Making Merry in Maui, Part I

Who wouldn’t be excited to be headed to Maui for a week?  What if I told you that this was week one of a four-week family vacation to Hawaii?  You see, Stephanie’s dad, generous guy that he is, decided to take Stephanie, her sister, Wendy, and their families (which includes me!) on a family vacation. After much deliberation, a week-long cruise of the Hawaiian Islands was the winner.  With nothing in particular to pull me & Stephanie back to the mainland, we decided to spend some extra time enjoying Hawaii.

Of the whole family gang, we would be the first to arrive, and thanks to our vacation club, we had a condo across the street from the beach in Kihei in South Maui.  We love this part of the island.  The beaches are amazing, and it feels like it’s close to everything.

Our Kihei sunset view

Our Kihei sunset view

As we were checking in for our flight from L.A., we had some unsettling news.  Tropical Storm Darby was racing us to Maui, and was scheduled to arrive at the same time we were. By the time we landed, however, Darby had wandered off to the south leaving Maui almost untouched.  We expected to spend Sunday huddled indoors, avoiding a storm, but by late morning, it was nice enough to head out to the beach and work on our body surfing.  We spent the whole day doing just that!

On Monday, we revisited a hike we had taken once before.  This particular adventure begins all the way in the South of Maui where the road ends and the lava fields begin.  On the Hoapili trail, we hiked over the lava fields to a few secluded beaches.  The lava looks like rich, freshly-turned earth, but it’s really just endless acres of arid, dry rock.  Almost nothing grows there, and the path involves trekking over fist-sized chunks of lava that like to shift under your feet.  The reward, however, is the gorgeous coves, totally empty beaches, and a stunning view of the southern slope of Haleakala – the volcano that formed Maui.  We did some swimming and snorkeling in those gorgeous coves, and I made an ornament to hang on a random tree already covered in sea ornaments.  We also found a driftwood tree trunk to play and balance on.

53 Hangin'10 like a pro

Hangin’ 10 like a pro

On the way back, we had hung our rash guards through a loop in my backpack to dry.  After walking for 40 minutes, we realized we only had one of them.  I let Stephanie talk me into waiting while she went back to look for it.  About four minutes into my wait, I realized I was bored silly, and probably should have gone with her.  I tried working out with lava rocks to pass the time, but those bad boys are sharp!  Eventually, she returned successful, although she slyly kept me thinking she hadn’t found it for a good five minutes.

That afternoon, we checked out a new snorkel spot – Maluaka Beach in Makena.  The edge of the storm had really whipped up the currents, and so floating south was easy, it was swimming back north again that took some effort.  We were rewarded by spotting not only our beloved humuhumunukunukuapua’a ( the Hawaiian state fish) and honu (sea turtles), but we saw some manta rays in the wild; a first for us!  These things are huge. Like, as-big-as-me huge!

In the evening, Stephanie tried her hand at making me a local Hawaiian dish called loco moco. Basically, it’s a bed of rice with a hamburger patty on top, a fried egg on top of that, and the whole thing is drowning in mushroom and onion gravy.  Legend has it that loco moco was born when a surfer nicknamed “Moco” walked into a diner and asked what was the most food he could get with the small amount of money he had.  Don’t knock it till you try it!  It’s delicious, and Stephanie’s version was just as tasty as any I’ve had.

86 Loco Moco!!

Loco Moco

After that, there was nothing to do but stroll to the beach and watch the sun set.

The next day, Stephanie woke up early and declared that we should go check out Heleakala Volcano, the summit of which stands 10,000 feet above sea level.  On the way there, she hit me with the news that rather than hike the eight or so miles we had done once before, we were trying a new, 13 mile hike.  That’s not a typo.  This hike that we were about to do with no training time was the length of a half marathon.  We descended on the aptly-named Sliding Sands Trail, and then crossed the crater floor.  Haleakala’s crater actually has two valleys in it, so we hiked over a ridge to the second valley, across it, and then up the other side which consisted of over 1400 feet of switchbacks going up a sheer and frankly, beautiful wall.  Along the way, we passed through several different types of landscapes including the arid Mars-looking crater, meadows, and roiling clouds. In fact at the top of Haleakala you can actually see turbulence in the clouds.  Here’s a great video of it.

Haleakala is also home to a plant called a Silversword that only grows here in Haleakala – nowhere else in the world.  They can live up to 50 years, but they only bloom once, and then they die.  Last time we were here, we saw mostly dead ones, but this time, they were blooming everywhere.  We considered ourselves lucky to see them.

98 Silversword

Silversword

A mere seven hours after we started hiking, we popped out on the main road about 5000 feet lower than our starting point.  Since our car was still up at the top, we added a new experience to our collection: We hitchhiked to the summit.  Something about hitchhiking inside a national park makes it feel a lot safer than being on a random road somewhere.  We only had to wait about 10 minutes before a nice Indian family picked us up.  They had two kids in the back seat, so we had to squish in with Stephanie on my lap for the 15 minute journey.  That night – another beach sunset and another drink.  Oh yeah, did I mention the drinks?  We toasted the setting sun with Mike’s hard cranberry, passion fruit lemonade.  It may be a red, fruity girlie drink, but that certainly didn’t stop us from enjoying it.

Whew – and we’re only halfway through the week.

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