During Discoverers' Day weekend, Joyce Tomlinson (HTMC VP), my daughter Georgina (age 12), Sandy Powers (friend from Alaska) and Linda Anderson (Haleakala park ranger) enjoyed a 3 day backpack into Haleakala Crater.
Starting from the Sliding Sands trail (9700'), we descended into the House of the Sun under blue skies and 65F with clouds billowing over Koolau gap towards Holua and Kaupo gap towards Paliku. The trail was in good shape and the huge red cinder cones with scattered rocks from past eruptions presented an awesome view. After about 3 miles, we were on the crater floor (6500') and on the flat trail towards Kapalaoa. Ahinahina (Silversword) was abundant and many had waning blossoms. Only a few day hikers were on the trail. Also, maui greensword was growing. Many chukkars (sp?) were seen as well as petrols (sp?). Ohelo berries were abundant but not very sweet. The Haleakala sandlalwood seem to be in good health. Numerous Nene were seen in flight and heard. After about 6 leisurely hours and 10 miles we arrived at Paliku cabin. Two HTMC members, Ken Suzuki and John Darrah, were at the campground. They had come up from Kaupo Gap. The cabin was well stocked with presto logs for the wood burning stove, lots fo dishes, cups, and pots and pans, as well as a propane stove. Water had to be filtered since it is not potable. A beautiful sunset, a pair of Nenes grazing nearby, apapane and other native birds, a hearty dinner, a lovely 3/4 moon, brilliant stars and a cold night completed the first day.
After a leisurly breakfast and cabin cleanup, we all heading for Holua (6 miles and about 800' gain). The terrain changed from old flow near Paliku to fairly recent a'a lava to rust colored cinder amidst tall cinder cones and splatter cones. The Lauulu trail could be seen along the crater rim.
Once past the 65' deep "Bottomless Pit", the trail was black cinder and sand with lava taking strange forms. This section was especially eerrie since the mist had rolled in. No day hikers or other backpacker were seen.
Arrived at Holua cabin with plenty of time to relax then visit the lava tube. The lava tube is a wonderful, dark, faily hazardous, cold and exhilarating hike that took us from near the cabin to the exit in the lava field above the campground. Linda graced us with a Hawaiian chant in the cavernous central chamber that gave everyone chicken skin. A beautiful sunset, a pair of Nenes grazing nearby, a hearty dinner, a lovely 3/4 moon, brilliant stars and a cold night completed the second day just like the first except no native birds.
A very leisurely morning then all we off to get up the Halemauu Trail (5 miles). Seen in the distance, it looks awesome rising some 1000' to the trail head at 8000'. Joyce and I took it slow to enjoy the many views of the magnificent crater. Many day hikers were met coming down.
Back at the Ranger station, we were invited to a ranger's residence to relax before heading down the mountain. I must admit that soaking in that outdoor jacuzzi at 7000' under blue skies, 65F and clouds rolling in and out, was a perfect ending to this Haleakala trek.
I highly recommend this classic route and the cabins make the often wet weather less of a factor as well as a lighter backpack.