Posted by: soniahs | January 18, 2011

Sights of Haleakala

On our recent trip to Hawai’i, we spent one weekend on Maui. Maui’s never been my favorite island: it lacks the overall grandeur of Hawai’i, the cultural activities of Oahu, or the general quirkiness of Kaua’i. It does have these things in at least patches, though. And if you’re into hanging out at beach resorts, Maui may be a great place to visit for you. It’s also well-represented in the areas of entitled yuppies, crappy traffic, somehow-creepy mountains, and flat industrial agriculture vistas of sugarcane.

All that aside, we did have a good time there. We mainly concentrated our visit on Haleakalā, the eastern and younger of the two volcanic mountains that make up the island. Note the macron over the last ‘a’ in Haleakalā- that last syllable is what’s supposed to be accented.

Haleakalā is an enormous mountain: over 10,000 feet tall from the ocean surface (with another 20,000 feet or so to its base- one of several Hawaiian volcanoes that are technically taller than Mt. Everest!), containing 7,200 cubic miles of rock (USGS). Technically, the mountain itself is called ‘East Maui volcano’; it’s the valley at the top that’s called Haleakalā (meaning ‘house of the sun’). The sun does spend a lot of time up here: the summit is above the usual cloud line.

Haleakalā crater from the mountain summit, Pu`u `Ula`ula (Red Hill).

While the current valley is at the original site of the volcanic caldera, it’s not technically a ‘crater’- it’s an erosion-cut valley that later filled up with cinders from fresh eruptions. This is where the impressive landscape of red and gray cinder cones comes from.

The valley itself is several miles across, and over 2,500 feet deep!

The weather up here can be brutal: zero shade, nasty wind, and bitterly cold. But the views are awesome (in the true sense of the word). Here’s Hawai’i Island, off to the southeast (or at least the tops of 4 of its mountains):

Mauna Kea, Kohala, Mauna Loa, and Hualalai from the summit.

Did you see the snow on top of Mauna Kea? Pretty nifty.

And here’s a view west across the isthmus (and all that sugarcane) to the West Maui Mts., Lana’i, and Molokai in the background (though it’s hard to see what’s the West Maui summit and what’s Molokai):

View of the West Maui Mts., with Lanai to the left. Molokai's in the back, but hard to make out.

We didn’t do any real hiking up near the summit, but did do some down below the treeline -both warmer and easier to breathe down there :). More on that later, though…

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