I just now realized that I left this post as a draft from my trip in December 2014 and never published it, so under the “better late than never” heading, here it is. 🙂
One of the most spectacular things we saw on Maui was Haleakalā. Originally, we had toyed with the idea of getting up at 2am to make the drive up the mountain so that we could see the sunrise over the rim of the crater. And then we got real. We’re on vacation! So we got up at around 7am. I’m sure the sunrise was amazing, but so was the extra five hours of sleep—not to mention the much warmer temperatures at the top.
The drive up was twisty and turny but not too bad. We could definitely tell we were going up, but as far as mountain drives go, this one wasn’t too scary. Be cautious during the drive as you’ll be sharing the road with groups on bike tours that may pop up as you round a bend.
It was still pretty chilly when we got to the top–enough so that I was glad to have insulated pants and several layers on under my jacket. We got to the first observation deck and took some snaps before continuing on to the tip-top of the mountain.
We continued up to the top of the mountain, which is around 10,000 feet in elevation. This also happens to be the only place in the world that the silversword plant grows, which is currently a threatened species (pictured below).
We headed back down to the observation area and decided that it was a beautiful day to hike down into the crater and find a spot for a picnic lunch. We set out on the Sliding Sands trail, which was deceptively easy to climb down. On the way down, we passed a family going back up. They had brought no water or food with them and they were having a hard time. Even in December, it was warm enough at late-morning and the hike requires enough effort that even a relatively short hike down into the crater without water is not a good idea.
For a sea-level dweller not accustomed to high altitude like me, the climb back up was much harder between the slope and lack of oxygen. The ranger did tell us to allow twice as long to climb back up as it takes to climb down and she was right on.
The effort was well worth it just for the spectacular views alone. Pictures don’t do this place justice as it’s almost impossible to capture the scope, scale, and color of what your eye takes in. Everywhere I looked were shades of red, orange, ocher, rust, gray, brown. In some places, the colored sand was in layers, reminding me of one of those bottled sand art crafts kids make.
The floor and walls of the canyon are smooth in places, rocky in others. In some areas, volcanic cones and mounds of sand pushed together by the fierce winds that rip across the crater form little hills and mountains, creating a sawtooth effect. And off to one side, the wall of the crater has fallen away. A scrim of fluffy white clouds circle the mountain just below the top, making it look like you could walk through through that gap and step out onto the cloudbank.
Haleakala was one of my most favorite things I saw on this trip to Maui. If you get a chance to visit Maui, I highly recommend you add this to your must-see list.