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Kilauea Caldera Walk
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Kilauea Caldera Trails

It is a great hike down hill through the rainforest under the east wall of the Kilauea caldera. When you get to the bottom your choices appear to be these: You can brave the center of the caldera and take the Halema'uma'u trail, stick to the edge towards Kilauea Iki by taking the Byron Ledge trail, or chicken out and walk back on up through the rainforest to the visitor center.

There is merit to all three. Even on blazed trails, it is not an easy hike to Halema'uma'u and back. And I guess if the sun is out here during mid day, I would not underestimate the heat in this very black desert. But if you have the chance it could be the source of stories for years to come.

Markers on the Halema'uma'u Trail

These neat piles of lava rock will lead you straight on out to the middle of the caldera. So you can spend your time just looking elsewhere and depend on them.

WOOPS! - That's what I thought. But all of a sudden I lost sight of them and had no clue as to where the trail had disappeared to. Well I really wasn't worried about getting lost out here because there are so many landmarks on the rim to observe. I was a little concerned, however, about the crust breaking and being lost 100 feet down in a crack.

Fortunately no such crack presented itself, but I had to jump a few smaller ones . . . until I happened upon the Byron Ledge trail.

A Tree Grows In . . .

This gives you an idea of the tenacity of the lovely flowering Hawaiian ohia tree. It is one of the first plants to be seen in a fresh lava flow completely unaided by the intervention of man.

Here on the floor of the caldera, almost a mile away from the sheltering confines of the east wall, it appears to be doing just fine in not much short of desert conditions.

It also must endure somewhat constant sulphuric fume bombardment which took a small toll on my stomach during the hike.

Mauna Loa Hovering!

Walking the caldera you are a bit below 4,000 feet altitude above sea level and there looming in the distance (if you are fortunate enough to have a clear day) is Mauna Loa (a bit below 14,000 feet). If you have read my Mauna Loa disertation on the caldera page, you might now agree with me that it is difficult to see where all those other 10,000 feet are hiding.

Nonetheless, it is a wonderful sight and a wonderful day to be alive. As you hear the hollow crust crumble beneath your sneakers, you try to tread lightly hoping to extend the feeling for another day.

Note the markers here warning you clear of the pressure rubble.

Intersection on the Caldera

This is the place out there in the middle of the caldera where the Byron Ledge and the Halema'uma'u trails meet. There is a sign here pointing out the directions in case you are lost.

Should you desire to take the shortest route on back to the visitor center, what you have to do is surmount this little saddle of pressure uplift and walk right out over and in the middle of the latest (1982) flow.

As if providence had been my guide, I lost my way out there on the thin ice and traversed in a more southerly direction which brought me in contact with the Byron Ledge trail where I also met up with a couple from Austria.