Hidden Maui – Here’s to the Ones Who Dream

Stopping to smell the flowers on my adventure in Maui.

Few people go to Maui to spend it freezing in a tent in the rain. I know this because in three days of hiking through Haleakala National Park, I did not see another soul on the backcountry trails. And I wouldn’t have traded my experience for three extra days on the beach. No way.

Day 1: Circle of Waterfalls

She smiled
Leapt, without looking
And tumbled into the Seine
The water was freezing
She spent a month sneezing
But said she would do it again…

from Audition, La La Land

With a time change of four hours, we were up bright and early and left the hotel in the dark to avoid the alleged difficult road and traffic on the Hana Highway. Our goal–circle the east side of Maui, seeking out awesome pools and waterfalls.

Our route around the island on the first day started at 4:30 AM.

We had the highway to ourselves and were able to hike to our first hidden pool by the light of our headlamps. We drove off the highway for a detour to see the sunrise at Hanomanu Bay.

At about mile marker 17 we got out to hike down to the often missed Ching’s Pond. I got my wake up call with a cold dip at 7 AM.

A dozen awesome waterfalls later, we landed on the southeast side of Maui at the base of Haleakala National Park to hike the 4-mile Pipiwai Trail through an incredible bamboo forest up to Waimoku Falls.

The bamboo forest sang to us in the wind, like a impromptu percussion concert.

Waimoku Falls is just one of many waterfalls we admired on our first day.

Day one complete. Our warm up for what Haleakala had to dish out the next 2 days.

Day 2: Summit to Paliku

She told me
“A bit of madness is key
To give us new colors to see
Who knows where it will lead us?
And that’s why they need us”

from Audition, La La Land

In the morning, we drove to the 10,000 ft. summit of Haleakala to find the crater below invisible–completely socked in with clouds. We dropped off our gear at the visitor’s center then staged a car at the Halemalu’u Trailhead. My husband hitched a ride back to the summit via the handy hiker’s hitching spot.

Day two the yellow line. Day three the blue line.

We took the Sliding Sands Trail all the way to Paliku (yellow line above), a wilderness backcountry campsite.

Dropping into the crater on the Sliding Sands Trail.

We stopped for lunch at the Kapalaoa trail junction for a snack after descending 2490 feet and traveling 5.6 miles.

The Nene Goose, endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, stopped by to say hello at the halfway point.

We continued for the next two miles through a hot and rough trail of lava rock. The last mile offered relief from the rock and descended down into the Kaupo gap.  We reached the Paliku campsite after a total of a 3360 ft elevation drop and 9.1 mile hike from our starting position. The total walk took us 5.5 hours.

We had a few hours to set up camp before the gap became completely socked in with clouds, wind, and rain. During that time, I took a stroll before sunset down part of the Kaupo trail to get a good view of the ocean and the 13,000 ft. Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanos in the distance on The Big Island.

This is the part where I am freezing in Hawaii.

Day 3:  Paliku to Halemalu’u

She captured a feeling
Sky with no ceiling
The sunset inside a frame
 
from Audition, La La Land

After epic winds and rain pelted our tent all night, a sudden calm woke me at 3:30 AM. We got out of the tent and were treated to a sky filled with so many stars there was hardly room for the inky blackness to spill between them. After 30 minutes of “wow” we slept until dawn and were met with rain again in the morning as we began our wet hike out via the Halemalu’u Trail.

We were treated with a new landscape on the way back, less sharp lava and more “grassland-like” terrain for the first 5K. Then our landscape turned into a walk on “Mars” for the next 5K until we reached the wilderness camp of Holua.

For three miles we felt like we were on another planet.

After lunch we had the grueling job of climbing out of the crater on a 3.7 mile switchback up 1000 ft. to Halemalu’u overlook where we staged the car. A total of 10.3 miles for Day 3.

A whole new climate and terrain treated us with views of the gap on the opposite side of the crater on our steep hike out.

Were we tired? Yes. Were we sore? Yes. Were we glad we did Hawaii differently? Yes.

And, yes, I’d do it again.

2 thoughts on “Hidden Maui – Here’s to the Ones Who Dream

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