My alarm blasted me awake at 3:10am HST. Now why in the world would I do such a thing?
Whelp, this is a necessary evil if you have any plans to watch the sunrise at the summit inside Haleakala National Park. Because of previous issues with parking and disorder, as of February 2017 the park now requires reservations which can be acquired on the recreation.gov website, and there's only 200 or so spots available. Ascending the summit, there's plenty of warning that you better turn around if you don't have that golden ticket reservation in hand. I donned my winter gear and started off for the park, leaving around 3:50am. With my reservation and Tri-Parks Pass, I had no problems sailing through the check-in point.
Once past the gate, there's plenty more switchbacks to reach the top, although the incline isn't as bad as I thought it would be. Each stretch of road was a mile long, constantly entering and exiting the cloud cover still clinging to the sides of the mountain. Reaching the top, the rangers blocked off access to the peak, forcing everyone into the lower parking lot by the Visitor's Center. With 30 minutes to spare before sunrise, hundreds of people were here already (as crazy as me apparently). Unfortunately the clouds/fog were thick, but I was hopeful it would clear out.
Nope, not so. Although patches of colors in the direction of the sun filled the sky, the fog refused to dissipate and mostly hindered what was supposed to be dramatic views of the landscape. As the sun made its appearance, a few of the locals began a Hawaiian chant as a hush fell over the crowd, giving a special and memorable touch to this moment in time, as obscured as it was. I tried to take pics as I could, but nothing really spectacular.
After grabbing the postcard/magnet business at the now-open Visitor's Center, I did the short hike on the neighboring Pa Ka'oao trail to the nearby summit, offering what would be awesome views of the Haleakala crater below if the blasted fog wasn't in the way. (Somebody give me a 50-foot fan to take care of this noise!) The 1/2-mile drive to the summit was also unblocked by this point so being the completist I am, ascended to the very top, where you'll find an observatory at the 10,023 ft peak. It was clear enough here to make out the peak of Mauna Kea on the big island 80 miles away, where I stood just days before.
That's all for that. I descended and made it back to Paia by 8:20am. But that's not the only thing for today. After an hour or two of rest I took off again, this time focusing on western Maui with the primary destination of Lahaina, HI. But of course I don't make things easy for myself and start on the remote northern route using Routes 3400 to 340 to 30. There's a few stretches of road even more treacherous than yesterday's Road to Hana, with tight hairpin turns blocked by cliffs only 1.5 car lengths wide, so you better crawl along in case someone on the other side decides to come hither. I'm not sure why they can't expand the road in those places, but hey I don't run things around here. There's a few places where visitors can walk down trails to the beach, but I've had enough of that for now.
There were also a few art galleries along this route that were curious enough to stop for, and of course more places for local cuisine if you needed some grub. Lahaina was finally reached at 12:50pm, just in time for lunch, which made the first stop at Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant on Front Street and Lahainaluna Road, right on the beach. Good eats here, make sure you stop in! After that was traversing up and down Front Street checking out all the shops, a number of galleries, and of course the foodies. There was a park further south called the Banyan Tree Court which featured a number of Banyan trees with their branches curiously all connected to each other. It was a trip to see. There was a small farmer's market going on here (being the weekend of course) and music entertainment. Great place to stop in and support your local community or charity.
The feet/calves were once again giving me pause to continue, so after a tasty Shaved Ice, it was time to head out, taking the much easier southern Route 30, transitioning to Route 380 to cut across the island back to Paia. I topped off the evening with a dinner at Mama's Fish House, because it seemed like I would be shamed if I didn't stop here.
Maui has been a great weekend destination, but it's time for the final island. Oh where has the time gone?