I awake to the sound of Nene loudly squawking – music to my ears.
Crawling out of my tent, I see smoke rising from the nearby cabin for which my anonymous hiker friends paid $75. What a joke.
Going back to sleep is an attractive an option at this point, but I decide to get moving before the sun turns the crater into a hiker oven. I say my goodbyes to the Nene, and begin down the trail once again.
The grueling incline of the Kaupo Gap Trail is lost inside the crater, but I know that before I reach the summit there remain almost 3,000 vertical feet to be gained.
I leisurely make my way through the crater and come across a sign informing me that I have come two miles, and that the second cabin (and water source) is just two miles away. As an added bonus, I know that I am not lost (I really do have a problem with thinking that I am lost whilst adventuring in the wilderness).
My trek continues for what seems like much longer than the first two miles until I finally come upon cabin number two. Time for some breakfast. Two Clif bars later I am parched, and so I go search for the water spicket. I find nothing.
Inside the cabin I can hear what sounds like a man, a woman, and two children. Maybe the water is in there?
I do not want to frighten the children and so I post up at the picnic table outside, pretending to be entertained by the Nene while I wait for someone inside to show themselves.
My plan proves fruitless as I end up sitting with some fairly tame Nene for much longer than I had hoped. Not too worried about dehydration or sunstroke I set off for the summit sans water. There will always be accommodating day hikers should my need for hydration become a real issue.
Six miles to the summit now, the landscape has now morphed into that of Tatooine. A barren red sand desert with tusken raiders lurking behind every corner. I would be wise to mind my surroundings. Looks like that machete will come in handy after all.
I walk for close to an hour on a straight, wide, and perfectly flat trail before I see the climb out of the crater ahead of me. Part of me had hoped this climb would never come.
Making my way up the inside of the crater I now regret not having solicited cabin number two for water. But there will be water at the summit, I am sure. This particular trail is called the Sliding Sands Trail because, according to a ranger I spoke to, you slide back one step for every two that you take. Obviously this ranger has yet to hike this trail because despite the trail being quite sandy at times, no such slippage occurred.
As I approach the top of the trail I am crushed to learn that I have been climbing to a false summit. Ahead of me lies another straightaway and an even longer (and steeper looking) climb to what I can only hope is the true crater rim.
Now, exhausted, I stop to catch my breath. Behind me I see two hikers coming my direction, and gaining on me quickly. Where did these two come from? Determined to out-hike these strangers with whom I now had an imagined rivalry, I press on to the base of the second climb. I push too hard. Checking their status, I can see that they have continued to gain on me.
Accepting defeat I shamelessly fake a snack break and wait for them to catch up. It doesn’t take long. My hiking rivals are two guys from Switzerland, who watched to sunrise at the summit, and then hiked down into the crater. They took an alternate route on the way down, which explains why I had not seen them earlier. We talk for a bit and begin hiking together.
I kill myself trying to keep up with them.
Every stride puts them a few inches ahead of me, and I quickly fall behind. Despite my telling them to go on ahead, they insist on sticking with me. What gentlemen, those Swiss.
Passing every other hiker on the trail, we soon make it to the summit (following many “photo” breaks). I have successfully made it from 0 to 10,000 feet. I think Everest is next.
My hiking buddies offer to give me a ride home, despite it being out of their way, and we set off down the other side of the volcano (but this time with air-conditioning).
Upon coming within a quarter-mile of the highway we encounter a police car blocking the road. This is the only road down Haleakala, and so short of driving back to the top, we are stuck.
Two fire trucks pull up in back of the cruiser, and as a line of cars backs up behind us. A power line is down on the side of the road and it has ignited a brush fire. We were not allowed to pass for an hour.
Eventually the fire is extinguished and the road is deemed safe for vehicular travel once more. Half an hour later I have reached my destination and my Haleakala adventure is over.
THE PAST: Haleakala Day 2: Up The Kaupo Gap Trail
THE MORE PAST: Haleakala Day 1: Hitching To Hana & Beyond