Saturday, April 28, 2012

Maui, Hawaii - Day 8 Haleakala Crater

Today we're heading out to see a volcanic crater.  We could have gotten up super early and driven to see sunrise, but neither of us felt like doing that.  Instead, we decided we'd go watch the sun set and then try to get some pictures of stars.  After waking up around 9:30 and just chilling around the hotel room, we left around 10:30am.  Eventually we'll be driving through these clouds to get up to the top of the crater.

Like most trips around the island, we had to drive through the center and ended up stopping at a mall at a korean bbq place that got decent reviews.  The mall was nice enough, the portions we both got for our food was huge.  We could have split one order and could have been happy.  They gave you 2 scoops of rice, 4 side dishes, plus about a pound of boneless bbq chicken.  Glad I skipped breakfast. 

 In the center of the mall there was a small farmer's market.  Even after the huge lunch, Theresa still felt like grabbing some bananas for later.

Afterwards, we started out on the road to the crater.  It's about a 2 hour drive to the summit and there's plenty of windy roads.  The worst part was that we were going through a lot of fog and visibility was terrible.  It was really just low lying clouds since we were climbing from sea level up to 10000 feet in less than 30 miles.  There were points where I could barely see 2 car lengths in front of me, and this was with lots of 180 turns and narrow mountain roads.  Eventually we made it into the National Park and as luck would have it, it's National Park week and we didn't have to pay $10 to get in.  Along the road up the mountain in all the fog, occasionally we rode up on some bicyclist making their way up the hill.  Why I have no idea.  Already it seems dangerous to bike up a hill with that many blind corners.  To do so in the fog is asking for even more trouble.  Just as we hit 7000 feet, it seemed like we just stepped right out of the clouds.  It was super foggy one minute, and then it's completely clear the next.  Crazy.

We stopped at a trailhead around 7500 feet and took a 1.25 mile hike out to see the crater.  The hike wasn't too bad. 

Some interesting plants along the way.

We got to the end where we could see the crater, hung out for a couple minutes and then headed back.

At the edge of the crater.

Theresa even almost stepped on a mouse that was crossing the trail on the way back.

Then we jumped in the car and drove up to the visitors center just below the summit. There were some really cool views into the crater.  I took a few panoramic shots here.

And we tried to get a photo together, but looking into the sun, I was all squinty.

Here we explored the area a little bit, took a small hike to a bigger hill, then we drove up to the summit.  They've got these interesting Silver Sword plants that grow up here.

At the peak we looked at the observation building that people crowd into to view the sunset, explored the rest of the summit, and then jumped back into the car.  

The sun wasn't going to set for another 2 hours.  Good thing we brought our kindles. 

While waiting and reading, a couple Nene geese happened by.  I jumped out of the car and took a couple shots of them before they ran off.

Dinner was just cans of cold ravioli with no utensils because even though we thought of most everything and had packed the day before, forks didn't make the list.  As sunset got closer, the top got more and more crowded.  

With 15 minutes to go, we hopped out of the car and claimed our spot on the ridge.  It was pretty windy and getting more and more cold, so we took a small trail just 10 feet down from the summit and it made a huge difference.  With no wind, the temperature was actually pleasant.  The sunset didn't disappoint.

There was a huge layer of clouds that we had come through earlier, and the sun lit those up pretty well

With the sun down, the temperature started dropping fast.  We drove back down to the visitors center lot and waited for the sky to darken and the stars come out.  The stars did come out, but unfortunately the moon was out too.  It was a quarter moon, but it was still bright enough to light up a lot of the sky.  I took a few photos but in the end it was just too bright.  That didn't keep me and Theresa from trying though.  We stood out and froze while my camera was taking multiple 30 second exposures.

We didn't have any blankets or anything, but we did have hotel issued beach towels.  Theresa's making good use of them here.  Theresa also said that tomorrow, she's laying out in the sun to make up for freezing tonight.  

I really wanted to get a photo of the crater with stars surrounding it, but the best views were where all the wind was coming through.  So with all my layers of clothes, plus a hotel towel acting as another layer, I stood out in the freezing wind to rotate the camera slightly every 30 seconds to get a cool end result.

It's getting pretty cold.  We packed it up and drove down the mountain, all in low gear to save on the brakes.  With good visibility and clear roads, we were back to the hotel after about 2 hours.  Not too bad.  We finished the night by both taking warm showers. Tomorrow is our last full day of relaxing while we're here.  We hope to make the most of it!

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