling their products.

July 1st was a Friday and for the bee family Saturdays are usually a family day. July 4th was Monday, which meant I got to ease into this new phase of my trip rather slowly. I hadn’t worked for someone else since November 1st, 2015. That was eight months ago. Whoa.

Fortunately, I’m awesome and super adaptable, so I hit the ground running on Tuesday, July 5th, my first official day of work. WWOOFing was the perfect way to ease back into working life. The owners of the bee farm were super flexible and let me choose which hours and days I wanted to work and more than once rounded up my hours when I was close at the end of the week. Huzzah!

When I arrived on the Big Island I’d been on the road for over ten months – nine and a half of which were spent on this road trip. In the beginning I’d been able to take a few breaks. After two months I hung out with Meghan in Virginia for two weeks. A month after that I spent three weeks with my mom in Florida for the holidays.

But then I bought plane tickets. And I made a calendar. And I had a plan. And I had to stick to that plan if I was actually going to make it to all of the lower 48 states before I flew to Alaska and then Hawaii. So I didn’t get another break until nearly three months later when Alex came to visit me in Minnesota for my birthday for a week and a half. Then I had five days off when I went to see Alex for his birthday before heading to Alaska.

So, when I arrived at my WWOOFing hosts’ house and I could just stay put for a while – I was ecstatic. The day after I arrived we went to Ho’okena Beach and went snorkeling. I even got to swim with a turtle! It was so freaking cool! I had no idea I was missing so much every time I went in the ocean! On the Fourth of July we went back to Ho’okena and snorkeled again, no turtle this time, but a really cool bright pink and green fish. I LOVE SNORKELING!

Ho'okena Beach, Captain Cook, Hawai'i (Big Island), HI.

Ho’okena Beach, Captain Cook, Hawai’i (Big Island), HI.

A week and a half after I arrived I tagged along as Boss Man drove around the island delivering their products. After dropping off the boxes getting shipped to the other islands we made a pit stop at the Hamakua Macadamia Nut Factory to try some free samples. They were quite good – lots of different flavors. There were a number of deliveries in Hilo so I got to wander around and explore for a bit. It was fun, but not unlike other tourist-y towns across America, albeit this one had a distinctly Hawaiian flair.

Four days later the bee family was going camping at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach to celebrate the older son’s twelfth birthday and asked if I’d like to tag along. They had planned to hike to see the active lava flow and that was something I could not miss, so I said yes. We later found out it was a ten mile round trip hike, and, unless it was going to be majorly overcast, none of us were too excited about that trek in the Hawaiian summer heat… In the end we decided to save the active lava flow for another day and maybe try to start super early in the morning or late at night or something to avoid the heat as much as possible.

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Hawai'i (Big Island), HI.

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, Hawai’i (Big Island), HI.

Since hiking to the active lava flow wasn’t happening the family decided to just hang out at the beach for the rest of the day. Boss Man offered to drive me to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park if I didn’t want to stay at the beach all day since we were so close. The park was definitely on my to-do list so I said sure.

After checking in with the park rangers at the Visitor Center I decided to hike the Kīluea Iki trail across the floor of a crater, because, you know, how many people can say they’ve hiked across a volcano crater? It was a four mile round-trip hike and it took me an hour and a half, minus the twenty minute detour where I lost the trail for a bit… I thought the lava rock seemed a bit precarious, but it was only when I saw everyone else on the trail, a solid quarter of a mile from where I was, that I realized I must not be on the trail anymore… Whoops.

Kīluea Iki crater, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Hawai'i (Big Island), HI.

Kīluea Iki crater, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Hawai’i (Big Island), HI.

Once I’d finished Kīluea Iki I wandered over to the Thurston Lava Tube. This was my first lava tube and it was pretty neat. I had so much time before I needed to be back at the Visitor Center to catch the bus back to the bee family that I decided to hike back to the Visitor Center rather than try to catch a ride with someone. The trail I took was eerie. Part of it had been a road that’d been reclaimed by nature. I couldn’t figure out why at first, and then after about ten minutes I realized it was because there had been a rock slide or a lava flow or something. I was walking on half the road, and the other half was…off a cliff. Yikes. I would’ve hated to have been on the road when that happened…

Oh hey there road, joining forces with nature are you? Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Hawai'i (Big Island), HI.

Oh hey there road, joining forces with nature are you? Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Hawai’i (Big Island), HI.

After not seeing anyone else on the trail for about thirty or forty minutes, I started to wonder if I’d wandered off the trail again. I was hot and sweaty and starting to burn, so I stopped under one of the few shady spots and drank some water and reapplied sunscreen. Then, thankfully, a biker rode by so I knew I wasn’t alone on the trail and that it was, in fact, a trail.

All in all, I hiked about six miles that day. When I made it back to the Visitor Center I was exhausted, but I still had like an hour and a half until the bus came, so I found a grassy spot in some shade and took a nap. Oh, how I love taking naps outside! My bus came and I read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on my Kindle on the ride back to the bee family. They met me at the bus stop and we headed back to the house together.