The last day. By this time, I was more than ready to go home. The only thing standing in my way was the famous Halemauu switchbacks. I’ve read and have heard hikers describe the switchbacks as never ending. I was eager to leave Haleakala and pop open of a can of Coca-Cola, but I was not looking forward to the switchbacks that I would have to pass through first.
Once again, the day started off very early. Quality sleep over the last three nights was hard to come by, despite the luxury of the padded cabin bunk beds. As I woke, I tuned to the windows and noticed the colors outside changing. The sun was rising and I was the first to wake. I quietly got myself out of the bed and sat at the communal table for a bit. Periods of quiet interchanged with periods of snoring. Of course, you’d get the occasional fart. As I sat on this last morning in Haleakala crater, I could not help but think about the last few days. They were amazing. The people were fun and the hiking landscape was unlike anything I had experienced before. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, despite the struggle of carrying around a 35 pound bag for miles at a time. I’m no stranger to hiking in Hawaii, but backpacking was new to me. My first backpacking adventure had thus far been unforgettable.
Slowly, the others began to wake. We went the through the motions, as we did the last few days. We boiled water. We ate breakfast. We packed our bags. We cleaned. We swept the floors. By 7:30, Ahnate and Mike were out the door. Slowly, our group began trickling out of the cabin. Of course, the last to leave was again myself, Joel, Janice and Allison.
The last leg of the trip, although relatively short in mileage, compared to Day 1 and Day 3, has extensive elevation gain. During the planning stage, I predicted that the final leg would be the most challenging. For the first three days, it was all either a downhill climb or flat walk with little elevation gain. Today, we would gain 2000+ feet in four miles. The one positive was that our packs were a bit lighter. I would later find out (at the airport), that my pack had dropped to just over 20 pounds. The lost pounds were considerable, and a welcome treat for both my back and my knees.
The first mile is the easiest since it is a flat walk to the start of the switchbacks. At the end of mile 1, you will walk through an old wooden and metal gate. This is the start of the switchbacks. Don’t forget to close the gate before making your way up the switchbacks. By the time that Joel and I had made it to the switchbacks, both Allison and Janice were about 10 minutes ahead of us. We could see them weaving in and out of the mountain. They occasionally threw us a wave, whenever they saw us taking a break. The friendly waves would then be followed up by a pestering yell to stop being lazy. It was the last day, we were allowed to be lazy.
The first 20 minutes or so of the switchbacks was when reality really set in. The huffing and the puffing, absent most of the trip, was now in full effect. I kept thinking to myself that we needed to get through this if we wanted to get out of this crater! Plus, I was hungry for some real food and a good drink. About thirty minutes in, Joel and I decided to set small goals before taking big breaks. I pitched 5 switchbacks and then a nice long break. We decided that the completion of 10 switchbacks was a reasonable goal. Little did we know, many of the switchbacks snake in and out of the mountain before switching back, thereby prolonging our rest sessions.
At the 2 mile mark, we cheered. Two more miles left. With just about 1.7 miles left in the hike, I turned a corner and noticed Janice walking back towards us. She mentioned that she “saw something that didn’t look too nice.” remember when I said that she see’s stuff? Now, I believed her. I mean, not even I would reverse track with such a heavy pack just to pull a prank. Whatever it is that she sees, I wanted none of it.
Shortly after, we reached the high point of the days hike. Joel discovered that he had a signal…on his iPhone. It was like hearing angels singing. Hallelujah! Both Joel and I immediately went into Instagram mode. Janice just stood there shaking her head. At this same time, we reached a point in the trail that was very cool. It was ridge like, giving you views of both the left and right sides. The clouds moved in and out. It was beautiful and probably my favorite part of this leg of the trail.
From this point on, things started, for some reason, to feel easier. Maybe it was the fulfillment of 4 days worth of Instagram withdrawals. Or, maybe it was the realization that this great experience was coming to an end. I started to hike slower, and tried to simply soak in the experience. I was in no hurry. Really, I was in no hurry for the past 4 days. This whole trip, for me at least, was not about “making time,” or beating the rain. It was about experiencing what Haleakala had to offer. She offers a lot, and this last day was the culmination of this realization. Joel and I talked and agreed that, although difficult, it was indeed a once in a lifetime experience. I told him that I probably would not do the full Haleakala hike again. This was it for me. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Once out of Haleakala, we all were pretty eager for some real food. We ended up at the nearby Kula Lodge for some lunch. I may have gone overboard with my lunch order after being deprived of “real food” for a couple of days. I ended up getting an order of lobster & blue crab cakes, 1/2 pound burger, and a margarita pizza. Yup, that was all for me. After lunch, half of the group went to the beach, while the other half went for some shave ice at Tobi’s Shave Ice in Paiea. After shave ice, the plan was to check out a waterfall or two along the Hana Highway. Unfortunately for us, that didn’t happen. Just as we began driving through Hana, we were rear ended by a young haole woman in her twenties. We were in the process of making a left turn, the car was stopped and signaling left for a while, and then boom. Fortunately, we were all okay. The driver of the car that his us seemed stoned, in fact, I am pretty sure that she was. Anyway, police, fire, and ambulance showed up in full force. When asked if we were all okay, John pointed to Joel and indicated that he was experiencing “neck pain.” And that’s how Joel ended up at Maui Memorial Medical Center. He was later released from the hospital and was perfectly fine.
After the little vehicular incident, we of course headed out for more food. Because, well, vehicular accidents tend to make you hungry. The solution? Costco. We bought a bunch of food, headed to Iao Valley State Park in Wailuku, and had ourselves a little feast of food and wine, as the sun disappeared into the night. Our Haleakala adventure was officially over.
Day 4 By The Numbers:
- Start Time: 8:00 am
- End Time: 11:50 am
- Total Distance: 3.77 miles
- Total Time: 2 hours and 50 minutes
- Total Ascent: 1610 feet
- Total Descent: 558 feet
Day 4 Food Intake:
- Raspberry cruble dehydrated pack
- 4 pieces of SPAM
- Lobster & blue crab cakes
- 1/2 pound burger
- Margarita pizza
- Shave Ice