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Hawaiian Traditions: Lei Making and Featherwork

Waikiki Beach framed in a traditional Hawaiian orchid lei.
Waikiki Beach framed in a traditional Hawaiian orchid lei. Photo © Peggy2012CREATIVELENZ, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Any flower or blossom can be strung into lei, but the most common are orchids or the lovely-smelling plumeria. Lei are all beautiful, but special lei are highly prized by those who know what to look for. Of the different stringing styles, the most common is kui—stringing the flower through the middle or side. Most “airport-quality” lei are of this type. The humuhumu style, reserved for making flat lei, is made by sewing flowers and ferns to a ti, banana, or sometimes hala leaf. A humuhumu lei makes an excellent hatband. Wili is the winding together of greenery, ferns, and flowers into short, bouquet-type lengths. The most traditional form is hili, which requires no stringing at all but involves braiding fragrant ferns and leaves such as maile. If flowers are interwoven, the hili becomes the haku style, the most difficult and most beautiful type of lei.

Every major island is symbolized by its own lei made from a distinctive flower, shell, or fern. Each island has its own official color as well, although it doesn’t necessarily correspond to the color of the island’s lei. O‘ahu, “The Gathering Place,” is symbolized by yellow, the color of the tropical sun. Its flower is the delicate ‘ilima, which ranges in color from pastel yellow to a burnt orange. The blooms are about as large as a silver dollar, and lei made from ‘ilima were at one time reserved only for the ali‘i, designating them as a royal flower.

The highly refined art of featherwork was practiced only on the islands of Tahiti, New Zealand, and Hawaii, but the fashioning of feather helmets and idols was unique to Hawaii. Favorite colors were red and yellow, which came only in a very limited supply from a small number of birds such as the ‘o‘o, ‘i‘iwi, mamo, and ‘apapane. Professional bird hunters in old Hawaii paid their taxes to ali‘i in prized feathers. The feathers were fastened to a woven net of olona cord and made into helmets, idols, and beautiful flowing capes and cloaks. These resplendent garments were made and worn only by men, especially during battle, when a fine cloak became a great trophy of war. Featherwork was also employed in the making of kahili and lei, which were highly prized by the noble ali‘i women.

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Ballet, Opera, and the Symphony in Montréal’s Centre-Ville Est

Close up of the body of a violin with sheet music visible in the background.
Photo © Matt Trudeau, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Montréal’s Centre-Ville Est is home to one of the most boundary-pushing ballet companies in North America, an outstanding opera house, and one of the biggest and most respected orchestras in Canada.

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal

Founded in 1957 by young choreographer and dancer Ludmilla Chiriaeff, Les Grands Ballets (175 rue Ste-Catherine W., 514/849-0269; $50-150) continues to be the only ballet company in the city and one of the most boundary-pushing in North America. Presenting both classical and more contemporary works, which have included Tommy, Les Grands remains vibrant and is currently headed by artistic director Grandimir Pankov.

Opéra de Montréal

In the years since its founding in 1980, the Opéra de Montréal (175 rue Ste-Catherine W., 514/985-2222; $30-110) has presented 91 operas, including La Boheme, Salome, and two world premieres. In a city full of bilingual arts, the opera is one of the few places the two languages come together. The opera house presents a handful of operas a year. There are often specials for 18- to 30-year-olds.

L’Orchestra Symphonique de Montréal

Currently led by world-renowned conductor Kent Nagano, the Montréal Symphony Orchestra (175 rue Ste-Catherine W., 514/842-3402; $30-165) was founded by Wilfrid Pelletier in 1935 and continues to be the leading company of classical music in the province and is one of the biggest and most respected in Canada. Their new specialized hall, which was inaugurated at the Place des Arts in spring 2011, ensures the sound is impeccable and is quite the feast for the eyes. Those ages 34 and under should check out their website for deals on tickets.

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Hiking Trails in Waimea Canyon State Park

Weimea Canyon State Park is home to a beautiful and vast canyon.
Weimea Canyon State Park is home to a beautiful and vast canyon. Photo © Makuahine Pa’i Ki’i, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Waimea Canyon State Park is home to the beautiful and vast canyon, but it’s also decorated with numerous trails weaving through the forest, ranging from serious hikes to short walks. Once you’ve gazed at the views on the drive up it’s worth it to take a walk or a long hike through the area.

Iliau Nature Loop

A perfect family walk, the Iliau Nature Loop begins off of Koke‘e Road and also marks the beginning of the Kukui Trail. Pull all the way off of the road between mile markers 8 and 9 to access the easy, quarter-mile-long trail, which takes about 15 minutes to complete. Views of Waimea Canyon and Wai‘alae Falls open up about midway along the loop. The self-guided trail sits at about 3,000 feet elevation and is home to its namesake, the iliau plant. The iliau is a relative of the silversword, which grows high on Haleakala on Maui, and the greensword, which grows on the Big Island. This rare plant grows only on the dry mountain slopes of western Kaua‘i. White-tailed tropicbirds and the brown-and-white pueo (Hawaiian owl) are known to fly through the area.

Kukui Trail

The Kukui Trail leads down into Waimea Canyon and is home to the Iliau Nature Loop, therefore starting at the same location between mile markers 8 and 9. This 2.5-mile trail takes about 60-90 minutes to complete just the walk in. It is strenuous, descending over 2,000 feet very quickly, which of course you have to climb up on the way out. Thanks to the steep grade, it takes longer and a lot more effort and energy on the way back up. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water if you’re planning on hiking all the way down and up. Water bladders are a good idea for this one; they weigh less than bottles and you can drink from the tube as you hike. There are gorgeous views of the canyon along the way, so don’t forget your camera, even though it may be tempting to leave extra weight behind. The Wiliwili Campground marks the end of the Kukui Trail. You can set up camp for the night with a permit and continue on other trails or head back out the same day.

Koai‘e Canyon Trail

From the end of the Kukui Trail, the serious hiker can head up the Waimea River for about a half mile, where you’ll have to cross the river to find the trailhead for the three-mile-long Koai‘e Canyon Trail. This trail has about a 720-foot loss and gain in elevation. If the river water is high and rushing, do not cross it. Flash flooding is always a concern here. The trailhead is near the Kaluahaulu Campground on the east side of the river. The trail leads you to the south side of Koai‘e Canyon, where there are many pools of freshwater, which are usually lower in summer than in winter. The canyon was once used for farming, as you might guess while walking the fertile and lush trail. There are two more campsites here. It is strongly advised to avoid this trail during rainy weather.

Waimea Canyon Trail

If you head south from the Kukui Trail, you can connect with the 11.5-mile, strenuous, and usually hot and dry Waimea Canyon Trail. This lengthy trail parallels the Waimea River through the canyon. It can also be reached by hiking eight miles inland from Waimea town. This trail is popular with serious hikers who enjoy a challenge, but many regard the trail as lacking in sights and views, and don’t find many interesting qualities along the hike. The hike is well worn and passes back and forth over the river, which usually has plenty of water, but it needs to be boiled or treated before drinking.

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Visiting Kona: Is It Worth Going to a Luau?

If you really enjoy a good Broadway show, then you might enjoy a luau.
If you enjoy a good Broadway show, then you might enjoy a luau. Photo © Eric Schmuttenmaer, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Answer: How much do you like watching musicals or theater? A luau might not be what you think it is. Gone are the days of roasting a pig as onlookers watch in awe. Attending a luau is like going to dinner theater. It’s a good opportunity to try a lot of local foods at once, but nearly all the buffets are only mediocre. If the food is what you’re most interested in, it would be better to go to a restaurant (like Jackie Rey’s in Kona) instead of spending $100 (the average price for most luau). Drinkers may get their money’s worth—nearly all the luau include an open bar.

If you really enjoy a good Broadway show, then you might enjoy a luau, and kids seem to love them. The productions vary, but Island Breeze, the company that puts on luau at the Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel (in Kailua-Kona), the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort and Spa (in Keauhou), and The Fairmont Orchid (in Kohala) offers the best show.

For a traditional luau with lots of hula, try the King Kamehameha version. For a more Cirque du Soleil experience (with more modern dance and less hula), head to The Fairmont Orchid, which does offer a more pricey experience—but the food is better here than at other luau. Lastly, all luau offer preferred seating options, meaning that you pay about $20 per person extra to sit closer but you are still eating the same food as everyone else (although you get to visit the buffet line first). Unless you have some extra money to spend, preferred seating isn’t really worth the splurge.

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Kilauea and Mauna Loa in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea lava lake at dusk.
Kilauea lava lake at dusk. Photo © US Geological Survey, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Admission to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is $10 per vehicle (good for multiple entries over a seven-day period), $25 for a Hawaii Tri-park Annual Pass, $5 per individual (walkers and bikers), and free to those 62 and over with a Golden Age, Golden Eagle, or Golden Access passport. These “passports” are available at the park headquarters and are good at any national park in the United States.

Note: There are several weekends throughout the year when the park is free—thanks to the Department of the Interior. Check the park’s website to see if your visit coincides with one of these times.

The Volcanoes


Continuously active since 1983, Kilauea dominates the heart of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Many of the park’s sights are arranged one after another along Crater Rim Drive, which circles Kilauea Caldera. Most of these sights are the “drive-up” variety, but plenty of major and minor trails lead off here and there.

Expect to spend a full day atop Kilauea to take in all the sights, and never forget that you’re on a rumbling volcano. Kilauea Caldera, at 4,000 feet, is about 10°F cooler than the coast. It’s often overcast, and there can be showers. Wear walking shoes and bring a sweater or windbreaker. Binoculars, sunglasses, and a hat will also come in handy.

People with respiratory ailments, those with small children, and pregnant individuals should note that the fumes from the volcano can cause problems. That sour taste in your mouth is sulphur from the fumes. Stay away from directly inhaling from the sulphur vents and don’t overdo it, and you should be fine.

Mauna Loa

It’s a little discombobulating at times—you’re sweating in the hot lava fields of the park and in the background you see the snowcapped Mauna Loa. The largest mass of mountain to make up the Big Island at 13,680 feet, this magnificent mountain is a mere 116 feet shorter than its neighbor Mauna Kea, which is the tallest peak in the Pacific, and by some accounts, tallest in the world.

But still, Mauna Loa holds its own impressive statistics. It is the most massive mountain on earth, containing some 19,000 cubic miles of solid, iron-hard lava, and it’s estimated that this titan weighs more than California’s entire Sierra Nevada mountain range! In fact, Mauna Loa (Long Mountain), at 60 miles long and 30 miles wide, occupies the entire southern half of the Big Island. Unlike Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa has had some recent volcanic activity, spilling lava in 1949, 1950, 1975, and 1980. The top of this mountain is within the Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park boundary.

The summit of Mauna Loa, with its mighty Moku‘aweoweo Caldera, is all within park boundaries. Mauna Loa’s oval Moku‘aweoweo Caldera is more than three miles long and 1.5 miles wide and has vertical walls towering 600 feet. At each end is a smaller round pit crater. From November to May, if there is snow, steam rises from the caldera. This mountaintop bastion is the least visited part of the park since this land is remote and still largely inaccessible.

Plans for future use of this area include opening up several hundred miles of trails and Jeep tracks to hiking and perhaps other activities as well as creating additional campsites and cabins; these uses will undoubtedly take years to facilitate. For now, it is possible to drive or bike the 10-mile Mauna Loa Road to the trailhead at over 6,600 feet, hike nearly 20 miles to the summit, and stay overnight at some true backcountry cabins before you head back down.

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Exploring the Cascade Head Scenic Research Area

About 10 miles north of Lincoln City, the 11,890-acre Cascade Head Experimental Forest was set aside in 1934 for scientific study of typical coastal Sitka spruce and western hemlock forests found along the Oregon coast. In 1974 Congress established the 9,670-acre Cascade Head Scenic Research Area, which includes the western half of the forest, several prairie headlands, and the Salmon River estuary. In 1980 the entire area was designated a biosphere reserve as part of the United Nations Biosphere Reserve system.

View from atop a golden grassy hill of a sandy peninsula.
View along the Cascade Head Trail. Photo © Leslie Seaton, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

The headlands, reaching as high as 1,800 feet, are unusual for their extensive prairies still dominated by native grasses: red fescue, wild rye, and Pacific reedgrass. The Nechesney Indians, who inhabited the area as long as 12,000 years ago, purposely burned forest tracts around Cascade Head probably to provide browse for deer and to reduce the possibility of larger uncontrollable blazes. These human-made alterations are complemented by the inherent dryness of south-facing slopes that receive increased exposure to the sun. In contrast to these grasslands, the northern part of the headland is the domain of giant spruces and firs because it catches the brunt of the heavy rainfalls and lingering fogs. Endemic wildflowers include coastal paintbrush, goldenrod, streambank lupine, rare hairy checkermallow, and blue violet, a plant critical to the survival of the Oregon silverspot butterfly, a threatened species found in only six locations. Deer, elk, coyotes, snowshoe hare, and the Pacific giant salamander find refuge here, while bald eagles, great horned owls, and peregrine falcons may be seen hunting above the grassy slopes. Today, in addition to its biological importance, the area is a mecca for some 6,000 hikers annually and for anglers who target the salmon and steelhead runs on the Salmon River.

On the north side of the Salmon River, turn west from U.S. 101 onto Three Rocks Road for a scenic driving detour on the south side of Cascade Head. The paved road curves about 2.5 miles above the wetlands and widening channel of the Salmon River estuary, passes Savage Road, and ends at a parking area and boat launch at Knight County Park. From the park, the road turns to gravel and narrows (not suitable for RVs or trailers) and continues about another 0.5 mile to its end at a spectacular overlook across the estuary.


Cascade Head offers some outstanding scenic hikes, with rainforest pathways and wildflower meadows giving way to dramatic ocean views.

A short but brisk hike to the top of the headland on a Nature Conservancy trail begins near Knight County Park. Leave your car at the park and walk 0.5 mile up Savage Road to the trailhead. It’s 1.7 miles one-way, with a 1,100-foot elevation gain. No dogs or bicycles are allowed on the trail, which is open year-round.

Two trails are accessible from Cascade Head Road (Forest Rd. 1861), a gravel road that is open seasonally (July 16-Dec. 31) that heads west off U.S. 101 about three miles north of Three Rocks Road, near the highway summit of Cascade Head. Travel this road four miles west of U.S. 101 to the Hart’s Cove Trailhead. The first part of the trail runs through arching red alder treetops and 250-year-old Sitka spruces with five-foot diameters. The understory of mosses and ferns is nourished by 100-inch rainfalls. Next, the trail emerges into open grasslands. The five-mile round-trip hike loses 900 feet in elevation on its way to an oceanfront meadow overlooking Hart’s Cove, where the barking of sea lions might greet you. This trail can have plenty of mud, so boots are recommended as you tromp through the rainforest.

An easier trail accessible from Cascade Head Road heads to a viewpoint on the Nature Conservancy’s preserve. (Again, no dogs or bikes are allowed on Nature Conservancy land.) The one-mile trail starts about 3.5 miles west of U.S. 101 and heads to a big meadow and an ocean overlook. It’s possible to continue from the overlook, heading downhill to join up with the lower Nature Conservancy trail described above.

The Cascade Head Trail runs six miles roughly parallel to the highway, with a south trailhead near the intersection of Three Rocks Road and U.S. 101 and a north trailhead at Falls Creek, on U.S. 101 about one mile south of Neskowin. It passes through old-growth forest and is entirely inland, without the spectacular ocean views of other trails in the area.

Sitka Center for Art and Ecology

The region in the shadow of Cascade Head can be explored in even greater depth thanks to the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology (56605 Sitka Dr., Otis, 541/994-5485, 8:30am-4:30pm Mon.-Fri.), located off Savage Road on the south side of the headland. Classes are offered June-August focusing on art and nature, with an emphasis on the strong relationship between the two. Experts in everything from local plant communities to Siletz Indian baskets conduct outdoor workshops on the grounds of Cascade Head Ranch. Classes can last from a couple of days to a week, and fees vary accordingly.

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This Is A Moose

This Is a MooseThis Is a Moose

Written by Richard T. Morris

Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Genre: Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Personal Development: Careers; Adventure: Animals

Grades: Pre-K – 1




Yes, Moose!


When a movie director tries to capture the life of a moose on film, he’s in for a big surprise. It turns out the moose has a dream bigger then just being a moose–he wants to be an astronaut and go to the moon.


His forest friends step in to help him, and action ensues. Lots of action. Like a lacrosse-playing grandma, a gigantic slingshot into space, and a flying, superhero chipmunk.


In this hilarious romp, Richard T. Morris and bestselling illustrator Tom Lichtenheld remind us to dream big and, when we do, to aim for the moon.




★”Morris’ story is filled with child-friendly humor that is cleverly matched by Lichtenheld’s comic ink, pencil and gouache paintings. The pair captures personality (lots of it), action and adventure, along with some old-fashioned filmmaking tropes… Certain to elicit gales of giggles. A humorous-make that hysterical-homage to movies and big dreams.” –Kirkus


★”Lichtenheld fills each page with serene nature scenes in soft, fuzzy earth tones. But with each interruption, things get downright goofy with chuckle-worthy background details, silly asides in speech bubbles, and hugely expressive fonts that crowd the pages and add a colorful touch of mania to the director’s growing frustration. A rambunctious and hilarious story of embracing the unexpected.” –Booklist


★”The increasingly exasperated duck, deadpan animal characters, absurd situations, and disembodied narration recall an animated short with voiceover, and the dialogue-heavy text and plentiful humor make this excellent material for a rowdy readers’ theater production.” –The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books


“Morris gives This is a Moose an unexpected and lively structure. Lichtenheld is a master of texture: His fir trees look spiky; the duck’s beret has the soft thickness of felt; and the blue sky, with delicate variations in color, has the opacity of northern morning as the fog begins to lift.” -The New York Times


My Teacher Is A Monster

My Teacher Is a MonsterMy Teacher Is a Monster. (No, I Am Not.)

By Peter Brown

Genre: Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Personal Development

Grades: Pre-K – 3

A young boy named Bobby has the worst teacher. She’s loud, she yells, and if you throw paper airplanes, she won’t allow you to enjoy recess. She is a monster! Luckily, Bobby can go to his favorite spot in the park on weekends to play. Until one day… he finds his teacher there! Over the course of one day, Bobby learns that monsters are not always what they seem.


Each page is filled with “monstrous” details that will have kids reading the story again and again. Peter Brown takes a universal and timeless theme, and adds his own humorous spin to create another winner of a picture book.



★”This playful, eye-catching story goes a long way to humanize both teachers and students.” –Booklist


★”Brown, imagining Ms. Kirby from a child’s perspective, handles her transformation smoothly, prompting readers to revisit earlier pages. Comic traces of monstrosity linger in Ms Kirby (she still goes green at classroom clowning) yet Brown makes it clear that teachers are people too-even the “mean” ones.” –Publishers Weekly


★“Here’s hoping readers who are similarly challenged in the behavior department will get both messages: Teachers are people, and they give back what they get.” –Kirkus


Exploring the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in Southwestern Oregon

The lure of untrammeled wilderness attracts intrepid hikers to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, despite the summer’s blazing heat and winter’s torrential rains. In addition to enjoying the isolation of the wilderness, they come to take in the pink rhododendron-like blooms of Kalmiopsis leachiana (in June) and other rare flowers. The area is also home to such economically valued species as Port Orford cedar and Cannabis sativa. The illicit weed is a leading cash crop in this part of the state, and its vigilant protection by growers should inspire extra care for those hiking during the late fall harvest season. The potential for violence associated with the lucrative mushroom harvest also mandates a measure of caution.

The Chetco River in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.
The Chetco River in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. Photo © Zachary Collier, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

In any case, the Forest Service prohibits plant collection of any kind to preserve the region’s special botanical populations. These include the insect-eating darlingtonia plant and the Brewer’s weeping spruce. The forest canopy is composed largely of the more common Douglas fir, canyon live oak, madrona, and chinquapin. Stark peaks top this red-rock forest, whose understory is choked with blueberry, manzanita, and dense chaparral.

Many of this wilderness’s rare species survived the glacial epoch because the glaciers from that era left the area untouched. This, combined with the fact that the area was once an offshore island, has enabled the region’s singular ecosystem to maintain its integrity through the millennia. You’d think that federal protection, remoteness, and climatic extremes would ensure a sanguine outlook for this ice-age forest, but an active debate still rages over the validity of some logging claims.

In summer 2002, the so-called Biscuit Fire raged out of control for weeks, ravaging nearly half a million acres of southwestern Oregon, engulfing most of the Siskiyou National Forest and virtually all of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. This inferno, the nation’s largest wildfire of 2002 and the biggest in Oregon for more than a century, destroyed extensive habitat of the endangered northern spotted owl. The good news, however, is that flora of the region is well adapted to periodic fires; many of the old-growth trees survived the blaze, and within a few months green sprouts and new growth of many species were reappearing amid the ashes.

In the years since the fire, a young new forest has taken hold. Certain tree species, including rare Brewer spruce and knob cone pine, are growing back abundantly, as their seed cones require fire for germination. With the once-thick overstory vegetation mostly dead, lower-growing plants such as ferns, huckleberries, and bear grass are thriving in the sun. Soils are moister, too, since massive adult trees aren’t sucking up the groundwater. Forest scientists estimate that it will take a century for trees of the mature forest, including stands of Douglas fir and sugar pine, to return and erase the evidence of the 2002 fire. Meanwhile the charred snags of the former primary forest stand above the lush growth of quickly rejuvenating woodlands.

Even if you don’t have the slightest intention of hiking the Kalmiopsis, the scenic drive through the Chetco Valley is worth it. From Brookings, turn off U.S. 101 at the north end of the Chetco River Bridge, follow this paved road upriver past Loeb State Park, and continue along the river on County Roads 784 and 1376 until a narrow bridge crosses the Chetco. From here, turn right for 18 miles along national forest roads 1909, 160, and 1917 to reach the Upper Chetco Trailhead (just past the Quail Prairie Lookout). The driving distance from Brookings is 31 miles. If you’re not hiking into the wilderness, you can continue west on national forest road 1917 (portions are not paved), which will return you to the above-mentioned narrow bridge over the Chetco.


A good introduction to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness is along the one-mile trail to Vulcan Lake at the foot of Vulcan Peak, which is the major jumping-off point for trails into the wilderness. The trail begins at Forest Road 1909 and takes off up the mountains past Pollywog Butte and Red Mountain Prairie. The open patches in the Douglas firs reveal a kaleidoscope of Pacific Ocean views and panoramas of the Chetco Valley and the Big Craggies. For the botanist in search of rare plants, however, the real show is on the trail. No matter how expert you might consider yourself, bring along a good plant guide to help you identify the many exotic species. On the final leg of the hike, Sadler oak, manzanita, Jeffrey pine, white pine, and azalea precede the sharp descent to the lake. Despite steep spots, the walk from County Road 1909 to Vulcan Lake is not difficult.

If you backtrack from the lake to Spur 260 on the trail, you can make the steep ascent over talus slopes and brush to Vulcan Peak. At the top, from an old lookout, a view of Kalmiopsis treetops and the coast awaits. Before going, check with the Forest Service in Brookings to see if the road to the Vulcan Lake trailhead is open, because weather-related closures occasionally occur.

To reach the trailhead from Brookings, turn east off U.S. 101 at the north end of the Chetco River Bridge, follow North Bank Road (County Rd. 784) and Forest Road 1376 along the Chetco River for six miles, and then turn right and follow Forest Road 1909 to its bumpy end. Driving distance from Brookings is 31 miles. Hikers should watch out for the three shiny leaves of poison oak, as well as for rattlesnakes, which are numerous. Black bears also populate the area, but their lack of contact with humans makes them shier than their Cascade counterparts.

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Chain of Craters Road in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park

The 50 foot tall Hōlei Sea Arch near Chain of Craters Road.
The 50 foot tall Hōlei Sea Arch near Chain of Craters Road. Photo © Daveynin, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

The 36-mile round-trip Chain of Craters Road that once linked the park with Kalapana village on the coast in the Puna district was severed by an enormous lava flow in 1995 and can now only be driven to where the flow crosses the road beyond the Holei Sea Arch. It’s pretty amazing when you get to the end of the road, though, where lava literally covers the pavement and you can see now-defunct street signs in the distance.

Remember that the volcanic activity in this area is unpredictable, and that the road can be closed at a moment’s notice. As you head down the road, every bend—and they are uncountable—offers a panoramic vista. There are numerous pull-offs; plaques provide geological information about past eruptions and lava flows. The grandeur, power, and immensity of the forces that have been creating the earth from the beginning of time are right before your eyes. Although the road starts off in the ‘ohi‘a forest, it opens to broader views and soon cuts diagonally across the pali to reach the littoral plain. Much of this section of the road was buried under lava flows from 1969 to 1974.

When the road almost reaches the coast, look for a roadside marker that indicates the Puna Coast Trail. Just across the road is the Pu‘u Loa Petroglyph Field trailhead. The lower part of the road is spectacular. Here, blacker-than-black sea cliffs, covered by a thin layer of green, abruptly stop at the sea. The surf rolls in, sending up spumes of seawater. In the distance, steam billows into the air where the lava flows into the sea. At road’s end you will find a barricade and an information hut staffed by park rangers throughout the afternoon and into the evening. Read the information and heed the warnings. The drive from atop the volcano to the end of the road takes about 45 minutes and drops 3,700 feet in elevation.

While hiking to the lava flow is not encouraged, park staff do not stop you from venturing out. They warn you of the dangers and the reality ahead. Many visitors do make the hike, but there is no trail. The way is over new and rough lava that tears at the bottom of your shoes. Many hike during the day, but if you go in the evening when the spectacle is more apparent, a flashlight with several extra batteries is absolutely necessary. To hike there and back could take three to four hours. If you decide to hike, bring plenty of water. There is no shade or water along the way, and the wind often blows along this coast. [highlight]Do not hike to or near the edge of the water, as sections of lava could break off without warning.[/highlight] Depending upon how the lava is flowing, it may or may not be worth the effort. When the lava is flowing, it is often possible to see the reddish glow at night from the end of the road, but you probably won’t see much that’s distinguishable unless you use high-power binoculars. When the lava is putting on a good show, there could be several hundred cars parked along the road, stretching back for over a mile, so expect a bit of a walk before you even get to the ranger station to start the hike over the lava. For a much closer walk, park at the lava-viewing area near Kalapana in Puna.


As you head down Chain of Craters Road you immediately pass a number of the depressions for which the road is named. First on the right side is Lua Manu Crater, a deep depression now lined with green vegetation. Farther is Puhimau Crater. Walk the few steps to the viewing stand at the crater edge for a look. Many people come here to hear the echo of their voices as they talk or sing into this pit. Next comes Ko‘oko‘olau Crater, then Hi‘iaka Crater and Pauahi Crater. Just beyond is a turnoff to the east, which follows a short section of the old road. This road ends at the lava flow, and from here a trail runs as far as Napau Crater.

The first mile or more of the Napau Trail takes you over lava from 1974, through forest kipuka, past lava tree molds, and up the treed slopes of Pu‘u Huluhulu. A kipuka is a piece of land that is surrounded by lava but has not been inundated by it, leaving the original vegetation and land contour intact. From this cone you have a view down on Mauna Ulu, from which the 1969-1974 lava flow disgorged, and east toward Pu‘u O‘o and the currently active volcanic vents, some seven miles distant. Due to the current volcanic activity farther along the rift zone, you will need a permit to day hike beyond Pu‘u Huluhulu; the trail itself may be closed depending upon where the volcanic activity is taking place. However, the trail does continue over the shoulder of Makaopuhi Crater to the primitive campsite at Napau Crater, passing more cones and pit craters, lava flows, and sections of rainforest.

Roadside Sights

For several miles, Chain of Craters Road traverses lava that was laid down about 40 years ago; remnants of the old road can still be seen in spots. There are long stretches of smooth pahoehoe lava interspersed with flows of the rough ‘a‘a. Here and there, green pokes through a crack in the rock, bringing new life to this stark landscape. Everywhere you look, you can see the wild “action” of these lava flows, stopped in all their magnificent forms. At one vantage point on the way is Kealakomo, a picnic overlook where you have unobstructed views of the coast. Stop and enjoy the sight before proceeding. Several other lookouts and pull-offs have been created along the road to call attention to one sight or another. Soon the road heads over the edge of the pali and diagonally down to the flats, passing sections of the old road not covered by lava. Stop and look back and realize that most of the old road has been covered by dozens of feet of lava, the darkest of the dark.

The last section of road runs close to the edge of the sea, where cliffs rise up from the pounding surf. Near the end of the road is the Holei Sea Arch, a spot where the wave action has undercut the rock to leave a bridge of stone. Enjoy the scene, but don’t lean too far out trying to get that perfect picture!

Pu‘u Loa Petroglyphs

The walk out to Pu‘u Loa Petroglyphs is delightful, highly educational, and takes less than one hour. As you walk along the trail (1.5 miles round-trip), note the ahu, traditional trail markers that are piles of stone shaped like little Christmas trees. Most of the lava field leading to the petroglyphs is undulating pahoehoe and looks like a frozen sea. You can climb bumps of lava, 8-10 feet high, to scout the immediate territory. Mountainside, the pali is quite visible and you can pick out the most recent lava flows—the blackest and least vegetated. As you approach the site, the lava changes dramatically and looks like long strands of braided rope.

The petroglyphs are in an area about the size of a soccer field. A wooden walkway encircles most of them and helps to ensure their protection. A common motif of the petroglyphs is a circle with a hole in the middle, like a doughnut; you’ll also see designs of men with triangular heads. Some rocks are entirely covered with designs, while others have only a symbolic scratch or two. These carvings are impressive more for their sheer number than the multiplicity of design. If you stand on the walkway and trek off at the two o’clock position, you’ll see a small hill. Go over and down it, and you will discover even better petroglyphs, including a sailing canoe about two feet high. At the back end of the walkway a sign proclaims that Pu‘u Loa meant Long Hill, which the Hawaiians turned into the metaphor “Long Life.” For countless generations, fathers would come here to place pieces of their infants’ umbilical cords into small holes as offerings to the gods to grant long life to their children. Concentric circles surrounded the holes that held the umbilical cords. The entire area, an obvious power spot, screams in utter silence, and the still-strong mana is easily felt.

The Big Island has the largest concentration of petroglyphs in the state, and this site holds its greatest number. One estimate puts the number at 28,000!

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