“It does not matter how slow you go so long as you do not stop.”-Confucius
As I wind down my time in Maui, moments of fun are part of the package. The last hike, Sliding Sands in Haleakala National Park provided the most intense test of stamina. Papa Bear (Henry) and the grizzlies took on the challenge of cold, depth of the hike mixed with a little misbehavior.
I waited in the parking lot at the approved 6 a.m. time with no one else in sight. Ten to fifteen minutes later, Henry showed. I thought the thing would be a bust but Garner and Christen appeared. At the last-minute John also joined the team. We all dressed in layers anticipating the cold air that surrounds the summit. As usual, we started with a photo shoot prior to heading out. After loading up our gear, we started at 08:35 with excitement of this new journey.
I must admit it was fun hanging with the guys. There is a different energy that comes with the turf that allows for fun that only “bad boys” give. They do things like getting off the trail in the direction that the warning signs say not to. During this hike, there are no mile markers, restrooms or port-a-pots. When I had to create my own bathroom, they were polite enough to straddle far enough away not to notice but stay within the area and not leave me stranded.
Sliding Sands is a unusual area that gives one the impression of walking on the moon. It’s vastness is overwhelming and the colors are bland by comparison of other trails I’ve taken. During our descent, the climate went from cold to hot and cold again. Dressing in layers kept our bodies protected from the elements without much worry. We were all-wise enough to pack enough snacks and fluids to stay hydrated and comfortable while we shared our bounty with one another.
The volcanic crater lends way to several cinder cones seen as you begin your decent. A rare plant called the silversword, grows in few places on the islands with one of them in Haleakala. It is said that they are relative to the sunflower and can live up to 50 years. We continued our hike and stopped when we reached a cone of rust and light brown colors. It was here that the fun began as we relaxed after reaching the area at 1010.
The cold air keeps us alive with needed energy to feel like kids without parents around. We laughed, joked and some of them climbed rocks and posed. With them, I laughed hard and long to the point my ribs were in pain. We shot photos, some naughty others nice. I had them do jump shots which gives off a different type of energy. Garner and Christen pretended to be superman in flight, John had incredible height, and Henry went as high and out as possible. They were so obliging and fun that I shot more of them, alone and as a team.
That’s what they were a team, my buddies on this last hike of my time in Maui. There hung a silent code of protection from each one, true gentlemen. On the return of a long and arduous hike back, I decided to be bad and follow them up a forbidden path. As all things in balance (ying and yang, this or that) would have it, a ranger busted us, yelling to get out the area and return to the trail. Henry, who completed the first incline, watched and laughed. The one time I wanted to be bad I get into trouble.
The cold air picked at our skin, while it whispered around my ears and made them numb. The thin air and altitude didn’t help as I struggled to stay with the group. To look at us, we appeared like strung out beads not quite balanced. Allow for extra time to return to your starting point for the climb is a challenge for even the advance hiker. As the last to arrive to the starting point, I felt like a loser that they had to wait for me. When it was over Papa Bear gave me a hug and a cheer, “Yea, you made it.” In the long run I guess that’s all that really matters.