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Hike to see Lava Flow

Houston,TX
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Hike to see Lava Flow

I have done extensive reading recently on the hike to see he lava flow. We are considering doing the hike with Volcano Discovery or Kalapana Cultural Tours. We will be in Hilo in mid-July with our daughters ages 16 and 11. I need to know how difficult the hike really is for middle aged - out of shape people. We walk in our neighborhood a couple days a week for 2-3 miles (flat and even streets) but we are not hikers. We do not own hiking shoes. Can you do the hike in tennis shoes? Our daughters are athletic so I'm not worried about them - just me. My husband really wants to see the lava flow but I'm very nervous about doing this hike. I'm hoping there are some folks that have done the hike recently that can give us good advice. I need to schedule it soon if we want to do it. Thanks!

ON, Canada
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1. Re: Hike to see Lava Flow

We did the hike in April ... at that time it was 7 miles return, but I think it's shorter now to the surface and ocean flows.) I wouldn't do it in tennis shoes as I think it's important to have footwear that will give you some stability on uneven surfaces, as well as good gripping ability. My husband and I are quite active at home, and we found it to be about as much as we would want to take on in one hike, on that type of surface.

Is purchasing hiking shoes and hiking on trails in your area something that you could do to work on your fitness level for the next two months? I think it would be worth it because the hike is amazing.

Island of Hawaii...
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for Hilo, Island of Hawaii
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2. Re: Hike to see Lava Flow

I think it is reasonable to be nervous, because itʻs very tough terrain. As you have doubtless realized, itʻs not one of those deals where you can stop when youʻre worn out. If you walk all the way out there and are too tired, then what?

I used to hike frequently, although I was never in the majors -- but I hiked a lot on uneven ground. It is a skill that you need to learn, of balance and how to put your weight down. You donʻt get that from walking on paved level streets. I think that if you want to do it, you should get some hiking shoes and go somewhere where you do a real trail hike, and see how it goes. Or try it in athletic shoes before you invest in hikers, but in case, go find a place to walk on a natural surface that is irregular and see if you think you can do that for that many miles.

Lava is very tough to walk on. A somewhat comparable (but not really) walk would be to find a dry stream bed that is all sizes of rocks and dry walking on that.

Toronto, Canada
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3. Re: Hike to see Lava Flow

I agree with Susan and KK. It's a challenging hike because of the unevenness of the terrain and the length of the hike. It's something not to be missed though, IMO, if there's any way you could do it. If you don't have any particular injuries, such as bad knees, then you may have time to get yourself comfortable with it by hiking between now and then on uneven terrain nearby where you live.

As for clothing, VDT recommended hiking shoes with Vibram soles. We went out and got ourselves Merrells and were extremely happy with them. I was worried about new shoes on a long hike so I went out walking in them for an hour every day that I could for the few weeks that I had them prior to our trip. They were completely comfortable - none of us suffered any discomfort with our shoes whatsoever.

One thing that I wish we had done though was bought some long hiking pants - you know the type that are lightweight and dry quickly? We just had jeans with us which our guide insisted we wear due to the fact that the lava is very sharp - not a good idea to take a chance of falling onto it with bare legs. The day of our hike was very hot and jeans were not the most comfortable items of clothing in the heat. Just before we started making our way back to the car though, it poured rain and we got soaked; wet jeans are even more uncomfortable. So I would definitely bring lightweight, quick-drying hiking pants if you decide to go.

Island of Hawaii...
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for Hilo, Island of Hawaii
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4. Re: Hike to see Lava Flow

Excellent tips from Gluru! So important to break a boot in before you are on vacation, and jeans are no good here for the reasons given. No shorts on lava fields!

Big Island, Hawaii
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5. Re: Hike to see Lava Flow

My kids (ages 11-22) went in April and despite my protestations wore jeans and tennis shoes. They were fine but I still wouldn't recommend it. I've done the hike many times over the years, varying from 1-8 hours, and it is difficult, mainly because of the uneven terrain and the concentration required. I wouldn't advise anyone who feels they are out of shape or unaccustomed to long hikes over more than pavement, to try it.

Volcano, Hawaii
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6. Re: Hike to see Lava Flow

There are a few reasons why we like to recommend wearing pants.

1- Extra layer of protection should you slip and fall or accidentally rub against any rocks while walking.

2- The little bits of rock tend to get kicked up while you walk, and having pants that come down and cover the shoes/boots prevents little glass-like bits from getting into your footwear. It is a major hassle to have to stop repeatedly to take off the shoes and shake them out.

3- When approaching the lava flows the extra layer of clothing protects bare skin from the heat.

I personally wear jeans because they hold up better when sitting down or making contact with the abrasive rock. Light weight pants are definitely great for rainy or excessively hot conditions, however they also get tore up much more easily. Having light weight pants is still better than shorts, but make sure to bring something to sit on to ensure that no pukas are made near the okole (rips/tears near the rear end). Also, some light weight pants can actually melt to your skin if you are not careful. They dont offer much for protection from extreme heat.

As far as footwear goes, you can get away with tennis shoes, but it may end up being one of the last times you wear them. The cheapest walmart shoes are not a great idea. Those tend to have soles that are glued on, which melt easily on hot rock. People are constantly "loosing theirs souls" on the lava flow as a result. The main thing is to have something that completely covers the foot and creates minimal chance of allowing shards of rock from getting inside. Ankle support in a shoe/boot is a major plus if you have the room to lug a heavy pair of boots around. Getting a twisted ankle on the lava flow is no fun.

KK put it correctly. It is important for people to know their own limitations. Getting to the lava is only half way. You still need to make it back!

One thing you should ask yourself is can I keep up with an average pace? The bigger groups tend to have a set amount of time that everybody has agreed to. If you fall behind there will be a chance of holding others up, or having to be turned around. Going on a private and flexible tour will make sure that you go at your own pace, without feeling rushed. It will take how much ever time you need.

The average time to get to the ocean entry right now is about 1 hour and 20 minutes one way. I have gone with some groups that have made it in under an hour, but on one occasion in particular we had to take it slow and steady - 2.5 hours one way for the same distance.

Texas
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7. Re: Hike to see Lava Flow

Honestly, doubt about doing something usually means don't; I don't mean to be pessimistic, but since you are questioning your ability, the conditions and temperatures will be at their warmest in July-Aug-Sept. and maybe a 7-mile hike isn't the way for you to enjoy the volcano. Lavaguyd gives you a good description of what to expect.

April weather is cooler for sure than July.

Plus you are walking on black lava, and from our experience being on it in May (just standing on it, no hike), I can testify that you definitely feel the warmth of black lava reflecting back on you. Even with temps in the high 70s in May, it definitely felt hotter being near/next to any stretch of black lava. I would not have wanted to walk on the lava for even a block or two.

Then there is the good recommendation to wear long pants, which will make you feel even warmer, plus with hiking boots and socks, etc.

Atlanta, Georgia
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8. Re: Hike to see Lava Flow

When my wife and I did the hike last December with VDT, I wore a pair of sturdy trail shoes (similar to tennis shoes, but designed for trail running or hiking). These are my regular travel shoes that I take with me on trips, so did not need to pack anything "special". I had had them for a couple of years and they were well broken in, but the lava hike pretty well finished them off. The soles were worn almost smooth by the time we were done. I would not recommend doing the hike in regular tennis shoes for reasons previously mentioned.

Blue jeans are the absolute worst pants to hike in. They are heavy and hot, and you will be miserable in them if they get wet. I used a pair of light-colored chino cargo pants that were just about perfect - thick enough to provide some protection from the terrain, but not so heavy that they were uncomfortable to wear. Nylon clothing is probably not a good choice since the material can melt if you get close to the lava (which we definitely did!).

One thing to consider if you are not accustomed to hiking on uneven terrain is a hiking pole. You can use this for additional support on the rough parts, and it helps take some of the strain off your hips and knees. My wife has a history of minor issues with her knees and will not hike without a pole - VDT provided those for her free of charge and she did fine on the lava hike.

If you are curious, we are in our mid-50s but very active, with many years experience hiking and backpacking in the N Georgia mountains. We did the lava hike with a young couple (in their early 30s) and had no trouble keeping up.

-JimG

washington dc
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9. Re: Hike to see Lava Flow

Very interesting information.

We are planning to go in December. We each own regular running / basketball shoes that we wear on all hikes and have frequently hiked uneven rocky surfaces with ankle support added. They have thick soles and comfort insoles - perhaps similar to the ones mentioned by Jim. They are not as heavy as "hiking" boots.

Am I right to understand that these would not work on volcano hike since lava is hot and might melt the soles?

Gluru recommened merelles. Any other recommendations?

Thanks

Toronto, Canada
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10. Re: Hike to see Lava Flow

There are several brands with vibram soles; Keens comes to mind as an alternate to Merrell but those two are all I can think of right now. I know there are others.