Refreshing the Senses! Traveling to the End of the US!

Days 9-10: South Tip and Volcano:
Canopy Road, Pohoa
Bearded Chameleon at Camp Site

Lava Tree Tube
There is something about mountain air that refreshes the senses. Our camp site at Namakani Paio, Volcano National Park is a really a quaint spot. They do have closed-up A-frame cabins (which are rumored to be sub-leased to a private company for management later this year) for the comfort-seeking camper. But our VW bus nestled under soaring and aromatic eucalyptus trees was a perfectly acceptable shelter from the constant rainy mist. If you squint your eyes and smell the air, it's almost romantic, almost.

Over the next two days, our Wood Family Troop explore the natural havens on the south end of the island. Earlier in the trip, we were forewarned (by a cute blonde) about the town Pahoa and the priah that live there. At our current breakfast, the mid-50s waitress told us not to listen to that silliness - it a place worth the people-watch. Ends up it's Ward, CO "on-the-Island." That's all, nothing too scary and a little larger population.
Lava Tree Pose

Lava Tree State Park
Lava Tree Stands
Passing through Pahoa, we stopped at Lava Tree State Park. This place is a real gem and totally worth the 30 minute stroll (despite the one mosquito bite). Not only is there an awe-inspiring living-tree canopy. There are also fine examples of Pele's pottery (Pele is the hawaiian goddess of the volcano). When molten lava runs it's course through wet rain forest, the moisture-laden trees take longer to burn. Lava forms and cools around the tree and the tree's smolder and/or rot away, leaving a formed tree base in it's stead. This is a free botanical garden seemingly popping out of nowhere.

Anahalanui Warm Pools
Out next stop is Ahalanui Warm Spring. Rest assured if there is a chance to soak in warm water without waves, I will find it. This area is heated by geothermic vents and an entrepreneur decided to pool-it-up with natural stone. His venture flopped and the State "bought" it. This pool exchanges water with the tides and has a few small reef fish darting around. Fun for kids with swim goggles and the more "well-to-do" Hiloans frequent it. The bottom of the pond is peppered with stones and can stub toes. Some boulders are big enough to sit and reflect upon and if you remain very still, tiny minnows will get territorial and start biting you. These little piranhas are telling you to keep moving, big girl!
Yoga at the end of the US,
I fell over right after this shot! 
Windy Much? South Tip

Bitchin' Brah
We did have one planning miss-step; this area of the island is the closest you can get to the current lava flow. You do have to hike about 2 miles-in, but you also want to do this at night (with flashlights). During the day, it looks like a wall of steam vents across yet more a'a lava (sharp, broken stones) but at night, the rivulets glow, showing the descent of molten rock. Or so we are told, neither of which we actually did.

The afternoon found us hiking to the Jaggar Museum and Observatory. But more about the caldera on my blog dedicated to the Volcano.
Totally Tubular

Natural Bridge
The next morning, we backtracked to the South-Tip. My claim to fame, now, is that I have been to the most Northern Tip (Point Barrow, AK), most Western Tip (available to civilians, Pribilof Island, AK) and now the most Southern Tip of the United States, Ka Lea. This area is barren land due to the constant trade winds, and honestly reminds me of it's Northern/Western cousins in appearance. But, the actually tip, just beyond the beacon tower is a lovely array of beaten down exposed lava, perfect wave-tubes (which has taken more than one surfers life) and a natural stone bridge, not yet destroyed by crashing waves.

Green Olivine
It's not easy being Green
On a whim, we decided to explore further. More north of the tip and 2.5 miles off-the 2WD road are the green sand beaches (of course we didn't know that it was 2.5 miles of constant headwind, too). The green sand beaches are also finite. The perfect storm of volcanic activity formed Olivine, a precious stone that was pulverized into sand. We made it about 2 miles on foot, found a tiny enclave of green sand, called it good and headed home. It was hot, dry and windy. Next time, we're bringing a JEEP! The hike back was much faster with a nice windy shove from behind.

Our lunch consisted of malasadas (donuts) and Doritos. Not my best mom moment. But due to the unexpected, blustery 4 mile hike, we missed lunch and that was all that was readily available to my hungry clan. KJ and I laughed that our poor kids are subjected to random 4 mile hikes based on their parents whim.

Timing was perfect to check into our final home-away-from-home, we checked into our vacation rental spitting-distance from Volcano National Park. I must give this place a little street-cred. If we were to move here, this is what we'd like to have. Check it out at: Ginger Estates. This location is perfect, a little chilly, but much nicer than cramped VW-living and the hot shower is nice too.