Celebrate Your Life – See the World
By J “Kat” Loren :: Mark Twain liked it hot. Jack London wasn’t afraid of a little heat either. Apparently, they both enjoyed traveling in mountains and on the open ocean. Twain’s editor at the Sacramento Union booked a conventional ship to the Sandwich Islands so that Twain could write a series of travel “letters”. London, having frequented the Hawaiian waters on a whaling ship in his younger days, sailed his own boat, “Snark”, from Oakland, California across the long Pacific passage to Hawaii.
Once in Hilo, each trekked up to Volcano National Park back in the days when Pele revealed her fiery moods and ignited the imagination of the world. Scores of writers and tourists made the long horseback ride or vintage automobile ride up the Kilauea’s lava molded mountainside to the rain forest near the caldera. Most either camped along the way or stayed at the island’s first and only hotel, appropriately named Volcano House, perched on the rim of Kilauea Caldera, a short walk across Crater Rim Drive from the Kilauea Visitor Center.
Volcano House Hotel Twenty-six years before Yellowstone was designated as the first National Park, the Volcano House Hotel opened with four bedrooms, a parlor, and dining room and attracted an assortment of famous people, ordinary tourists and obscure scientists. Mark Twain stayed here, and wrote about his visit in the book Roughing It. Author Jack London stayed in 1907.
The original 1877 building where Twain and London slept is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and now houses the Volcano Art Center. A larger hotel was built across the street and closer to the crater overlook. The 115-room building burned to the ground on February 11, 1940 (ironically, from a kitchen fire, not a volcanic eruption). The 1877 structure was used again for guests while the new hotel was planned. The hotel in use today was built in 1941 and expanded in 1961. It underwent renovation in 2013 and the Volcano House currently offers 33 historic guest rooms (European sized), a dining room, snack bar, lounge, and gift shop, along with cultural events and demonstrations. The restaurant offers fine dining and a spectacular view of the crater. Outside the restaurant, a lounge area boasts several vintage chairs where guests congregate and cast a wary eye towards the volcano’s rim, alight at night with the glow of the deeper lake of fire. A portrait of old Uncle Billy, a former owner/concessionaire, lounging in his chair, cigar in hand, a faraway look in his eyes as he contemplates Pele’s caldera hangs from a side wall. Native Hawaiians come to the area to offer their prayers and sacrifices to Pele. Billy apparently also offered up his own annual sacrifice to Pele at Christmas. Hiking to the rim, he ritually tossed in a bottle of gin. His sacrifice apparently charmed Pele into sparing the Volcano hotel ever since. The Ortega Family concessionaires now run the hotel. Sleeping on an active volcano took bravery in the olden days when eruptions were frequent and the smell of sulfuric acid overpowered unwary travelers. With safety measures in place, guests are spared the dangers but evacuations still take place on occasion. In April 2008 the hotel had to be evacuated several times due to sulfur dioxide fumes from an eruption in Halemaʻumaʻu Crater. Halemaʻumaʻu in the Hawaiian mythology is home to Pele, Hawaiian Goddess of Fire and Volcanoes, according to the traditions of Hawaiian mythology. According to the Hawaii Volcano Observatory the crater is currently active, with lava in an open vent fluctuating from 70 to 150 meters below the crater floor. At night, from the Volcano House hotel, you can see the glow of Pele rising from her caldera home. If you are lucky enough, Pele might toss a few red-hot rocks into the air at night like fireworks lighting up the night. Apparently, Pele wasn’t too happy in the 1980s. She erupted big time. Since the 1982 eruption and her 2008 fuming fits, she has grown more contemplative and scientists have grown more cautious about letting visitors get too close. Today, the crater is a forbidding black hole, two and a half miles across that is so active that tourists are no longer allowed to hike to the rim itself and peer 400 feet deep into the lake of fire. The red hot lava no longer weaves its flow towards the sea, falling off the edge of the island like a red river, steaming up the ocean, angry, forbidding. Instead, she has taken to casting her lava where tourists are not allowed to tread.
Kilauea Lodge For those who prefer a little distance from the activity of Pele but still want to sleep on a volcano, the local town of Volcano just outside the park’s main gate hosts Kilauea Lodge, another vintage hotel nestled within a rain forest filled with the songs of native birds. While you are there, you may even spot one of Hawaii’s endangered birds such as the Nene, I’iwi and Amakihi. Volcano Village is a small artists’ community of roughly 2000 residents located just outside of Volcanoes National Park. At 3000 to 4000 ft. altitude the town of Volcano and most of the Park enjoy a cooler climate. The village is situated on a small loop that diverts away from the highway, secluding it from highway noise and traffic. Local business includes small shops, a grocery/gas station, restaurants and an Internet cafe. Kilauea Lodge is in the heart of Volcano Village and the small grocery and stores are within easy walking distance from the Lodge property. You can’t miss the Lodge’s bright yellow main building stands off from the main road in a grove of beautiful trees. Originally built as a YMCA camp in 1938, the place now serves the community as a popular country inn and restaurant. Albert and Lorna Jeyte purchased the property while on their honeymoon in 1986 and are the owners and hosts during your stay. Their pets, Meatloaf and Spaetzle, patrol the grounds day and night. The rooms are more spacious here, some with fireplaces, and all with ambiance of a fine German Guesthouse including the gentle sounds of rain falling at night in a forest full of songbirds. A common room located in a building behind the restaurant, offers an assortment of books, games, and a place for families and friends to congregate or guests to meet one another. A hot tub nestled under the trees just outside in the beautiful native, tropical floral landscape is a welcome place to soak after a long day of hiking the Volcano National Park’s many trails. And in the morning, guests are treated to a fantastic full breakfast in the main dining room. This is truly the best place to get away from the hustle and heat of Kona. If you still want additional solitude, the Lodge offers several nearby cottages for rent. Volcano House Hotel 1 Crater Rim Drive Hawaii National Park, HI 96718 Reservations: 1-866-536-7972 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Kilauea Lodge and Restaurant 19-3948 Old Volcano Rd. Volcano Village, Hawaii 96785 Reservations: 1 (808) 967-7366 Email: email@example.com
J “Kat” Loren is a Pacific NW-based journalist and author of more than a dozen books. She currently focuses on writing health, fitness, and travel articles. Her blog “Crazi Culture” is a popular read among those who like eclectic topics and travelogues about odd places and adventures. http://www.craziculture.com Jloren.firstname.lastname@example.org
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