When planning for your backpacking trip to Haleakala, you’ll want to think carefully about what you bring along with you. The pounds will add up quickly, so you will only want to bring the essentials. With that said, during my four-day backpacking trip through Haleakala, there were a few items that I was very thankful that I brought along and other things that I wished I had. Here’s a list of 10 non-essential luxury times that will likely make your hike in the crater a lot more comfortable.
Over Spring break, Ikaika and I decided to hike Hawaii’s best known trail: Kalalau. The trail is 11 miles long one way and ends at a famous camp spot. Originally planned as a 4 day and 3 night event, we ended up shortening it to 2 days and 1 night while still completing all of the 22 miles, camping at the beach, visiting one of the major waterfalls, and capturing the Milky Way along the way.
One of the most interesting aspects of Holua Cabin is the nearby lava tube. There are two routes to the lava tube, with each route bringing you to a different entrance. We ended up choosing the route that takes you pass the pit toilets and toward an open lava rock field. The alternate route is about 100 yards east of the cabin, and then from there you will turn right and follow a faint trail, according to some write-ups. In the past, there used to be a ladder that people could use to descend into the lava tube. Now, though, there is only a sign indicating that the area has been closed and the ladder has been removed. For this reason, we decided to start at the opposite end, in order to avoid any dangerous down climbing.
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.
Our third night at Haleakala would prove to be the most memorable for me. Earlier in the day, we had explored a nearby lava tube. The lava tube is fairly out of the way and there are no markers, just a rough trail leading to it. Basically, if you don’t know where it is then I imagine that it would be quite difficult to locate, despite being less than a mile from Holua Cabin. With these conditions in mind, imagine exploring the lava tube during the dead of night. This was the most memorable night on Haleakala.
This was the leg of our backpacking adventure that I had been dreading. The trail from Paliku Cabin to Holua Cabin would be the longest single leg, at 6.4 miles. However, it wasn’t the mileage that scared me, but the elevation gain. Up to this point, we had been mainly descending from the summit of Haleakala. Paliku Cabin would be the lowest we would be, elevation wise. From Paliku, it would be an uphill climb to Holua Cabin and then to the summit road the following day.
Second night in Haleakala and the second night of missing my shower at home. What helped, though, was the cool and crisp air. It’s not very humid at this elevation, unlike a typical day in downtown Honolulu. At Paliku cabin, slight showers would come and go. I figured that this was a more than common occurrence, based on the lush, green vegetation.
Day two of our Haleakala backpacking adventure started off very early for me. I had a hard time falling asleep between the symphony of snores and tossing and turning in my bunk. When I did fall asleep, it didn’t last for very long. I awoke just as the sun was rising, to the sound of John rearranging his backpack and Mike boiling water in the kitchen. For breakfast, I had one of Joel’s famous Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies, hot chocolate, and some almonds. While preparing for the days hike, I made sure to apply some moleskin to some problem areas on my feet that I noticed the day before. By 9am, we were all packed and ready to leave Kapalaoa Cabin.
As soon as the sun disappeared into the horizon, our entire group just gravitated to the outside of Kapalaoa Cabin. The cold air was nice and crisp. A jacket and my slippers were enough for me. Mike needed even less. While we (Ahnate, Allison, Coty, Janice, and Joel) were busy clicking out shutters, trying to capture the night sky, Mike simply lied flat on his back on the lone picnic table and watched as Mother Nature did her thing. And he did it all in his tighty-whities. We learned a lot about Mike that night.
What started out as a discussion over beers a few months ago has finally come to fruition. The Exploration: Hawaii crew can now proudly say that we have completed Haleakala, visiting all three Haleakala cabins, over a span of 4 days. The entire trip went smoothly, until, that is, one of our 10 member crew ended up on a stretcher, in an ambulance and then the emergency room of Maui Memorial Hospital. But, I’m jumping ahead of myself. There is so much to share about Haleakala, that I will be breaking up our backpacking adventure into a couple of detailed posts. Let’s start with Day 1, which brought us from the summit of Haleakala at 10,000+ feet to Kapalaoa Cabin, via the Sliding Sands Trail.