Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Driving up Haleakala

Haleakala National Park

To be able to drive from sea level to 10,000 feet in a short two hours leaves you gasping for air and gasping at the breathtaking views.  My travel buddy and I felt light-headed as we reached 8,000 feet and looked down at the clouds below us.  We were on top of Maui.  We were on top of a sacred mountain.

Haleakala means "House of the Sun" in Hawaiian.  The story of its moniker is an enchanting one.  It is about a son's desire to make his mother happy.  The mother of the demigod Maui kept complaining that the sun moved too quickly in the sky; her barkcloth was not drying properly.   Maui came up with an ingenious solution.  He made a rope out of his sister's hair and lassoed the sun, not releasing it until it promised to move more slowly.
A meteorological phenomenon called the Trade Wind Inversion can be seen at the Leleiwi Overlook.  The trade winds trap the clouds in the basin, preventing them from rising any further.  This is why the summit is so dry and moon-like.

However, nature is fickle and can change at a moment's notice.  The clouds seemed to follow us as we climbed the last 2,000 feet.  The temperature dropped to a cool 50 degrees and had us grabbing for sweaters in the backseat of the car.

At the summit, our views were completely covered by clouds.
It didn't stop people from snapping away.  The drive up here is an epic one.  Sun or no sun.  

However, at the 9,000 foot Kalahaku Overlook, which can be reached only by driving down the mountain, the views pictured below made me forgive the gods for being so cruel at the summit.  The erosion that is wearing the great mountain down can be seen here in all its splendor.  What looks like a crater is really a big valley created by coursing rainwater.  Millions of tons of volcanic rocks have been carried away, leaving an otherworldly landscape of red, purple and green along the mountain's slopes.
Some say that Haleakala is dying.  Some say it is a sleeping giant.  Its last eruption was in 1790.  Only the gods know for sure.  We mere mortals can only enjoy the beauty of the moment.  It made me proud and happy once again that our government has designated these wonders of America as national parks.  Haleakala National Park is a true treasure.  Sun or no sun.

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