“It’s going to be 40 degrees. We’re from Minnesota. I don’t need to wear pants.” My life has been littered with the utterances of bad ideas, but this detritus was from the bottom of the barrel. I realized it once we reached the summit of Haleakalā Crater, roughly 45 minutes before sunrise. When I stepped out of the car, I was blasted with an Antarctic wind reminiscent of the McMurdo Station. It actually wasn’t that bad, and my legs weren’t cold, but my light jacket, no hattedness (it would have blown away), and a blanket from the timeshare weren’t enough to keep me from shivering away and to keep Fiona from asking me every five minutes if I was okay (I was). It wasn’t polar vortex cold, but I would recommend wearing all of the clothes if you plan on attending sunrise.
We ate sandwiches in the car as the last vestiges of stargazing were replaced by the pink and orange hues of the looming day. Clouds covered the entire world below us, but on the summit of Haleakala, it was clear above.
About twenty-five minutes before sunrise, we decided to brave the weather and evacuate the warmth of the car. Swaddled together in a blanket, we waited patiently. A tiny sliver of the sun peaked over the horizon and suddenly the clouds were on fire. Not the “HOLY CRAP THAT FARM IS ON FIRE!” moment we had driving past a sugar cane field preparing for harvest at 4 AM. It was a slow burning ember that started to grow at the bottom of the world. The clouds continued to heat and the fire spread until a fully formed sun was birthed just a few minutes later.
Haleakalā translates as the “House of the Sun” and according to our friends at Wikipedia, Haleakalā was home to Māui the Hawaiian trickster. Māui and his grandmom captured the sun and forced it to journey across the sky.
It was one of the most breathtaking moments of my life (and not just because we were at 9,740 feet in the air and it was super windy). To be honest, there’s only one other thing in my life that would get me up at 3:30 in the morning, drive for an hour and a half and then stand in the freezing cold for what was essentially a five minute reward: girls. Happily, I’m married now. History aside, at least with girls, there wasn’t someone with a camera obstructing my view.
The best photos capture what the human eye wants to see. The challenge with Haleakalā is the depth of the views don’t translate well to my point-and-click camera. I see all these dads trailing behind their families with their super-zoom, hyper-shutter, extra-optical-fancy-pants-aperture cameras slung around their next with a diaper bag sized accessory carrier and have to wonder if they actually are taking better pictures than me. They can’t all be photographers on family vacations, or maybe it’s a fancy toy. Is it really worth the effort though? I can snap off a couple of pictures good enough to prompt my memory and then get back to the beauty of what I’m looking at. I’m there for the experience, not the photo.
*Posts several mediocre pictures to his blog*
After the sunrise, we went to the summit and hit a couple of other trails in the park. Mostly, it was vistas of the clouds below. Very enjoyable, but nothing compared to what we were rewarded with the two mile round trip on the Halemauu Trail. This short rocky jaunt was simple compared to our previous day’s hiking. We navigated the rocky path which ended on a cliff where we could toss a ring into the crater of a dormant Mordor, although this is a terrible metaphor.
Haleakalā’s crater was not formed from a massive eruption and collapse, or orcs clambering up the sides, but rather from centuries of have rain wearing away the rocks. As I peered over the edge, the clouds blankets separated into wisps and we had an unobstructed view of the crater below. We lingered, by ourselves, for about ten minutes before we heard two people headed toward us on the path. Our connection to nature broken, we wished them a good morning and worked our way back to the car. Tired and satisfied.