I’ve been to Haleakalā (the massive shield volcano that makes up 75% of Maui) before. I’ve endured (never driven. Not that I can’t drive, mind you, but as I have freely admitted more than once: I possess absolutely no Fahrvergnügen whatsoever.) a few treks up the volcano and seen the sun rise as well as set from that vantage point.
What I’ve never done is spend a night at 10,000 feet…until recently.
Now let me preface by saying I was sold a load of goods on this one. I was told it was a magical place (not that it isn’t. I had some weird ass Braco-esque experiences, as you will soon hear, but I don’t know that that wasn’t the elevation talking) where the native Hawaiians would go on visions quests and walkabouts. I’m all about vision quests and walkabouts…at least in theory.
One thing about Helleakalā – as I have renamed it – is that it is COLD. 40’s at night cold. Snows every few years cold. COLD! On Maui. Who leaves the beach to go and be cold? Well, me, for one, apparently.
So minus the cold and some pretty intense fog/mist business (which it turns out is a good thing if you’re flipped out by the sight of sheer rock edges promising deadly 1000-foot falls), the hike in wasn’t half bad. It was long as hell, mind you, the fours miles to the cabin took TWO HOURS, but we had things slowing us down like backpacks and the fact that it was rainy at times. Also, I did stop quite a bit near the end to take some pictures…and thank god, ‘cause I was too terrified to do any picture-taking on the way back.
At any rate, we got to the cabin around 5pm. Neither of us had ever stayed in them before, but we’d read the information provided by the national park service and knew to expect to find a wood burning stove and firewood, a propane cook top, non-potable water, an outhouse, and beds for twelve. Somehow – quite stupidly in hindsight – we made the mutual assumption that “beds for twelve” meant 12 bunk beds with mattresses that could pulled off and stacked on the floor.
Have you ever slept on a diner booth? Well, if you’ve rented a cabin on Helleakalā, you have! Yep. I suppose I should have predicted as much, but the “bedding” consists of twelve thin sections of cotton or maybe hay covered with vinyl and stacked as bunk beds. Luxurious and/or comfortable, it is not. There was also a gigantic but extremely beat up and carved upon wood table hogging up the entire room. Too bad there aren’t any businesses like Funky Furniture Hire here on Maui where they could spruce the place up a bit.
At any rate, after swearing off the heinous port-o-potty in favor peeing in the wild amongst the Nene, the night was more or less uneventful. Well, minus the part where I was urged to go look at the moon, stepped out the front door of the cabin and forgot entirely about the three steps down to the ground. Ouch. With a fresh twisted ankle and a four-mile uphill hike ahead of me the next day, I fell soundly asleep on my diner booth.
We had heard that campers (there’s a camp ground about a half mile away from the cabin. God help you if you decide to camp.) often show up at the cabin in the middle of the night begging to come inside because they’re cold and/or hungry, but happily that didn’t happen. HOWEVER, at roughly 8:00am, I awoke to the sound of an entire family standing outside and peering in the uncovered windows of the cabin to see what was going on. The door was unlocked and another family even barged inside. People come to watch the sunrise and (apparently) follow that up with a hike down to the cabin. As it was raining and misting, most of these people wanted to hang out and be fed, which I guess I understand, although it does feel super awkward to have paid $75 for a place for the night and suddenly having to host a bunch of strangers when you just woke up.
That stated, it was soon time to bust a move and get a dose of the wrath of Pele’s former home. It may not be erupting anymore, but it still can provide a brutal beat down. Who says you need lava to really suffer??? Helleakalā has other tricks up her sleeve…
***to be continued***