Friday, April 22, 2011

Backpacking in Haleakala NP

We had reserved a backcountry cabin in Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui, for two nights of wilderness after a week on the big island. Jill had a new backpack; this would be a fairly easy maiden voyage for the pack because we didn't have to carry a tent or stove.
We hiked in from the Halemau'u trailhead at 8000', heading down into the crater at 6700'.

After 7.7 miles of hiking in four hours, we came to our home for the next two nights -- the Kapalaoa cabin at 7250'. There are two other cabins in the park, one that is much closer to the trailhead (Holua) and one that is much farther (Poliku). In our best Goldilocks evaluation, this one seemed just right. The cabin has bunks for 12, a large dining table, a woodstove, a two-burner propane cooker, a cabinet full of dishes and pots and pans, and a sink with running water (the water has to be purified).

The water at the cabin was a combination of rainwater from a roof collection system, and collected seepage from a location on the hill behind the cabin. It seemed very odd to find so much water in a rugged volcanic environment. There were some places along the trail that were noticeably damp from subsurface water.

On our "day off", we hiked from the cabin up to the summit of Halekala (Pu'u'ula'ula) at 10,023'. You can drive to the summit on a paved road, and of course that is how most people get there. But why be normal?

The cabin that is closer to the road, Holua Cabin, is a nice halfway stop between Kapalaoa cabin and the Halemau'u trailhead. While talking with some other campers there, they asked us if we had gone through the lava tube. We hadn't; it turns out there is a long lava tube nearby that can be explored from end-to-end in about an hour. We didn't have that much time, and had to settle for a quick look in at the first 50 feet or so. There is a metal ladder at this end that provides access down past the first twelve-foot drop. The lava tube is not on any of the park maps, but is apparently well-known. Reportedly the Park Service is planning to remove the ladder to discourage traffic in the lava tube.

Our final day of the trip was a very long one! A four-hour hike back out to the trailhead, then drive down the mountain to a beach park on the coast for a quick swim in the ocean and a rinse in the freshwater shower. Suitably groomed, we got on the commuter flight from Maui back over to the big island, and then a 9:00pm redeye flight from Kona to Los Angeles. After a groggy breakfast in LAX, we both slept soundly on the flight from LAX to SLC. While boarding our flight back to Jackson, the pilot announced that the weather in Jackson was marginal, low visibility due to heavy snowstorms around the JAC airport! We took off anyway, and fortunately were able to land at JAC after about ten minutes extra time circling and waiting/hoping for weather to clear. Welcome back to springtime in the Rockies!

More pictures in my Haleakala photo album (

 GPS log for the hike in and out (

 GPS log for dayhike to the summit (

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