Solar observatories that sit atop the mountain, and silverswords grow well in the desolate looking landscape, protected here from invasive animals
Unlike Mauna Kea, most of Haleakala’s incredible scenery doesn’t present itself until you reach the Pu’u’la’ula summit at 10,023 feet (3,055m) and look over the other side at the “crater” (not a real crater).
Our first glimpse into the 'crater'
The multi-colored landscape of cinder cones and lava of all sizes from giant boulders to grains of sand looked like pictures sent back from the moon or Mars. Although we were breathing the thin atmosphere and it wasn’t 200 below zero, it certainly felt like to had to keep reminding ourselves that this was actually Earth. I’ve been to Earth, but I’ve never seen a place like this.
We did the requisite pass through the visitor’s center, and then we were off to climb down the hill. Unlike most hikes, all of the trails at Haleakala start at the top. Although we (me. I mean me. Well, ‘I’ in the context) would have liked to take the big trail all the way down to the beach 14 ½ miles away (what’s the problem? It’s all downhill), Maryanne sensibly vetoed the idea on the basis that our car would still be at the top. Instead, we decided on a three-hour trip; one down, two up.
We took the Sliding Sands trail most of the way to the ‘crater’ floor. The beauty of the constantly changing landscape was almost too much to bear. We descended through black, then red, then gray lava fields into what was once the scene of inconceivable violence and power as the Earth made itself on such an enormous scale. It is truly awe inspiring to be able to stand in such a place.
Amazing views from a great hike
We met up with a couple of young Park Service guys out spraying for invasive plants. One of them had an altimeter watch and told us we had descended to 6,800 feet. The walk back to 10,000 feet was increasingly exhausting, but we felt so privileged just to have seen it.
We drove back to Lahaina exhausted and hungry. We stopped off at a place one of the rental car guys recommended as inexpensive, and serving good and local and traditional foods. There, we got our first taste of poi. No, actually, we didn’t. Poi is a traditional Hawaiian dish made from pounded taro stem/root. Poi has absolutely no flavor at all and is the consistency of paste made from corn starch and water. We were later told it is best used with really salty or spicy foods to tone them down.