The last thing I expected when visiting the island of Maui in Hawaii this week was snow. But there Mark and I were at 10,023 feet above sea level at the Haleakala Crater in Haleakala National Park watching snow and ice accumulate on our windshield.
When we left the west coast of Maui mid-morning, it was raining, but it was also nearly 70 degrees. Atop the summit of Haleakala, it was 37 degrees and falling. I’m originally from the east coast of the U.S. where hurricanes abound, so I’m a good judge of wind speed. In my best estimation, winds gusted at 50-60 mph.
When you are one of four idiot cars on top of a treacherous, ice-slicked parking lot with high winds threatening to pick up your car and slide it into a huge gaping volcanic crater not more than 50 feet downwind of you, it might rattle your nerves a bit. It did ours. We were nervously laughing throughout the episode. The biggest question on our minds (besides whether our car could in fact slide sideways into that crater) was whether it would be best to sit tight until the storm passed or get the heck out before it got worse.
We tried the first option for 20 minutes and sat impatiently waiting for conditions to improve. They didn’t. When we imagined the ride back down the mountain, filled with switchbacks, hairpin turns, and now ice, we opted for the alternate plan–get out before it got worse. Amongst fog, ice, snow, wind and rain, we white-knuckled our way down to peace of mind.
I still haven’t seen a volcanic crater but have been on a journey to one. Sometimes the journey is more exciting than the destination. I guess I’ll have to visit Maui again to make that final determination. The Haleakala Crater will have to wait.
ASIDE: Oddly enough, the park ranger at the entrance booth to the park neglected to mention that conditions above might be especially rough. Luckily, Mark has some big kahunas, so he was okay with tackling the driving, but it would not have been a pleasant predicament for those slightly less adventurous (including me!). Next time, we plan to call the National Weather Service at 866-944-5025 to get an update on the forecast if there is questionable weather in the area.