In Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park you can visit a pretty spectacular lava tube, the Thurston Lava Tube, just a short hike away from the Crater Rim Drive. It is so easy to reach that it has become one of the most popular destinations at Kīlauea. We were very lucky to arrive there between tour buses and had a rather uncrowded experience.
After a few minutes on the paved trail you reach this walkway and see the entrance to the tube.
No, this is not the glow from lava, just from the lights that illuminate the tube. However, it does look eerie, doesn't it? I was more than ready to go inside.
This was the first view after we had entered the tube. It took my breath away. I had been inside some lava tubes in the Lava Beds National Monument in Northern California, but most of them were smaller and not as well lit (we often had to take our torches inside). This was a tunnel with a very comfortable height - no crouching necessary.
A last view back before we moved deeper into the tube.
This is where lava was flowing beneath the hardened surface of a lava flow. There are still tubes in a different part of the park that actively drain lava from the volcano, mainly from Pu'u 'O'o, the current eruption site. So these tubes are types of lava caves that form when lava develops a continuous and hard crust, which thickens and forms a roof over the still flowing lava. It's lava flowing beneath lava. When the lava flow has ceased and the rock has cooled, a long channel is left - the lava tube.
It is mind boggling to imagine that real hot glowing lava used to flow here, creating new land, destroying everything in its way. Today we walk through there and don't even have to worry about banging our head (which happened to me in the lave tubes at Lava Beds NM and was very painful). The ground is wet, but even inside this inhospitable environment there are organism that grow happily along.
The lava tube was way to short for my taste. There is another part of the tube that is closed to the public. It actually goes further on for another 1000 feet - unlit in complete darkness. However, the end of the tunnel was visible way too soon.
I looked back for a farewell view to always remember this before I ascended the stairs into the lush rain forest of the Big Island.
Then you turn around and realize that indeed you were quite a way deep inside the lava. Fascinating.
There are quite some fences in here, so I link up to Theresa's wonderful Good Fences.