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My Rotary Day in Volcano

This past Saturday I participated in two events held in Volcano Village, about 30 miles away from Hilo. The first was staffing an aid station for the 4th Annual Rain Forest Run; the second was a visit to Volcano Winery. As a member of the Rotary Club of Hilo Bay, I could join both activities, and also fit in a visit to Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park.


The Rain Forest Run is sponsored by the Volcano Art Center, and started in 2010. Prior to that, the run was known as the Kilauea Volcano Run. Founded in 1983, the run took place inside Volcanoes National Park. The last year runners met inside the park was 2008, the same year the Kilauea Volcano erupted at Halema`uma`u Crater. The present Rain Forest Run began in Volcano Village in 2010.

Due to our year round warm weather, races in Hawai`i begin quite early. The Rain Forest Run starts at 7:00 a.m. We were supposed to be at our aid station by 6:45. So, I left the house at 6:00, mug of coffee in hand, and arrived at the site at 6:30, only to be told the access road was already closed. Guess I missed the memo. I parked the car and started to walk up, thinking I’d arrive about the time my friends were dismantling the station, but at least I’d be there.

Trudge – trudge – trudge.

I arrived at the race start point.

Start point for Volcano Rain Forest Run

Perking up my spirits were these lovely Volcano Phlox Purple flowers (Phlox paniculata) blooming along the road.

Volcano Phlox Purple Flowers

However, despite my joy in scenic flora, I became disenchanted with the hike.  Our station was five – out of six.  The half marathon was 13 miles, which meant that I would have to walk about 4 miles.  *Sigh*

 When, Hark!

I heard a truck – a big, black, bad-#$% truck driven by a fellow Rotarian who was kind enough to give me a lift to Aid Station 5 where we joined other club members.

Mary Bergier gives us our instructions.

We had plenty of time to set up before the first runners appeared.  We offered plain water, water with electrolytes called Ultima, and a sticky energy concoction we called “goo” – now available in vanilla flavor.  Our station also featured a purple porta-potty.

Runners coming back
from the half way turnaround.

These particular runners are on their way back down the hill.  Only about 4 miles to the finish line.  I took this picture of the finish line on the way up the hill.

Before the run begins,
runners admire the finish line.

By 10:00, the last runner had come through and we broke down our station.  It was too early for wine – so I went to one of my favorite places.


Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, established in 1916, is one of the earliest parks in the system.  I arrived just as Ranger Noah Gomes was about to begin the introductory walk.

IMG_0416 2
Ranger Noah Gomes

Gomes uses the walk to introduce visitors to indigenous and invasive plants in the park.  One of the most invasive species is Kāhili Ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum).  This beautiful and fragrant flower, which is also found along the roadside throughout the Volcano area, is an opportunistic plant native to the Himalayas.  Introduced to Hawai`i as an ornamental, Kāhili Ginger quickly migrated outside garden boundaries.  The Park Service has an active eradication program, but can barely keep up.

Kāhili Ginger
(Hedychium gardnerianum)

Throughout the park, visitors also see the `Ōhi`a-Lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha), an indigenous plant.

(Metrosideros polymorpha)

The `Ōhia-Lehua is able to grow in places with minimal soil – as pictured here at the side of Halema`uma`u Crater with Mauna Loa, another volcano, in the background.  You can just see the `Ōhia-Lehua on the lower right hand side.


Looking across Halema`uma`u Crater
towards Mauna Loa

 Gosh – Look at the Time. 

I better hurry or I’ll miss Estate Tea and Wine Tasting at Volcano Winery

Entrance to
Volcano Winery

“Doc” McKinney planted the first vines in 1986, and opened the winery doors seven years later.  In 1999, Doc sold the business to Del and Marie Bothof who bottle about 6,000 cases of wine annually.  A Hilo Bay Rotarian, Marie invited the club up for a tour followed by wine tasting.

Marie Bothof

Many wineries display vines at the entry way.  But, I had never seen vines wrapped in netting before.

Vines wrapped in netting

Although I’ve written a book about the macadamia nut industry, I don’t know anything about growing grapes.  Well, I know they grow on vines, but that’s about it.  So, when I saw these vines wrapped in netting at the winery entrance, I was puzzled.  I asked  Del a question he’s probably tired of answering:

Del Bothof

“Why do you have nets around the vines?”

The short answer is that the nets are supposed to keep the birds from eating the red grapes.

Red grape clusters behind netting

The grapes grow in tight clusters, so they need air circulation to avoid mildew.  Turns out the birds are pretty smart – especially mynah birds (Acridotheres tristis).

Mynah bird.
Photo by John Haslam
Wikimedia Commons

Mynah birds are very social, and they work together to get at the grapes.  One will pull the net aside while the other eats.  This clever behavior is countered with a tight metal mesh immediately over the grape cluster.

White grapes are not so tightly clustered and can be protected by paper bags.  Of course, this is a bit messy if it rains.

White grape clusters
Protected by paper bags

Many thanks to Mary Bergier who organized the aid station for the Rain Forest Run, Marie Bothof who hosted our afternoon at Volcano Winery, and to the Rotary Club of Hilo Bay.

For more information, check out these websites:

Rainforest Runs, organized by the Volcano Art Center

Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park

Volcano Winery

Rotary Club of Hilo Bay

Rotary International

Unattributed Photos by Author.  All Rights Reserved.

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Author Sandra Wagner Wright

Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.

 Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.


  1. Events like the Rainforest Runs (5KM, 10KM, and half-marathon) could not take place without the vital assistance and contributions made by Sandra and her Rotarian (and other groups) volunteer friends.
    As one of the runners, well walker/joggers, it is always so nice to see an aid station in a remote location filled with such enthusiastic, cheerful people, out early, and sometimes a fair ways from their nice warm beds.
    It is a bonus to read Sandra’s ‘take’ on it as well as the full report of the entire day.
    Thank you for being there and describing ‘there’ so well, Sandra!


  2. Mahalo, David. You’ve made me blush. Seeing you rounding that corner (from both directions) made my day. Thank you for your comment.


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