Up on Haleakala

Up on Haleakala

We had decided that we would spend our second morning up at the summit of Mt. Haleakala.  For many people, they go to the top of Haleakala because they have read, learned or been told that it is the place to watch sunrise on Maui.  My reason was a bit more personal.  The first ship I served on in the Navy was a Siribachi Class ammunition supply ship called U.S.S. Haleakala (AE-25).  Within the design of the ship’s seal was a silversword cactus, a rare succulent unique to the Haleakala crater.  I was determined that I ever made it to Maui, I would summit the mountain and see the silversword cacti for myself.


As a nature photographer, I am quite accustomed to getting up when it is still quite dark to go to some location to photograph first light.  I am also used to being the only person, or one of a small group at most if it is a well-known location, photographing at that location.  It is highly unusual to be one of a large crowd.  It started with a parade of vehicles going up the long, winding road to the 10,000-foot summit.  When we arrived at the end of the road at around 5:45 a.m., well over an hour before sunrise and still in the pitch darkness, the parking lot was nearly full and there was already a sizeable crowd waiting in the shelter at the summit. 


Michelle and I stayed outside, having brought a blanket for Michelle to keep warm.  I was dressed in full thermal layers, hat, gloves – everything I would need to keep warm as I waited for the light.  As the sky grew brighter, the colors began to develop and grow more vivid as sunrise approached.  The moon was also rising, showing just a sliver of light on its lower left side.  The colors peaked and then quickly faded about fifteen minutes before the sun actually peeked up over the clouds on the horizon.  A park ranger directed us to the view behind, where Haleakala was casting its own shadow in a point reaching out to the west side of the island.


After sunrise, I spent a little time searching for a silversword that was out in the sunlight, finding one that offered me the opportunity to photograph it in its moon-like landscape.  While the light was starting to already get harsh, even at only 7:30, we stopped so I could photograph down into the crater.  The light was prohibitive for photographing the cinder cones, so I instead focused on some craggy rock formations on the north side.


After Haleakala, we had breakfast at the Kula Sandlewood Café.  Not spectacular food, but good at a good price and a fantastic location, just at the bottom of the long, winding road up the mountain.  After breakfast, we chatted with a family visiting from the San Francisco area, and they suggested we visit a nearby lavender farm.  Located on the Waipoli Road, the Alii Kula Lavender Farm lies on a steep slope with expansive views of the western side of the island.  With a gazebo, exquisitely-manicured grounds, benches, and tables, it is a great destination for a picnic or a wedding.  And, of course, while you are there, don’t forget to visit the gift shop for a plethora of lavender products. 



We finished out the evening with a muted but colorful sunset from Kamaole II Beach near our condo.  An anchored sailboat off the shore added a nice element.




One Response to “Up on Haleakala”

  1. Al McDermid Says:

    The U.S.S. Haleakala was my first ship as well (’74-’76). When did you serves on her?

    Excellent shots of the crater, by the way. I hiked into it once, but could handle the altitude.

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