Saturday, February 28, 2015

High and Low on Maui, Part III

For earlier posts in this Maui travelogue, please see Part I and Part II.

Here's part three.

7am, Hosmer Grove Trail, Haleakalā National Park

Hawaiʻi Research Adventure: Day 49

I woke up at 6,800 ft. above sea level for the second time. This morning I darted out of my tent just before dawn, with binoculars around my neck, to check out the Hosmer Grove Trail, which abuts the Hosmer Grove campground, all within the boundaries of Haleakalā National Park, one of two National Parks in the Hawaiian Islands.

The birding was glorious. In fact, I saw very few birds, but I heard a cacophony of songs! What I did see was the ʻiʻiwi, an small indigenous honeycreeper—famous for its red feathers that are seen on Hawaiian cloaks and helmets in museums all around the world (including in New York City!). The bird was almost hunted to extinction—and some of the feather-bearing mountain birds here are now extinct—but nā ʻiʻiwi are still hanging in there, so to see one with my very own eyes was really a treat! Nā ʻiʻiwi only live in high elevations such as these, so their habitat is very rare in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Many of the honeycreepers that haunt these woods feed on the berries, such as the ones pictured in the photograph above.

After an hour's hike it was time to drive up to the summit of the crater. At over 10,000 feet, Haleakalā, the "House of the Sun," is Maui's tallest peak, and only dwarfed by Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Island of Hawaiʻi. The National Park visitor center is just above 7,000 feet, but then the best lookout into the pit of the crater is between 9,000 and 10,000 feet.

Haleakalā's "moonscape." Looking into the crater from about 9,700 feet above sea level. The crater is three thousand feet deep and many miles wide and long. It is said that the entire island of Manhattan could fit inside. (Even the World Trade Center building, at 1,776 feet, would fit!)

 I spent some time looking into the crater, but it was hard to know what to think or feel. Almost nothing grows up here, except some silversword; and there are, I learned, a lot of insects living up here, too, but you won't see them. Also some birds pass through. But overall, the feeling one gets at 10,000 feet above the sea in Maui is one of desolation. 

 One of the big landmarks here is "Space Camp." Yeah, that's what it's called. Some kind of military-industrial-university complex that tracks things in outer space. Partly run by the University of Hawaiʻi and partly by the Department of Defense. You're not allowed to hike over there. But I took a picture of it from the summit.

Space Camp, atop Haleakalā, 10,000 feet above the ocean

 On the morning I visited the summit, it was possible to see the Island of Hawaiʻi thirty miles in the distance—or at least its two main humps, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, both over 13,000 feet tall and the highest mountains in all of Oceania.
View from Haleakalā, at 10,000 feet elevation. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are visible thirty miles in the distance.

 I like both mountains and beaches. So, after two nights on the slope of Haleakalā, I decided it was time to pitch my tent beside the ocean. This entailed a long drive. First I drove down the crater, from 10,000 feet to about 1,000 feet in, what I am told, is the most rapid elevation change of that magnitude anywhere in the world. Certainly my ears popped a few times, and of course it was easier to breathe by the sea than up in the air.

 I grabbed lunch in Haʻikū, an old sugar town that I write about in chapter seven of my dissertation. 

Then it was off to Hāna. Everyone says the drive to Hāna is amazing, and it is. It is only about 60 miles, but it takes fully two hours. Drive as fast as you want, but you'll average no more than 30 miles per hour. That's because the road twists and turns ad nauseum (thankfully, not literally), and the traffic created by tourists unfamiliar with the terrain (like myself) makes it all the more slower. In many sections, it is just a one-lane road, so you have to stop and yield and then go and then stop and yield again, ad nauseum.

About three-fourths of the way out to Hāna, I pulled off to visit Waiʻanapanapa State Park, just north of Hāna, in East Maui.

Like all Hawaiian Islands, the east (or windward) side is often lush and green, while the west (or leeward) side is dry and hot. East Maui did not fail to meet those expectations. Indeed, the wet, lush, tropical flora exceeded what I had imagined. East Maui is truly beautiful!

Waiʻanapanapa State Park, East Maui

 Napanapa means twisting and writhing and contorting, but ʻanapanapa means glistening and glimmering. I found the water to be both writhing and glistening. It was not an easy swim in the choppy waves entering the bay, but apparently there are many pools nearby where the water glistens more than it writhes. I, however, swam in the bay.

Paʻiloa Beach, Waiʻanapanapa State Park

 Paʻiloa Beach here is known as the "black sand beach." It's true, the sand is entirely dark black in color. Maybe that is interesting, or maybe not. It's certainly not as comfortable to lay on as other types of sand. But it provides something to puzzle over.

Black sand at Paʻiloa Beach, Waiʻanapanapa State Park

 After a quick swim, I was back on the road, passing through Hāna and on to the Kīpahulu segment of Haleakalā National Park. While the U.S. government does not control the land on every side of this dormant volcano, they do possess a strip of land on the eastern slope heading down to the sea. It is here, in the ahupuaʻa (district) of Kīpahulu, that a completely other side of Haleakalā National Park is revealed. 

Walking the coastal trail at Kīpahulu, Haleakalā National Park
On the coast at Kīpahulu, Haleakalā National Park

After all that driving, I arrived at Kīpahulu campground around 4pm, set up camp, and then hiked the coastal trail half a mile to ʻOheʻo Gulch. This is supposed to be a big tourist attraction. Rather, I found that it is a very popular swimming hole for local teens and families. Some tourist outfits call it the "seven sacred pools," but that apparently has no basis in Hawaiian culture. I did not find it a very attractive place for a dip, but here in the ahupuaʻa of Kīpahulu, the ocean is very rough and there are no safe places to swim in the sea, so I can see why people might come to ʻOheʻo to swim. (That said, Hāna Bay, just ten miles north—but a forty minute drive!—has good swimming.)

ʻOheʻo Gulch, Kīpahulu, Haleakalā National Park

 It was time to get a good night's rest without having to put my winter coat, winter hat, and long underwear on! Here on the beach I could fall asleep in just a t-shirt! I had my dinner of local bananas, trail mix, coconut water, and a vegan cookie, wrote in my diary and planned tomorrow's activities, and then, quickly fell asleep in my tent.
Dinner and thoughts, Kīpahulu campground, Haleakalā National Park
My camp along the sea, Kīpahulu, Haleakalā National Park

 Almost done! My next post will look more closely at the Kīpahulu section of the National Park, as well as recount my explorations of the town of Hāna. A hui hou!

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