Lava Tree Park

I have a lot of favorite spots in our new ‘hood. There are particular trees, stretches of road, rocks, buildings: things I don’t get tired of looking at. One of them is Lava Tree State Park. It’s located off highway 132 just before you run into a massive wall of lava that blocks access to Kapoho and Pohoiki. The tree trunks featured in the park were engulfed in a lava flow in 1790. The lava that engulfed the roads to Kapoho and Pohoiki flowed a few months ago. Nature is both powerful and humbling. And enduring. And repetitive.

During last year’s lava flow, the park was closed. The lava never got as far as the park but there was earthquake damage and the air was noxious. The website said the park was closed due to lava and ‘we do see the irony in that.’ Impressive. When was the last time you saw a government website with a sense of humor?

The park is an oasis of civilization in the middle of virgin forest. There’s a concrete path (wheelchair accessible, it is a state park after all) that meanders past petrified trees alonside new growth, winding vines and exotic flowers. The occasional mongoose darts through the undergrowth. The path is less than a mile long so it’s a nice leisurely stroll even grandma can probably handle.

So far, the setup is very family-friendly but here’s where it gets interesting.

Next to the parking lot, there’s a storage shed. Next to the shed, there’s a fenced-in area topped with three forbidding strands of barbed wire.

The enclosure isn’t locked.

Every time we go there I wonder about the enclosure. There’s something slightly Jurassic Park about the area’s trees and other vegetation, so I thought it might be a velociraptor or T. Rex cage. On the other hand, I couldn’t swear to it, but I’m pretty sure both are still extinct.

The only other use I could think of was locking up naughty children. But I’m pretty sure that’s not a public service outside of disused Walmart stores in South Texas.

On a visit today, we discovered a government maintenance truck parked by the storage shed. A friendly looking fella was sitting in the driver’s seat so I asked him what the enclosure was for. He heaved a sigh and said it was a rather long story. In a nutshell, he said, it was meant for parking his truck but they put the gate in the wrong place and it only opens halfway, so there’s no way to get the truck inside. He shrugged and said maybe someday he’d get some goats to keep inside it. Or maybe chickens.

And so there it sits, as useless and fascinating as the lava tree trunks, both evoking awe and wonder, monuments to the power of nature and the foolishness of humanity.


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