Had a "good" trip to Haleakala Crater on Maui from May 16 - 18. Finally finished the write-up...
On Friday, May 16 I got up at 4 a.m. in preparation for trip to Haleakala Crater (aka "House of the rising sun"). Drove to Ken Suzuki's house and car pooled with him and a female (Inger) to the airport. On our way we picked up Reuben. After checking our packs in at the airport we went to the gate. 7 people had cancelled at the last minute so we would only be renting one car. This would be a problem later or so we thought. Joe Bussen and Arnold Fujioka met us at the gate and we jumped into hyperspace to Maui.
After picking up a few necessary items and eating breakfast we were off to Haleakala. The mountain was completely clear of any clouds so we were siked! After arriving at the summit Ken and Inger took the minnie van to the parking lot where we would come out on sunday. It didn't take them very long to catch a ride back up and off we went. It was chilly at the top and I found myself shivering because of a lack of warm clothing.
The time was 11:16 a.m. as we put on our packs and headed down the Sliding Sands Trail. At the rim of the crater the views were awesome. I couldn't help but snap off some photos. As we headed down the switchbacks I stopped several times for more photos. Our destination could be seen way in the back of the crater (a green area called Paliku). The cinder cones on the left were amazing because of their shape and color. Silverswords could be seen along the trail as we continued our decent. I also noticed how quiet it was in the crater (so quiet that you could hear the ringing in your ears !).
Jared and May Lin joined our group during this time. They were supposed to be with us from the beginning but missed the flight. However, they caught the next one and rented a car on their own.
After a brief rest near some huge boulders we continued our slow decent to the crater floor. Some clouds were moving in now which obscured the views somewhat but they were still spectacular.
At a signed junction with a hitching post we moved a short distance off the trail and ate lunch. Some partridges came by wanting some food. The clouds continued to move in and just as we finished our meal a drizzle began. As the clouds engulfed us the rain became significant and everyone scrambled to put on rain gear and cover their packs. I had a trash bag to cover my pack but my day pack was unprotected. As we got back on the trail we were completely socked in and the rain continued. The next mile or so was very difficult for four reasons. It was cold, fatige was setting in (heavy pack on my back and only 5.5 hours of sleep the night before), the rain, and having to step very carefully at times because of mule dung on the trail. I can honestly tell you that thoughts of digging out were on my mind. I felt like asking Ken "Are we having fun yet ?!!!" and "Can we go home now ?". I also wished I was on Kauai with the trail clearing gang. "Carole tricked me" I thought to myself "but she'll do no better !". True character is revealed during difficult times. It may be gold or junk.
We received some relief at the Kapalaoa Cabin. The roof gave us shelter from the rain so we took off our packs. After a brief rest we got back on the trail. The rain was letting up. We hiked thru the lava fields and to the left of a vegetated cone ("O'ilipu'u) until we reached a junction. We turned right onto Halemau'u Trail and traveled the final 1.3 miles to Paliku. The time was approx. 4:16 p.m. (5 hours from the summit to Paliku).
The rain was a just a drizzle as we staggered into Paliku. The area was mostly socked in but a beautiful rainbow could be seen toward the massive pali (cliff). Blue sky and a break in the clouds were apparent as we looked toward Kaupo Gap.
At the end of the rainbow was a horse. The only one in the meadow below us. It was at this time that a menehune wispered into my ear. He told me of the legend of Paliku which I will put in my new book "Legends of Hawaii". Chapter 1 is about Ohulehule. This is how it goes. If there is a rainbow at Paliku and a horse at the end of it in the meadow below then there is an opportunity to get gold ! If someone jumps on the wild horse with no-name and tames her they get the gold. If they get thrown off they lose.
Paliku remained mostly socked in and the drizzle continued throughtout the late afternoon and evening. The moon could be seen thru the clouds as well as a few stars toward Kaupo gap. We picked up another member for our group. John had hiked up the gap and was waiting for us when we arrived.
The next morning the clouds had dissapated a bit to reveal some cones as you look across the crater and away from Kaupo gap toward the pali. However, as it got later in the morning we got socked in again.
At 9:36 we departed Paliku for Holua cabin. We were still completely engulfed in clouds and I was discouraged. Would there be any views today ? Would more rain pelt us ?
After passing O'ilipu'u and turning right at the junction I rested briefly. I was alone with Ken, Inger, Jared and May Lin behind. Arnold, Reuben, and Joe were far ahead.
After bearing left and climbing a small pali I emerged from the clouds and the views were beyond description. Absolutely incredible would be putting it mildly. You could see beautiful semetric cinder cones to the left close by and off in the distance. The summit was way in the back with Kalahaku and Leleiwi pali across the crater. I continued slowly and stopped several times to snap photos. Just before reaching a series of rock dikes to the right I took off my pack and sat in awe of my surroundings. The thought "Its going to get better" caused me to get up and continue the hike a few minutes later.
Before passing Pu'u Nole on the left I took a right off of the trail and once again took off my backpack and sat down to take it all in. This section of trail and the views that go with it rank in my top 5 all time ! The cones were orange, burgandy, yellow and brown. Twenty minutes later I put my pack on again, got back on the trail and continued the journey.
I looked down into Bottomless Pit after descending briefly then went around the base of Halai'i cone. The views were among the best I've ever seen in my life (no exageration) ! I came to a dead stop for several minutes. You could see down Ko'olau Gap and across the crater to Kalahaku and Leleiwi Pali. This time though everything was bigger. The weather was perfect with a cool breeze in my face, the sun directly overhead, blue sky and few if any white clouds above the crater moving by rapidly. Some day hikers passed me from Sliding Sands Trail which intersects Halemau'u Trail at this point.
After descending briefly about half way across a basin covered with black sand, cinders, and lava rock I stopped again looking up toward the summit. Two members of the group caught up to me and we exchanged greetings. They passed by as I continued to stand still and enjoy this moment in time.
Finally, I climbed out of the basin and took off my pack for a drink and power bar. Ken and Inger were visible and made there way slowly across to my location. I thanked Ken for taking us to this wonderful place and we departed together for the Holua cabin.
As we arrived at the cabin at approx. 2:40 p.m. two Nene geese were there to greet us. Turning left I ascended to the camp area and set up the tent across from a large dike that looked like a shark's dorsal fin. Once completed I looked up and around at the massive pali behind the camp ground.
That night we celebrated Ken's birthday (surprise). The sky remained clear as darkness set in. The temperature began to drop as Ken pointed out the various stars to me but the large moon with its bright light blocked out many of the constellations. At the same time the moon light lit up the pali very beautifully ! The top of the clouds could be seen as you look toward Ko'olau gap. They were bunched up and did not move. I enjoyed the evening sights until I could endure the cool temperature no longer. Sea birds made strange sounds as I lost consciousness.
Emerged from my tent the next morning at 5:45 a.m. and watched the sun rise from Ko'olau gap above a massive white cloud. Looked around at the red and orange cones toward the summit and the pali in back of our camp site as the early sun light lit them up. Went back to sleep until 7.
At 9:30 most of the group including myself went on a day hike of a lava tube nearby. Having alreay packed everythink up we headed back to Holua cabin. We took our final look up the gap at the cones and summit area as well as at the massive pali.
As we departed Holua at 10:30 we got socked in. We crossed a meadow and passed thru a gate at the base of the cliff. Next we started up a spectatcular series of switchbacks which took us up the crater wall. The clouds opened up every once in awhile revealing spectacular views. We stopped and admired them. You could see the valley below including the lava fields, the trail, low level vegetation around the lava fields. Sections of the pali jutted out on the right and cones were off in the distance. Holua cabin and the location where we camped the second night could also be seen. After the twentieth and last switchback we passed thru a metal gate at the crater rim. We took one last look down into the crater. Twenty minutes later we made it to the Halemau'u trailhead and parking lot. The time was 1 p.m.
Pizza Hut was the scene of major scarfing as we enjoyed a celebration meal.
Backpacking is not for everyone. It takes much stabina, organization and planning. It is possible to do day hikes inside Haleakala Crater. Stuart "Guru" Ball's second book contains a detailed description of this hike. In the latest addition of Consumer Reports magazine Haleakala is the #10 ranked National Park in the country ! Don't miss this one.