Thursday, November 26, 2015

Our Lifestyle Adventures: Where It Sometimes Snows in Maui!

Clouds over the Crater
First I wrote about our road trip to Maui’s Head. Then we survived, or should I say loved the Hana Highway, the eastern and southern side of Maui below its Head. Our next road trip was through the central part the bottom half of the island, to where it sometimes snows! Unbelievable, but in this tropical island a volcano rises 10,000 feet above sea level! It is called Haleakala National Park.

Puunene Mill
On the road to Haleakala, we passed by the Sugar Museum. Sugarcane was introduced to Hawaii in 600 AD. Upon his arrival in 1778, Captain Cook observed vast sugar plantations on the island. Sugar turned into big business, shipped primarily to the United States and, in smaller quantities, globally. However, America’s sugar is now sourced mostly from Brazil, the largest producer of sugar in the world. The Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company's Puunene Mill, which is in front of the Museum is one of the last two operating mills in the islands, supplying 10% of US consumption. We also looked for pineapple plantations in the farms surrounding Haleakala, but we could not spare a couple of hours for the tour.

Crater Road

Haleakala Highway, also known as Crater Road, leads to the is not as scary as the Hana Highway despite the fact that there are many switchbacks, blind turns, and steep drop-offs.  It is two-lane and is well-maintained, but there are no guardrails throughout. And sometimes animals including cows and nene geese cross the highway. As you climb the Highway, vegetation shifts to evergreens, the temperature begins to drop, fog starts to appear, and heavier clouds finally emerge.
Haleakala Observatory
At Mile Marker 10 a booth collects a $10 entry fee and at mile marker 20.5 the visitor center stands at an elevation of 7,000 feet.  Six miles further up, visible from the Leleiwi lookout between mile markers 17 and 18, is the summit called Pu'u 'Ula'ula or Red Hill, not to be confused with Pa Ka'oao or White Hill located right below the Visitor Center. Adjacent to the Summit Observation Point is the Haleakala Observatory, Hawaii’s first astronomical research laboratory. 
the crater without snow
the crater with snow
In the winter months, the temperature at the Park ranges between 41-59 °F (5-15°C). In summer, it is between 57-66 °F (8-19°C). These are 20 degrees cooler than at the coasts. The right conditions of freezing temperatures and heavy precipitation cause snowfall in the Park. It may not be every year, but the most recent ones were in 2006, 2008, and 2011. It snowed in Haleakala last March! It was good Bill had been at Haleakala before so we were ready with our sweaters!
at Leleiwa Lookout
Haleakala is the larger, younger volcano that co-created the island of Maui. It measures 5 miles from floor to summit, making it one of the world's tallest mountains. In 1916, it became part of the Hawaii National Park together with the Big Island’s Mauna and Kilauea until 1961 when the Haleakala National Park was created. The volcano erupted sometime between 1480 and 1600 AD but her last eruption (originating in the Southwest Rift Zone) occurred around 1790. Although considered to be dormant by volcanologists, it is capable of further eruptions.

silversword with bloom
silversword without bloom
The park is divided into two distinct sections: the summit area and the coastal Kipahulu area which we touched during our road trip to Hana. It was particularly impressive that day because clouds hung above the summit. Around the crater, we found an unusual plant that looked like small silver Christmas trees. We asked a volunteer ranger, and he said the plant is called the silver sword. Endemic to Haleakala, its leaves look just like silver swords arranged like a Christmas tree. But once they bloom, after 80+ years, the leaves turn red and green, and then the plants die.

the Imu Ceremonu
fire and sword show
When we got back to the Valley Isle Resort, it was time to go to our ocean front Hawaiian Luau at Royal Lahaina. It was about thirty-some years ago when I had my first-ever luau so it was a kind of brand-new experience for me. I didn’t even remember the Imu Ceremony at the beginning of the luau. The slow-roasting pig is dug up from the ground and brought to the feast table, shredded and served as Kahlua Pig. The food was abundant and the show was impressive (especially the fire and sword show) but the best part of the luau was the sunset by the sea that seemed so special that night.

sunset at out Luau
This was another great Maui road trip. Bill brought his family to Haleakala about thirty years prior. They went to experience the famed glorious sunrise at the Park so it was a lot colder. But, since I could not wake up that early, we knowingly decided we didn’t need to try it. When we got there, we didn’t even need to wear the sweaters we had brought with us. It was cool to know that it sometimes snows in Maui.  But it was cooler to be where it does!