Welcome to Mars- In search of Pele's Hair, April 2018

Yvonne

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Welcome to Mars –in search of Pele’s Hair, April 2018

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is a really diverse place. Not only are there massive lava flows from several d eruptive events, or lush rainforests that let you feel like you’re in a scene of Jurassic Park, there are also deserts.
Yes, there are deserts on the Big Island of Hawai’i. And these deserts have sand and little to no rainfall. The rain shadow of the big mountains Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea creates a very unique climate harsh and dry and so completely out of place. The Ka’u desert of Volcanoes NP is a very unique place to explore. Old lava flows with a reddish color due to the iron content plus cinder cones and volcanic ash and sand create a very hostile climate.
Why would someone want to go there?
Of course, there is something else that makes this place very interesting. Because the place is downwind of Halema’uma’u crater, it receives a lot of the stuff blown out of the crater. One of these special items is Pele’s hair, golden elongated strands of volcanic glass that look like hair. One of the coolest things you can ever see.
Throughout the last few years, a vast area of the Ka’u desert got covered by this volcanic glass, sometimes covering miles of it and let it shimmer golden in the right light conditions. I visited the place a few times and was always blown away by it.
Today I decided it was time for a spontaneous visit again. Little did I know that exactly one week later the park would close its doors indefinitely due to volcanic eruptions.

I went to the park later in the morning and headed to the Mauna Iki trailhead in the Ka’u desert along Hilina Pali road. The trailhead was next to the campground and despite the pretty nice weather, I was the only car parked there. I quickly grabbed my backpack and camera and started the hike. At the beginning, there was some vegetation sparsely spread out within the area, obviously not affected by the VOG and with a bit more rain.



I followed the trail, passing some dead Ohia trees. They would make a nice foreground for night photography.



Soon the trail became more barren, lots of sand and small shrubs were dominating the landscape. Unfortunately, there were also a lot more clouds moving in. In the past few weeks, it was pretty hard to find a day with a lot of sunshine. But I still hoped for a few windows of sun, so I could take the images I was after.
The first few patches of Pele’s hair appeared after the first 1.5 miles, but they were pretty spotty and not were long.







After about 2 miles I reached a cliff. From here I had to walk down a sand dune and down to the bottom of a landscape that truly resembled a Mars-like landscape. Red sand, hostile, barely any vegetation left. This went on and on for miles.





And now I reached the Pele’s hair I was looking for. Patches of gold and yellow covered huge areas. The wind had blown it into crevices, around rocks, small shrubs. It was literally everywhere.
I picked up a few pieces and some strands were at least 2-3 feet long. It was pretty cool and since my last visit, the amount of Pele’s hair had almost doubled.







I continued to the Two Pit Craters, some really deep old Pit Craters. Often you can see White Tropic Birds who nest along the crater walls. But there was not a single one here today.
I walked around the pit craters and glimpsed into the gaping hole. Pretty impressive for sure.





I continued past the craters and encountered more Pele’s hair. It was literally everywhere.
I walked around another Pit crater and scrambled to the top. I had to be a bit careful, the loose cinder and rubble could easily trigger a fall.







It was for sure a great day of exploration. After a quick break, I turned around and hiked back.





It was already pretty late and I couldn’t do the entire trail today. The closer I came back to the cliff the nicer the weather was. It seemed the cliff was the separation line for VOG- driven weather and nicer conditions. The hike out I had nice sunshine and made it back to the car about 30 minutes before sunset. The total hiking distance was 8.5 miles, definitely the perfect length for a quick afternoon hike.
 
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Miya

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How fantastical! You are always altering my perception of Hawaii and making me want to visit someday.
As always, thanks for the share!
 

Yvonne

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How fantastical! You are always altering my perception of Hawaii and making me want to visit someday.
As always, thanks for the share!
thank you as well
The fun thing is, most people think Hawai'i is just beaches and swaying palm trees. Especially here on the Big Island it's more than that. There are 10 of the 14 world climate zones on this small island, from high elevation tundra, rainforest to desert. Fun place to explore.
Too bad the volcano and lava destroyed a good part of it or made it miserable to stay due to the awful air quality.
As much as I love Hawai'i, I'm excited to be back in Utah in about three weeks.
Finally, I will have fresh air again. We all take that for granted, but when you can't breathe it's the most precious jewel ever
 

Dreamer

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Wow, really cool. The natural world is endlessly amazing and so beautiful. Thanks
 

Scott Chandler

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#7
It really looks like hair :oops:

Utterly stunning. The sand dunes are as cool as the hair. So dark compared to what I'm used to.

Sigh, Hawaii keeps moving up the list of places to see because of you. Buuuuuuummmmmmer. :)
 
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#8
Fascinating stuff. Hopefully there will be a silver lining to all of the craziness going on out there now in the formation of new natural landscapes.
 

Yvonne

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It really looks like hair :oops:

Utterly stunning. The sand dunes are as cool as the hair. So dark compared to what I'm used to.

Sigh, Hawaii keeps moving up the list of places to see because of you. Buuuuuuummmmmmer. :)

lol, and there are tons of other cool places just on this island. Not to mention Kalalau Trail on Kauai
Hopefully, the volcanic eruption is not going on for years. Because all the good places to go are closed right now which is a big bummer.


Fascinating stuff. Hopefully, there will be a silver lining to all of the craziness going on out there now in the formation of new natural landscapes.
it doesn't look like Pele would let go so soon. But in the future, it will definitely be an amazing place to explore. I will probably not recognize many of the places anymore.
 
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#11
So interesting.

I wonder if that would melt in my glass furnace. Do you know if anybody has tried using it like that?

I'm not suggesting doing anything illegal or immoral.
 

Yvonne

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So interesting.

I wonder if that would melt in my glass furnace. Do you know if anybody has tried using it like that?

I'm not suggesting doing anything illegal or immoral.
for sure it would. It's glass, probably a different chemical composition than commercially produced glass but it's still glass.
Hawaiian lava has less silica content in it but more iron which affects the fluidity and makes it less runny. But when you walk on lava, you can hear the crunchy noise of the glass surface. And do not fall on relatively new lava, it will cut you like a razor blade because of the volcanic glass.

I'll post a video of A'a lava shortly for you. There you can hear the glass sound as it is pushed and moved forward.
 

WasatchWill

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#13
Those volcanic filaments are amazing! I never knew. Yet another marvel of the earth to be fascinated by.
 

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