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volcanic moonscape: haleakala crater

Filed under: — adrian @ 5:19 pm

Originally it was just going to be a hiking to a cabin to sleep for the night and hiking back out. Not too hard, right? Then the details started to reveal themselves: it was 10 miles each way of hiking…at altitude (between 6.5K and 10K ft.)…on sand (partially). That’s starting to get a little harder.

The hike into Haleakala Crater last weekend did end up being pretty hard, but it was well worth it.

After a day of sitting on the beach, snorkeling, eating and going to a luau, we woke up bright and early and headed to the eastern side of Maui, up a windy and increasingly colder road up up the gradual slope of Haleakala. We stopped at the ranger station; our 8 minute don’t-destroy-the-crater video out of the way and back-country permits hanging from our bags, we headed to the summit.

From the parking lot there, I could see the lava rock and the clouds below us. This is not bad, I thought…When I went to the other side of the parking lot, to the visitor’s center and I could see the full extent of the crater below. It was massive. There was some vegetation, but it seemed nevertheless like I was looking down into a lunar crater, with a mostly black rock landscape and a number of cinder cones sticking up.

The next few hours were down, down, down on sliding sands–in more ways that ones as that’s also the name of the trail there. The landscape was deep browns, reds and blacks and the ever-growing walls of the crater. The vegetation was sparse grasses and some silverswords–only found in Haleakala. It was quite mildly otherworldly compared to what we’d see later but at the time it was quite amazing.

We broke at lunch time at the first cabin–there were three cabins and we were staying at the farthest one in (of course). The woman who was staying there already had some water boiled for sanitization, so we filled up. Right around there, we started noticing the changing scenery. There was some brown grasses and small shrubs. We could see where we were going–to a small field under a set of craggy and lush cliffs.

I stretched at lunch, but I knew it was already too late/ I had too much left to do to save my calves from pain. We hiked on.

After a couple hours of hiking, hardly breaking a stride, let alone taking a break, we hit the cabin, nestled under the cliffs as we could see from afar. Clouds were now rolling over those cliffs like a slow waterfall. The nene–non-migratory geese that are native to Hawaii–were gathered around the cabin with their young.

After sitting and recuperating a bit, I looked outside. I don’t think I’ve had a nicer view out my window in a long time–perhaps ever. It also had an amazingly situated outhouse. Later we realized that we’d all independently left the door of the outhouse open so we could have view while doing our business.

After eating–we could have all eaten forever, I think, but we only brought so much food–and passing around a small bottle of scotch, we went out to see the stars. I have never seen stars like that. There were so many stars that I couldn’t make out common constellations anymore. We also saw planets (Venus–it was so bright you couldn’t see stars in its part of the sky), multiple satellites and and a shooting star.

After a somewhat restless and chilly night, dawn rose and blanketed the crater in warm light. Breakfast and cleaning the cabin, followed.

The clouds were rolling over the hills again and it was misting and windy. Within twenty minutes, the sun was out, it was starting to look more like a savanna than a rain forest and I’d lost two layers.

One we passed back into the dry part of the crater, the volcanic soil, the heat of the day and the dryness made us feel like we were on a martian death march; or, that we’d fallen into the stranded-in-a-desert part of an old movie only to have to hike to civilization.

By this point, I felt my calves tightening with each step and my hips starting to hurt more and more. We stopped for lunch at the last cabin, in a savanna sort of region. After filtering some water, we got through the last little bit–1000 feet elevation over 2 miles–mostly through determination. The parking lot and the car approached far too slowly in the last minutes. But in the end, it was well worth the wait.

this feels a bit unfinished–I may come back to revise this

5 Responses to “volcanic moonscape: haleakala crater”

  1. Lauren Says:

    Gorgeous pictures. The otherworldly moonscape thing (and other parts of this) reminds me of Kili- above the tree line, I felt like I was in Star Wars or something. I envy you the trip!

  2. Jesse Says:

    This post reminds me of Kili as well!

  3. adrian Says:

    Lauren, that’s funny–during the hike the red/ brown dirt coated around my ankles reminded me of walking around Dareda Mission with you and that got me thinking about your hike up Kilimanjaro.

  4. laura Says:

    wait. when were you there? ah. i am so behind on your life, friend!

  5. adrian Says:

    Feb 15-16.

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