Hiking Haleakala Crater-Day three of epic adventure.

Peacefully frying steaks with the door of Holua Cabin open, we are unexpectedly confronted by a group of four other hikers. Comparing permits, we find that the Park Service has double-booked us all into the cabin.

Social awkwardness ensues as we all try to regroup and adjust our expectations for the evening. Mike and I hurry out with cameras and the remainder of a flask of wine, hoping to   get some sunset shots and adjust to the idea of close, shared quarters.  When we come back to the cabin, well after dark, the newcomers have come to terms with the situation and so have we.

(This made me think of various crime-related scenarios involving invading hikers for a future novel. It could so easily happen! A whole new idea for Lei to investigate.)

Anyway, a fairly endless night ensued, involving innumerable openings and shuttings of the squeaky front door (Mike mostly, doing his star-shots, and five other people periodically needing to pee) snoring, talking in sleep, barking shins in the dark, and dudes jumping off/falling off bunks in the wee hours of morning.

These elements combine to drive Mike and I out onto the trail at the crack of dawn with nothing in our stomachs but coffee and determination. At least, by then the backpacks were lighter. We have four hard miles to go, climbing the infamous Switchbacks trail out of the crater.

Perhaps at some point in the last few days, we hadn't boiled the water enough, or I'd eaten something not quite right, or was feeling the altitude–but about halfway up the endless ascension out of the floor of the Crater, I began to get sick. From both ends.

The mortification of the drama of a rescue was the only thing that kept me putting one boot in front of the other. At one point, I considered crawling, and if it had been any longer, I would have. Mike carried my pack, a heroic effort, the last half-mile to the truck.  (And did I mention, it was ALL UPHILL? Yes, I believe I did.)

But, just like God to do this–even sick, and exhausted, and in real pain from back issues and overused calves–I had to keep taking in the view. The best views of the entire hike were on the Switchbacks trail. We decided, of all the land we traversed, this is the part we'll come back to for a day visit, and would recommend to others.

This is just one side of the view off the “spine” of the trail. See the line zigzagging down? That's what we came up.

Go down a ways from the Halemau`u Trailhead, perhaps to where the trail crosses a spine of rock with 360 degree views across the Crater and along the coast all the way to Hana. Soak in the vastness and beauty and take flight in your mind. Eat a picnic. Drink a lot of water. And hike back up, at a reasonable pace, and a reasonable hour. It'd be a couple of miles, tops, to have a supremely amazing hike.

Hiking Haleakala Crater was a “bucket list” adventure. At home, after a two-hour nap, with toilet nearby and Vicodin to hand,  the whole epic adventure assumes the glow of legend and is officially pronounced WORTH IT. 


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