Aloha-Seeing the best of Hawaii, the land of Serenity with stunning landscapes, ravishing sunset beaches, paradise gardens, with dynamic coast lines, historical volcanoes and national parks that takes you through 19th century towns, ancient temples and churches, cowboy villages, seeing majestic waterfalls, Gardens, Canyons and natures living creatures of fascinating birds, turtles, plants, and ocean marines gives you a breathtaking view of the island of Paradise that consists of 132 islands, atolls, reefs, and shoals. As Hawaii ranks fourth in the United States in coastlines and today continues to make more islands from its active volcano lavas.The process, scientists theorize, began more than 50 million years ago. What was once just a hot spot on the ocean floor is now fertile inhabit land, as volcano rocks break down and gradually turns into life-supporting soil.

Mother Nature forces the sun, wind, rain to eat away at the land, as surfs carve the coastlines and rain cuts valleys and ridges into new mountains.

One mountain or volcano I had a pleasure visiting with the Haas Family was the Haleakala Crater on the island of Maui.

Our second day in Maui, we had planned to watch the sun rise at 5:30 a.m. on the mountain top on Haleakala Volcano. The elevation at the summit of Haleakala is 10,023 feet and it was a two-hour ride from where we were staying at Kamaole Sands Hotel.

Our early morning raise started 2 a.m. in the morning. Our tour guide Tom and Bev Haas warned everyone to bring a sweater, coat, jacket because once reaching the top of the summit, the temperature may be in the low 30s or 40s and it was said the coldest it had reached was 12º F and the warmest had recorded 73º F.

Our three car caravan took off that morning not knowing what to expect as we all saw the giant Maui volcano in the distance and wondered how cold it would be once we got there.

On the way we passed acres and acres of sugarcane fields, orchid farms, palm, coconut, dark green macadamia nut trees, while watching cattle, sheep and wild goats grazing the land at the bottom of the entrance to the park. With rolling grasslands and clouds above circling overhead the volcano, you could see miles of beautiful terrain from great distances from all directions.

In entering Haleakala's National Park entrance and its park headquarters, you would see pictures on signs of Hawaii's state bird the Nene (Hawaiian goose). The Nene bird evolved from Canadian geese, which at one time were way off course, got lost, and ended up in Hawaii. Instead of swimming in lakes, they walk over rough lava flows, so their feet have lost most of their webbing. The island of Maui, Kauai, and the big island are the only places this endangered bird is found in the wild.

Once on top of the great Haleakala Volcano, you could feel the cold chills, as everyone rushed to pick their favorite spot to see the beautiful sunrise. As we all got there at 5:00 a.m. and at 10,000 feet altitude, you could feel the strong trade winds sweep around the volcano.

On Haleakala you can find humid temperatures, tropical desert temperatures, and alpine freezing temperatures. Everyone was wearing their warm clothes, for that day it was said to be 50º F.

It was a breathtaking view of the island of Maui, as you saw a great many volcano craters and large, steep-walled basins called calderas that were a few miles wide and thousands of feet deep. Also, to the southwest were cinder cones of the mountain rifts. The rift of Haleakala, it is said, extends from the summit for 14 miles to the sea with Molokans its farthest visible cone.

It was then that I approached a park ranger, Kendrich LaSater to ask him about the Haleakala Volcano. He said he was from Collegeville, Pa. (north of Norristown) and has been on the summit of the volcano for only 13 weeks. He says he loves being on the volcano, got his masters at Houston Texas Ranger School and applied for the Hawaiian Volcano Park jobs. After one year Ken got his break and the job. He spends 40 hours a week on the mountain and is happy to instruct, teach, and educate people that come there.

He then said the only plant that grows on the volcano is the silversword plant. It's the only species that is adapted to high altitudes. If walking too close to it, you will crush its roots.

The time had come as "The Sun" started to rise. It was 5:30AM as many people were just arriving, rushing to see "God's glorious mountain volcano" as the great sun slowly rose with skies of orange, yellow, white and blue beams across the high horizon of clouds that were moving slowly. The heavens open up, showing the most gorgeous site, the panoramic view of the crates of the Haleakala.

The Haleakala view is often described as a moon-scape with barren rocks and volcanic shapes of vast craters. The sun gave it muted shades of purple, gray, rust and yellow, as the sunlight and swirling clouds keep changing the hues and patterns of its landscape.

All in the while, a lady park ranger was singing, howling, echoing a wild Hawaiian theme song until the sun had completely shown itself. It was a gorgeous site to see on top of the highway mountain to heaven as the sun's ultra-violet rays warm the mountain island of Maui.

At the visitor center you were able to talk to the park ranger, buy gifts, walk about, and take pictures. About 500 yards to the South West of the visitor center on top of a circular cone of the rift is the Haleakala Observatories.

It was said by Ranger LaSater that the high altitude observatories track satellites, measure the wobble of the moon, conduct other space research, and measure the island of Maui's land movement that moves about 4 inches every year.

After a couple hours on Haleakala's, 10,023 feet volcano, I may have witnessed one of God's wonders of the world, and now I know why it's called "House of the Sun" as we all survived the 32-mile drive from its sea-level start."

On the way back down the volcano, the temperature started to get hotter. All our warm clothes came off and the air conditioner went on. Every five to ten miles you were able on its narrow road to go to an overlook parking area. The rim provides another view of the other side of the volcano, with spectacular views of the crater floor villages, and hikers riding, walking the trails seeing beautiful volcano ridges, with the ocean and beaches in view.

We then were hungry and headed to the town of Makawao, known as Cowboy town, where cows, steers, and real cowboys ride their horses on their open ranches. After the hour ride to Cowboy Town we stopped at the town's favorite store, "Komoda Donte and Bakery Store," where we had Hawaii's most famous home made cream puffs, mac nut cookies, stick doughnuts, chocolate-smeared long johns, fruit pies, Chantilly cakes, azuki pie, and coffee.

The Komoda Bakery is from four generations of the Komoda family. It's known for its legendary cream puffs and the wait for it is endless. I was told lines form before 7 a.m. when they open, and by 10 a.m., the backers racks inside are empty every day. Late comers must content themselves with whatever is left and maybe just a tee shirt or hat to prove you were there. "As I can say I seen the best of Hawaii in Maui, and had the Haleakala experience." Aloha.

Until next time, Ciao, Joe D'Angelo

P.S - Here are some Haleakala Volcano facts. Maui's Haleakala Volcano is a lot like Mars. The planet Mars position in the solar systems is the fourth planet from the sun. Earth is the third planet from the sun. Even though Haleakala is located close to the Equator, a typical daytime high temperature may read only 68 degrees Fahrenheit for much of the year, and the atmosphere is relatively calm.

Mars also has typical daytime temperatures for 68 degrees and the atmosphere relatively calm. Both places clocked winds at 11 miles per hour. They both have clouds over the Volcan slopes that are made up of water and in the winds, the moisture condenses and freezes, leaving a very thin covering of water ice on the ground about 100 days out of the year, as violent storms sometimes develop in the summer, which can result in wind speeds close to 110 miles per hour.

Our Apollo astronauts did train on Haleakala as part of the U.S. space mission to the moon. Its last eruption was in 1790 and the oldest exposed lava was about one million years old.

Next week, Part IV "The Road to Hanna"

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