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January + February 2010 » Washington Trails
Further Afield »
E s c a p e t o M a u i A w e a l t h o f r e c r e a t i o n a l o p p o r t u n i t i e s w i l l k e e p y o u h a p p y a n d b u s y
From sky to sea, Maui is a recreation mecca.
You can hike across a volcano’s crater or along the coast, bike down a volcano, explore a lava tube, kayak the sea, or snorkel to see stunningly beautiful marine life. And that’s but a slice of the adventures to be found on this Hawaiian island.
lava at high altitudes in the park and can live for decades before blooming.From June through October, admire the stalks, up to several feet tall, with pink and lavender flowers and silver hairs on the swordlike leaves. After it blooms, the plant dies and its seeds try to survive.
Bike Down a Volcano
Hike in a Volcano
At 33 miles wide and 24 miles long, Halea- kala is a huge volcano that makes up the bulk of the island. By geologic time, Haleakala is still an active volcano; its last explosion was in the 1790s. The 37-mile drive to the summit is full of great views. Be sure to stop at the Pu’u Ula’ula summit (10,023-foot elevation) for its 360-degree awe-inspiring panorama.
The world-famous ride down Haleakala is not the same as a few years ago, and that’s prob- ably a good thing. Then, it was a cruise from the 10,000-foot elevation near the summit to the ocean,but the National Park Service banned tours starting in the park for safety reasons.
Tour companies now start at 6,500 feet. Hundred of accidents and deaths have marred too many rides, so the young and inexperienced should opt out.
While you can hike to the top of Mount St. Helens, its volcanic activity precludes hiking across the volcano’s floor, as does the water at Crater Lake. That’s not the case at Haleakala, or House of the Sun, with its arid half-mile deep crater inside Haleakala National Park. About 30 miles of trails at the summit range from short and easy to long and extremely strenuous.
Investigate your tour options, such as wheth- er to finish at the ocean (not all tours do) and what speed companies want you to keep before you decide to take the ride.
For another biking option, consider the Sky- line Road that descends on the other side of Ha- leakala. Commercial tours aren’t allowed here.
Maggie Savage & Sharon Wootton
Maggie Savage and Sharon Wootton are freelance writers and authors of “Off the Beaten Path: Washington.” They live in the San Juan Islands.
Kayaking over coral reefs with a chance to see green sea turtles is part of the fun in Maui. Photo by Ron Dahlquist Photography.
Hiking the crater comes with caveats, how- ever. Clouds usually gather later in the day, so start early; wear layers because it can be surprisingly cold, even freezing; walk slowly in the thin, dry air. Bring everything you’ll need, including water, because nothing is sold at the three visitors centers.
It’s impossible to judge distances in the im- mense opening, so seeking a ranger’s advice can help you avoid errors and exhaustion. They’ll help you match your fitness and expe- rience to the right trail. Rangers also advise watching for altitude sickness symptoms, such as dizziness, headache, shortness of breath and nausea. If you’re nervous about going down to the crater floor for any reason, take a twice- weekly short ranger-guided walk.
The three biggest surprises in this volcanic landscape are the colors, the cinder cones, and the silversword. As the sun crosses the crater, it transforms the landscape into a palette of browns, grays, reds and rose. Cinder cones rise like sculptures in the desert, hundreds of feet high. The perfect plant in this harsh terrain is the Hawaiian silversword, which only grows on
Walk Through a Lava Tube
We turned off our flashlights and were in the dark. Not dark like lights out in a house, dark as the inside of the Ka’eleku Caverns, also known as the Hana Lava Tube.
Getting here is half the fun: the 52-mile stretch of the Hana Highway from Kahuluii to the caverns features more than 50 one-lane bridges (some historic) and more than 600 sweeping curves.
Chuck Thorne bought the land with access to the lava tube in 1996 and later started Maui Cave Adventures.
Sights along the quarter-mile self-guided tour in the 2-mile-long cavern (the 18th longest in the world) include the Chocolate Waterfall, Her- shey Kisses, Bowling Alley, a rare lava stalag- mite and gold sparkles on the cave walls that are rock-eating bacteria. It’s so interesting that it seems much longer than a standard quarter- mile jaunt. The signage explaining the geology and formations is excellent and is certainly worth reading.
The cavern is also home to white, eyeless