Monday, August 5, 2013

House of the Sun: Haleakala Sunrise

Like I said in my last post, The Road to Hana, this trip to Hawaii was all about adventures and activities! And my adventure buddy this trip, was my dear old Dad. Before we left I gave him a list of all the activities we were going to be doing. And at the very top of that list was seeing the sunrise at Haleakala.

I mean, it was on the top because I wanted to do it our very first morning there. Flying in from California we would be three hours ahead, and so getting up at 2:00am to see the sunrise wouldn't feel like 2:00am, but 5:00am.

I made sure to go to bed by 8:30 the night before, and when the alarm went off at 2:00am, it still kinda felt like 2:00am. Oh well.

It was pitch black, and dead silent. However, it was nice and warm outside. (I love Hawaii).
We hopped in our trusty rental and started navigating through the dark, dark streets of Maui, as the lone car on the road.

We drove through Lahaina, and out of West Maui, through Kahului, and eventually along the winding one lane highway up the volcano.

And did I mention it was dark. We probably saw two cars total between the hotel and the mountain.

Finally, a few miles up the mountain we saw a bright, shining, oasis.

Crater Coffee. A small coffee trailer on the side of the road, boasting the only coffee between here and the summit. (And it was).

The first thing I noticed was a sign out front that said "RELAX. You're Early." And as I approached the cart, the vendor said the exact words to me, "Relax. You're early. You're about 45 minutes ahead of the tour buses. And a few hours early."

Um, hours?
Yes. Hours.

Anyway, eventually, he handed me a cup of Maui coffee, which costed more than two cups of Starbucks coffee at home, and yet was completely worth it, and I sipped it slowly the rest of the way up the mountain.

We saw a few headlights ahead of us, taking each switchback slowly and carefully until we reached the top, with about 10 other cars. Parked in complete and utter darkness. The only lights were the faint glow of the towns way down below, and the millions of stars in the sky above.

Millions. More than I have ever seen. More than I have seen at home. Even more than the thousands and thousands I saw from the roof of a houseboat on Lake Shasta.  That many.

And the darkness was so dark, that even on the slowest shutter speed of my camera, it refused to take the picture because the lighting was too low.

(So pretend an amazing picture of the night sky is right here)

Getting out of the car to take this picture nearly killed me, as it was around 46*.
I ran back in and shut the door tight. Trying to keep as warm as possible, knowing I'd soon have to face the elements in order to watch the sunrise.

Slowly but surely the parking lot began to fill with cars and glaring headlights. And then buses and even bigger headlights.  A bank of clouds rolled in and settled down over the towns below us, and before the sun even began to rose the sky started getting lighter and lighter.

I noticed the crowds were starting to gather along the ridge and I wasn't sure of whether it was worth standing among them for another hour in nearly freezing temperatures in order to have a good viewing point. Or if I should hold out a little longer.

I did a little exploring...and saw the crowds growing. People lined up all the way up the side of the summit. And people all along the railing - wearing hotel bathrobes and dragging hotel blankets (ummm...interesting life choice, but I guess you gotta do, what you gotta do).

I knew I'd have to brave the cold and join the huddle if I wanted a good view of the sunrise. So I ran back for dad, and hustled back to the crowd, squeezing my way as close to the front as possible.
Eventually, a few people shuffled around and I was able to get an unobstructed spot where the tiniest sliver of orangey-red light started to peek over the horizon of the clouds.

And once the sun was safely in the sky for the day, we hustled back to the warm car where we defrosted as we descended the mountain. Passing quite a handful of cars arriving from a 2 hour drive up the summit, only to miss the sunrise by 15 minutes, rough. I may have hollered at every car we passed, "You missed it!!!" (Not that they heard me. Or would have appreciated that.).

Back down the mountain, dad and I defrosted at Starbucks in Kahului (PTL, they have my Chicken Sausage Wrap still in Hawaii, Northern California Starbucks you have broken my heart by discontinuing). And then dad an I explored a hippy grocery store across the street, where he hit the bulk fruit, nut, and granola jackpot (how Californian are we?!).  Oh, and we went back twice more for refills later in the week.

We were back at our hotel by 9, where we picked up mom and headed over to Lahaina to do some shopping and get some plate lunch.

 And then I saw this sign and almost booked myself the next flight home.

I decided not to let the cat in a bikini scare me away, and so after lunch, we hit up the next thing on my activity list, learning and buying a Ukulele. I mean, I even got myself a fedora too, Jason M'raz watch out. 

I decided I was way too hot to decide if I wanted to commit to being a Ukulele Rockstar just yet, so we hit up some Shave Ice, where my dad got the coolest one - only three flavors, but makes a rainbow!

And then the decision was made, I was going to go for it, and teach myself the ukulele the rest of the week. So I purchased my beautiful Mahogany Kala Concert Ukulele and we went back to the hotel so I could get a mini jam sesh in (and you know, watch YouTube videos).

Caught the daily rainbow (we caught one every day but one day).

And dined on my favorite Hawaiian dinner - a hot dog with mustard and onions and a pina colada.

And then I headed to the beach where I ended the day the way I began it...
  watching the sun.


  1. Whaaaa! I can't believe people were all wearing hotel robes and such. That's hilarious. Beautiful pictures.

  2. Gorgeous!!! We went to Maui in November for our tenth anniversary. The road to Hanna turned into the road to Hell when our children got carsick on those 10,000 switchbacks. But THIS trip you took and the photos...WOW. Absolutely worth the effort.

  3. thoroughly enjoyed this. minus the cat clinic sign, of course. wth.

    what an amazing sunrise adventure! beautiful.
    wish i could listen to you play your ukulele :)


  4. Gorgeous pictures! Thank you so much for sharing them!

  5. I would like ukelele videos please. Your photos are incredible. Totally worth it. I would've been screaming at folks on the way down too. And that cat photo? No. Just no. Wrong on so many levels.

  6. a few things:
    the edit job on that ukalele pic is just amazing.
    the cat pic - vom in my mouth.

    but the sunrise. seriously breathtaking.
    so happy you got to experience that.

  7. This post made me ridiculously jealous of you being in MAUI!! I miss that place!

  8. you look adorable in a fedora. I can't pull it off. maybe i need to go back to maui and find one...i could pull one off in maui.
    ukelele! noah can teach you. come to my house with your fedora, ukelele, and molly for lessons!