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The Road to Haleakala – House of the Rising Sun

A year after graduating from high school I spent five weeks on Maui with a friend at her parents’ beach home just north of Ka’anapali on the coast. Without a care in the world, we spent our days sunning, shopping and partying. Even the afternoon rainstorms were beautiful and a welcome reprieve from the summer heat.

Salina joined Lori and me for a couple of weeks on the island after school got out. Although we didn’t usually drive much further than Lahaina, and we weren’t very interested in culture and sightseeing, we decided to make the two-and-a-half-hour journey to Haleakala one morning to see the sunrise.

After an evening of less excess than usual, we snatched a quick nap before our middle-of-the-night departure. We allowed plenty of time to get to the crater to watch the sun come up. I was the designated driver. Luckily I had learned to drive in a full-size station wagon so the idea of driving the big boat of a ’70s’ T-bird was was not too daunting for me. But, I had not yet experienced the narrow mountain road to the crater … in the dark. The girls slept while I played chauffeur.

The two-lane road to the summit is long and winding: one of the steepest inclines in the world. We started at sea level, drove across the island and up the dormant volcano to over 10,000 feet. As we were climbing cautiously in the early twilight of dawn … we blew a tire. Never before and never since has that happened to me. Luckily, it was a front tire, driver’s side, so I managed to keep control of the car. No sooner had I stopped at the side of the road when a car pulled up behind us. A father and his son came to the rescue of us three young maidens, who would have been stranded without them; I certainly didn’t know how to change a tire. We were very lucky and extremely grateful.

Haleakala means ‘house of the sun’ and is known in mythology as the home of the demi-god Maui. She lassoed the sun and forced it to slow its journey across the sky. Haleakala_crater_(1)Unfortunately, not slow enough for us. We arrived moments too late to witness a once in a lifetime spectacle: the colors of the sunrise were already melting away into another perfect day in paradise and we were left looking at the huge, barren, lunar-like crater.

Tired and disappointed, we didn’t feel much like exploring. Lori drove us back down the mountain to more lush, colorful vistas and we resumed our suntanning on the beach beside the lulling waves of the Pacific Ocean.

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