Puu Olai P300

Sat, Dec 10, 2016
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I spent the previous day with an old friend from high school who had moved to Maui some 22yrs ago with his wife where they've made a life for themselves. He showed me around his property along the Hana Hwy, some 3 acres where he spends a lot of time maintaining a large main house, two rentals, various other buildings and sheds, water and septic systems, all on three acres of land. "A labor of love", as he describes it, quite impressive but far more work than I would be willing to spend. I helped him with some minor painting while we were there and then had a late lunch in Paia on our way back to town. After I dropped him off at home, I drove up the Haeakala Hwy to spend the night at a higher elevation with plans to hike in the summit crater the next day. It's not a great place to spend the night because starting around 5a there is a steady procession of cars driving up to catch the magical sunrise. It's really hit or miss on the sunrise thing since it's very dependent on the right configuration of clouds to catch the colorful sky that gets so much hype. There would be no wonderful sunrise this morning because it was completely overcast and raining lightly. When I got the Visitor Center near the summit around 7a, the parking lot was full of cars from folks who had driven up for the sunrise and then planned to use one of the outfits that rents bikes for the downhill ride. The rain didn't let up and after about half an hour the cars started leaving one by one and the bike outfitters drove their trailers back down the mountain. The rain never did stop. In fact, as the morning wore wore on it started raining harder, then the wind started up viciously and it looked more like a Pacific Northwest storm than the Hawaiian tropics. I waited it out until after 1p, sitting in my van reading, texting the family and playing games. With no end in sight and the daylight hours running out, I called it quits. As I was leaving I saw a lone backpacker getting ready to head out on a trip I'm guessing he couldn't reschedule. He had a garbage bag for a rainjacket and another one over his pack. It was probably 40F out and it looked like the most miserable of experiences was about to unfold. I wished him luck under my breath as I drove away.

I whiled away much of the afternoon out of the rain in Kihei on the "drier" leeward side of the island. I had hoped it might be better there but I found it raining just as hard with streets flooded, golf courses empty and a lot of vacations on hold for the time being. Eventually the rain did let up some around 4:40p, so I headed out for a short hike to Puu Olai in Makena State Park and the south end of the ultra-luxury resorts that comprise the Wailea-Makena area. This small cinder cone named Puu Olai rises some 360ft at the edge of the island directly east of the popular diving atoll of Molokini. There is a use trail that goes across Puu Olai, the southwest end starting at the small spit of land between Big Beach and Little Beach. The other end, which I didn't explore fully, appears to go down the northeast side to Oneuli Beach. Since the parking lot is on the southeast side, the Big Beach access trail seems the better choice. I had gone out that way in search of the trail, but without doing my homework well enough, I started up the first trail I found which turned out to be deer tracks that can be found all over the hill (I spooked a few of these spotted deer on the ascent). My route was a steep sand and gravel climb up the south side, much like the last part of our climb in Keslo Dunes a week earlier. Ugh ugh. I eventually found the trail and followed that for the last 100yds to the summit. It is a fine viewpoint though the weather was hardly ideal today. In addition to Molokini, I could see Kahoolawe to the southwest and Lanai far to the northwest. Most of Haleakala was still shrouded in clouds to the east. I visited a lower summit to the northeast via the use trail to get a good view of Mauaka and the resort area. When I realized the trail was taking me down the wrong side of the hill, I used more animal trails to circle around the east side, ending in a small forest that required only minor bushwacking. The whole outing took but 30min, and just in time, too, because the rain wasted no time in starting back up again...


Scott H. comments on 12/15/16:
A "labor of love". Sounds like my tree farm in Oregon. Decades of upfront costs and ongoing manual labor with thought of thinning the forest in 25 to 30 years.
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