No matter where you are on Maui, the East Volcano (Haleakala) looms in the distance, often surrounded in clouds. Haleakala is a dormant volcano; it last erupted in 1490. Thus, the landscape is quite different that that of Hawai'i National Park on the Big Island. Hawai'i National Park is full of dark lava fields as well as actively erupting magma. However, the lava in Haleakala has had the chance to break down into sand, leaving swirling hills of red, tan and brown.
The drive up to Haleakala was pretty neat. Remember how I said the volcano is almost always covered in clouds? Well, we had to drive through those clouds to get to the top. The first third of the drive was sunny and then- all of a sudden- the temperature dropped by 10 degrees and we were in thick fog. 20 minutes later the fog suddenly lifted and we were again in sun, driving above the cloud line. I've had similar experiences on plane trips, but it was way cooler to touch, feel and breathe the clouds from a convertible! Here's Adam pondering the cloud line:
There are quite a few hikes in the area, and we chose the Sliding Sands (Keonehe'ehe'e) Trail. We had heard that it was really cold on top of the volcano so were prepared with our jackets, hats and gloves. However, the weather was actually quite pleasant in the 50s, especially after our warm last hour of running in our races the day before. The Sliding Sands trail was just that- full of sand and slip-slidy. The trail is 9.2 miles long but we just went a couple miles. We meandered down slowly, taking plenty of pictures along the way:
And we knew that however far down we went down, we would have to go back up......the day after the marathon......on slippery sand. It was tough. My heart was POUNDING! I kinda wished I had a heart rate monitor because I'm sure I was up in the 180s the whole time (yes, we all know I'm a dork). We actually flew up the hill in 1/4 the time it took to go down because we wanted the misery to END!! It was both fun and a good work-out.
Haleakala National Park was definitely worth a 1 day stop. But there are sooo many things to do and see on Maui that I don't think I would go back for a second look. Also, while it was cool, Haleakala was nothing compared to the surreal, Mars-like scenery of Hawai'i National Park.
If you are heading to Hawai'i and aren't sure if you will ever get back a second time, I'd recommend you spend quality time on Maui but also take a quick flight to the Big Island to Hawai'i National Park to see what I think is the most unusual landscape in all of the United States. I'll end with a pic from or 2008 visit to Hawai'i National Park: