I “Heart” Haleakala

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Say the word “Haleakala,” and my ears perk up, eyebrows raise and face lights up. I am absolutely in love with this mountain, and have experienced it in all sorts of ways: hiking, camping, volunteering, sunrise watching, downhill mountain biking.

Right now, Macy’s in Queen Kaʻahumanu Center is holding its “Heart Your Park” promotion: Donate $1 or more to Haleakalāa National Park now through March 31, and the store will match it (up to $250,000). I’ve already made my donation, and encourage all you fellow nature lovers to do the same!

Need a reminder why Haleakala is so awesome? Check out some of my favorite shots (all taken by yours truly) from the crater below. ‘

haleakala-sunrise

haleakala-sunrise-shakaYes, visiting Haleakala at sunrise was worth the 4 a.m. wake up call, two-hour drive and freezing temperatures. Translated as “House of the Sun,” Haleakala is quite literally the stuff of legends. The story goes, it was here that the demigod Maui captured the sun as it passed overhead, slowing it just long enough to afford his mother, Hina, enough time to dry her kapa (bark cloth).

Once at the summit, blurry-eyed visitors quietly gather at the edge of the observation deck. There, under layers of thermals, they wait. As if setting the stage for the grand finale, the faintest hints of pink and gold color the sky. Then perfectly on cue, the sun coyly flirts with the new day, breaking ever so gently over the Technicolor horizon.

haleakala-silverswordHaleakala is the only place on earth to see to this gorgeous silversword bloom. In fact, Haleakala has the highest number of rare and endangered species of any national park in the United States. And although the area is legally protected against human destruction, invasive species pose the greatest threat to this delicate eco-system. The volunteer-fueled Friends of Haleakala have answered with monthly service trips that range from invasive species removal to native planting.

Those with enough energy to get a close-up of the volcano can traverse the Keonehe’ehe’e (Sliding Sands) trail, which begins near the visitor center at the summit. The trail zigzags through rustic landscapes dotted with moon-like peaks and prickly patches of silversword.

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Haleakala is a place that exists as a world unto itself, bearing little resemblance to the Maui most people know. The naked environment is more likely to be the backdrop of a sci-fi movie than the subject of a tropical postcard. This is the area known as “Pele’s Paintpot.” (photo below)

haleakala-peles-paintpot

haleakala lichenLichens! Read more about these natural wonders.

haleakala-hiking-trailAnd remember, Haleakala is best served with friends!

If you have any special memories of Haleakala, donʻt be shy, share your experience in the comment section below…


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