Maui County Council, Boy Scouts Of America
Scouting In Paradise

Troop 22: Haleakala Skyline Trail Hike

In the middle of the Pacific...
... on the island of Maui...

... in Kihei Town... the Kalama Park baseball field with our backs to the ocean.

And from the ball field, Boy Scout Troop 22 of Kihei can see their challenge: Hike from the near the summit of 10000 foot Haleakala volcano (1), to the campground at Poli Poli State Park, 6500 feet (2). 7.5 mile trail? No problem!

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Bright and early in the morning, Assistant Scoutmaster Carl’s wife Kelly drives us to the trailhead. Brrrr. With all this telephone equipment around us, is it too late to call home and ask for a ride straight to camp with Scoutmaster Mark and all the rest of our gear?

Assistant Scoutmaster Carl isn’t buying it, so off we go. At least it’s all downhill.

The trail follows the volcano’s southwest rift zone, which is where the mountain was active until only a couple of thousand years ago. No sulfur fumes from the craters now, though. Meanwhile, the microwave tower we started at fades into the distance... uphill. We’re committed. It’s easy to get dehydrated, so we make regular stops to take a drink.

The 5600’ (1700m) mountains of west Maui barely show through the murk. Normally, we’d have really clear skies, and a great view of most of the other Hawaiian Islands. However, Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii is erupting all the time, so when the northeast trades bow out for the southeast Kona winds, volcanic haze (“vog”) gets a little thick around Maui. Fortunately, we’re up high enough that we just have to look at it, not breath it.

Some of the craters along our route look a bit bottomless in a photo, but are only a couple of hundred feet deep. As we continue on, the trailhead shrinks into the distance, but the forests below haven’t yet shown themselves.

At lower elevations, the bare lava and cinders give way to grasses and a few hardy trees, watered by the clouds that often hug this ground like a fog.
We depart the alpine climate zone into the sub-alpine.

The hikers make sure to stay hydrated.

Soon we’re in brushland, and can see the cool forests seemingly so near down the mountainside. But, we won’t see shade for a couple of more hours.

At this altitude, we suspect many of the plants are native...
...but we don’t have any plant guides on hand, so we photograph them to review later.

At about the 7000 foot level, the trail briefly crosses over to the southeast face of the rift, where we can see the green cinder cones march down to black lava flows of La Perouse Bay.

The prevaling north east trade winds flow around Haleakala Volcano like water around the hull of a ship. The moist air creates a “ship’s wake” of clouds streaming from the southwest end of the mountain far out over the sea.

At the 3.5 mile mark, the foot trail becomes a jeep trail, where a small cut into the cinder slope reveals layers of volcanic history to young geologists.

Finally, the scent and shade of a eucalyptus forest.

The scouts take a break for drinks and to review their topo maps.

We’ve covered 7 miles, and some are starting to wonder just how well this trail was scouted out before the hike. Y’know, we’ve hiked right off the edge of this map. Do you know where you’re going, Carl? Yes. When are we getting to camp? Soon. How soon? Real soon. Actually, it would have been really neat to do a radio check in with Scoutmaster Mark or someone's parents. However, the terrific cell reception of a couple of months ago is now shot to heck by a major solar storm. So, we're been on our own for five hours.

See, what’d I tell you? Poli Poli State Park finally shows itself amid the pines.

Before they get too comfortable, the troop needs to get their camp gear unloaded from Scoutmaster Mark’s trailer. Many hands make short work, and the boys are soon able to move on to field craft and dinner prep.

Winter makes for chilly nights at 6500 feet, even in Hawaii. Even for born Hawaiians, it comes as a shock how cold it gets up here, down into the low forties. At least we’re not on the summit, where nights drop below freezing this time of year.

Mornings are a bit brisk, too.

Hot meals have plenty of protein and carbohydrates: sausage, eggs, and rice for breakfast! And not that Uncle Ben’s either, but sticky rice... da real ting! Fortunately, we’re Scouts, so we know how to cook rice in a pot, measuring the water with our knuckle.

The breakfast preparation isn’t done until the rice is. Got shoyu?

Poli Poli Park takes its name from Poli Poli Springs, which provides running water from right behind our field kitchen. The actual spring is hidden in a thicket, behind a chain link enclosure, where the water collects in a tank. Cold and clean straight out from the pipes to the camp spigots, cabin, and restrooms.

After lunch, we clean up, pack up, play capture the flag in the forest, and finally <sigh> load ‘em up for the ride home. Something tells me we’re going to lose those water jugs on the first bump in the road. ;-)

Until next time, aloha a hui ho!