Great first day on Maui and Haleakala! Flew in early on the 5am flight from Oahu and rented my car. Drove up through up country Maui w
hich was beautiful! Really reminded me of the Waimea/Honokaa/Ahualoa area of the Big Island. Amazing drive up Haleakala. There are definitely parts of the road that you wouldn’t want to drive off of. Some steep drops. Got my permits at the visitor center of the park, and then drove up to a parking area a bit below the trail head. It is a loop trail, and the start and finish are at different places, so they recommended that I park lower by the finish and then hitchhike up to the trailhead. More people are driving up early so a better chance of a ride. Plus you are not all stinky from your hike, trying to hitch back to your car. Literally got a ride one second after I stepped out on to the road. Nice couple from Montreal picked up me and another guy. The trail starts near the summit at 10,000 ft. The first part descends down 3000 ft into the crater, and then it was pretty flat the rest of the way. Hiked 10 miles to Paliku campsite. Amazingly beautiful scenery along the way (see Facebook and Instagram for photos). Looked like the moon or Mars much of the way. Red cinder cones and amazing formations. The weather held for me all the way along, but it was very foggy at times. Such rapid changes as clouds spilled over the ridge and nearly totally obscured my view of the trail, then 2 minutes later it was clear again. I got lucky though, because people I met later who had hiked in the day before had gotten heavy rain and hail. Paliku has a cabin that people rent. Nice cabins that sleep 12 with a wood burning stove and kitchen, but you have to reserve them like 6 months in advance and they cost like $75 a night. Tent camping sites are nearby. A group of 11 or 12 was in the cabin when I arrived. Super friendly group who invited me over to hang out in the evening. They were doing it in full style. They had LED lanterns and colorful LED balloons strung all around the cabin, they packed in card games, drinks, etc. So hung with them for a bit, but soon retired to my tent. Had been hosting some friends from Japan the 4 days prior, and between showing then around the island all day, then picking them up from the Salsa in Hawaii event they were performing at at 2am every morning, I didn’t get much sleep. Then the 5am flight to Maui and 10-mile hike in had me pretty exhausted. I went to bed at 8:30pm and slept almost 11 hours! LOL! Definitely getting old. Can’t handle the late nights anymore!
After the long sleep, I got up and got going a bit later than planned. Was probably on the trail by 10:15 or so. Fortunately, the hike was only about 3 hours that day, so I had plenty of time. Trekked through some amazing moon-like landscape for parts of this day- some really inspiring scenery. However, I didn’t get so lucky with the weather this time. Part way through the hike, it started hailing! I had heard from the guys at Paliku that they had gotten hail the day before I started my hike, and I finally got to get the full experience for myself. It was just small hail, maybe a quarter or eighth of an inch, but it came down super heavy and hard, stinging my body as I was hiking. I tried to just push through it, but eventually I had to stop and take out my rain jacket, mainly just to protect my body from the stinging needles of the hail, but also for water and wind protection during the storm. Took a cool video of it, which I posted on Facebook if anyone wants to have a look. The entire ground was white with the ice. Was pretty nuts. But thankfully it passed pretty quickly and I was able to get to my destination at Holua with no other issues. Holua also has a cabin, but this time there was no one in it. I had the whole place to myself, so lots of peace and quiet. The guys the night before told me that the padlock codes for all the cabins in Haleakala were all the same, and that they only get changed every few months, so I tried the code and got in the cabin. I didn’t stay in there, as I had my tent set up and a big reason for the trip was to test out and practice with my gear. But it was cool just to check it out. Those are pretty full on, well-stocked cabins. Wood burning stove, full kitchen, running water, 12 bunks. Nice places and very warm. Someday would be fun to stay in those instead- less stuff to carry. Holua was another nice spot to camp. Very scenic and green, with lots of Nene (native goose) around. Apparently, the Nene went extinct on Maui at one point, but they have been reintroduced and seem to be doing well. They were funny, as they know that the tap outside has running water. So whenever I was walking over to the tap to fill my water, some of the thirsty ones would come over and stand there, staring at me and the tap, obviously wanting water. So I would turn it on super low and they would waddle over and drink their fill. The peace and quiet was nice, although a bit boring sometimes. I didn’t bring a book- just my ipad mini. But it wasn’t full set up yet, so I couldn’t use it as an e-reader. So just chilled in my tent, sat outside and enjoyed the view, listened to music, etc to pass the time. Saw some amazing rainbows as the rain showers passed through the crater.
Final day. On this day it was finally time to pay the piper. The hike had been relatively easy up to this point- the big downhill into the crater on day 1, and then relatively flat the rest of the way. But day 3 meant I had to climb back out about 1000 ft. I got up and going pretty early, anticipating a tough day. And it was a pretty good climb, but not nearly as bad as I had been expecting. The switchbacks were graded quite easily, so it was just a gradual slow climb out. Took me about 2:15 to climb out. The trail is a big loop, but doesn’t start and stop and the same location. I had left my car at the finish, and hitchhiked up to the start on day one, so it was very nice to finish off the long trip at my car and be able to change my clothes and drive down the mountain to go find a good hot meal- found a good Mexican place in Makawao. Overall a great and successful trip. Got to really try out my gear a second time and decide what I want to keep and what I want to exchange when I get back to Portland. REI has a 1-year satisfaction guarantee that will allow me to change out any gear I’m not happy with. There are a couple pieces of gear that I may swap out- rain pants had no drawstring on the waist so kept falling down. Water filter has a leak. Sock liners gave me an allergic skin reaction. Might play with the other pack that I was looking at to see how it fits compared to this one, before making a final decision on which one to carry. Just a few things like that.
Can't believe how quickly the real deal is approaching. Under a month now. It is definitely overwhelming and scary at times. But I am also excited to get going on it. Just feeling like I have spent enough time talking and thinking about it. No matter how tough it will be, I’m just ready to get out there and do it already. My brother and I will be doing a YouTube channel for it (stay tuned), and so have asked the NGO in Thailand to send me short videos of the girls to post on there. I received a bunch the day after finishing this hike and watched them in a coffee shop over breakfast. The videos really made me emotional and reminded me of why I am doing all of this in the first place. Sometimes I kind of lose that with all the planning, gear, trips, etc going on, but these videos really brought everything back front and center and really got me motivated. Certainly, there will be low moments on the trail when I’m bottoming out and struggling to keep going. But on those occasions, I will bring up these videos of the girls and remind myself again why I am doing all this and motivate myself to keep walking. I have also had the good fortune to be put in touch with 2 friends of friends who have completed the AT themselves, and got to talk at length to each of them. Really got some great inside information on what it is really like, got to ask several questions, etc, to really give myself a better feel of what is coming up. Well, ready or not, it’s almost time. Imua!