- Day 2 (September 1, 2003): FIRST ATTEMPT
- Day 5 (September 4, 2003): SECOND ATTEMPT
- Day 6 (September 5, 2003): THIRD ATTEMPT
Day 2 (September 1, 2003): FIRST ATTEMPT
It was 3am and I thought we could get this Haleakala must-do sunrise out of the way and out of our system early in the trip. We had decent sleep since Hawaii was three hours behind Los Angeles and waking this time wasn’t too difficult. The heavy food at Kimo’s on Front Street just before sunset probably helped to knock us out in time for this early-bird special.
And so off Julie and I went to Haleakala’s summit. Normally when we drive at this hour, we expect to be one of the only people on the roads. However, I was amused at how many other cars headed the same way. There was even a line of cars going up the volcano’s switchbacks as a slow driver way in front refused to use the turnouts to let the faster traffic pass.
Unfortunately, the skies were starting to dump rain as we began the long ascent up the mountain. It didn’t improve as we got any higher. I somehow thought we might be above the system at the summit…
…but when we arrived, the rain fell horizontally as the winds were blowing hard! Despite the foul weather, plenty of determined tourists were on bicycles and rain gear waiting to let gravity do the pedaling on the way back down the mountain.
Julie and I waited in vain for the sunrise. When the darkness started giving way to light, we gave up on waiting out the event and headed back down the mountain.
Given our early start, we decided to go around the mountain and do the Hana Highway. After all, if it was pouring up here, the waterfalls must be flowing down there!
When we returned to Lahaina in the late afternoon, we had decided to make tomorrow a day to drive around West Maui – to take a break from the early wakeup call for Haleakala. We’d go ahead and try that one again two days afterwards…
Day 5 (September 4, 2003): SECOND ATTEMPT
Once again it was 3am. As our bodies had adjusted to Hawaiian time, we had a more difficult time getting out of bed this time. To make matters worse, Julie had clearly gotten sick – which she blamed on these early wakeups.
Yesterday’s weather improved considerably and we expected today to be no different. The 2-3 hours of driving went passed without a hitch and we were at the Red Hill viewing area in direct view of the Magnetic Peak and the Science City.
The stars were still out and we could even see the planet Mars appropriately hovering above the Science City. Although it was freezing cold up here, things were setting up like we were about to see the hyped-about sunrise.
It was 6am and the skies were clearly starting to change color. It wasn’t long before we’d get that long-awaited sunrise. But…
…then the clouds started to roll in and rise up into our line of sight…
…No worries, we thought. It’d pass and we’d still get to see our sunrise. But the clouds stubbornly persisted and pretty soon we were looking at fog.
Pretty soon the skies had become a depressing grey and there was enough light to hint to us that the sun had just risen.
Damn! We were so close!
Discouraged by this turn of events, we headed back down the road. This time there were more cyclists so we had to be patient with them as we anxiously waited for them to either find a pullout or for us to find a way to safely pass them.
Eventually, we would make it back down the hill, and again with our early start, we mind as well salvage the day perhaps with a helicopter flight.
Our day of touring basically ended when we finally made it back to Lahaina at around 7pm. The weather remained nice in the late afternoon and once again we took another stroll down Front Street.
So with one day left on our trip, we only had one last shot at seeing that stupid Haleakala sunrise. Julie already wasn’t looking forward to it…
Day 6 (September 5, 2003): THIRD ATTEMPT
Julie and I had grown tired of getting up at 3am. Julie was especially miffed as she had been under the weather since the first attempt to see the Haleakala sunrise four days ago. Now it was the day we were flying back home to LA (fortunately in the afternoon) and so I figured this was our last shot at seeing the sunrise. If it didn’t happen, then I guess it wasn’t meant to be. So Julie and I packed up and checked out early from Lahaina as we headed for the oh-so-familiar-road to Haleakala’s summit for the third time this week…
The drive was uneventful and we made it back to the Red Hill observation area on the Haleakala Summit. Once again, we awaited the sunrise in the freezing cold. Masses of people were huddled against the window on the inside of the observation hut as well as in front of the window in the fresh air.
My hands were getting numb so I would alternately put them in my pocket only taking them out when I had to mess with the camera. I was amazed how it could be so cold when it was so hot and humid at the base of the mountain.
The skies started changing color at 6am. The clouds beneath us threatened to rise and block our sunrise again. However, this time they stayed put.
Finally at 7am, the long-awaited for sunrise had occurred. Along with the sounds of people ooo-ing and aahh-ing and camera’s closing their shutters, I managed to get my shots and then enjoy the view with Julie. Indeed, it turned out that the third time was the charm.
Since we had seen many sunrises before, this one didn’t seem all that special to us. It certainly wasn’t worth the hype and trouble we had put forth to see it, but then again, maybe we were jaded. I’m sure other people felt differently.
Now that daylight had officially begun, we got to take a few photos of the Science City and some of the immediate surroundings. Since we still had a few hours to kill before our flight took off for LAX, we decided to hike part of the Sliding Sands Trail.
This dry and eerie hike went right into the crater system of the Haleakala Volcano.
The hike was mostly downhill on the way to the Ka Ku’u o ka ‘O’o Crater, which seemed to be a reasonable goal to do before going back to the airport.
As we were descending the trail and the sun was rising more, the colors of the volcanic moonscape became ever more clearer and contrasting.
All around us, clouds were swirling, but they never seemed to climb as high as the crater itself. So we pretty much were able to take whatever photos we wanted except for those times we were looking directly at the sun.
After we made it to the crater, we then had to make the climb back out. Little did we realize that we were at high altitude so the hike back out was actually much more strenuous than we had bargained for!
With heads pounding and hearts beating real hard, we’d eventually make it back to the car park. But not before some folks on horseback made fun of our struggles (maybe a subtle hint to just book a tour with them and spend some cash?).
In any case, we ended up doing an out-and-back 5-mile hike to the Ka Ku’u o ka ‘O’o Crater with probably 2000ft of elevation change when all was said and done. It was tiring to say the least and the tourists on horseback seemed to have a much easier time than we did.
It was 12pm when we got back to the car. The flight was at 2pm.
We thought it was plenty of time to get back down the mountain and to Kahului, but I didn’t bank on the extra delays caused by the bicycle riders gliding their way down the mountain.
Eventually, we got to the Kahului Airport in time. The trip was over, and we had to leave the aloha spirit and pace of life for the urban madness and the rat race of Los Angeles and Corporate America. Well, it was fun while it lasted. Time to look forward to the next trip…
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