April 1 — The second area we visited in Haleakala: Pu’u’ula’ula Summit. We drove the long and winding road (literally!) in the late afternoon, arriving here to watch the sunset. We checked through the Park Headquarters Visitor Center but were told the “House of the Sun” Visitor Center at the top was closed — crushing because Laura was looking to get her NP stamp for her journal. Fortunately, a very nice park ranger found an old stamp (the year was missing) and handed it over to us in our car so we could stamp the journal — the day was saved!
Up near the top we saw the Haleakala Silversword, or Aninahina, one of the world’s rarest plants. This guy thrives under the most hostile conditions volcanic conditions – hot days, cold nights, and porous ash soil. The soft silvery hairs on its incurved leaves protect the plant from sunlight and draft, and it takes up to 50 years for one of these to flower.
After walking around this part of the park and gazing longingly at the Haleakala Observatories (a science fiction-style cluster of research stations set in the summit’s lunar landscape but closed to the public; here scientists map movements of the Earth’s crust) we made the final little hike up to 10,023′ to watch the sunset. As the sun was sinking ever closer to the horizon, it got chillier and chillier outside. I kept thinking to myself, “I’m in Hawaii; I’m not supposed to be freezing cold!” But alas, the sun finally disappeared behind the clouds in a spectacular display of nature’s beauty, and in the darkness, we began the careful journey back down Haleakala Crater Road and back into civilization — and warmth!
Hover your pointer over the photo, below, then click on the arrows to scroll through our photos from Haleakala.