Today did not go at all as planned. It started out well enough. We got up early and made the drive around the north side of the island on our way to Hilo. The closer we got, the worse the weather became. By the time we got to Hilo, we knew our much hoped for helicopter tour was in jeopardy. When we checked in, the tour operator wanted to hold out hope. They cancelled our 11:30 flight due to limited visibility. We hoped for the best and rescheduled for 5:30, thinking that just maybe we could have a twilight ride over the lava flow.
We headed off for lunch in Hilo, and then drove down to the black sand beach at Punalu’u. The weather was intermittent, but never what you would call good. The rain subsided long enough for us to walk down by the beach. We were lucky enough to find a sea turtle had climbed up on the beach for a rest. He apparently decided that it was too crowded, and quickly turned back to the ocean. I managed to get the departure on video, though that will have to wait for some processing when we get home.
By then, the helicopter company had let us know that all flights for the day were cancelled, so we decided to take the old fashioned tour through Volcanoes National Park. Evan picked up the camera and started showing off his eye for photos – you’ll see a few of his signature pieces below. We hiked for a ways along the coast road, but there was no way the boys were making the 10 mile round trip to the lava flow. So, we headed back up the hill to check out the lava tube and one last glance at the Kiluea crater before heading home. We were glad we did, because we reached the crater just at twilight, and saw some pretty active lava bubbling just below the rim. It was a long way off, but an awesome sight nonetheless.
We stopped in Hilo for dinner, and made the trek up over the Saddle Road, which cuts across the heart of the big island, between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. We finally made it back to the hotel around 9:30 (or 1:30am by the body clocks), exhausted, but satisfied with an improvised day. Here’s hoping for better weather tomorrow for the big dolphin swim!