What it’s really like to hike Haleakala, as told by a Maui local

In today’s post, we’re interviewing part-time Maui resident and entrepreneur David Morgan of Organic Themes. He is pleased to share his experience hiking in Haleakala over three days, two nights and 24 miles. Enjoy!

SMV: How you decide to hike into Haleakala?

DM: I had just moved to Maui from Oahu, and the hike was to celebrate a reunion of three high school friends from Florida, all being on Maui at the same time. My friend Jeff also just moved to Maui, and our other friend Sean flew over from Oahu, where he was living.

The three of us grew up together on camping trips. This was the first time any of us hiked Haleakala and we were definitely unprepared (more on this in another post).

SMV: What is your overall impression of the adventure?

DM: I’ve backpacked the Grand Canyon, Boundary Waters and other trails. Haleakala is different because it’s so unique and unexpected — not an environment you’d typically envision in Hawaii.

The bright reds and deep blacks that paint the surface of the crater are striking. In the heart of the crater, there is zero vegetation except the Silver Sword, which looks like a reflective alien plant.

There are massive lava tubes scattered throughout the crater where the atmosphere changes drastically. It becomes a damp, dark, cool and humid environment with stalactites and unique lava formations.

Haleakala is a land of extremes unlike any other I’ve been to — the closest I can imagine to exploring the surface of Mars. Here it is easy to be transported to another world.

SMV: Is there anything about being in Haleakala that feels sacred or possessing peculiar energy?

DM: When I think of sacred locations in Hawaii, I envision a heiau, ancient ruins or a places of worship. Haleakala doesn’t have much of that, but it is most definitely a spiritual place.

For example, I didn’t feel like I had to “tiptoe around spirits” — but just knowing that ancient Hawaiians took spiritual pilgrimages to Haleakala definitely adds to the magic and powerful energy of the place.

Also, the crater is so far removed from civilization that you can’t help but feel connected with the earth and the heavens. At night, the sky is among the most clear on planet earth. It feels like you can touch the Milky Way.

Haleakala the only place I have experienced total, absolute silence. There are no hums of cars or electricity. There are no insects buzzing or birds chirping. You can listen, intently, to the sound of absolutely nothing. That alone is magical.

SMV: Any tips or wisdom for someone who wants to go?

DM: Prepare yourself!

I’ve seen so many tourists start the Sliding Sands trail in sandals because they don’t expect a terrain like this on Maui. I’ve also seen people hike the crater barefoot to feel closer to the earth — although they probably know what they’re getting into.

If you plan to backpack, be prepared for hot, cold, rain, wind, dry, etc. Pack lightweight gear, and if you have the foresight — reserve a cabin.

Also, bring a flashlight and headlamp in case it gets dark while you’re on the trail, and also for exploring lava tubes. Every step counts. This isn’t a place you want to twist an ankle or have a serious injury. Bring duct tape and a Shamwow (more on this in another post).

Pace yourself. Soak it up and enjoy every aspect of this amazing journey!

All photos courtesy of David Morgan

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