Continued from yesterday’s post, Down and Out
There are much longer flights to far more distant places, but I can tell you that getting up at dawn and getting to the airport, followed by a total of over 13 hours of flight time including from Boston to Dallas, and then on to LA, from which the flight continues across a vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean to Honolulu, and finally ending the 13 hour flying marathon after landing at Kapalua Airport, on the Hawaiian Island of Maui… is just exhausting. I get tired just thinking about it.
But wait! There’s more! We still needed to pick up all our baggage and then take the shuttle to get our rental car, and then drive 18 miles after dark to the cottage where we were staying in the small town of Kehei. My memory of that drive is one of extreme fatigue and seriously blurred vision, lots of confusion about directions, and then making a wise decision to stop at an IHOP and chow down on an enormous evening breakfast. My new Bride stayed awake just long enough to order some food, but then fell asleep as she slumped down in the booth, before her food showed up at the table.
She was too out of it to eat what she ordered, but after being nearly starved to death with meager airline rations for over 15 hours, I ate her food as soon as I finished my own. I all but carried her out of the IHOP to our rental car, and then finished driving the last leg of our long Hawaiian Odyssey so we could finally check into our cottage, and then both collapse into bed and fall into a very deep sleep until the light of the next morning.
We were wise to plan nothing more strenuous than a relaxing and restful day at the beach, for our first full day in Hawaii, and we enjoyed the very different experience of spreading out our beach blanket and towels on one of Maui’s volcanic black sand beaches, with the coal black but clean and fine volcanic sand unlike that of any beach we had ever known before.
Towards sunset, after most people had left the beach, we walked the Pacific Ocean’s white foamed edge on the black sand, some distance away from where the beach was closest to the parking lot.
Our day of rest and recuperation had been just what we needed, and led to a very sudden and totally spontaneous magic encounter – as now in relative seclusion, we rushed together in a tight embrace and shared a very long and deep lovers kiss, that ignited us both into yanking off each other’s bathing suits and making wildly passionate love on the black sand, just beyond the reach of the white foam of the waves.
It was one of those peak experiences that as lovers, no couple can ever possibly forget, for the rest of two lifetimes.
The next day was very different and began as we had planned it, in the dark, at the forever ungodly waking hour of 4:00 AM. We needed to get up that early because we had a date with sunrise at the top of a 10,000 foot high dormant volcano called Haleakalā.
Driving the dark road on the way to the volcano, we passed by sugar cane fields, and as we rounded a bend, we were shocked to drive close by a section of cane field on fire and blazing high with bright orange flames leaping furiously upward into the dark predawn sky. The sugar cane farmers were burning the old stalks from a section of the previous crop to make way for new growth, and the sudden surprise of seeing the blaze shocked me wide awake with my adrenalin pumping.
Soon we were driving the 27 mile long road up the volcano, full of sharp and blind curves, while winding and spiraling up to the top. I was driving somewhat fast, since we were slightly behind schedule and we didn’t want to miss sunrise at the summit. Between driving up all those winding curves and the rapid gain in high altitude, I was getting light headed and dizzy, but I hung in there until we reached the summit parking lot and stopped, now ahead of schedule and before sunrise. I felt somewhat better after getting out of the car and walking around, but the rapid drive up to the 10,000 foot high volcanic summit had me still feeling a little light headed and dizzy.
There were lots of other people up there with us, and for good reason. Sunrise at the top of Haleakalā is often spectacular.
As the sun begins to rise, it illuminates a rolling roof top of clouds filling the massive Haleakalā crater, which is 7 miles long, 2 miles wide, and 2,600 feet deep.
As the sun gets higher and hotter in the sky, the clouds slowly burn off and the landscape of Haleakalā crater is revealed.
But after our Haleakalā sunrise was past, our full Haleakalā experience was only just beginning. Our plan was to hike the Sliding Sands Trail over 2,500 feet down to the crater floor and then pick up another trail that would take us on a tour of some the most striking of Haleakalā’s many amazing volcanic geological features. After 8 miles of backpacking, we would come to an area where we had obtained a permit in advance to set up camp and spend the night.
The next day, we would hike a trail over 2,500 feet up and out of the opposite end of the crater, and then catch a ride back up the road to the summit parking lot where our rental car was waiting for us. All in all, it would be an exhausting two day hike, but also an astoundingly amazing experience unlike anything we had ever done before, in a place uniquely unlike anywhere we had ever been.
Hiking through Haleakalā was like being transported into an issue of National Geographic and living firsthand the experience described by the article, and witnessing in real life the images portrayed by the photographs. It was that good…
Much of Haleakalā, especially on the Sliding Sands Trail, seemed very much like the lunar surface of the moon, enough so that during the 1960s NASA used Haleakalā as a training ground for some of the Apollo Astronauts who were going to walk on the moon.
Other impressive features included the rust red volcanic cinder cones located along the Sliding Sands Trail. Haleakalā is a dormant volcano, and there hasn’t been any volcanic activity there since 1790.
Something else that makes Haleakalā seem like an alien world, are the Silversword plants, which when in full bloom like the one on the left, are over 6 feet tall.
Backpacking with 30 pounds of gear, food and water each, made for 8 miles of very strenuous hiking over difficult terrain, especially after we left the Sliding Sands Trail and started the trail leading to our camp site. It led us over very rough and uneven ancient lava flows that took a lot of extra effort to walk on without stumbling or tripping and falling down on the sharp edged and abrasive surface. But neither one of us lost our footing.
We finally reached our camp site at around 3 PM and pitched our tent on a wooden platform built there by the Park Service. We unrolled our foam Ridge Rests and put our sleeping bags down over them, then both of us laid down on our sleeping bags inside our tent. I remember telling Jean that I wanted to rest for just a little while and then get up and do some exploring of the area around our camp site.
This was the last thing I remembered, before we both woke up over three hours later, as the sun was going down. We both had fallen deeply asleep almost as soon as we had laid down – we were far more tired out than we realized, by our day that began at 4:00 AM, and then our 8 mile hike that including rest stops and lunch, had taken us over 8 hours to cover.
We made a camp dinner, ate and then briefly tried exploring the area around our camp site, which in contrast to the almost desert like conditions of the terrain we had hiked, was damp and lush with vegetation and tall grass. But we were using our flashlights since it was now after dark, and we were soon discouraged from exploring very much, when we discovered that the tall grass hid lots of rough and jagged lava rocks beneath it, and it was too treacherous to be worth trying to walk around in.
We got back inside our tent and laid down, talked for a while about all we had seen and experienced during our long day, and then soon went to sleep for the night, neither of us awakening until morning.
To be continued in my next post…