Hiking Haleakalā: A Non-Hiker’s Tale

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October 1, 2013, is a day noted in United States history as the first day of the country’s third-longest government shutdown. This date is also noted in my personal history as the day that I first attempted to visit Haleakalā National Park on Maui, Hawai’i. Leading up to that day, I stopped listening to, watching and reading the news in an effort to safeguard myself against the massive amount of negativity that many news outlets report day in and day out. This strategy, though noble to me then, proved to be naïve later when, on that fateful day, I was being instructed by a park ranger to turn my ride right around and make the long trek back down the volcano. Yes, even U.S. national parks, like awe-inspiring Haleakalā, fell victim to the uninspiring government shutdown.

In March 2015, I tried, a second time, to visit “The House of the Sun.” Before making this attempt, however, I made sure to scan the news to check whether the House, Senate and other branches of the federal government were fully functioning. Thankfully, for my and the rest of the country’s benefit, they were. And so, with a governmental green light and a car full of newly-formed friends, I was able to actualize the goal I originally attempted almost two years earlier of visiting Haleakalā. After my delightful and rather short sojourn atop the volcano, I delighted in knowing that this Maui ‘must-do’ was done and could be successfully checked off my bucket list, never needing to be attempted and/or actualized by me again.

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Stephanie at Haleakala National Park, circa March 2015.

So, how did I end up hiking 17 miles down, through and up Haleakalā’s crater on March 12, 2017? The answer: Love, mixed in with a little nobleness and a lot of naiveté. Nonetheless, I had several allies to guide me through this inordinate ordeal in the form of: a full moon, a blanket of stars, a blazing sun, and a trio of experienced and comparatively cheery hikers, Kunta, Nick and Cissy. Our journey began at Hosmer’s Grove, located within the park, where my hiking party and I camped the night prior. With the sounding of our 1:30am alarms, we set out for Haleakala’s summit to begin our exploration of one of the world’s largest dormant volcanoes.

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Honestly, having never really hiked before, I had no general idea what to expect or what was expected of me. I didn’t even know how long the hike would be; granted, I actually didn’t want to know. “Ignorance is bliss,” right? The only thing that I was not ignorant of, going into this feat, was that I would be hungry. Fortunately for me, Nick’s and my great, hungry minds think alike. During our hike, he basically toted a college-sized refrigerator’s worth of snacks, like fresh broccoli and lettuce, hard-boiled eggs, blocks of cheese and quesadillas. That’s right, quesadillas.

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In addition to Nick’s bounty, there were other memorable moments on our hike, such as chatting about our lives’ twists and turns while navigating the twists and turns of Sliding Sands, watching the moon set only to watch the sun rise on a field of rare Silversword plants, and traversing a lava tube that makes Batman’s Batcave look like a joke.

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Despite the warm camaraderie and Haleakalā’s general splendor, there were definitely some tough paths to plow along the way. There were times when my ankles buckled and my legs felt like lead. And there were times when I seriously questioned my decision-making abilities and overall sanity for agreeing to do the hike in the first place.

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In retrospect, though, I’m glad I did it. Love, food and friendship can take you a long way–they took me 17 beautiful, challenging, scary, seemingly-impossible, glorious miles.

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Stephanie at Haleakala National Park, circa March 2017.

Copyright © 2014-2017 Stephanie Rochelle Redd. All rights reserved.

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