A Picture Perfect Moment.

The rising and setting of the sun has been romanticized through the ages. Even after Galileo put forth the notion that these phenomena actually result from the rotation of the earth. Scientific fact aside, there are many places on our planet where sunrise and sunset are cause for much picture-taking and many WOWs. One such location is the Haleakala Crater on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

Sunrise on Haleakala (Photo courtesy of http://www.gohawaii.com)

Sunrise on Haleakala (courtesy of http://www.gohawaii.com)

It was 1988, and Simon and I were coming up on our 10th anniversary. We were stuck on deciding where to go for a special trip to celebrate, when Delta Airlines came to the rescue.

The deal was that if you flew 40 segments in a particular three-month period, you would receive two first-class tickets to anywhere in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii.

We were living in Knoxville, TN at the time, and almost every one of Simon’s business trips had him changing planes in Atlanta. This made it easy for him to meet the requirement.

Maui was our chosen destination, and what awaited us was truly beautiful. Toward the end of our week in paradise, we decided to participate in one of the island’s most popular tourist rituals by driving to the summit of Haleakala to watch the sunrise.

At 3:00 AM, we dragged ourselves out of bed, put on jeans, sweatshirts and windbreakers, and got in the car for the long drive along a tightly winding road.

When we reached the summit, 10,023 feet above sea level, we found that our fellow tourists were almost as fascinating as what we actually came to see. Simon took pictures of people wrapped in blankets from a variety of hotels, enjoying breakfast picnics and one brave man dressed in shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops. But nobody seemed to mind the cold or the wait to experience sunrise over the crater’s rim.

From the summit, the views are nothing short of breath-taking. Depending on the weather, you might see the islands of Molokai, Lanai and Hawaii’s Big Island, as well as spectacular views of Maui.

Sunrise is the more popular event atop Haleakala, but sunset can be just as satisfying, and less crowded. The park is open 24/7, and also offers opportunities and programs for stargazers.

In Hawaiian, Haleakalā means “house of the sun.”. According to legend, Maui, a demigod, wanted to lengthen the day, so he imprisoned the sun in the crater. A crude method to be sure, but far less complicated than daylight saving time.

The Haleakala National Park, of which the dormant volcano is only a part, was Established in 1961. In 1980, the entire 33,265 acre park was designated an International Biosphere Reserve, which features more endangered species than any other national park in the United States. The last time Haleakalā erupted was sometime between 1480 and 1600 AD.

The crater is almost 7 miles long, about 2 miles wide, 22 miles around the circumference, and 2,600 feet deep. You can take a trail down into the crater from Haleakala’s summit where you can camp or stay in one of a limited number of cabins. Reservations for these accommodations need to be made in advance.

Once the sun had blazed into view, with Simon snapping more pictures, we wandered around for a while, then drove back down the mountain in search of breakfast.

Sunrise over Haleakala - A View we Never Captured (Photo courtesy of http://www.gohawaii.com)

Sunrise over Haleakala – A View we Never Captured (Photo courtesy of http://www.gohawaii.com)

Now back then, there were no digital cameras. Simon had an Olympus that had served him well for nearly a decade. He has always had a good eye for photography, and we couldn’t wait to see what he had taken at the summit of Haleakala.

Well, we’re still waiting. As we found out later that day, my beloved had forgotten to put a roll of film in the camera. I won’t repeat a single word we used upon our sad discovery, but even now, we talk about those pictures of Haleakala the same way a fisherman talks about “the one that got away”.

Since I like to keep my glass half full, going back to Maui to get those pictures is something we may do some day. Then, we’ll be able to say WOW all over again.

More information: (808) 572-4400; http://www.nps.gov/hale

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