Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

By Mike McGee, Program Supervisor

Students recently made an excursion out of camp to Hawaii Volcano National Park. Given the choice of several locations to check out the students chose to visit the interactive visitor center and the Thurston Lava Tube.  On the car ride to the park, the students reflects and shared with each their experiences in the Rites of Passage program and the realizations they made while there.  They also all came to the conclusion that they will never take family vacations for granted again!At the visitor center, the students were most fascinated the the 10 foot across model of the island that showcases all the volcanoes and the dates of the recorded historical flows.

After the visitor center, we headed down to the lave tube.  When a lava flow starts to cool, the surface crusts over and insulates the lava on the inside.  The result is a super-highway that propels the lava much father distance than it could over land.  The Big Island is covered with these tubes, the longest being almost 50 miles long!  Due to their isolated nature, many caves formed by these underground lava flows contain unique eco-systems found nowhere else in the world.  The Island of Hawaii alone has over 200 species of endemic cave crickets as well numerous spider, fungi, and only insects.  When we got to the entrance, several small school children were recited a Hawaiian chant before entering, we paused and listened as the melodious song echoed through the cave.  The cave was cool, which was nice a sunny hot day, and had a steady breeze flowing through it.

After hiking out, we traveled to our final destination for the day, the Volcano Art Center for some volunteer work.  The center has workshops and showcases local artwork inspired by the land around it.  For the last 15 years, the center has been helping reclaim an old growth Ohia Le’hua and Koa forest from invasive and noxious weeds.  Pacific Quest has been helping in this endeavor for multiple years.  Today, our task was to help remove Kahili Ginger, an inedible aggressive weed that chokes out the forest understory.  The took to the task with great enthusiasm and helped to remove about 350 pounds of the weed and its roots before calling it a day.  Tired from a hard day’s work and feeling good about the work they were able to do, we loaded up and headed back to camp, just in time for dinner…