March 5th UPDATE: A lava viewing point is being readied, per this Star Bulletin Article.
As I mentioned yesterday, you can’t take a short hike out to see the lava flow on the Big Island. Let me refine that statement. It is technically feasible to take a three-mile (six miles roundtrip) hike out to see flow, however access to the remote area is restricted. Why is it restricted? The area is supposed to be off limits to sightseers because it is dangerous. If you are considering ignoring the warning signs, please take a couple of minutes to watch this news segment.
So, let’s say you are an avid hiker and a six-mile hike is just a walk in the park for you. Let me tell you, walking over hardened lava is not easy at all. I think the USGS describes the challenge well:
Because of their surface irregularities, you should allow twice the time you think the walk might take. If a ranger tells you it is 3 miles (5 km) to the flows, consider it the equivalent of walking 5 to 6 miles (8-10 km) on a smoother surface. (Also, don’t forget that the return trip always seems twice as long!)
What you also need to know is that there are hidden dangers. First off the lava could suddenly spark a rapidly spreading fire at any moment. There could be methane gas explosions. Even though freshly hardened lava may seem sturdy, injuries from falling are common. It is easy to break through a thin, overhanging crust of lava or trip on a crack and fall on the abrasive, glassy surface. per the USGS.
I’d like to point out one statement that Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim told KGMB:
“We’ve had people die, some of them very tragically. People should be aware that the hazards are very serious.”
Um, I’d be excited to see lava flowing just like anyone else, but I’d prefer not to die in the process. For the time being, I’d just stick to a helicopter tour.