Morning's light woke Connie and me today where we parked our tent/van at Ho'okena Beach Park. I watched the ocean and enjoyed dawn over the broad, gentle, basalt slopes of the mighty Mauna Loa in the distance. We packed up and headed to The Coffee Shack which, despite the name, was more like a breakfast paradise in paradise. Perched with a panoramic view over Kealakekua Bay and the Pacific this highway wayside spot was a fantastic treat for the eyes and mouth. My breakfast sandwich was incredible. But, with that in our bellies and checked off our list, we hit the road south.
A few stops along the way at farms and fruit stands (and a super sketchy not-so-super market) help fill our cooler with treats. One stop at the Punalu'u Bake Shop in Naalehu yielded some cool reptile photos and some yummy Hawaiian sweet bread but was a major tourist trap full of, well, tourists and gifts nobody needs. Dashing on from there we drove through the stunning green pasture lands of the area then on into Volcanoes National Park.
I hadn't been since my geology class spent three weeks there in 1999 so I was excited to return. Connie and I made an offering of Northwest made saltwater taffy to the volcanic goddess in residence Pele then enjoyed lunch in the steam vents parking lot and a couple mile walk to the Halemaumau crater overlook. Different from 1999 was the activity in this crater where, since 2008, an inner lava lake has formed and pushes out a plume of gases that sometimes close parts of the park. Today the winds were on our side and the weather stunning. Thanks to a few people enjoying a slow day watching the crater (and one of them painting it -- beautifully!) we were convinced to come back for that evening's show. What show? The glow, don't you know! Though (seriously, I'm done now) you can't see the lava lake from any open part of the park it's red light is cast up on the plume and crater's edge at night. It was great to see the park and Kilauea again -- thanks for the hospitality Pele! ;)
That night, on our way to the next campground, Connie and I stopped at Luquin's Mexican restaurant in Pahoa town to enjoy their eats before we wrapped it up for the night.