We are usually in a hurry to get somewhere and that keeps us from taking the scenic byways that are truly remarkable. Read more
Category: National Parks
The following is a continuation of Coast of Maine in September 2012 – Boston to Brunswick, Maine.
Driving north from our overnight at America’s Worst Value Inn was a great break from a bad experience. Just north of Bath, the traveler needs to make a choice between the freeway and the coastal road. Speed versus charm. It was an easy choice.
Traffic was light on a Sunday morning and we quickly made our way through the gorgeous communities like Rockland, Thomaston, Belfast, Searsport and Bucksport. Each town was a remarkably well preserved picture of coastal New England and if not for our goal of Acadia National Park, we could have spent a day in any one of those places.
By the time we finally made the turn toward Acadia in the town of Ellsworth, we were already planning our weeks-long trip up the coast for some future date. Read more
A business trip to Boston provided an excellent opportunity to drive the Coast of Maine to Acadia National Park.
But first, a Friday night Red Sox game, made more special for the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park. After a one-hour rain delay, we enjoyed the game, even though the Sox lost. The special treat on the way back to Cambridge was standing next to the conductor at the front window of the train, seeing the tunnels and stations as they approached.
We could have taken the fast route and reached our destination in the first full day, but true to our style, decided to crawl our way up Route 1, the local route that passes through every village and town along the way. Read more
Joshua Tree has to be the nearest national park to a major US city that is known to the fewest people.
Just an hour and half from our home in Pasadena, Joshua Tree is a winter-only kind of place due to the extreme Summer heat in the Mojave Desert.
Its seasonality means it doesn’t enter the minds of LA people who are focused on the LA Basin and things along the highways north and south of Los Angeles. That works out well for having peace and tranquility in a park so close to 17 million people.
Joshua Tree is named for its peculiar trees that are so concentrated there but present all over the Mojave. Up close, they don’t appear to be trees at all and are lousy as fire wood (don’t worry, we only tried to burn pieces we found on the ground). Read more
Few people come to the Hawaiian Islands to camp or hike, but we do both. Beyond the excellent outdoor opportunities, we were married at Secret Cove in Maui and come back each year to get married again by our friend, Pastor Dennis De Rego. What started as a romantic ‘mission’ has become one of friendship and adventure as we’ve found Maui to be an excellent island for both.
After our recent hike from Haleakala Crater to Paliku Campsite in April 2012, we were back to complete the peak-to-ocean journey by completing the lower section from Paliku Campsite to Kaupo Trailhead near the beaches of Southwest Maui. We did our research and found the Kipahulu Campground in the Haleakala National Park, just 12 km (8 mi) from the Kaupo Trailhead and adjacent to the very popular Ohe’o Gulch and its ‘Seven Sacred Pools (locals will tell you they’re not at all sacred), 16 km (10 mi) beyond Hana.
When we first arrived we were almost ready to set up our campsite in the open field that makes up most of the campground. Each site has a picnic table and BBQ grill, and there is a centrally located pit toilet (but no water). We would have been perfectly happy. By chance, we happened to walk the perimeter and discovered sites that were set apart from each other and the rest of the campground and right along the cliffs over the ocean. We were fortunate to find the best campsite we’ve ever had.
The site doesn’t have easy access to the sea, but that’s not the point along this rugged coast. Watching the waves crash on the cliffs is one of the most peaceful activities we know. The steady breeze that blows past this part of Maui brings occasional showers (especially after sunset) but the breezes are steady and cool. Even in the warmest part of the day, the temperature was ideal. As we went to bed, the waves were a soothing way to fall asleep and to wake up in the morning.
Barely a month after hiking the Haleakala Crater to Paliku Campsite, we were back in Maui to hike the remainder of the trail that goes from Paliku Campsite down to the Kaupo Ranch Trailhead. The remaining distance was less than 12 km (7 mi) but a whopping 1800 m (5800 ft) elevation change over that relatively short distance. Instead of going down, as most do, we were going to hike up and down in a single day, meaning 24 km (14 mi) and 3600 m (11,600 ft) of total elevation change.
Kipahulu to Kaupo
We left the world’s greatest campsite at Kipahulu shortly after breakfast and continued clockwise around the island. The village of Kaupo is 13 km (8 mi) from the Kipahulu Area of Haleakala National Park but getting there involves one of the most torturous roads, at times both dirt and paved, in the Hawaiian Islands. There are sharp turns that require horns, and even with warning, meeting an oncoming car in the wrong moment would be disaster. It is a beautiful but deserted drive through the least-populated part of Maui.
At the end of this isolated section and about 100 m before the Kaupo Store (and immediately to the right of the Haleakala National Park sign that you’ll need to see in your mirror, as it faces the other way), is the road that takes you to the trailhead itself. If you thought the road to get this far was rough, wait until you see the final stretch of narrow, broken pavement with tall grass growing in the center that leads to the trailhead.
The trail begins by crossing the Kaupo Ranch, owned by the Baldwin Family since the early days of Hawaiian settlement by Westerners. The trail wanders between wooded paths and ranch roads and at time is steep enough to make traction on the loose lava rocks a challenge. The day was getting warm by late morning and we were happy to make it to the woods at the edge of the Ranch that mark the start of the Haleakala National Park.
While the cool shade was a relief, walking through the high grass was treacherous as it disguised the large lava rocks and holes beneath. We stepped carefully to avoid injuries but didn’t want to slow our very fast pace. It is a dangerous but gorgeous landscape that is beautifully green and lush, a reminder of the constant rains that come as the Trade Winds blow clouds into the peaks above.
Once through the grasslands, the trail climbs a series of perpendicular ridges, each a moment of hope that became just the top of another rise. The trail was good and even appeared to be at times a massive, ancient undertaking like some of the trails we’ve seen in Nepal and Europe.
We were surprised to see little water along the way and few waterfalls along the high ridges to our right as we climbed. This made reaching the water supply at Paliku an important objective as we finished most of our water in the heat of the way up.
Arriving at Paliku Campsite was very similar to our previous hike, with light rain gradually increasing and the temperature dropping as we arrived at what must be the coldest, wettest place in Maui. We made tea near the cabin and finished just as the rain really started to fall. We were quite cold and hurried to make our way back down below that not-so-tropical zone.
Getting back down was easier but didn’t go significantly faster that our ascent, as so many sections had loose footing or grass-hidden obstacles. We were very sore when we finally reached the car, but realized we had just completed a significant challenge, perhaps one of the toughest we’ve done. We’ll be back to Maui, but first we need to tackle the Big Island and its even higher heights.
The following is a continuation of Hiking the Halemau’u Trail to the Paliku Campsite at Haleakala National Park.
One of the best parts of camping is sleeping when the sun sets and waking when it rises. We were awake a little after 5am with the pleasure of enormous slugs crawling on the tent’s screen. It rained extremely hard during the night, leaving us wondering if there would be a flash flood on the hillside where we were camped. Fortunately, by the light of day the rain slowed down to a drizzle.
We made our breakfast and debated the best way to pack up our soaked tent. We finally decided that the best approach wasn’t to wait for the rain to stop, but to move as quickly as possible once we emerged. We packed the backpacks first so that the tent breakdown was as simple as dropping the poles, pulling the stakes and rolling up the rest.
We were essentially dry as we left the campsite but our pants were quickly soaked as we walked through light rain and wet vegetation. It was warm enough for us to be comfortable and we were delighted with rainbows over our trail as we hiked back toward the Haleakala Crater.
Even though we’d walked this route, by morning and in a different light, it was like a new adventure. We stopped for an early lunch at the first lava flow just as we left the rain behind, and were soon hiking once again through the lunar landscape of the Haleakala Crater. Our trip on day two was significantly more uphill and we could feel it.
Once across the Crater, we once again entered the rainy area that gradually became more green and less desolate. The final nearly 7 km (4.2 miles) was entirely uphill but a great way to finish such an amazing hike. The Halemau’u Trail is an excellent adventure for those who come prepared for the many climates of this unique landscape.
The Halemauu Trail to the Paliku Wilderness Campsite is not a two-day hike for the casual hiker. Fortunately, we’re no casual hikers and were well-prepared for the altitude, wet, cold and 32.8 km (20.4 miles) round trip. We paid our $10 to enter the park for three days, and made our way to the Haleakala National Park Visitors Center to get our free permits and to watch the mandatory video, “Leave No Trace.” We were skeptical about having to learn again about the philosophy we already practice, but it turned out to be a very good video that every national park should have.
The Halemau’u Trail starts at 2435 m (7,990 ft) on the main road through the park. By the time we grabbed our gear and left our car at the parking lot, we were enveloped in a mist that brought the kind of rain that only happens as clouds try to push over 3,055 m (10,023 ft) Haleakala shield volcano. It is so large that it takes up 75% of the land area of Maui and dictates the weather for most of the island.
The trail leaves the parking lot as a fairly straight path that passes through scrub before beginning a significant descent of the West Crater Wall to the Ko’olau Gap at the floor of the Haleakala Crater. The trail in places is cut from sheer lava rock cliffs and represents an enormous amount of effort on the part of the National Park Service. Each turn that faced toward the sea brought rainy mist, and each turn away brought relief from the wet.
The descent section lasted nearly three miles and left us ready to hike on more level ground. We’ve always found going down to be tougher on our bodies and more risky than climbing even steep trails. Add wet rocks and loose gravel and you have a recipe for injury.
Once off the cliff trail, we found an excellent place to have lunch just inside a gate that was constructed to keep feral goats out of the park and away from the silversword, a plant unique to Haleakala National Park. We made ramen noodles and brewed up tea as we rested our legs and enjoyed taking off our packs for a bit.
Soon after eating, we started once again down the trail and soon entered an area of lava flows that had remarkable formations that made the landscape appear apocalyptic. There were patches of pahoehoe (smooth, sometimes ropey-looking lava) and a’a, the jagged lava that is nearly impossible to walk across, leading to jokes that a’a is the sound you make when you try. At one point, we found lava chutes that still bore the evidence of lava flowing from underground even centuries after the last eruption.
Soon after the lava flow section, we entered an area that could best be called desert. We were fortunate that it rained recently and the footing was better than usual. Still, we felt our energy slipping away on the soft trail. This section didn’t last very long and we were soon back on hardpack trail.
The landscape of the center section of our hike could best be described as lunar. We made our way around several cinder cones that looked like they could have erupted just recently, though we knew that not to be true. Lacking water in the rain shadow of the Crater’s walls, erosion takes place very slowly without vegetation to help break down the rock. In fact, one of the only plants is the silversword, unique to this location and possibly one of the hardiest plants on the planet.
Leaving the Crater floor meant a return of vegetation, but also of rain. We also reentered an enormous lava flow that managed to wind its way through man-made and natural pathways. The mist became closer as we descended and soon we were again enveloped in the light rain of a cloud.
At 6,380 feet (1,945m), Paliku is located on the east end of a beautiful valley at the base of a rain forest cliff. We were very happy to arrive and quickly looked for a campsite. Unfortunately, just as we began to unpack, the rain started coming down very hard and the inside of our mostly-screen tent was soaked before we could cover it with the rainfly. Jeanne spent the next several minutes drying the tent floor as best she could, but the damage was done and we would have a wet tent for the the night. We spent the next two hours eating salami, our dried mangos and sunflower seeds. Darkness arrived at 7pm, and we were fast asleep minutes later.