“With every rising of the sun, Think of your life as just begun.”-Ella Wheeler Wilcox
At 2:45 a.m., I shake off the deep voices of the night to venture into the darkness to watch the sun rise. To many this is an insane thing to do but for me it becomes a challenge worth taking.
Departing from the Kihei area at 3:10 , the drive time to the summit of Haleakala is two hours. For those traveling from Kipahulu will be 3-4 hours. The weather is unpredictable so I pack and dress for the unexpected. A long sleeve shirt, topped with a short-sleeved T-shirt, jeans and trek shoes. In my bundle I pack a thick jacket, my quilt and grab my backpack. The chase for the sun was on. The cool night air and clear sky welcomed me. Sunrise predication is 6:28 a.m. and I wanted to witness the show.
Driving conditions this morning are easy but you must stay alert to steep turns, rocks, cattle and heavy traffic. Health conditions is a consideration also. The high altitude could be difficult for those with respiratory or heart conditions (I used my inhaler prior to the climb and kept it close by). The summit is 30 degrees colder than the beaches.
At 6,700 ft. elevation, I stopped at the entrance to Haleakala to pay the entrance fee of 10.00 dollars. Keep your receipt. It allows access into the park for two extra days from your original visit. Gas up before the trip and bring your own food and drinks since there are no food or gas stations within the park. The 37 mile drive from sea level to the Pu’u’ula’ula summit is 10,023 ft., an unforgettable and shared trek. Numerous cars and tour buses fill the parking lot and await the spectacle. A flight of stairs lead to a glass shelter were people found refuge from the cold. Others, like myself, lined up along the stone wall outside, bundled in coats and blankets with cameras, some mounted on tripods, awaiting natures waking.
Spindly slivers of light in the east gives notice that the sun is on its way. In the dark, I can make out the shadows of the clouds that linger in the air. For a moment, I feel as though I’m suspended between heaven and earth. The skies color changed again this time to a pale yellow. I hear the click of camera shutters and whispers of conversations in different languages all around me. “Here she comes,” I say more to myself than to any particular person as the sun crowns the horizon. From that moment there was no stopping it. The sun wanted its presence known as it pushed up.
This is unlike the sunrises that I’ve witnessed on any beach. It felt like a secret shared among a select few. The clouds became lighter in color and more pronounced in structure. Within fifteen minutes after its crowning, it reached its fullness and the “ah” of the moment ended. People dispersed to their cars to seek warmth. Others continued to photograph the area, friends or themselves with the morning light as a backdrop. There are observatories in the area but closed to the public.
At the Haleakala Visitor Center in the summit area, you have access to bathroom facilities, a gift shop and a Park Ranger that gives presentations about the volcano and its history. Hiking trails like the Sliding Sands, are rugged and strenuous. Be responsible and courteous to the trail areas for future generations. Leleiwi Overlook provides a view of the amazing volcanic vents called cinder cones which mark younger eruption sites.