Seeing Kilauea Up Close
Updated: Jun 9, 2018
I'm feeling extra alive myself as I start my damp descent on the rain-forest path of the Kilauea Iki Trail. Trees covered in thick moss feel luxe beneath my palms, and the sulfur dioxide warnings issued by the park that morning only add to the adventure. Whether you're talking about a woman or a car or a tropical island, there's something undeniably intoxicating about the cocktail of natural beauty and potential danger. I bound onto a crusted lava lake bed, a vast sci-fi landscape of craggy red and purple rocks with steam vents spewing beyond, feeling entirely lost in space. In a good way, I'm starting to think.
Guided by stacked lava-rock cairns, or ahu (which I like to imagine were placed by kind aliens), I trek over burgeoning red lehua blossoms from 'ohi'a trees toward the Thurston Lava Tube, or Nahuku, a damp, cavelike phenomenon. I practically sprint through it, letting loose with a wild Alooooooha! to test the echo-chamber effect before climbing out on the other side of the tube, rattled. Why did I do that? But when I emerge, the rain has let up. I squint skyward and the iridescence is like the inside of an abalone shell. There's even a faint rainbow in the distance. What kind of magical mystery tour am I on? I'm beautiful, Kilauea is saying. And I can kill you.
Like with a new friend who comes on a little too strong, one soon feels the need for some distance. I drive down into Volcano Village, which you can actually wink and miss because all the stores and restaurants are on one side of the road. The town is only a mile from the entrance, yet Kilauea's energy is sufficiently mellowed here. One of the places that captures its vibrancy (without the danger, unless you're scared of Earnest, the resident pygmy goat) is Volcano Garden Arts. Housed in a converted 1908 farmhouse, it's filled with artisanal work. There's sculpture and jewelry, collage and photography, a new vegetarian cafe, and a beautiful garden.
When owner and artist Ira Ono pops out of a back room, he offers me a cup of jasmine tea and gives me the full tour, which includes an impeccable vacation cottage. From what I've seen, no one here goes halfway. It's almost like the threats of the natural world challenge you to fulfill your dreams, just to see who might win out in the end.
Sunset Magazine (Full Article Displayed On This Page)