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Hikes at volcanoes park explore Big Isle's history

By Star-Advertiser staff


Volcano, Hawaii » Two events next weekend at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will take visitors on trips into island history. In a "living presentation" on Saturday, Yosemite National Park Ranger Shelton Johnson takes on the dress and persona of an Army buffalo soldier to tell the story of African-American enlisted men who acted as rangers in national parks, including in Hawaii nearly a century ago.

The presentation, "Celebrating Buffalo Soldiers on Mauna Loa," is 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The event includes a moderate hike.

Next Sunday, park rangers will take visitors on an all-day field trip called "Exploring Kilauea Iki Crater and Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs." Volcanoes National Park Rangers Adrian Boone and Kupono McDaniel will lead the eight-hour hike, which begins at 8:30 a.m. Both events are sponsored by the Hawaii Volcanoes Institute.


Registration is required for the events next weekend at Volcanoes National Park. To sign up and get directions, call 985-7373 or visit www.fhvnp.org.

Dec. 11
» What: "Celebrating Buffalo Soldiers on Mauna Loa," a living-history presentation about African-American Army soldiers who created a foot trail on the volcano in 1915
» Meet at: Kipukapuaulu trail head lot
» Time: 12:30-4:30 p.m.
» Cost: $50 for Friends of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park members, $65 for nonmembers

Dec. 12
» What: "Exploring Kilauea Iki Crater and Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs," two hikes exploring the crater and the rock etchings of ancient Hawaiians
» Meet at: Kilauea Iki Overlook parking lot
» Time: 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
» Cost: $65 for Friends of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park members, $85 for nonmembers
» Notes for hikers: Check the parks website at www.fhvnp.org for a list of things to bring.


"In 1915, African-American enlisted men of Company E, 25th U.S. Infantry Division, volunteered six weeks of service to pioneer a foot trail up Mauna Loa's northeast flank to its summit caldera, Moku'aweoweo," Institute spokeswoman Julie Mitchell said in a release.

"At Pu'u 'Ula'ula (Red Hill), one of the older known cinder and spatter cones on the volcano's rift, the Buffalo Soldiers built a rough-cut wood frame building out of lumber packed in by mule," the release said. "Today, 1,000 registered hikers a year seek solitude and shelter in the rustic cabin at 10,035 feet."

Johnson, who appeared in Ken Burns' PBS series "The National Parks: America's Best Idea," is an authority on buffalo soldiers, the African-American men who served as part of a segregated military regiment of the U.S. Army starting in 1866.

Dressed as a buffalo soldier along the Mauna Loa Trail, Johnson will give a first-person account of the role that African-American soldiers played in the national parks in the early 1900s, Mitchell said.

The Sunday event includes two hikes. The morning field trip will trace the steps of NASA astronauts who trained for the moon mission on the lunarlike surface of Kilauea. Hikers then will descend 400 feet through the tropical rain forest into the Kilauea Iki pit crater, Mitchell said. The hike is four miles round trip.

The hikers are likely to encounter Hawaii songbirds, including 'apapane, 'amakihi and 'oma'o, and happy-face spiders that live on the undersides of tree fern fronds, a release said.

The afternoon portion is a 2-mile round-trip hike to Pu'u Loa to view hundreds of symbols and images etched in pahoehoe by generations of Hawaiians along the coast.

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