Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Hiking Haleakala on Maui (& Trying Not to Pass Out)

First trail at Haleakala where some green stuff grows up in the clouds.

Maui boasts a dormant volcano crater at Haleakala National Park. The tallest peak of Haleakala tops at 10,023 feet elevation. Chad and I hiked two trails at Haleakala for a total of four miles. During our hikes at Haleakala we stood at eye level with clouds. The air is very thin and cold at that height, but the sun can burn your skin quickly. It felt a little difficult to catch our breath, both from the hiking exertion and the thin air. From the summit of Haleakala, we looked down through the clouds into a massive depression/crater 7 miles across, 3 miles wide, and nearly half a mile deep. The surrounding walls of the volcanic crater are steep and the interior mostly barren-looking with a scattering of volcanic cones. The ground is made of red and black sand, which is actually volcanic ash. The views are breathtaking and otherworldly. Chad and I felt very small in such a big, open, barren space. It was fairly difficult to hike on the steep, sand-like ground at the peak elevation in the thin air, but we did it! 

A person could rent a car, drive to Haleakala National Park and hike trails on their own, but Chad and I appreciated that Hike Maui picked us up at our resort, drove the winding roads, provided: lots of snacks, lunch, sturdy rain/windbreaker jackets, backpacks and a friendly, knowledgeable tour guide. Our Hike Maui guide, George, gently reminded us to drink plenty of water, handed out lots of snacks to fuel our journey, reminded us to reapply sunscreen often and pointed out native flora and fauna. 

Second trail in the barren crater area up in the clouds at 10,000 feet elevation.

I appreciated this experience with its amazing views. We were physically exhausted at the end of the day. My semi-shameful confession: if I had known how difficult the hiking would be at that elevation, I might have been tempted to just enjoy the observation deck and the sweeping vistas from the edge of the parking areas. Please feel free to do the lazy observer option if you go to Haleakala. Or be a badass and do the hiking. 

If you choose to do the hiking:
Wear good hiking boots with ankle support.
Apply sunscreen and reapply often. The sun at that altitude is no joke.
It can get cold, windy and rainy at Haleakala. Wear layers of water-resistant clothing.
Hydrate and eat plenty, so you don't get altitude sickness. Forget the diet on this day, because you need fuel.
If you go with Hike Maui, let them know ahead of time if you're vegetarian. They'll happily accommodate you with a Gardenburger sandwich at lunch.