Shamelessly inspired by my sister-in-law’s family (who completed their goal of seeing a baseball game in every major league stadium last year) our family has decided to attempt to see all of the national parks in a similar fashion. The rules are only that 1) it has to be a trip where all 4 of us are there (so prior trips by Sweet Husband or I don’t count) and 2) we are loosely attempting to be finished before the Kid moves out. (Although, conditioned upon rule 1, we could keep going as long as he’s willing. Because Alaska has a lot of really big parks and we’re going to have to save up for that trip to American Samoa.)
For no other reason than that it meshed with our already made travel plans, our first park was Haleakala (Hah-le-ah-kah-lah) in Maui.
Haleakala is really almost 2 parks. There’s the summit district, which is the top of a volcano, and a jungle/waterfall side, which is on the southeast coast of Maui. We saw the jungle side first, making it the final stop on our “Road to Hana” day.
We hiked most of the Pipiwai Trail, up to some beautiful waterfalls and bamboo forests. While everything was especially lovely in early evening light, I was a little sad that we didn’t make it there earlier in the day.
The trail was doable for the kids, but not super easy. Because we’d left it to the end of the day, the kids were tired (and a little whine-y), and even Sweet Husband and I didn’t really want to end up walking back on the trail in the dark with no headlamps. As such, although we got to see a lot, we didn’t quite make it all the way up the 4-mile round trip trail.
Also, we ended up driving the hairpin Hana highway back to our resort almost completely in the dark and rain, which was…um, an experience. (Props to Sweet Husband for being a cool-as-a-cucumber driver.)
We (or perhaps more accurately, I) decided that, for our trip to the volcano part of the park, we would go at sunrise.
Sunrise at the top of Haleakala is such a “thing” these days that you have to buy a ticket. As off-putting as that sounds, the group of people at the top were all in such good humor (and there really weren’t that many people) that it actually made it more fun. Anyone who’s willing to get up at 3 a.m. and drive 2 hours to watch sunrise from the top of a volcano is probably a kindred spirit, yes?
And also, yes, it was worth it. I consider myself a good judge of sunrises, and this one was unique. Pictures can’t do it justice, but the clouds looked like they were on fire as the sun lit them up with silver and gold from below.
What was hard to deal with was the wind that morning. It was between 40 and 50 miles per hour. We were able to dart in and out of the enclosed shelter at the summit to watch the sunrise, but there was no question of lingering afterwards.
Instead, we headed down to the visitor’s center, and let the kids earn their first junior ranger badge. (Which was hilarious!)
After that, we thought we might try a really short hike at the (slightly) lower elevation, but the wind was still just too much. (I was literally holding onto Little Miss because I was afraid she might blow away.) We headed back down the volcano for a warm cup of coffee and more beach-y climes.