Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

I make an effort to visit a National Park if any are near. The only show in town on the Big Island is Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. And what a wonderful National Park.

On this day, April 5, 2022, my visit to a National Park had special relevance. It was the one year anniversary of my younger brother’s death and when I heard the news, a year ago, I was in another National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, looking for white-tailed grouse at 11,990 feet. It seemed like a worthy tribute, to spend time, and reflect on the natural beauty of a National Park. My brother and his family visited many National Parks on their family road trips across the US.

I would say this park is a sketcher’s paradise because of the lava shapes and the rain forests except that it rained almost the entire time I was there. Rain and pen and rain and watercolor, do not go hand and hand. So my sketchbook stayed in the dry bag for most of the time I was in Volcanoes National Park, until. . .

I drove the 18.8 miles from the Visitors Center to the Pacific on the Chain of Craters Road. In the lowlands, where the road parallels the coastline, the rain ceased just as the Chain of Craters Road ceased, obliterated by a lava flow.

The road was built in 1965 and then was covered four years later by a lava flow from the Maunaulu eruption. This road have been covered by lava many times and been rebuilt a like number of times. In over five decades, the road has only been drivable in its entirety for only thirteen years. During the eruption of Pu’o O’o (1983-2018), nine miles of the road was covered.

On the road, you pass through nene territory. The state bird of Hawaii is not so good at getting out of the way of moving cars so it’s important to take it slow on the Chain of Craters Road as you descend from mountain rainforest to the coast. I had heard you had a better chance of seeing a nene on a golf course than in Volcanoes National Park and I had not seen one yet.

About halfway from the coast, I spotted a nene on the opposite side of the road, grazing on the soft shoulder. I was able to get some nice photos and then decided to leave it to it’s roadside munching.

The road, after some switchbacks, eventually parallels the coast and then ends at a gate when the road has been closed by lava. I could not go any further by car but I could explore by foot.

A watercolor sketch of a nene, seen on the side of Chain of Craters Road. Based on my photograph.

I walked for about a mile and suspecting that a downpour was not imminent, although I could see rain shrouds moving over the land upslope. I took a seat on hardened lava, pulled out my sketchbook and pencil bag, looked towards the west from whence I came, and began to sketch the scene before me. On the horizon was a group of palm trees which the lava flow had spared. All around was the dark, alien lava-desert of the Pu’u O’o flow. Liquid movement stopped in time.

This island of Hawaii is always growing.

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