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Hawaii Trip

Day 3 of 14

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Friday, June 29th
Sliding Sands Trail, Haleakala National Park

In the morning, the skies were mostly clear for a change. We hoped they'd stay that way. After breakfast, though, we could see clouds starting to move in. As we drove up Haleakala Highway toward the park, it became worse. By the time we were halfway up the mountain, it was completely cloudy.

The road climbed gradually but relentlessly. We soon reached 4000, then 5000 feet...when we reached the park's entrance and first visitor's center, we were now at about 7000 feet elevation. However, we were now above the clouds! The switch happened almost as soon as we entered the park. Above us now were beautiful blue skies, with the clouds below us.

We reached the visitor's center after a little under an hour of driving from Makawao. The visitor's center is small and crowded, with a few displays, a gift shop, and rangers to answer questions. I stopped to ask about the Sliding Sands trail, which I wanted to do. The ranger also recommended a guided hike near the summit, but it would start at 11am, not giving us much time to get up there (she said they have guided hikes at 9, 10, and 11am). They also have a junior ranger program. If your child completes the rather large booklet that day, they can get a badge. My son got the booklet (which is free) but didn't have time to work on it.

We got back in the car and continued on up the mountain. Blue skies were still visible above us, and below us were puffy white clouds leading down to the Pacific Ocean. It was like being in an airplane, only we were on solid ground.

Some road painting delayed us about 5 minutes, but it still only took about half an hour to get to the visitor's center near the summit. The summit itself is a bit further, but the larger parking lot is at the visitor's center. It also contains the trailhead for the Sliding Sands Trail, which we did next.

After the hike, we explored the visitor's center. It's a small area with a relief map, a few displays, and a gift shop area. Nothing special. Outside there are some nice views of the Sliding Sands Trail and surrounding area.

View from the Haleakala summit visitor center

Next, we continued on up the road to the summit parking area. We walked up to the observation tower, where there are interpretive signs inside a glass enclosure. In the distance we could see the peaks on the Big Island, peeking above the clouds. We could also see the observatories a short distance away, mostly consisting of gleaming white domes. Prevalent in the area were silversword plants (also known as 'ahinahina), dotting the ground like cactus.

View of the Big Island peeking over the clouds from Haleakala summit

Haleakala observatories

Looking down at the summit visitor center

Silversword plant

After enjoying the views, we started the downhill drive back toward Makawao. Shortly, we stopped at the Kalahaku Overlook. The views here are tremendous, definitely better than what's available from the summit or the visitor's center. After enjoying these views, we drove straight back to the Makawao area. On the drive down we drove through the cloud layer (at about 6000 feet elevation), then emerged below the clouds.

View from Kalahaku Overlook

View from Kalahaku Overlook
(Click image to view full size)

After a stop at the grocery for some supplies, we returned to our rental house.

Maui sunset


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