Haleakalā Sustainability at 10,000 Feet – Caring For the Land

Haleakala-National-ParkWhat might be of great interest to gardeners on the mainland is land management at Haleakalā National Park.

Haleakala-National-ParkHaleakalā is formed from cinder cones from repeated eruptions which gives Haleakalā its unique appearance, almost other-worldly. Our group likened the landscape to scenes from the movie, The Martian.

Why it might interest gardeners is the stories of ancient and modern Hawaiian culture that was keen on protecting the bond between the land and its people. The term for their particular sustainability is Mãlama ‘āina – caring for the land. These words are very strong to the Kanaka Maoli people who practice their values every day in their fishing, farming, and gathering practices.

Since there is a great amount of mainland influence and tourism, Hawai`i imports approximately three-quarters of its food, and over ninety percent of its energy. This is contrary to the values of many native Hawaiians. In fact, there is a growing resistance to the loss of farms on the islands to commercial development. It does seem they are changing things for the better.

The islands are making great strides in becoming more independent in keeping with the sustainable practice of Mãlama ‘āina. As Hawai`i actually becomes more sustainable, foreign and mainland tourists will carry back the Hawaiian vision for their own communities.

Silversword - Native Plant on Haleakalā

Silversword – Native Plant on Haleakalā

The Park cares for endangered species of plant and animal in this sub-tropical rain forest. Don’t let it fool you into thinking there is an abundance of either though. A limited number of plants, birds and insects call this area home. We were restricted from some trails because we were with a commercial tour group of eight. They do not let tour groups of any size navigate the trails to protect the native plant life.

Seed must be removed from hiking boots, rain gear and clothing so as not to introduce foreign species. As gardeners know, the greatest threat to native plant life is the introduction of alien species. Some of these endangered species exist nowhere else on the planet.


The Park officials don’t even allow the stacking of rocks in the area and deem it artificial imitation of ahu piles. Rich mineral deposits create deep, beautiful colors.

Haleakala-National-Park-1Literally, the Park is not for the faint of heart because an ambulance will take at least 45 minutes to arrive from the nearest town. People with respiratory or heart conditions must be aware that the summit of Haleakalā is at 10,023 ft. I did know this before my trip and luckily had no issues myself. I climbed and was all over the peak, unlike others in my group.

When I booked my flight to Maui I had some idea what to see being in Maui last year. I wanted to make sure and do a few things I had not experienced in 2014. My friend Barbara suggested a sunrise tour at the Haleakalā crater. We made inquiries about tours and realized none of them are cheap. We had a rented car, but decided not to drive up ourselves. A downfall to a tour is that besides the sunrise, there is many other things to do at Haleakalā National Park where one could spend a full day. After all, driving time to the summit from our resort in Kā’anapali takes two hours.

We did not want to risk a rainy, cloud covered peak for sunrise, and went later in the morning. To see sunrise, visitors must leave for the summit between 2 and 3am. Driving at night would be rather unpredictable so taking a tour is most safe. There are quite a few road hazards of concern on the route to the park, including steep turns, falling rocks, fog, slippery conditions from rain, not to mention the bicycles and large buses. You might even encounter cattle.

According to legend, in the basin at the mountain’s summit, the demigod Maui snared the sun, releasing it only after the sun promised to move more slowly across the sky. Maui did this at the request of his mother, Hina. His father was Akalana. Haleakalā means “house of the sun”. That is the image depicted on the sign in the above gallery.

Pu’u’ula’ula Summit

Haleakala-Observatory-0Our tour guide took us to have a nice view of the big island and the Haleakalā Observatories.

Haleakala-ObservatoryUnfortunately, cloud cover hid the island.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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21 Responses to Haleakalā Sustainability at 10,000 Feet – Caring For the Land

  1. Maria F. says:

    Thanks for sharing about this island. Hawaii does trigger an interest in me because these islands of the Pacific are so different from those in the Atlantic. There’s similar flora, but the Pacific has another feel to it.

  2. Lisa - Ontario says:

    I found it interesting that they do not allow people to stack the rocks. Good for them. When you go to a natural area you are not going to look at man made creations. When I kayak I find it very irritating that the natural landscape of the beautiful rock formations are marred by all the inukshuks that people have made. I strongly believe in “leave no trace”. Do not take the rocks, do not stack the rocks, do not leave BBQ’s in natural areas. We have a few things to learn apparently.

  3. Victor Ho says:

    Leaving at 3AM for the top is not the worst thing. The sunrise out of the crater is indeed spectacular. You arrive at 5AM or so and sit in 30 degree weather waiting for the sun. That’s cold! We swiped a few blankets from the hotel for the wait. I’d have loved to ride a bike on that long downhill! But the point was to get the elusive sunrise shot. Glad you got to do it. I thought it was cool too.

  4. Jet Eliot says:

    I love Haleakala, your photos here are gorgeous. Espec. like seeing that beautiful photo of the silversword.

  5. It sounds like a wonderful experience. I’m glad you were able to do it.

  6. swo8 says:

    Thanks for telling us about the folk lore of the island, Donna. There’s so much to learn and the pictures bring it all to life.

  7. Indigenous people have such an understanding of sustainability and the land. Very interesting post and trip. Glad you made it to the top and back. We had a lot of cloud cover on the Azores peaks. Part of being so high up I guess! Am glad there is some strict protection of the flora.

  8. alesiablogs says:

    Really enjoyed all the rich info.

  9. Thanks for sharing ! That was very interesting. We are seriously considering visiting Hawaii and it’s good to know about all of this.

  10. Interesting that the Maori have similar myths here in New Zealand. Great photos and info

  11. Les says:

    I’ve seen photos and video from Haleakalā, and even so, it is not what you expect when you imagine the Hawaiian landscape.

  12. Andrea says:

    I can see you are in very good condition now health-wise! i can relate to this tour though i haven’t been to Haleakala, only to the active volcano in Hilo. The lava flows solidify as it cools creating black hard rocks like that.

  13. An absolutely perfect ‘article’. Your photos, info, text and narrative always delights and delivers…thank you Donna.

  14. So many beautiful places with rich history!

  15. I’ve never been and now must go. Great photos.

  16. Wow, what a starkly beautiful place. To be honest, I may content myself with just seeing your photos, I’m not sure I would go on such an expedition.

  17. Loved the photos and really enjoyed the information on your travels; this is a part of the world I really want to see.

  18. Wow…absolutely gorgeous Donna! Your photos and the folklore behind each one are wonderful. Maui is certainly a beautiful paradise…enjoy!

  19. Your photos are breathtaking, Donna.

  20. Fabulous! I would love to see a sunrise at the Haleakalā crater….fascinating info Donna!

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