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Outdoor Mom’s Journal – March 2017

Outdoor Moms Journal @handbookofnaturestudy


Outdoor Mom’s Journal

March 2017

We have had so much rain that the thought of traveling somewhere warm and more on the dry side was very appealing. My daughter and I had started planning this trip way back in August because she lives in New York where the winters are far too long for that California girl.

Big Island Landscape @handbookofnaturestudy

One of my favorite places to be warm and beachy is on the Big Island of Hawaii. It made sense for all of us to rendezvous there for a winter escape. The added bonus was this year our friend was able to round out our group to make it more fun. This was her first time traveling to Hawaii so we got to see all of the things through her eyes and enjoy sharing our favorite places.

We have been to Hawaii several times but never during the month of February so that part was new to all of us. What a treat! We were able to see whales just off the coast as they breached and spy hopped out of the water.

Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (5)

Snorkeling just about every day gave us plenty of opportunity to see the colorful fish and sea turtles in abundance. I love the feeling of just floating around in the water and watching the turtles as they feed off the coral. One afternoon we boarded a boat and did some serious snorkeling in Kealekekua Bay.  The conditions weren’t perfect, but we still saw plenty of interesting things including a puffer fish.

Akaka Falls Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (8)

The day the weather was gray and a little misty, we ventured to the Hilo side of the island.

Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (7)

We hiked to Akaka Falls which are amazing and the walk down to them is lined with all sorts of interesting plants.

Hawaii Volcanoes Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (7)

Later that day we made it over to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The internet has been full of images of the lava lake and the lava spilling over into the ocean so we were hoping to see this in person. We were able to see the actual lava lake in the caldera of Kilauea but we weren’t prepared for the 8 mile round trip hike to see the lava “fire hose” going into the ocean. The weather was turning rainy too so we decided we would be satisfied with the lava that we could observe from the museum’s lookout. Totally worth it!

Coffee Tree Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (7)

We visited an actual Kona coffee farm for a tour and tasting. The experience was even more special because we saw cardinals singing and a chameleon hiding in an orange tree.

Chameleon Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (7)

I never thought I would see a chameleon up close like that and they are amazing creatures.

Sea Turtles Waikoloa Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (7)

We did lots of beach walking in Waikoloa where we were staying but you need to put aside your preconceived idea of what a “beach” is to do that. These are not white sand beaches but rather black lava rock with coral washed up on the shore. It was fun to do beachcombing and we nearly always saw whales off shore and sea turtles sleeping on the beach.

I squeezed in some nature journaling time while there and I have a short list of things to research and record now that I am home. I will be sharing my journal entries in a separate post next week!

Sometimes taking a trip is not really a vacation but this one allowed me to relax, spend active and quiet time in nature, and enjoy the company of my family and friends.


Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (7)

Just a Note about the Cost of Traveling

We make our trip fit our budget by taking advantage of air miles for free tickets, researching condos for the perfect location and amenities, cooking almost all our own meals, and then planning activities that are within our financial reach. Also, traveling with other family members and friends allows us to split costs like food, gas, and the condo. Our condo had snorkel gear, chairs, beach umbrella, and boogie boards for us to use while we were there, so check into that benefit if you are thinking about booking a condo on the islands.

Hawaii 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy (7)

Read more about my experiences: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

How Do You Join?

Answer all or just one of the prompts in a blog entry on your own blog or right here on my blog in a comment. If you answer on your blog, make sure to leave me a link in a comment so that I can pop over and read your responses.

  • During our outdoor time this week we went….
  • The most inspiring thing we experienced was…
  • Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about)…
  • In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting….
  • I added nature journal pages about….
  • I am reading…
  • I am dreaming about…
  • A photo I would like to share…


Outdoor Hour Challenge Plans for Sept 16 to March 17 @handbookofnaturestudy

You can use the free monthly newsletter along with the Handbook of Nature Study book for your nature study. Adding a membership gives you access to the Ultimate Naturalist Library’s ebooks and printablse which provides members with even more in-depth studies each month.

Read more about it!

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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Tips and Images

The December 2013 newsletter focused on various national parks, showing different ways to enjoy the parks with your children. I was very inspired by the contributors and their experiences at national parks from east to west.

Throughout 2014 I am going to feature one national park each month here on the blog. Our family has traveled to many of the western parks and enjoyed exploring their wonders. I desire to share those adventures with you and perhaps spark a desire in your family to travel to one soon.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – 2005

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
The most recent national park that I have visited is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii. We have been there several times now and each time spent time doing something different. If you are planning a visit, don’t miss their Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Trip Planner.

View of Kilauea from Jaegger Museum 2005

On our most recent visit, we also spent time at the Visitor’s Center viewing the displays and reminding ourselves of the opportunities there are for exploring. Of course, the main attraction is the Jaegger Museum and Kilauea volcano itself. These are such awesome places to start your visit if you want to learn more about the volcanic activity in the area. We used this museum as a way to support our study of volcanoes and geology. What better way to learn could there be?

Kilauea 2013 – Lots of VOG (volcanic gases)

If you are planning a visit to the Big Island, it is a drive from either the Hilo side or the Kona side. The amazing thing to realize is that most of the time you are on island you are actually not very far from the large volcanoes that reside there, some still active. See a map here: Hawaii Island.

Trail to Thurston Lava Tube – 2004

After visiting the museum, you can drive to Thurston Lava Tube and actually walk through a dark, damp tube that was formed by flowing lava. This is an easy walk and everyone should experience it. This walk is in a part of the park that is like a rainforest with large ferns and vines and beautiful bird sounds. The first time we came here I was surprised at the contrasts of this national park with its volcanic moonscape and then the lush rainforest. Truly there is something for everyone.

There are several viewing spots along Crater Rim Drive. Stop at a few of the spots and see the way the lava flowed, forming bumps and layers. Take in the caldera of Kilauea and stop at the steam vents.

If you have more time and are interested in taking in more of the park, take a hike! There are trails you can use to visit more of this awesome landscape. There is one trail where there are ancient petroglyphs.

Hiking out past the end of the road on the lava. Reflectors mark the trail. 2005

Our family hiked out on the lava several years ago and we were able to see actual lava flowing. It was an amazing experience and I hear that at times you can hike out on this section of the park after dark and see the lava actually flowing into the ocean. We have never done that and it seems a little risky to me but many people have done it and survived.:)

Moving lava – see the red hot spots?

Warning: The day we were there the museum and several of the trails were closed because of toxic fumes from the volcano. The winds were not blowing  and the accumulated fumes were on a level that was dangerous for prolonged exposure. See this page for more details: Area Closures.

We took a bike tour of the park with a touring company. It was a fantastic day and the guide was super knowledgeable about volcanoes as well as the plants that we saw along the way. I highly recommend this tour for families: Bike Volcano.

At the steam vents 2013

At the end of the Chain of Craters Road, there is a picnic area, restrooms, and little shop for snacks. You can walk out where the lava has covered the road in past eruptions.

Flying in a helicopter is the best way to see the active volcano

My husband and two of my sons took a helicopter tour that flew up over the volcano. They said it was an awesome experience to see down into the caldera with active lava flow. They saw lava skylights where the lava flows through tubes and the top opens up so you can see the glowing red lava. They flew with Safari Tours and were very impressed with the safety and knowledge of the guide.They flew out of the Hilo airport. Check out the video on the Safari Tours website.

There is a Junior Ranger program for kids at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

There are two campgrounds in the national park. There is also the historic Volcano House. We have never stayed there but have been inside and it looks like a great place to stay.

We have experienced all kinds of weather at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Twice it rained on us and the last time it was perfectly clear and beautifully sunny. Even when it rains it is not cold so shorts and sweatshirt are the most you would ever need.

This past November during our trip to this awesome national park we realized that we need to spend some more time there on the next Big Island visit. We would like to explore the area on foot and perhaps stay at the Volcano House Hotel. There is also an art center at the park that we have not visited yet…so many things to do!

Here are some additional websites to explore:
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Info – webcams, eruption information
Volcano Art Center 

There are two other national historical parks we visited on the Big Island.

Pu ‘uhonua O Honaunau – The Place of Refuge is a reconstructed ancient Hawaiian city. It is an awesome example of history and culture. The view from the park is amazing.

Pu ‘ukohala Heiau – This is a great place to get out and stretch your legs. Walking on the path of ancient Hawaiian kings and learning more about the history of the Hawaiian Islands. This is also an incredibly beautiful part of the Big Island. Take a trip here and then explore the area’s little charming towns.

If you find yourself on the island of Oahu, you can visit Pearl Harbor or the World War II Valor In The Pacific National Monument. We took our boys when they were studying modern history and this place immerses you in the history of this landmark location. We really enjoyed the tour, the museum, and learning so much in one small place.

We have felt so blessed to be able to travel to these amazing Hawaiian National Parks and Historical Sites. They have helped build in our hearts a special place for Hawaii and the national park system.

If you have any questions, please feel to ask me and I will hopefully be able to help you out.