Maui, Day 3
In which I am over-ambitious and kind of like Bear Grylls if he was 90% lamer.
I awoke earlier than I wanted and was still tired but couldn’t seem to sleep any more so I decided to get going. Ate breakfast at Maui Tacos. It was only, O.K. Then I decided to hit ‘Iao Valley State Park first, however on my way, I saw a nice little stretch of beach just off the road (many, in fact) and got the urge to just pull over and enjoy it for a bit. I’m really enjoying this totally casual, no itinerary way of vacationing. Sure I don’t see as much as I could if I meticulously planned, but I feel so relaxed and casual and it’s fun to just kind of play it by ear with only the loosest of plans or see where the urge takes you and discover things along the way. After a brief sojourn at the beach I proceeded to ‘Iao Valley.
It was amazing and breathtaking. I would get vertigo just looking up at the lush mountains around me. I explored all the paved sidewalks and then ventured off into the woods on some dirt paths. I went quite far, to the point where I started to wonder if I could find my way back. I generally have a very good sense of direction though so I wasn’t too worried. A few of the paths I traversed were right on the edge of a steep drop off. There was nothing too dangerous but I definitely had to watch my footing and stay alert.
Once I’d traveled pretty damn far into the woods, I decided, on a whim, to check my Geocaching app and see if there were any geocaches near. Sure enough, there was one 500 feet from me. I made my way back and climbed up a steep slope looking for it. It turned out to be much easier than that and was back down on easier terrain. There was also a “virtual cache” at the ‘Iao Needle and then a third one at the entrance to the park. Again, I made it far harder than it actually was and found myself climbing way up a very steep slope using trees, roots and anything else I could for hand and foot holds. It was at this moment that I realized how when I’m geocaching, I do much more dangerous and adventurous things than I normally would because I’m not really thinking about it. I’m just single-mindedly looking for that cache. This one, too, turned out to be back down in a much easier place.
On my way back to the car, a chicken with a line of baby chicks was crossing the road. They were so damn cute I had to try and document it. I slowly stalked through the grass on my knees with my camera, trying to get close without spooking them. I got a couple of videos.
By this time it was about noon and I decided today was a good day to drive the “Hana Highway”. It’s one of the most scenic drives you will ever experience, however it will take all day. I knew this going in, but was still not prepared for the endurance adventure driving trip this turned out to be. It turns out pretty much the entire eastern half of Maui is encircled by one “highway” and I use that term loosely. This is pretty much the ONLY road and it is narrow and winds around so much I had to stop several times because I started feeling sick. The main stretch that people drive is between Kahului and Hana and is about 60 miles but will take about 3 hours to drive. It was indeed stunning visually. Just indescribable. Almost incomprehensable but it was arduous. After stopping to eat in Hana, I decided to keep going all the way around instead of going back the way I came. I’m glad I did because the scenery did not get any less impressive.
Along the was was Haleakala State park with the world’s tallest dormant volcano. I already knew I wanted to go here so I decided to cram this in as well rather than makes this drive again another day. I thought I was accessing the area where you could get to the summit and the crater but I found out later that this was not the case. This was the opposite end of the park. Now, sadly, at this point my phone battery was dead so I didn’t get any pictures which is a real shame as this may be some of the most incredible scenery I’ve seen.
It’s a long hike, 2 miles slowly ascending through the woods, following a man made trail, sometimes of stones, sometimes wooden platforms, a couple of bridges over a chasm, and a few creek crossings using stepping stones or logs. At places, there are signs warning of steep and fatal dropoffs to your side. I think the coolest part for me was as you got higher, you reached an area where the wooden platform trail was in the center of a corridor formed by immense and dense bamboo growth on either side. It looked absolutely surreal and the bamboo and clouds at this altitude made it all very dark and overcast as well. The wind would blow and the bamboo would clack against itself making it seem alive, like it was chittering to you. There were parts that were quite rocky or uneven, muddy or slippery and all kinds of different terrain. The further I got, the more I questioned trying to come back down this all in the dark.
When I finally reached the end of the trail, it was incredible. Tall cliffs stretched upward on three sides and a waterfall cascaded down from somewhere near the top. There were huge stones everywhere in a massive pile. I decided to go ahead and set back while there was still light.
By the time I got back to the car I was exhausted and my legs were jelly. I’d already hiked who knows how far around ‘Iao Valley and now I just added 4 more miles, half of that, constantly ascending. I set back out on the only road there was, intent to follow it all the way back around. I didn’t realize that it was going to remain a tiny rough winding road for the vast majority of the journey. There were more unbelievable views and many times when you were driving a one car width dirt road with a mountain on your right and a drop off into the ocean on your left but the entire journey was stunning.
The drive home seemed to take forever though. Especially since for a large chunk of it you’re driving maybe 20 MPH if you’re lucky and winding around playing chicken with the occasional oncoming car or cement truck and avoiding the occasionally crossing cattle. I finally arrived back at my room about 12 hours after I had left it. It was a day filled with physical activity, adventure, and absolutely mind blowing sights and experiences.
Tomorrow, I’m sleeping in and taking it easy. I think some casual geocaching around my neck of the woods until the wedding tomorrow afternoon. I will sleep well tonight.