Tag: homeschool fieldtrips

Snorkel Under the Stars

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Just past the condo complex we live in is one of the most popular snorkeling spots on the Big Island. On any given day the beach there will be packed with hundreds of people getting there first glimpses of sea turtles, eels, crabs and a hundred kinds of brightly colored tropical fish. All our boys have learned to snorkel there and every time they go they see something different. Lately though, they’ve figured out that the dark hours of the night are not just for sleeping and stargazing, they are for snorkeling, too. But for these starlit snorkel outings they head the opposite direction to another spot where the manta rays are known to congregate. These giant creatures have a “wing” span of 6-20 feet and feed on the plankton attracted by the spotlights of the snorkelers. For a small fortune you can pay to be taken out on a boat equipped with spotlights and snorkel gear right out to where the mantas are. Or if you are super adventurous, you can swim from shore through the dark (and Mom’s quite certain, shark infested) waters which is of course, the method my dear husband and our two oldest boys prefer. Last week, Joel came back from his first manta swim all excited because not only was there a big one circling all around him but the “water was full of twinkling lights,” too. No, the stars hadn’t fallen into the sea. He had just encountered a host of tiny, bioluminescent creatures. How awesome that our God chooses even the darkness of night to reveal his splendor, not just through the vastness of space but even to the depths of the sea. As this week’s memory verse beautifully states, “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them.” -Nehemiah 9:6

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Star-light by Lava-glow

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Our favorite vacation spots are America’s National Parks. The daughter of a Park Ranger, I grew up exploring these wonderlands and was determined my children would have the opportunity to do the same. Thankfully, having a husband in the teaching profession has afforded us plenty of vacation time to indulge this dream. Of course, this same profession has also afforded us an extremely limited budget that really only allows for the kind of rustic adventuring these parks and other wilderness areas have to offer. I must say we have become quite the masters of low-budget adventuring. Money (or rather the lack of it) has never been something we let stand in the way of showing our boys God’s amazing creation.
When we moved to Hawaii I rather thought we would be giving up our wilderness adventures. But that’s because I didn’t know all the Big Island had to offer. Our favorite family outings here are definitely those made to Volcano National Park, especially if we have the opportunity to stay overnight and witness the lava-glow by star-light. This past weekend provided the most spectacular display yet.
I’ve told many people that the hike from the Kilauea Military Camp to the Jagger Museum Lookout along the crater rim is the best kids night hike in the world. As long as you STAY on the trail! The path, which follows the edge of the crater (which is why you want to stay on it lest you plummet to your death!) is relatively level most of the way and starts out in a clump of rain forest which quickly gives way to vast openness with nothing but darkness on one side, the glow of lava from the crater on the other side and a vast expanse of night-sky stretching over the black Pacific over-head. It’s a great hike in the day-time too, but not nearly as adventurous!
Friday night was foggy but we thought we might get a glimpse of the glow anyway so we all (including Oma and Opa) set out with flashlights through the trees. Pretty soon we couldn’t see the rain forest for the rain. Our fog had turned into a cold, dense drizzle and there was no glow in sight. The boys were eager to keep going though, so we thought we’d just continue on to the little overlook about half way up the trail. The only way to find the overlook in the dark is to look for the trail crossing our path and turn left on it so we kept our eyes glued to the ground for most of the last stretch till we finally saw the crossing and walked out to the railing. The presence of the railing by the way, is the only thing that makes this an official overlook. The rest of the crater rim is wide-open, just beckoning some poor-unsuspecting soul to fall in. We all stood there looking into the thick wet cloud and seeing nothing but a thick wet cloud when we heard a sound like distant thunder, and then another boom and another and another. It was the volcano! We couldn’t see it but we could sure hear it! Pretty cool and definitely worth the hike!
The next night was foggy again so we skipped the night hike, but when I woke up at 2 in the morning, it was a clear, star-filled night overhead and the whole sky toward the crater was ablaze in orange. Great star-gazing AND lava-glow at the same time was something I couldn’t resist pulling the boys (and Dad) out of bed for. Of course, Oma and Opa heard the ruckus and being the troopers they are, came with us. This time we drove to Jagger Museum which was deserted this time of the night and we had the whole viewing platform to ourselves. The stars were insanely bright and bountiful but it was the more terrestrial glow that had us riveted. And there was that volcanic sound again! Only this time it was constant, like the roar of the ocean. Truly awesome and even a little terrifying for our 3-year-old.
The whole time I kept repeating to the boys, “Imprint this on your brains. Never, never forget this moment, and never, ever forget the Awesome God that made this.” Thank you Oma and Opa for making this memory with the boys and for being good enough sports to leave your cozy beds at 2 AM to go stand on the rim of a volcano and join in the Doxology to our Creator with us and not even complain about it the next morning! You two are great!