My home is an island constantly in motion, where slow-moving streams of lava re-shape the landscape every day. It’s also a land of memory: past geological moments captured through the hard, black volcanic rock created by flows from decades or centuries ago. If there’s one thing I miss while on the Mainland, it’s these great lava deserts stretching as far as the eye can see–perhaps dotted here and there by a kīpuka, or a patch of land somehow spared from the fiery rivers, often where trees grow amidst barren flows. This is the world of my childhood, scenery that has sparked a thousand different dreams and imaginings during my life growing up on an ever-growing speck of land in the middle of the ocean.
The Big Island of Hawai’i has five volcanoes–its four oldest including Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Kohala, and Hualālai–but my favorite of the clan is Kilauea, the active volcano whose smoke and glow can be viewed after about a five minute drive from my childhood home.
Halema’uma’u Crater, pictured above, is most beloved by night, when its bright red, Fires-of-Mordor-esque light strikes fear into the hearts of many Tolkien fans, but I also love visiting it during the daytime and seeing the border of ferns that frame the faraway crater.
On the other side of the island, I love to admire Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa from afar, watching them grow in the distance as we wind our way through the hard, stony plains.
These landscapes feel like something out of another world–it’s easy to imagine these mountains and the red cinder-dust land on a foreign planet, inhabited by all sorts of strange creatures adapted to survive in high, dry altitudes. Though I’m a forest girl at heart, I have such respect for the volcanoes’ domains: and can’t wait to continue exploring them during my few weeks here.