Haleakala Crater and Summit
|Saturday, February 22||topographic map of Haleakala summit|
have seen dawn near or at several mountaintops, from Mount Rainier to Kilimanjaro. The spectacle's grandeur is accentuated by wind, snow and ice arranged in several combinations unachievable on a peak you can simply drive up: the road itself shatters the scene. The reward is sweeter still when one earns the right to bear witness by climbing under one's own power.
With this realization I awoke at 4:30 a.m. and drove my rental to the saddle between the summit of Haleakala and a hill just east, Magnetic Peak. It was freezing and windy. The eastern horizon tantalized with hints of light as I trivially hiked to the summit of Haleakala.
Unhappy with the noise of gathering spectators, I hiked down to the saddle and gained the summit of Magnetic Peak - awaiting the colors of dawn solo and with a superior view since the enormous crater was closer at hand, and beneath me, than had I been at the summit of Haleakala proper.
Rosy fingers of dawn appeared, evanescent colors pleasing the visual sense. Just before sunrise I offered a Hebrew prayer to thank the Almighty for his benevolence in seeing to a new day -
"How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, thy dwelling places, O Israel!"
A Visitors Center one-half mile down the road has displays, books and maps for the inquisitive tourist. An interpretive National Park ranger is available as guide, and, in my case, he happily discussed with me hiking possibilities within the vast crater.
The author atop Pakaoao, "White Hill".
The Haleakala National Park Visitor Center
lies a few hundred feet below.
He first recommended a climb of Pakaoao, "White Hill", immediately adjacent. As inferred from the picture, both a photography enthusiast and a rainbow had shared my summit break.
I headed down the Sliding Sands Trail into the crater proper - the endpoint of my journey being its junction with the Halemauu Trail some four miles from the Visitor Center at 7,400 feet elevation. On descent I noted how overnight frost melted in step with the passing shadow of a large boulder.
It was a gorgeous day. I enjoyed lunch at the junction and talked to a few hikers that were also in Hawaii for its own sake and not on some prefabricated, sterile, and thouroughly unchallenging tour package.
The varigated colors of Haleakala crater are a study in earthy, red and brown tones. Splashes of green excite the landscape on slopes where rainfall permits vegetation.
The author within Haleakala's enormous crater
at the Sliding Sands and Halemauu trail junction.
Rather than continuing on the Halemauu Trail to its terminus I regained the crater rim by reversing course: I was unwilling to hitchhike from the Halemauu trailhead to the Visitor Center, as required with a closed loop round trip. Furthermore, I wanted the uphill exercise in preparation for my ascent of Mauna Loa a few days hence.
On reaching the crater rim I bypassed the Visitor Center and headed directly for Haleakala's summit, Red Hill. I breathed heavily as I balanced atop the highest boulder. It had been a rapid ascent, just two hours one minute, and done for the sake of aerobic exercise. Dawn's early chill was now a pleasant fifty degrees under the brilliant sun.
The Park has no food or gasoline for sale, a fact of particular note to hikers who elect to overnight at either of two campsites within Haleakala crater.
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