Haleakala Volcano

Mon, Jan 4, 2010

General, Outdoors

Haleakala Volcano

Acrophobia.  You don’t want to teach it to your children.

But that cable car incident in Austria 25 years ago keeps coming back to haunt you.

You even freaked out a few years after that, with your boyfriend while descending the wide, curving staircase of a historical lighthouse on the coast of South Carolina.  You breathed into the back of his shirt like it was a paper bag as he took each slow, careful step down, reminding you to breathe…breathe.

All those Austrians’ ski poles and skis whacking you upside the head as the car swung out horizontally in one direction, then horizontally in the other, people crushing you, screaming Mein Gott! and O Neiiiin! and Hiiilfe!

You sure got to use your German degree that day.

But your kids don’t need to know all of that.  They want to reach for the sky, even if that means white knuckles for you at the wheel at over ten thousand feet above sea level.  Even if you will humor yourself by attributing your feeling at the summit to altitude sickness, when in fact it’s just your old Alpine nemesis, your plain old burning need for more couch time to relive the horrors of 3 hours stuck in a swinging cable car with a bunch of sobbing skiiers shrieking and sprechen-ing about your impending collective doom….

Haleakala is like Mount Rainier in that it’s mysterious, full of legend, and devoid of guard rails in exactly those places that a white-knuckled tourist chick from Ohio would expect guard rails to be.

Haleakala is beautiful.

The guidebooks say that we should have gotten up super early and joined the traffic rush of tour buses and rental cars that come up in time to see the sunrise.

And the same books advise to come in the afternoon in order to catch the sunset. There’s even one tour that offers a fancy dinner, and another tour in the dark to gaze at the stars.

Alas and alack, with Phobia Mom at the wheel and all those guard rail-less hairpin curves to negotiate, it seemed best to come see the volcano up close in the middle of the day. Our reward was a quiet experience here with few other people nearby.

The boys thought about life up here in the virtual cinder desert of rock.  How would it have been to be an ancient Hawai’ian sent up here to get minerals or hunt birds?  We read that it was common for men to trek up here for those practical reasons, as well as for spiritual ones.  How long would it have taken a person on foot to get to the crater area?  What would he have had along with him to drink?  With no paved road like today, wouldn’t he have had sore legs?

He wouldn’t have had my white knuckles, I bet.

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