It is impossible to capture what I saw this evening, but this photo should give you an idea of what the brilliant orange glow coming from the Halema'uma'u crater at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (HVNP) looked like.
After sunrise at Pololu, our group headed east. We stopped at Waipio Valley Lookout, and then one of us (not me!) locked our keys in the trunk, so we had some time to kill. Fortunately we were all in separate cars, so we headed to the nearby town of Honokaa in search of a locksmith. This coincided nicely with lunchtime, so I really couldn't complain. I munched away on an acai bowl at Hina Rae's cafe and chatted with one of the photographers in our group about spirit animals and tattoos. Great conversation topics, if you ask me. When I'm adventuring and things go awry, I try not to view them as setbacks, but rather, as parts of the journey. Of course, it's easy to say this when there is food, reasonably good cell service and a beach nearby...
Around 2pm we finally arrived at Kilauea Lodge, which is about a mile away from HVNP. The weather on that side of the island tends to be a bit moody, so I was happy to see both a heater and a heated towel rack in my room. After dropping off my bags and grabbing a change of clothes, I met up with the rest of the crew and we headed in to the park.
So, why was I driving around near an active volcano with a group of people I had essentially just met off the internet? Great question. Myself and five other influencers (@ienjoyhiking, @dustinlefevre, @tyschmitt,
@larrymarshallphotography and @starvingphotographer) teamed up with the Big Island Visitor's Bureau, National Park Service and the state's official tourism board, Hawaii Visitor's and Convention Bureau, to host an Instameet. We were joined by several incredibly knowledgable rangers, and thanks to an online RSVP, there weren't more than 30 attendees. This was my fourth Instameet, and it was great to see people from all over the world coming out to explore the park. If you've never been to an Instameet, make it your mission to change that. It's a wonderful way to meet nature lovers and photographers alike, and the only thing you're required to bring is yourself.
A trip to the Jaggar Museum gave us a spectacular sunset view of Halema'uma'u crater, and we spent half an hour marveling at the sight before us. I last visited HVNP in 2011, and though there was some steam coming from the crater then, there wasn't a glow like this. As I mentioned above, it does get a bit chilly, so by the time the sun dropped I was ready to be indoors with a glass of wine in my hand.
Dinner was held at the Volcano House restaurant, which offers almost the exact same view as the one pictured above. The food was amazing, and getting to talk with park staffers was a blast as well. After the 3:30am wake up call this morning, I'm ready to call it a night -- and I'm definitely sleeping in tomorrow morning!