Legend has it that, in anticipation of their flights, the Apollo missions trained in this landscape, the closest to that of the moon on earth. I don’t know if that’s true or not but this is the most unusual landscape I’ve ever seen: a huge crater just a few kilometres in the distance in the ground belches out volcanic gas across a barren rock landscape before it wafts over Mauna Lea mountain/volcano. The air here, at over 3000ft, is the coldest we’ve yet felt on Hawaii; all around us, steam rises from every pore in the ground.
We’ve arrived at Volcano National Park, home to night-time lava flow watching, moon landscapes, observatories and the largest active volcano on earth, Mauna Lea. We stop by the visitor center to discover that the “crater rim trail” (an 11km drive around the smoking crater) is partially closed but that many of the other trails remain open.
On the way up to Jaggar Museum we pause to view the sulphur banks and get up close to the (scaldingly hot) steam emanating from the ground around. At the museum, we’re afforded a better view of the Kilauea Crater while the sun sets. Following that, a friendly park ranger has a telescope setup for some quick astronomy: we gaze at the moon and Saturn’s rings before driving back to the Volcano Lodge and a hearty meal in anticipation of tomorrow’s hikes.