Maui -- October, 2013

I have been to Maui several times. On our honeymoon we hiked through the crater in Haleakala National Park and stayed a night in one of the cabins. I have nursed the idea for years of hiking through the crater, staying at the cabins and hiking down to the ocean at Kaupo. From 10,000 ft. to sea level. Finally I put together a trip.

The cabins must be reserved well in advance, which I had done, but the government shutdown in October stopped all activity in the park. It was lifted just days before we went, and we were able to do what we planned. I arranged with a driver, Steven Blue (Surf Taxi Maui), to take us to the top and pick us up at the end.

Here is a map of the plan. Blue for the first day. Red for the second (with a yellow line explained later), and green for the last day.

The party was myself, my daughter Kate, son Peter and a friend, Simon. Our faces are shadowed, but this angle shows clouds at 7,000 ft. and the Big Island, Hawaii, about 80 miles to the south. There are an observatory and other research buildings nearby.

The weather was perfect - a light breeze and temperature in the 70s. After organizing our packs we started out.

The crater is actually a long valley created by erosion. It is rimmed by peaks, but in two places the walls have gone, the Ko'olau Gap on the left and the Kaupo Gap at the far end to the right. The trail goes down to the ocean through the Kaupo Gap. There is no trail through Ko'olau.

One of the first things you notice is the silence. There is little foliage, and there was only a slight wind that day. The ground is volcanic cinder which absorbs sound like acoustical tile. If you shout the sound only carries a few yards.

The most famous living thing in the crater is the silversword. The thick leaves are covered with fine filaments that give it a dazzling appearance. They guard against excessive sun and water loss.

You can experience the crater on horseback.

It is a volcano, officially dormant rather than extinct. The last eruption was in the 18th century.

A silversword gone to seed.

A chukar, a non-indigenous bird.

Lunch on the trail.

A few other things grow there, like this hardy fern.

Our destination for the first night, Kapalaoa cabin.

There are three cabins available to hikers. They were built in the 30s, probably a WPA project. Each has bunks for 12, a wood stove, propane stove cooking pots, etc. and water, though it must be treated or boiled. They must be reserved well in advance and are taken almost every day. They are worn but clearly well loved.

Haleakala is home to the Nene, a variety of goose that is found nowhere else. There are said to be only 900 of them. I wondered how likely it was we would see one. Impossible to avoid, it turns out. They haunt the cabins begging for food which the park service insists we not give them. And we did not.

In the crater there are no lights. The nearest artificial illumination is in Kahului, 25 miles over the crest and at sea level. The Moon was just a day past full. About four hours after sunset I put my camera on a tripod and gave the surroundings a long exposure. What you see is pure moonlight plus stars. The sky is blue just as it is during the day because moonlight is scattered the same way as sunlight by the atmosphere.

For photographers, the camera was a Canon G1X. Exposure was f2.8, 50 seconds at ISO 1600.

Next morning breakfast was tea, oatmeal, fruit and a stately, silent sunrise.

The interior is basic.

We spent the second day hiking through middle of the crater. The first half was almost as barren as Mars. As we moved east and down to the Kaupo gap there was more foliage, Notice the big island in the distance. At Paliku cabin it was almost lush.

Here we discovered that the cabin was out of firewood (presto logs) and propane. Since it was still early Peter, Simon and Kate decided to hike 3 miles back to Kapalaoa and get some logs. This added another six miles to the day (for them. I asserted the prerogatives of age and stayed behind to enjoy the setting and the clouds).

But of course, no sooner had they returned than the rangers showed up, two men, three mules and a horse, with supplies. This was their first trip since the shutdown. In a further twist, we were unable to make the propane stove work. Simon turned out to be a master fire builder, so we did have a hot meal.

Simon's boots had blown out by the end of the day .

Paliku sits at the edge of the Kaupo Gap where clouds can come and go freely. The weather can change from bright sun to heavy fog and back in minutes.


That night I tried another experiment. Before the Moon rose I made some long exposures. The bright object is Venus, and you can see the Milky Way slanting up just left of center.


If you have no bumper you can carve your message.

Some good soul had left a roll of duct tape in the cabin. Simon was able to patch things together.

The third day was the most punishing hike I have ever had. The trail drops from 6400 ft. to 1200 ft. The upper part is in the park and is fairly well maintained. However, much of it is a narrow trench overgrown by grass. You can't see what you are stepping on, a rock, a hole, ???

Nevertheless, the outlook over the ocean is magnificent.

I was getting weary and even fell, not badly. I had never thought I wanted hiking poles, but today was the day. Fortunately I had a lightweight tripod which served me well.

The lower part of the trail is a 4WD track on private land. The grade is about 30 percent, and there were no switchbacks. Much of the track was bare soil with a million small round rocks ready to go out from under you. Progress was agonizingly slow. We had told the driver we would be at the trailhead by 3 pm and we realized we wouldn't make it. The last half mile wanders up and down and is unmarked. It is impossible not to get lost. Peter went ahead and found the proper course and saved the rest of us much trouble.

The driver waited, and we were only 30 minutes late. I was never so grateful for a car seat. We stopped briefly at the Kaupo store, where we got some fruit juice, like medicine to desiccated me. My quadriceps were very painful for two days.

The gap from below, . The leeward side of Maui is dry and almost uninhabited. There are some cattle ranches.

Thus ended the strenuous part of the week. We returned to the hotel, cleaned up and had a good dinner. Next day we rented a car and moved to a rented house in a town called Haiku along the north (windward) coast. This area caters to tourists, like everywhere in Hawaii, but it is emphatically small town Maui, not glossy resort Maui.

Makawao, upcountry

Paia, on the road near the coast.

Simon, Peter and Kate.

Our cottage, 2 bedrooms, large kitchen, all mod cons Uphill was open fields, down was just a few hundred yards to the town.

Hookipa beach, very popular for easy surfing and wind surfing.

The next day we drove east along the road to Hana. It's famous for being narrow, winding and beautiful. We stopped at the Keanae Arboretum - painted gum , bananas . The upper part used to be a demonstration taro farm, but they seem to have abandoned that. It was just weeds.

Many years ago I did a short hike with friends in this area and took this picture, . I would like to find that place again, but I wasn't able to on this trip.

The Keanae Peninsula is the only flat area on this part of the coast. There are farms, a church and a hot dog stand. The coast here unfailingly makes me think of a particular piece of music - Sibelius' 5th Symphony.

Hawaiian shave ice (sic) is the apotheosis of the sno-cone. The ice is so finely "shaved" that it has almost no texture. It holds the fruit syrup and is fabulous on a warm day.

The growth is very dense here. You can see the cut of the road on the hill. Mostly bamboo.

Peter did most of the driving.

One pleasure of traveling with young people raised in Berkeley is that you will never have a thoughtless meal. We ate in pricey places and plain places but did much of our own cooking. They shopped knowledgeably for the freshest fish, the best vegetables (including hibiscus greens) and the most unusual fruit. Dragon fruit. Ono and mahi, The spread.

On our last full day we drove to a heiau near Wailuku. It is an ancient Hawaiian ceremonial site. Only a low stone structure now, it would have had wood and thatch structures on it.

Then we drove down to Kihei and Wailea, the fancy resort end of the island, Vegas on the half shell, and finally over to Lahaina at the west end of the island. There is a famous banyan tree there that spans an entire block.

Being hungry we looked for a restaurant. Simon found an interesting listing through Yelp, but when we got there it was closed. Disappointed locavores.

But not disappointed by sunset over Lanai (Larry Ellison, prop.)

The morning of our departure we drove up to Kula to see a lavendar farm. They grow many other plants, including protea .

Lunch at the Kula Lodge, pasta with macadamia nuts, chicken and fresh vegetables.

The flight home. I used a camera app on my iPhone to make a time lapse clip of our flight.

David Rowland