First of all, whoever’s responsible for planning a free keg party the night before a 12-mile hike is an asshole.
But Haleakala Volcano is worth it.
This is the world’s largest dormant volcano, at just over 10,000 feet high. Climbing upwards through the clouds, you’ll pass through different climate zones and landscapes: flower farms, pine forests, pasture land, etc.
We drove about 90 minutes up to the summit, where the temperature was an easy 30 degrees cooler than near the ocean. I definitely did not prepare appropriately.
We began our descent into the valley, across a landscape that looks more like mars than Hawaii. Some of it reminded me of Iceland: deep red earth, exposed mantle, a dusty and barren land with the occasional stubborn tropical flower poking its way through. The route was littered with silversword, an endangered species only found in this part of the world. It flowers once every 50 years and then promptly dies.
Endangered = a good reason to stay ON the trail. Some people were really bad at heeding this advice.
The first two-thirds of the hike was fine. Sometimes it got really cold really quick, and then super hot. Sometimes we’d have to hike through sand, which was a complete bitch. My friend Stephanie fell down and massacred her legs, but was cheerful about it because it meant she could smuggle some volcano rock home on the plane in her knees. Lols.
We passed through a lush green landscape, where the clouds touched the ground and a fine mist sprinkled everything.
And then this nightmare began.
We were fully warned about this part of the hike, by the way. The slope is very gentle, but the switchbacks up the mountain DO NOT END. Being slightly hungover and at least 40 years older than half the other kids, I struggled and panted my way up that mountain like an obese whale. It was freaking HARD. HARD HARD HARD.
But beautiful, as most struggles are.
I’m mostly happy about NOT being the last person in the group. That was my real goal. According to Fitbit, I hit 30,000 steps and burned over 3,000 calories.
IT WAS HELL and I’m so glad I did it.
However: despite applying sunscreen at least three times, I still got the worst burns of life. Be diligent about that stuff, folks. Skin cancer ain’t no joke.
We wrapped up the day with a sunset on top of the volcano, back at where we started our hike. The world is beautiful and life is good.