Haleakala and Near Death on the Crest

Aloha Friends,

Much has happened since my last post so I will just start from where I left off.

Ariel, Jeff, and I set out on a weekend excursion to Haleakala, the biggest mountain on Maui and from its base (below the sea) to summit it is the tallest mountain in the world. It is famous for its BREATHTAKING sunrise view from the summit, and we wanted to experience it firsthand. I had been to Haleakala before as a kid but only briefly as it was so cold we only got out long enough to take a picture. This time I wanted to experience it to the fullest, by hiking to the summit for sunrise and into the crater itself.

On Friday, we got a late start, as we were all tired from the Pohole (pronounced: pah-hole-lay) harvest the day before. But I was determined to not get sucked in to the lethargy that the rain on the mountain was creating. I did my best to rally the troops and once we all got on board with the idea we started packing and getting everything together that we needed for the trip. As we were about to leave, the others on the farm said we had no chance to get there in a reasonable time frame because we were leaving so late and no one was going that way this time of day (it was about 3-4pm). But we carried on and paid no heed to their warnings. We got a ride from a nice lady into town then started walking. Our first destination was Paia, which is back up the Hana Highway about two hours. Once in town, we started walking and did not get picked up until we were on the outskirts of town when a truck finally pulled over. We told him where we were heading and he laughed and almost drove away, but we caught him and asked him to take us as far as he would go. Which as it turned out was only 2 minutes up the road. As we got out of his truck we saw another one coming down the road and managed to get him to stop. We told him we were heading to Paia and as Maui would have it, HE WAS TOO!! We hop in the back and laugh at our good fortune. This guy turned out to be the nicest guy we were ever picked up by. He pulled over at a rest stop when it started raining a bit and said he had room in the cab for 2 of us, which we politely declined then offered us food (fried chicken, french fries, homemade bread, and a sprite). We gladly accepted and got back on the road. The rain picked up a bit and we got a little wet but it was cool to see all the amazing views from the back of a pickup.

We arrived in Paia and started asking some locals where we might be able to camp for the night. We met a lady who lives in Philly and she told us there really wasn't much to offer in terms of camping. From Paia, we went to the neighboring town of Kahului so we could stock up on supplies at Wal-Mart. We got picked up by another nice guy who turned out to be a Christian rapper. He spit some rhymes for us, much to our amusement, and offered us a place to stay in his home, but again, we respectfully declined saying we had camping arrangements. We spent a couple hours at Wal-Mart and got a few things and when we left it was already dark out, which is a hitch hikers worst nightmare, as drivers won't have time to identify you as a hitch hiker therefore will not pick you up. As a result, we wandered from different places trying to get picked up to no avail. After we made signs, begged and pleaded with passing cars, and 2 hours of walking around we finally got picked up by a truck heading our direction. We went back to Paia to camp on the beach which turned out to be a great decision. Paia is so small we found a nice little corner of the beach and made camp. It took us another 2 hours to get a fire started because it was so windy where we were. Once our fire was going, we happily started chowing down on our dinner for the night: cliff bars, animal crackers, sour patch kids, gummy bears, cheez-its, and other various healthy foods. When it came time for bed, we only packed 2 sleeping bags, so we laid one down on the ground, and one over top and all squeezed in good and close (I ended up being in the middle) for a good nights sleep.

Waking up and walking 10 feet to the beach is something I have not been able to do for a long time and it certainly felt good. We relaxed on the beach a bit and went for a quick swim. Around noon we packed up camp and headed into town to get some things and ate lunch. After lunch, we started our walk towards the mountain. We walked in the heat for what seemed like miles before we got picked up and taken to the next town called Makawao. We immediately got another ride to the Haleakala Highway (which was about a 5 minute drive from where we were dropped off). Once on the highway we walked maybe 100 yards before we were picked up again and taken to Kula which is where the park entrance to the mountain is. We had to walk from where she dropped us off to the Kula Lodge, a place where many hikers stay before they take on the mountain. On the way to the lodge as we were walking we started talking about things that would make us happy at that moment. I happened to say, "a cold Coors light" hoping that it might magically appear, but unfortunately it did not. We finally made it to the lodge and decided to take a quick rest. We refilled our water and ended up talking to the manager and a few guys who were outside. The guys outside were putting a motorcycle onto the back of a pickup and we lended a hand. After this and some more chit-chat, the man we helped walked inside, and came out with a six pack of Coors light to thank us for helping him with his bike. Yet another example of the island giving you what you want. They left and we went on our way up. We walked about 20 minutes when a Jeep pulls up for us. We talk to the guy and as it turns out, he is heading up the mountain too. We pile in the car and get on our way. The guy who pulled over's name is Jim. He is from Orange County, CA and traveling by himself. On our drive up the mountain, he starts telling us how after he sees the mountain he wants to go to Hana and see the Hana Highway, then offers to drive us back the next day too! Jim is almost 50 but hardly looks over 35 and was a great addition to our group. We made it up the mountain and saw the summit.

It was incredible being above the clouds and 10,000 feet above sea level. After some time, we went back down 3,000 feet where Hosmer's Grove is and made camp. There was a designated camp ground but that was too cramped and we weren't allowed to make fires there. So we trek out into the wilderness to seek out our own camp ground. We find a flat spot on the side of the mountain and stomp down the tall grass enough to pitch our tent. This time it only took an hour and a half to start a fire, but once it started we got it raging. Once again, we had a nice healthy dinner, identical to the one a night before. Being that we were so high up, we were at the same level as the clouds, so we could literally see the clouds rolling in through the trees and then towards us and feel ourselves getting wet. Unfortunately, that meant our tent was getting wet too. That became an after thought though after we saw what the clouds soon revealed. The stars. The stars were amazing at night and when the clouds cleared out you could see just about everything. I saw 4 shooting stars that night.

But as nature would have it, all good things must come to an end, and more clouds rolled in veiling the starry sky. We went to bed relatively early, being that we had to be up to catch sunrise. So once again, we roll out the 2 sleeping bags and cuddle up (again I was in the middle, Jim stayed in his car). However, this night did not pass idly by. We were up talking about silly things like: which way would you rather die? by fire or drowning? And things like that. (I answered drowning). At one point in the night I had both Jeff and Ariel cuddled up so tightly to me that I could not move one way or another. Another time, all six of our feet were touching almost as if we were playing footsie in our sleep. Apparently (according to Jeff) I had another night terror, similar to the one I had on the beach in Waikiki, (when I thought a tsunami was coming) except this time I was afraid someone was going to, "stab us in the face!" Again, this is all hearsay according to Jeff.

We woke up the next morning and decided not to hike up to the summit being that we now had Jim's car to use. The drive up from 7,000 feet was incredible. The sky was painted with purples, oranges, and reds as the sun was about to rise over the horizon. We got to the summit and watched as the sun came up over the clouds. The sight truly was Breathtaking.

People were just standing around in silence watching this thing of beauty manifest right before their eyes. I wanted to take a picture but did not think the camera could do what I was seeing justice (but I snapped a few anyway). We spent about an hour at the summit, then got back in the car for the drive back down the mountain. Being that it was Father's Day Jim treated us to McDonald's for breakfast. From there we started the drive back to Hana, at one point or another one of us was asleep. We got back to the farm around 10:30am after the spectacular weekend where we slept outside 2 nights and had a total of 9 hitches.

The day after we got back we went to this really secluded waterfall which was incredible. Its great having a local person be able to take us around and avoid all the really touristy places and get to see some truly amazing things. The next few days past without anything noteworthy, just the usual work on the farm where I was weed whacking (or as the call it here "weedEATING."

4 days ago, we finished work a little early and Ariel decided he wanted to try surfing. We agreed to take turns on the board and went out to the beach. The one we planned on going to had no surf, in fact it was the calmest we had ever seen it. So we heard that the beach down the street had a really good surf and decided to check that one out (we found out later that told us the surf was good was actually a professional surfer, sponsored by Nike and a few other companies and surfs around the world). The beach we went to, Koki, had really good swells. Jeff and I go in first and Ariel watches to see how the waves are breaking. Jeff and I were just playing in the waves ducking under, trying to body surf a bit. We look back and see Ariel struggling to paddle out and we make fun of him because every other wave he is getting knocked off his board and pushed 10 feet back from where he was. Jeff and I carry on and before long I look back to shore and see that we had drifted a bit far, and were getting close to the rocks/cliff. So I start swimming to get more centered but soon realize that although my swimming motion is forward, my body was stationary. I look back and yell to Jeff to watch out for the rocks. I yell a couple times and the third time all I see is Jeff's head rising and falling with the waves and being thrown against the rocks. I try to swim out to him to get him out of there but again, I find my self stationary despite trying my hardest to swim. At this point I realize the seriousness of our situation. We were stuck in a rip current with no way out, and the tide was completely over powering us. In my mind I am telling myself, "don't panic, don't panic, don't panic, don't panic, don't panic, don't panic, don't panic, don't panic. Just keep swimming". But I quickly realized trying to swim was only tiring me more, which is when I changed my plan to, keep my head above the water, but that lead to me ingesting large quantities of saltwater. I look back and see Jeff has somehow managed to hop from one rock to another and ride the waves/rocks out of the water. Seeing that it worked for him, I set my sights on the nearest rock. I begin to swim for it, but feel my body being pulled backwards despite my efforts to move forward. I look up, and at the top of the cliff is a tourist in a red tee shirt, wearing a hat and sunglasses looking down. I saw this and thought to myself, "this man is going to watch me drown. Once I've gone under, he will get back in his car, drive home to whichever hotel he is staying at and write home in an email that he saw someone drown today." After this exchange in my head I started to really resent him. I felt my body start to tire and weaken, and my mind was starting to accept the imminence of my death. I could take solace in the fact that Jeff was safe, but here I was about to drown...alone. As I was preparing my body and mind for my last few breaths, I see a surfer riding out my direction. I motion for his help and he heads my way. I let him know of my situation and he gives me his board to grab on to. We have to ride the surf out, before we can go over and in. Slowly but surely I make my way to shore, and Jeff and I share a long embrace. Ariel makes his way over and felt guilty for not even realizing that we were about to drown.

I saw the guy who saved my life get out of the water and I quickly caught up to him and thanked him for saving my life. I don't think I even factored into his day, he was so casual about it, and went along his way and drank a beer with his friends. As it turns out, he saw Jeff and I in trouble and realized no one was going to do anything, so he came out for us. We all got out of the water, and were just thankful to be alive. When we recalled the discussion about dying by fire or drowning the night on the mountain. Jeff and I chose drowning and apparently Maui saw fit to show us what it would really be like. We started walking back home, and found a lemon tree which brightened our day a bit as we made lemonade later.

In terms of future plans, we are about to head out of Maui and on to the Big Island for a few days, then will likely go back to Waikiki. We are trying to get out to Molokai and Lanai but it turns out that in order to get there it is a bit more expensive than we had thought.

I hope this post finds everyone healthy and happy. Stay tuned for the next installment.

Until Next Time,


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