A Hawai'ian State Of Mind No. 3
Dec. 20, 2010
HILO, Hawai'i - Preparations for No. 9 UCLA began in earnest Sunday as the East Carolina women's basketball team spent its first full day on the Big Island which, according to the local folks, is larger than the rest of the seven inhabited Hawai'ian islands combined.
After a nice breakfast at the hotel, which overlooks Hilo Bay, it was off to the Hilo Civic Center (HCC) for the last full practice of the trip. The Pirates worked on aspects of the game which they hope will equal success against the nationally-ranked Bruins tomorrow night. As for the HCC, it is a small cozy facility and home to the University of Hawai'i-Hilo Vulcans. It is a true multipurpose facility as a stage looms behind one of the basketball goals.
Following the workout, we quickly returned to the hotel to prepare for a journey to Volcano National Park. It was nearly a 40-minute bus ride out to the site, including a rise in elevation to about 3500 feet above sea level. In turn, it was about 15 degrees cooler than the temperature around the hotel.
Along the way, our bus driver/tour guide Brad gave us some historical tidbits about the Big Island, including the fact that technically no beach is owned by anyone on the island according to a semi-recent law passed down from the mayor. We also learned that there are in fact 132 islands in the Hawai'ian chain of which only eight are inhabited, as well as that there are 13 individual weather climates throughout the state.
When we arrived at the park, our first stop was the museum where we were able to look 200 feet straight down into the crater of the Kiluea Volcano. The officials there also gave us the address of the United States Geological Society's live webcam of the volcano opening, which can be viewed here.
The next stop was a natural steam vent. It was interesting to feel the heat and moisture rising from the ground, especially on our faces and hands. We were told the vents are created by rainwater seeping into the ground and hitting the hot lava rocks under the surface of the earth. Unfortuantely, we were not there long enough to erase any wrinkles or lines on our faces!
The group then paused at a field of hardened lava, which surprsingly is really light in pieces. However, it was able to hold our weight as we walked across. There were also hollowed out spaces in the rocks where trees once stood. Right across the way was a huge pit crater of which the bottom was nowhere near visible from eye level. It was also a great place to hear our voices echoing loud and clear. The view over the crevice was both vast and breathtaking.
The last area we visited was a lava tube - a cave created by fast-moving lava flowing over slower-moving material. Our guide told us that it took approximately 20 years for the 75-yard long tube to form. So much moisture was gathered inside that it sometimes felt as if it would rain at any second.
On the way back down the mountain, we stopped at an orchid garden as well as the Mouna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory to do some last-minute Christmas shopping and sample the delicious macadamia nut products. The milk chocolate-covered nuts were some of the best candy I have ever tasted. Thanks go out to the staff for the free samples.
Upon returning the hotel, the team had dinner while several members of the coaching staff headed over to the HCC to scout the UCLA-Hawai'i game.
The Pirates will have a normal gameday schedule tomorrow before taking on the Bruins at 7 p.m. local time. Be sure to check ecupirates.com early Tuesday morning for the full recap of the contest as it tips off at midnight on the east coast. Until then, Aloha from Hilo!