When Frank and I visited Maui in the early 2000’s, we joined scores of others at the top of Haleakala Crater to watch the sun rise. The temperatures were quite chilly but definitely worth braving for the view. This time while visiting Maui, our TCU friend, Dave, suggested we hike the Haleakala Crater instead of passively watching the sunrise.
Not having any clue what we were getting into, we quickly agreed. Our eldest son, Hunter, was visiting and we agreed to hike on the next good weather day. The morning was brisk but warmed up to a very pleasant temperature. The day never became hot and other than a short, refreshing mist, it didn’t rain either. The conditions were perfect!
Haleakala National Park covers more than 52 square miles and there are 30 miles of hiking trails in the Park with a variety of lengths. Dave recommended we take the 11.5 mile hike down the summit, across the crater and out another side. I was a bit nervous about hiking so far without so much as a warm up hike!
Geologically speaking, Haleakala Crater is actually an erosional valley dotted by numerous volcanic features including large cinder cones, according to Wikipedia. The video above shows clouds moving across one such cinder cone.
The name Haleakala means “house of the sun” and the legend states that the demigod Maui stood on Haleakala and lassoed the sun as it moved across the sky to slow its descent and lengthen the day. We understood the desire to make a day last longer after hiking this lovely area.
The last eruption of Haleakala is estimated to have been between 1480 and 1600 AD, yet scientists say that the next eruption of Haleakala is not IF but WHEN. However the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is responsible for monitoring Haleakala and they currently do not show any precursor volcanic activity at Haleakala. Scientists who believe activity is coming suggest this volcano will erupt within the next 500 years. Yeah, I’m not going to loose any sleep over this one.
I have read that more endangered species live in Haleakala National Park than any other park in the United States. One example is the Silversword plant which had a beautiful silver-green cast and sparkled from the dew reflecting the morning sunlight.
Surprisingly, the silversword is part of the daisy family and has succulent leaves that are covered with silver hairs. The skin and hair are strong and allow the plant to withstand the wind and freezing temperatures as well as prevent dehydration.
As we walked down into the valley and across the crater, the landscape changed dramatically from the “sliding sands” at the beginning to a more rugged terrain as seen where the silverswords grew and int he picture above. Once across the valley, we ascended a ridge and found ourselves again in a Mars-like vista as seen in the video below.
Walking from one type of landscape to the next brought beauty of different varieties. The silversword looks sparkly and fresh against the rough brown rocks, but this hillside and other areas had rich hues of colors including reds, yellows, blacks and grays.
As we continued our walk, we descended to a new environment of grass and other plants. It was so surprising to move from walking on sliding sands to pebbles and rocks then to encounter a trail overgrown with long grass! I went from a dusty environment to wondering what could be hiding in the grass along our trail!
This is also where I began to question my decision to make this hike. The photo above is about 20 minutes before we stopped for lunch. I knew our car was parked high above our current altitude and I could not see where our end point was! Thankfully after refueling and resting at lunch, I felt reinvigorated and ready to continue.
This was the end of the flat hike. The next few miles were switch backs up the mountainside to reach the parking area. Frank and I stopped at every switchback and took a picture of our view. Each was unique as we climbed higher, faced different directions and had clouds visit and depart.
After approximately 2.5 miles of traversing up the switchbacks, we arrived at the parking area. My pedometer showed a total walk of nearly 12 miles by the end of the trail. We were both pretty tired but also pleased with how good we felt considering we have not spent much time off of TTR and we definitely had not done any hiking in many weeks. But, not willing to take any chances, Frank and I immediately began stretching on the concrete near the parking lot. Hunter found that hysterical and took pictures. No doubt to show his brother how strange we are. All I have to say is – wait until you are in your sixth decade and let us know if you skip the stretching then!
All in all, the hike through Haleakala was amazing and a highlight of our time on Maui. We are so glad Dave suggested the hike and acted as our leader and guide. Dave has hiked hundreds of miles on the El Camino Trail and he is much more fit than we are, so we are especially appreciative of his patience!