Saturday, August 16, 2014

Volcanic View



The reason we decided to hop over to the Big Island to begin with was because JD wanted to see the volcanoes.  So, after our lunch at Cronies in Hilo, we headed back to Volcanos National Park to get up close and personal with those sputtering mountains.  The terrain in the park is like nothing we had ever seen. Bare, rocky and black, you would think nothing could live there, but that is not so.  


Even in the most barren of environments, life tries to push through.  Scrubby, twisted trees, thorny little bushes and flowers!  Yes, flowers manage to bloom in the bleak landscape.



 Endangered Hawaiian nene geese roam over the lava flows in search of the tasty ohelo berries that grow abundantly in the park.  The nene are capable of distinguishing between the ohelo, which are related to cranberries and the poisonous akia berries which look very similar to the ohelo.  




Large cave-like openings in the landscape where lava once flowed are covered over with vines and ferns. Some of these lava tubes are big enough to walk through. 




We stopped at the Thurston Lava Tube and took the 1/3 mile hike through the lush fern forest that now inhabits the path the lava once took. It was a dark, cool and enjoyable stroll...at least for two of us!  
The other three made like cross country runners and blazed a quick trail through the tube.  I am pretty sure they saw nothing as they ran through.  When we came out the other end of the tube, they were sitting there waiting on us, wondering what had taken us so long!


We climbed through some pretty desolate landscape to get a first hand look at the steam vents where the volcano makes its presence known.  The already hot day was that much hotter when we were standing in the rising steam made from ground water seeping down to the hot volcanic rocks below.  




From the steam vents, we drove down to the Jaggar Museum where we could get our closest look at Kilauea's summit caldera.  Though the boys were hoping to see giant plumes of lava shooting up to the sky, on this day, Kilauea was only puffing more steam into the air.  While we were at the museum, we stopped to talk to one of the park rangers.  I noticed that JD was particularly interested in the pretty berries we had seen growing in the park.  The ranger told us the easiest way to tell the difference between the sweet ohelo berry and the poisonous akia is to bite into one.  He said if you only see one seed inside you should spit it out, but if there are many seeds, it is safe to eat.  I thought it was peculiar that JD was so interested in the berries.  As we were leaving, I asked about the curiosity concerning the berries.  I really wished I hadn't, because that is when Tyler confessed that he had eaten a berry with one single seed inside.  I could not believe it!  Now I found myself watching him for the rest of the day for signs of berry poisoning!  



As the sun was setting, we made our way up to the park's Volcano House to eat dinner at the lodge. The Volcano House looks like a rustic 1940's lodge, which it is.  It sits on the edge of Kilauea's Halema'uma'u crater, the summit crater we had seen earlier from Jaggar Museum. We chose this restaurant for a couple of reasons.  First, it is the only restaurant in the park. Second, we wanted to experience dining with a view of the crater.  At night, the steam rising from the surface glows red, backlit from the glowing red lava below. 



We had been warned, since the restaurant has a monopoly on serving food in the park, that the food was overpriced and the quality was less than stellar.  One park employee cautioned us to stick to the appetizers and enjoy the view, which was our true primary reason for wanting to eat at The Rim.  I took that advice and made my selections from the appetizer menu.  I ordered Hawaiian avocado dip with Island chips and creamy Kabocha squash soup. The avocado and mango guacamole mashed with red onions, yellow jalapeƱos, cilantro and lime and served with assorted root chips was quite tasty.  I especially love the taro root chips with the cool dip. The Kabocha squash soup served with crumbled boar bacon, sour cream and Big Island garlic chives, needed some seasoning.  It could have been good, but it was desperately lacking the flavor that a few well chosen herbs and spices could have provided. My soup and avocado dip together totaled $21.  It was not a $21 meal.



Scott got two Asian barbecued prawns served with coconut jasmine rice.  He liked his prawns, but the appetizer was not worth $15!



JD, true to type, got the $19 sashimi sampler which included sesame seared Kona cold kampachi, ahi poke seaweed salad, soba noodles, infused soy, pickled ginger and wasabi.  After the stellar sashimi, poke and sushi he had at Mama's Fish House and Japengo, he really was not super impressed.  


Rob got a steak topped with crispy onion straws.  


He, too, was underwhelmed, as was Tyler, who chose stuffed Big Island chicken served with wild mushrooms and carrots. It was about the time his meal arrived that his bad berry kicked in.  He excused himself from the table for several long minutes, while I worried.  When he returned he felt much better, thank goodness. 

 

The boys sampled a few of the desserts beginning with a vanilla bean and mango creme brulee' accompanied by chocolate dipped coconut macaroons.  The creme brulee' was very good.


A banana coconut cream pie served with caramelized bananas.  It was creamy and delicious.

Finally, they tasted this cake infused with raspberry and chocolate sauces. This was probably the least favorite of the desserts, but it was still tasty.

The best part of the dinner?  The view of course! The glowing red steam made a spectacular appearance in the night sky.  

The final verdict?  Skip dinner at Volcano House and go back to Jagger Museum after dark to see the glowing steam.  Then go eat dinner somewhere else.  
Three Friends and a Fork gives The Rim 1 Yum UP.  The view is wonderful, but for food this pricey, the quality needs to be much greater.  















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