Exploring Kauai's Na Pali Coast - Page 3
Smooth cruisin' above the Pacific. Photo by Chris Hunter.
We take a day to rest and re-supply on Maui. Awakening at 4 a.m., we drive fast to the Haleakala’s rim to catch sunrise. At seven miles across, two miles wide and 2500 feet deep, Haleakala is the world’s largest dormant volcano. It is also at 10,023 feet and, with the wind howling, feels arctic compared to Kauai’s rainforests.
Upon seeing sunrise from Haleakala’s rim, Mark Twain wrote: “… the sublimest spectacle I ever witnessed, and I think the memory of it will remain with me always.” A palette of pastels rides on galloping clouds, and the sunrise over Haleakala is, indeed, gloriously humbling.
We plan to run a route through the crater, so Chris volunteered to drive our rental car six miles back down the road to the Halemau’u trailhead and hitchhike back. We hit the trail hoping for warmer temperatures below. Starting from the visitor’s center at the crater’s rim, the Sliding Sands trail leads to the crater floor where it branches onto a network of side trails. Sliding Sands is a bomber—a refreshing change from the mincing footwork required on the Na Pali Coast—wide enough to run shoulder to shoulder, the cinders underfoot are forgiving and the crater walls, for awhile at least, provide a welcome respite from the howling winds at the rim.
“Good, God, it’s cold,” I grumble, hoping my ankles and knees loosen up soon.
Within Haleakala Crater, numerous small eruptions have built small cinder cones, and you sense that the most recent eruption 200 years ago will not be the last. Though we have lost a little over 2000 feet of elevation it is still cold on the crater floor. We turn onto the first of four side trails that head north toward Halemau’u Trail. Clouds move in and out and the wind whips, as we cross a moonscape of cinders and monolithic, brooding hoodoo lava formations.
We run a loop trail that leads to the “Bottomless Pit.” The rocks here are splattered in shades of red, rust, sulfur-yellow and moss-green. From there, we swing northwest on Halemau’u Trail toward the rim, taking a short detour onto Silversword Loop. Silversword, which looks like a yucca made of aluminum and is found nowhere else in the world, was nearly wiped out in the early 20th century by feral goats, and its amazing sci-fi appearance add to the crater’s wonder.
About a mile after leaving the Silversword Loop, we rest at the Holua campground, where there is a primitive rental cabin with 12 bunks and a wood-burning stove. In fact, the Park Service maintains three primitive cabins in the crater, at Holue, Kapalaoa and Paliku, available for rental.
After our rest, we beeline for the rental car at the Halemau’u Trailhead. Focusing on the views across the crater, I am suddenly sent sprawling. The lava rock is sharp like shattered glass and falling results in a blood and skin donation. My bleeding hands, legs and arms remind me that in ancient times this crater was a power center for Hawaiian kahunas who made sacrifices to their gods.