Haleakala National Park

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Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.

On the top of our list are volcanoes. We have seen many already, also here in Hawaii. But we really saved one of the best volcanic area’s of Hawaii for last. Haleakala National Park on Maui. Haleakala means ‘house of the sun’ in Hawaiian and we planned to go there on a Friday. In just 60 km we drive up from sea level to an altitude of 3,055 m. That is tough business for our car and the driver (me). I have to say, I simply love winding roads. About halfway up the mountain we find the clouds stubbornly hanging loose. Why not, Hawaii is all about hanging loose. Will it be clear on top? We keep on driving until… we are above the clouds. Nice! We check with the ranger at the visitor center for the forecast and he tells us it might even be clear in the ‘crater’ below the clouds. Okay, let’s go down and see.

Haleakala is not a crater as such. It is a valley originated as a result of erosion of the volcanic rock. In the valley are several smaller volcanoes which are responsible for many of the eruptions in the past. The volcano is now dormant, but according to scientists not extinct yet. We head for the Keonehe’ehe’e trailhead to hike into this valley for a few miles. The weather is cold and misty. We wear jackets and keep warm by moving down. It is a relatively easy descent. In the end we probably go 350m downhil, realising we have to go up the same way. But, before we go back, we take all the impressions we can get. And with much pleasure. The landscape is not of this world and was used by NASA in the past for training astronauts. Between the hanging clouds we get glimpses of what is there. Rocks, rocks, many rocks and lava sand. And there is some life. Plants in various shapes and sizes, protected by signs telling us to ‘stay on the trail’. A unique plant we see quite a lot is the Haleakala Silversword. A very nice, but endangered plant. We are too late for the blooming, but it looks incredible. Slowly the clouds are disappearing as well and by the time we get hungry we find the perfect picnic spot. A wooden plank on 2 rocks, with a view at the valley in front of us. We sit and just watch the scene and the clouds coming in and disappearing again. This is amazing. We feel so small. Many small cinder cones are visible when it is clear and we want to climb them, but that is not allowed. We take many pictures, just because we can.

By the time we take our lunch ouf of our bags I hear a strange sound. Chuk, chuk… if we don’t speak, it should be completely silent in here. But now there are some chukies coming. Chukar (patrijs) they are called and they are most definitley not native. Probably they get food from hikers. We decide to go with the park advise to ignore them. Which is difficult if two of these birds are sort of chuking around you, within 2 meter distance. But we manage. Aftr lunch we go back up. A long hike, but with a surprising end. I feel like an angel when the Brocken spectre effect suddenly appears. I have a halo around my shadow… you see, I always knew there is something good in me…
We end the day with a view from the summit. We can see Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island (both around 4000m high and above the clouds) in the distance and a very nice sunset over northern Maui and the clouds.

Hiking the ‘crater’
On the Sunday, just 2 days later, I decide to go to Haleakala again for some serious hiking. I start with the sunrise, which was nice. The sky is clear above the crater, giving me a perfect day to hike. I brought enough water, food and sunscreen and take off around 7:30am. There is still some frost on the soil. The ice cristals show it has been cold up here last night. I wear my fleece, but only for a few minutes. The sun is shining and there is no wind, so it gets pretty warm. I go down the Keonehe’ehe’e or Sliding Sands trail for about 6.3km and descent roughly 800m. In the crater I eat my apple and enjoy the views. I meet some other hikers doing the same teail and after a few minutes chatting I proceed to and around the Halali’i cinder cone, which is another 2.5km. I feel small in this gigantic lava field. Lava bombs the size of skippy balls are all around me, what if…
While walking around the cone I find a 20m deep pit and a very colorfull landscape: black, grey, brown, red, yellow and white rock. All in one area like a painter’s palette.

It is relatively quiet today, only the 4 of us are doing the whole loop to the Halemau’u trailhead as far as I can see at that moment. The trail proceeds on the Halemau’u trail and I include the Silversword loop. A small detour which passes a field full with these strange plants. The views of the cliffs of the crater in the background are stunning. Lunch is after another 3.2km at the Holua cabin. We are eating and chatting and slowly see the clouds moving into the valley. They take over and somehow I am glad. After the hut the trail only heads up for about 6km and with the clouds blocking the sun it will not be too hot. We need to take a path winding at the face of the cliff, ascending a bit more than 300 meters. Probably because there is nothing much to see in the mist, I start feeling tired. Of course I cannot give up now and I just keep on going. It is like climbing a building with 100 floors, just a bit more serene. Imagine that.
After a long day, I think I have been hiking for around 6 hours, I make it to the top. Now I only need to hitchhike back to my car. It is parked at tge start of thd trail, 9km up the road and I really do not want to hike that anymore. Luckily I am not the only one hiking the trail like this. There is a special hitchhiker pick-up spot alongside the road. It takes me just a few minutes before a Swiss couple is so friendly to pick me up and drop me off at my car. I take another view at the crater and decide to drive down and get some food. I am hungry like a horse after this hike. All in all it was around 20km and worth every inch of it.

Haleakala – `A`ohe loa i ka hana a ke aloha.

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