After several frenzied weeks exploring Japan, our family decided to stop in Hawaii to dissolve jet-lag (always so much harder to adjust to when traveling east to west). The stress of travel, the long flight and weeks spent wandering Tokyo, Kyoto with their crowds and the push to see as much as possible had taken its toll. So, it was a pure pleasure to step into the fragrant, warm air after landing at the Oahu Airport. Another short plane hop and we were on Maui, our destination for a few, short days. I had no idea that Haleakela Crater would be the star of our sojourn.

We’d arranged to stay in a modest condo through a time share company and dear friend, Rose, joined us to play and help with my then five yr. old son. Our place was across the street from the beach and within 24 hours we were rested enough to explore more of the island.

Dawn at the Haleakala crater

Very early one morning, while the boys slept, Rose and I slipped into the car hours before sunrise and drove up to the summit of Haleakela, the ancient volcano – a site of remote wonder and stark beauty. It’s a long drive from most every location on the island.

The night sky on the islands is crowded with light from a full Milky Way. The constellations were easy to pick out. Then the indigo canopy slowly began its fade into rose as we wound up the mountain. .

Rose and I parked quickly and walked to a promontory overlooking the dark crater. Unfortunately, I came with only a light jacket and we both wished we’d been better prepared for the pre-dawn chill. Still, we found a perch a bit out of the wind and waited as others parked and stepped to the edge of the crater.

Watching the light illuminate the rim, sending shadows sliding across the volcanic floor, should be one of the natural wonders of the world. I could almost hear the music of spheres (or at least Stauss’ Thus Spoke Zarathustra made famous in 2001, A Space Odyssey), but anticipation had primed me for grandeur. I wasn’t disappointed. Even chilled, hungry and huddled away from the wind, I didn’t want to leave. The scene was spectacular.

We paid our respects and vowed to return one day – better prepared. I’d love to hike across the crater for the sunrise and fully savor that primordial, sacred space.