Maui and Haleakala National Park
Maui route map

silversword plant
The silversword, found only in Hawaii,
blooms but once. View is from
inside Haleakala crater at 9,000 feet.

ig Island is larger - but Maui may be the more scenic. The second youngest of the Hawaiian islands, Maui features Haleakala National Park as its geological centerpiece. The Park's chief draw is Haleakala volcano with its enormous summit crater - a crater so vast that a city could be built within. As the largest volcanic crater on earth, the barren, wind-swept landscape beckens to be explored along numerous trails.

The highest point on Haleakala, Red Hill, lies at 10,023 feet above sea level. With nearly two miles in vertical extent, the Park supports a variety of ecological niches that, in turn, harbor an array of interesting flora and fauna. Many plant and animal species in the Park, as with all of Hawaii, are endemic: they are not found elsewhere. A particularly interesting species is the silversword plant that makes its home in and around the summit crater.

A tortuous paved road leads 37 miles uphill from north coast to the summit. The route enables throngs of tourists to glimpse sunrise on Red Hill - a moving experience enjoyed from the relative comfort of an octagonal brick structure with large viewing windows. Haleakala National Park receives one and one-half million visitors annually, most of whom perform this morning ritual. Another popular activity is to bicycle downhill, allowing gravity to do the work.

Several businesses flourish from these activities. Uninterested in them, I would explore Haleakala's crater and climb Red Hill from within the crater interior.

Friday, February 21

I once enjoyed going to the airport. The anticipation of, and the sheer thrill of lifting off the runway would be considerably rewarding for its own sake. Nowadays I cannot claim to get anything more out of an airline flight than a destination.

In the spirit of adventure that pervades my travels, I would sleep at recognized campsites and in the backcountry - a decision motivated as well by budgetary considerations: accomodations in Hawaii range from expensive to outrageous.

The Hosmer Grove Campground inside Haleakala National Park was my best choice on Maui for all three nights, since at 6,800 feet elevation I would acclimatize a little owing to the modest altitude. It is free and requires no advance registration - in contrast to the state and county beaches on Maui and Big Island.

I arrived late at night, too late to enjoy the starry sky or even to learn if there were kindred campers nearby. The invigorating night chill contrasted with the hot, damp air of Kahului just two hours earlier.

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