Favorite thing: As you drive up to the summit the road passes through a bank of clouds and then emerges above the clouds. The view from above the clouds is simply a impressive sight giving one a feeling of being on top of the world. The summit also usually rises above these clouds giving you a clear view of the crater floor. This is the reason so many people come here to watch the sunrise or the sunset. The attraction of the sunrise on the volcano for which people get up at 3 am (so they have time to get to the top), is that you are above the clouds and the effects of the sunrise above the clouds is spectacular.
The endemic species that are special to the Hawaiian islands are endangered by the mammals that people have brought to the islands. They tell us that the only mammals native to Hawaii are a species of bat and marine mammals.
Rats, cows, pigs and the like eat the plants and animals of the islands which then become endangered. The National Park has cattle guards to keep the cattle that are raised on the lower slopes of the volcano out (photo 2). They also have a lot of information about what species of birds and other animals are native and what species are endangered.
Because the island arose as a volcano from the sea, all of the plants and animals arrived after traversing two thousand miles through the air or sea. Once theses organisms got there, they adapted to the harsh environment to make the species unique. More endangered species live in in Haleakalā National Park than any other national park in the United States.
Once man arrived on the islands and particularly tourism became common, native species were endangered or destroyed. One example is the ʻāhinahina (Haleakalā Silversword, Argyroxiphium sandwicense macrocephalum), which used to cover Haleakala Mountain to a degree where the mountain looked as if it were covered with snow.
The plant has a wide shallow root system to catch any small amount of rain over a large area. This worked well when the only mammals around were bats. But when cattle, pigs and goats came to the island their feet crushed the roots and their teeth ate the silver foliage.
At some point during its life it sends up a spectacular flowering stalk that can reach six feet in height. Each stalk can produce hundreds of maroon sunflowerlike flower heads. But the silversword flowers only once, at the end of its lifetime, produces seeds and then dies.
In an effort to prevent the species from becoming extinct the park rangers are hand pollinating the flowers, collecting the seeds and raising seedlings.
Fondest memory: I didn't get to see a nene or any of the various endemic birds. I didn't see a silversword flowering stalk - only plants that had flowered. But the plant it self was sufficiently astonishing.
Favorite thing: The first part of the journey is the drive to the volcano itself, a twisty, 30 miles trip through ranchland. This drive through upcountry Maui to Haleakala is a great roadtrip experience. The road climbs quickly, a total altitude gain of 10000 feet (3000 meters) and soon you'll find yourself above the clouds, looking down on fields and beaches. The road to the top travels through numerous climates, which are surprisingly sharply defined: open forest, grasslands, desert, and seemingly barren volcanic ground. You will see numerous signs telling motorists to watch out for cyclists, which use this road to come down from the summit. After you passed the park entrance you'll see signs advising you to watch for Nene birds crossing the road.
Favorite thing: During the drive through upcountry Maui to Haleakala from place to place the clouds will part and you'll be able to see the south Maui shoreline from the highway. It's a beautiful sight, worth stopping for a better look. Just make sure you pull over where you have enough space not to block the highway.
Favorite thing: One of the possible activities is to come up to the top of the crater and see the sunrise. The air is very clear and that's why they have the observatory up here.