Saturday 6 December 2014

When Mars Meets Maui - Haleakala Crater

It has been exactly 3 months since I have written a blog post, and it has also been about the same amount of time that I have relocated my life to Maui. Although I am constantly inspired by this magical little island, I have been putting my creative energy into things other than writing. My spare time is usually spent soaking up the Hawaiian sunshine and finding treasures on the beach and in the ocean to create my Island Treasures! As much as I love the art of jewelry making, I have been thinking a lot lately about how much I miss writing! 

Two weekends ago we took a 2 day camping/ hiking trip with a bunch of our friends through Haleakala and I thought what better way to bring back my blog than an adventure to the house of the rising sun! 

Neil Armstrong had one of the most unique experiences anyone could have ever hoped for. Everyone knows he walked on the moon, but few people realize they can do something similar close to home.

Maui is home to Haleakala Crater, one of the most interesting landscapes I've ever seen. The drive up to Haleakala National Park is an interesting adventure all in itself. The road winds up a 10,000 foot flank of the enormous, dormant volcano that defines Maui. Our first visit to the volcano's summit, we arrived just before sunset, which is just as breathtaking as its morning counterpart with its flaming colored sky and clouds. We spent the night in the car and froze our butts off, but I must say the views were worth it! Temperatures here are much different than other parts of the island. Dress warm, really warm, and bring blankets if you plan on staying overnight. Sunrise and sunset at Haleakala are among the best experiences on the island.

This time we make it to the top by noon with hiking gear and enough food to last us for 2 days. Half of us park at the top and the other half park further down so we can easily get back to our cars when we finish. Plan accordingly or you'll end up having to hitch hike back, like we did our first time. The sky was the clearest I've seen it over Haleakala with views all the way to the ocean. As the day progresses, it's quite amazing watching the clouds move into the crater. You almost lose track of time watching the wispy clouds drift in and out and break up the unending cycles.

We gear up and start down Sliding Sands (Keonehe'ehe'e Trail), which immediately descends into the enormous Haleakala Crater with its layers of lava rock and mini craters each with their own particular color. They call it an aeolian cinder desert meaning it is made by aeolians, which surface gets its shape from the wind. A native plant species, Silverswords, that are unique to Hawaii, line both sides of the trail adding to the rare quality of this location. This lunar landscape hike is in the middle of one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Not only is the landscape so different from sea level, but the temperatures are significantly cooler and dryer. Once away from the crowds at the summit, there is almost no sound other than ourselves. Every now and then I would look back in awe by the natural amphitheater that surrounds us... we're inside a freaking volcano!

The more we hiked, the more our view changed. Soon after completing the downhill climb, there is a fork in the road that allows for exploration of more cinder cones, which we use as a resting place and photo opp, while taking in all the colors.  The thought that everything surrounding us used to be active lava vents is incredible and I'm amazed to see them up close!

Maybe five miles in and halfway across the crater's bottom, the plants disappear leaving barren land full of black sand and rock. It takes a single step and we have suddenly crossed between almost lush land and southwestern barrens. Peaking from behind the crater's edge is our tiny cabin and the horizon of mini craters the color of sunset. Kapalaoa cabin, equipped with 12 bunks and a kitchen, is perfectly situated at the bottom of one of the crater's tall peeks with an amazing view of the clouds covering the land's edge. This is a place where silence offers an alternative to the frenzy of modern life. I sit down, empty my shoes and listen. 

Sound travels differently here. A place like Maui preserves its own echoes, saving them in the folds of its hills and mountains. In the bottom of the crater, dozens of separate eco-zones, entire ecologies, can lie only inches apart yet have nothing in common and each one sounds different. It's like an acoustic museum out here. As time passes, my body quiets, my mind slows, and the Jack in my system keeps me warm. My body is slowly matching the stillness of the landscape and when I can't hear my body anymore,  I hear something else, the crater, the island. Watching the colors of the sunset build beyond the mountains, my heart moves in time with something at the edge of sensation, a disturbance of the field. Maybe it's the vibrations of distant waves coming ashore or maybe it's just the island breathing. I've never heard anything like it and then I see my first shooting star... and then another and another.

Once the sun has finally made its way over the horizon, the quiet of dusk transforms into a starry night. As darkness falls, the stars here offer a celestial phenomenon. This has to be one of the best stargazing spots in the world. This skyscape shows the Milky Way at its best along with many other well known constellations. A deeper awareness of human's place in nature is the very reason people come to Hawaii and it's experiences like these that remind me of that. National park status isn't enough to make a place quiet, but here an unusual mix of other factors comes into play. This is a place where you truly must leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but photos. Once inside, the crater feels like miles of endless land devoid of life, no leaves, no animals, nothing to make a single noise, except for us tonight. This giant bowl offers shelter from the wind. I sit for as long as the quiet lasts or until I can take the cold no longer. The weather has become quite frigid and we are all wearing every layer of clothing we brought.

The following morning, our hike out of the crater to the Halemau'u trailhead is a 10 mile uphill switchback that ascends 6,000 feet up with views of the valleys below where clouds move at incredible speeds. They say this is one of the only places on the planet where you can see turbulence. It feels like we're in Jurassic Park now and once again I am blown away by the fickle scenery. It's a long and winding road back to the top, but you're rewarded with spectacular views the entire way. As we approach the rim of this giant volcano its sheer size instantly impresses. You could seriously get lost exploring this place for days! The desolation and colors of the landscape has an other-worldly appearance. It's so dramatic and so diverse, you can't help but respect it.


"Haleakala- Showing that the quietest place on earth actually exists inside each of us, wherever we are, if we can only find our way to it." 
- Edward Readicker-Henderson

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