Hiking Lava Flows in Hawaii

Months ago a video of lava spouting off a cliff and into the ocean went viral all over the internet. This is the Kalapana lava flow. The lava has been flowing for months now. Kalapana is on the Hilo side of the Big Island and if you ever find yourself there, you need to go see the lava flow.

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time there has been a lava flow in this area. The lava comes and goes as it pleases, but it comes around enough that locals have bought small sections of land to rent you bikes so that you can go experience something truly spectacular.

Once you’ve parked your car along the road, you’ll see around a dozen tents set up. Underneath the tents are bikes, helmets, everything you need to bike the 10 mile round trip to the Kalapana lava flow. My family arrived at night after reading that if you go during the day, you’ll only see smoke rather than the lava. It was about 8:30 at night and we were terrified that we were too late and that the bike rentals would be closed.

Immediately after getting out of our car we were approached by one of the rental bike owners. He told us that it was too late to rent a bike but he was about to send up his last shuttle for the night and we could hop on. The shuttle was $25 a piece where as renting bikes would have been $20. They drove us along a vast lava field on a bumpy road for as long as they could before dropping us off. The driver was extremely interesting to talk to as he told us all about the history of the lava flow.

Oddly enough, as we got farther and farther away from civilization, there was still civilization. There are locals living in the middle of this lava field. They have no sewage, there are now power lines in sight. The even crazier thing is that these people’s homes have been destroyed by the lava multiple times in the past, yet they continue to rebuild and live there. When people ask them about their house being destroyed by the lava, they simply answer saying that their house would not be there without the lava. They are standing on lava. The island would not be there without lava. To them, the lava has not destroyed, it has created.

After about a ten minute drive we were dropped off. After this you still have a little under two miles to walk until you reach the viewpoint. They supplied us with flashlights, but the moon was so bright that we didn’t need them. The stars were alive in the sky, dancing above us.

As you walk, you will see a lot of bikers who either weren’t lucky enough to get a shuttle, or they just really like biking. You’ll finally reach a point where there are no more bikes allowed because the trail will end. For a short distance you walk across the lava rock before you see it in it’s full glory.

The entire coast glowed red. There was smoke everywhere and through it you could see lava flow into the ocean. Each time the lava touches the water it can create an explosion, this is why you can not get any closer than about 3/4 of a mile. If you look closely you can see the explosions as rocks will shoot into the air.

Stay as long as you can and absorb everything. It was a truly amazing experience and no photo or video can do it justice. This is not something that will last forever, this is once in a lifetime for so many of us.

So go do it.

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All of these photos are long exposure shots taken by my insanely talented brother, Aidan Rowley. If you’re interested in seeing his work you can find him on Instagram @aidan.rowley.

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What Climbing a Mountain Taught Me

You may have clicked on this thinking that I literally climbed a mountain, or did some extreme backpacking adventure. If that’s what you’re expecting, let me lower your expectations of me a little bit.

No, I did not climb that kind of mountain. To me, this was climbing a mountain, but to others, I’m an amateur who has no clue what I’m talking about.

Flat Top Mountain is no easy hike, despite the short distance. Up until this point, I had never done a hike like this and I learned quite a bit on the trek.Processed with VSCO with c8 preset

It’s okay to take breaks.

Believe me. We took our fair share of breaks on this hike. Don’t feel bad about it and don’t beat yourself up whenever someone passes you. We had all sorts of people passing us, some were running up the hill and looked ten times fitter than I will ever look and some were little nine year old kids (I won’t lie, that was a little embarrassing). Anyway, as frustrating as it was to have a little boy climb past you on those rocks, it’s important to remember that you can’t determine how successful you are by comparing your successes to other’s successes. This reminder goes for both when hiking a mountain and any other circumstance. If it’s a success for you, then it is one more amazing step up that staircase. Stop looking at what everyone else is doing and keep doing you.Processed with VSCO with c8 preset

It’s easier with friends.

Trust me, if anyone enjoys their alone time it’s me. I’m a crazy introvert and I’ve always had that independent look on life (which is awesome) where I say, “I’ll do it myself”. This experience would not have been the same if it weren’t for the people. Who else but your friends can you laugh with when you almost fall off a cliff. (don’t fall off a cliff, some of my friends are really dumb). If you’re laughing your way through something tough with the right people there to support you, it makes it way easier. And who doesn’t need the comic relief?

Pick the right clothes.

Don’t wear Vans, pick reasonable shoes. Don’t wear jeans, that’s not a good idea. I won’t call anyone out but… let’s just say they were most likely to fall off the cliff.

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It’s better in person.

This seems pretty self explanatory but it is so much better in person. liking a picture of it on Instagram will never satisfy you. You need to go out and do these things. We live on this gorgeous earth and there is so much beauty around us so stop stalking travel accounts on Instagram (@me) and go do something. Explore the city closest to you, go on a hike, go find some gorgeous views. You have no real excuse not to.

If you ever find yourself in Anchorage, Alaska, I definitely recommend this hike. If you don’t, there is a ton near you to explore.

Here are my favorite moments captured.

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Almost missing our train to Paris

This summer I went on a two week long excursion throughout Europe with my family. We hit four different countries and eight cities in just 14 days. When it comes to my family, something always goes wrong on our many adventures. This story I’m about to tell is just one of the many stories that are worth telling about our European adventure. This also might teach you how to not miss your train from London to Paris.

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We arrived in London on Monday, July 5th, at around 3:00 pm. We didn’t even have two days to spend in London so the first thing we did was the London Eye after a solid four hours of sleep. Luckily, we spent all of Tuesday in London and hit just about everything (well, the touristy stuff at least). We took a double decker bus tour, saw the Tower of London, went to Buckingham palace, went to Madame Tussauds, and saw a production of The Lion King. You may notice that a very important London must do was not accomplished. We still hadn’t gone to Westminster Abbey.

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Due to our crunch for time, we weren’t able to make it to Westminster Abbey on our full day in London, but the next day, our train for Paris didn’t leave until around 11:30. We got up early that morning and took the tube to Westminster Abbey. Here’s a little tip for people who haven’t mastered the tube, don’t use it during rush hour.

When we used the tube to go to Westminster Abbey it was also the time that everyone was going to work and let me tell you, those trains are packed. You have to push your way onto them and those locals have mastered the art of getting on the tube and pushing everyone out the way, something I struggle at.

Finally, we managed to push our way through the crowds and onto the train, my little brother getting on first. Suddenly the doors slam shut right in front of the rest of my family and leaves with my little, 13 year old brother stuck inside, all alone. I’ll admit, my family definitely laughed as he looked through the window at us in distress before we mouthed to him the place where he had to get off the tube.

After that memorable event, we finally made it to Westminster Abbey and it was absolutely stunning. Here’s where it all goes downhill. Earlier that morning, my grandpa, who scheduled the entire trip, told us that we needed to check out of our hotel at 11:00. We made it back to our hotel, the St. Pancras hotel, right on time to check out. Then, we hear some family members calling our name and rushing toward us, looking distressed. It turns out, the times got mixed up and we were actually supposed to board our Train at 11:00.

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Luckily, the St. Pancras hotel is literally at Kings Cross station so we didn’t have too far to go. Now you can imagine a family of about 15 people sprinting through the train station with loads of bags and extremely panicked faces. In the end, we weren’t the only ones running this late and we did end up making our train.

If you ever take the train out of Kings Cross station, please double check when you need to be on that train. From what we saw, most people board a bit before they need to, but better safe than sorry. Just don’t make the same mistake we did, otherwise you’ll catch yourself in a situation where other people are staring at you as you sprint through the train station. Trust me, you don’t want to look like that kind of tourist.