“It was the sublimest spectacle I ever witnessed, and I think the memory of it will remain with me always.”
– Samuel Clemens describing sunrise at the Haleakala summit.
According to Hawaiian legend, Haleakala received its name from a trick that the demigod Maui pulled on the sun. The goddess Hina, Maui’s mother, complained to her son that the sun sped across the sky so quickly that her kapa (cloth) couldn’t dry. The next morning Maui climbed the great mountain and waited until sunrise for the sun to poke its head above the horizon. Maui then lassoed the sun, slowing its passage across the sky to an abrupt halt. The sun begged Maui to let go, and Maui said he would on one condition: that the sun slow its trip across the sky to give the island more sunlight. The sun agreed. In honor of this agreement, the Hawaiians began calling the mountain Haleakala, or “House of the Sun”. To this day, the summit of Haleakala receives 15 minutes more sunlight than the communities on the coastline below.
As Samuel Clemens described, Haleakala is a spectacular natural phenomenon. Due to Haleakala’s high elevation, dynamic weather patterns, and lack of artificial light and environmental pollution, Haleakala has become an ideal and popular place to view the sky, from sunrise to sunset with more than 1.3 million people visiting a year.
Haleakala is also the world’s largest dormant volcano. Lava has not flowed from Haleakala for over 100 years but it’s still officially considered active. The lunar-like volcanic landscape on Haleakala is home to numerous rare and endangered plant and animal life. This desolate area truly feels like an alien environment and the stark contrast of weather between the base and the summit only furthers this feeling. Ascending the slopes, the temperature drops at a rate of about 3 degrees every 1,000 feet, making the summit sometimes 30 degrees cooler than the base below. Snow has even been found on the summit of Haleakala, with some locals traveling up the mountain to make snowmen and sled when there is enough.
Visiting Haleakala day or night provides amazing once in a lifetime views that even the foremost authors of the world have trouble describing. You truly have to see it for yourself to experience the true beauty of one of Hawaii’s most amazing natural wonders.