I am so excited! I am going into the crater today! I haven’t made this trek for a couple of years and I am ready to go! My pack is out and I am putting in the last minute essentials: duct tape (good for shoe repairs, equipment repairs, and blister wrap so you can walk out), poles, and water. I also have the fire starter method which works every time, wine and my sleeping bag with pillow wrapped in a trash bag to keep it dry. What I took out was my long sleeved shirt, rain gear, and that third water bottle. Off I go to meet the group!
I know one person on this trip but will know all 7 companions very well when we get out. We meet and organize ourselves into two cars which will become one car when we reach the switchback parking area. It will be cozy but is only a short trip up to the summit. The top of Haleakala Crater is clear this morning so it looks like this is going to be a comfortable walk. Of course getting 8 women together is quite challenging especially when dinner is left in the car parked at the head of the switchbacks. As we cruise around the crater rim waiting for everyone to get ready to go, the clouds roll in from Keanae. The wind comes up and it is cold and the rain begins to come down. I am not happy with this situation as I have jettisoned my second warm shirt and rain gear. All is not lost as I know how to layer and have a sun shirt which will keep the rain off. I look at my hiking companions in the latest hike gear from REI and make a mental note to self: BUY HIKING GEAR if you think you might want to do this again!
We are off! The rain comes down and we hike down sliding sands with a grey cloud around us. The cloud keeps the temperature from being too cold so it is not as unpleasant as it could be. I find myself watching the ground as the sand is a little slippery in the rain. There are step downs on the way down and I am very careful not to put too much pressure on my left knee. It is a little achy and I am wondering if this was a really bad idea. Too late now! I do have my knee brace with me just in case.
The fast group takes off and leaves the old and injured in the dust. As we get deeper into the crater the clouds begin to lift and the rain becomes a fine mist. One of my companions is hiking with a pulled tendon in her foot. She has taped her foot and is very careful.
We constitute the slow group along with a wonderful woman who is quiet and could hike circles around the rest of us but she chooses to hang back with us. We stop and take in the beauty around us. As the cloud lifts the colors start to come through. I remember what this is really all about.
This is Maui’s secret place. There is magic in this strange landscape. If you stop and listen for a minute, you will hear complete silence. It is so still and peaceful. No one to listen to except yourself. A wonderful opportunity to do some soul searching. Every step deeper into the crater takes you away from the everyday and closer to yourself. Hiking is a solitary event no matter how many people you are with. It is up to you to put each foot down, carry your pack and do whatever you have to do mentally to get to wherever it is that you are going.
We all eventually make it to Kapalaoa Cabin where we spend the night. It is a 5 mile hike, downhill for 3 miles and then across the crater floor, walking in sand for, another 2 miles. This is tough ! I am so glad to get the pack off my back and into dry clothes! We only have 2 hours of light before the sun goes down so the fire has to be the priority. How many highly educated, intelligent women does it take to start a fire? In this case, I think all of us took a stab at it.
Finally we put a little whiskey in as lighter fluid! Ingenious! I have to take credit for this stroke of genius. With a roaring fire the small interior warms up quickly.
If you have never stayed in any of the three cabins in Haleakala Crater National Park I can give you the quick tour.
Think basic rectangular box big enough to hold four three tier bunk beds along the walls and a large wood picnic table with hard wood benches in the middle. Off the side is a small kitchen area with pots, pans plates and cups, a gas two burner stove, old fashioned wood burning stove and a storage area for the wood. A lovely outhouse is about 50 yards from the cabin and there is an outside picnic table. A pretty rustic place to spend the night!
I am on the second tier of the bunkbed next to the door to the outside. This is not the best spot to sleep as someone walks in or out that door all night long. The cabin is for resting, not for sleeping anyway!
The sun goes down quickly. We sit at our table with candle light and some solar powered camp lights. Glow sticks light the door so people can find their way out at night. Dinner is excellent. We share some wine and stories. Everybody heads for bed but Pam and I. We pull out the cards and play a few hands. We conclude that we are terrible card players but it was worth a couple of laughs. By 8 we are all in our bunks because it is more comfortable to lie down than to sit on the hard benches. People are up and down all night, trying to see the stars (it’s too bright a moon in the early part of the night), trying to see the meteor shower (still too bright), then the sky is clear and full of brilliant stars (at 4:30 in the morning)!
It is heavenly out there but I am too comfortable in my sleeping bag to get up. I manage to get up for the sunrise at 5:30! It is so beautiful! The sun peeks over the crest of the crater rim, slowly the light hits the puu’s in the crater and the color comes alive. The dark fore ground with the reds of the earth are spectacular. It is a cloudless blue sky day for our hike out of the crater. The ache in my knee is gone. Nothing like a hike in the crater to cure what ails you!
We ate delicious artisan bread baked by one of the hikers for breakfast and have cleaned up the cabin, packed our belongings, poured out extra water (wait! Never do that!). Our packs are on our backs by 8:30. The trip out with a lighter pack should be easier. I decide not to join the race out and settle back with my slower companions to take pictures and enjoy the scenery. Who knows when I will come back?
We walk through the beautiful colors where eruptions have taken place. Some of the cinder cones are red and others are black lava pieces are scattered around the cones. The rare silversword plants cluster together in groups, their prehistoric silver green leaves shining against the otherwise stark landscape. I have never seen the crater this green! There are ferns trying to thrive on the floor but their attempts will be short lived. There is just nothing to sustain them.
We catch up to the rest of our group at Holua Cabin. They have rested and eaten and are ready for the trek up the switchbacks. Pam and I decide to rest a little longer before we start up the trail. My knee is great but her foot is not so good and she is worried about walking out. We had another friend offer to stay back with us but there was no need. It is hard to hold back when you are going uphill. We gather our strength and put those packs on our backs. We have already hiked over three miles and have almost four miles to go, three are hell and the last mile goes on and on and on.
We stop and take in the beauty around us. As the cloud lifts the colors start to come through. I remember what this is really all about.”
This is Maui’s secret place. There is magic in this strange landscape. If you stop and listen for a minute, you will hear complete silence. It is so still and peaceful. No one to listen to except yourself.
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