I wanted to see the sunrise for my 20th birthday. Well actually my birthday was yesterday but I had an orthodontist appointment. But technically I was born at 10:12 pm, so this was close enough.Denton
The short trail begins on the west side of Haleakala with great views of west Maui. But as we began to wrap around to the other side of the mountain we experienced the most spectacular views of Haleakala crater we have ever seen. When we first saw the sun rise over the crater almost a year and a half ago, it was so cloudy that we couldn’t actually see much of the crater. The trade winds coming from the wet Hana side of Maui blow up and push the moisture toward Haleakala, so as it rises in elevation and gets colder the moisture turns into clouds. That is why there is often a ring of clouds around the top of Haleakala. This morning we didn’t come for the sunrise, but we were still rewarded with some beautiful colors in the sky.
The crater is so vast and it was so quiet and peaceful at Leileiwi lookout. It wasn’t until we reached the small viewing area that we realized we weren’t the only ones enjoying this awesome view. A young man with his arms huddled underneath his t-shirt turned around and said hello. He asked where we were from and said he was local too, from Pukalani. He grew up in Maui all his life, but finally experienced the sunrise over Haleakala today for his 20th birthday (well, technically his birthday was yesterday, but close enough). It wasn’t until he reached the summit this morning that he realized he left his jacket at home. The temperatures at the summit range on average from 31 to 49 degrees this time of year. But it is the bone chilling wind that really gets you. Luckily for our new friend someone lent him a blanket at the top.
Denton proceeded to point out different areas of the crater: the trails (there are over 41 miles of trails inside the crater), the many cinder cones and the three highly sought after cabins spread out on the crater floor. The cabins are difficult to reserve and are on a lottery system. When Denton was little, his dad took him and his sister to the crater for three nights and they stayed in each cabin. They hiked down into the crater from the summit on the Keoneheehee Trail also known as the Sliding Sands Trail. It’s a strenuous hike, but one we would like to do someday. The trail descends 2,400 feet to the crater floor during the first 4 miles. This next photo faintly shows the switchbacks Denton and his family hiked to ascend the other side of the crater.
Denton continued to point out the peaks of volcanoes Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, high above the clouds and far in the distance on the island of Hawai’i, the Big Island. He explained the different types of volcanoes and told us these are shield volcanoes, different than stratovolcanoes such as Mount St. Helens and Mount Fuji. He said Haleakala once stood as tall as Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, but continues to erode over time.
After a thorough education on Haleakala, the surrounding volcanoes, and even the vegetation around us, we said goodbye to Denton. We thanked him for sharing with us his extensive knowledge of the area, and then we headed up to the summit.
From the summit at 10,023 feet, west Maui looked so small. We could see the top of Lana’i to the south, west Maui mountains in the center, and Moloka’i behind the west Maui mountains. Even Oahu was just barely visible far off behind Moloka’i.