Day 8: March 30, 2017
The Road Through Hana

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From the moment I learned of its existence I wanted to drive the Road to Hana. 52 miles, 59 bridges, 619 turns. I was on my way at sunrise.

I pulled over at Twin Falls but thought the "CLOSED" sign might apply to the path to the falls. As I begin to question the wisdom of my early start, a camera toting fellow walked past the sign and down the path. I followed and soon reached this pond and falls. Apparently there is another, slightly less accessible, falls nearby. The sign, it turns out, is for a produce stand that operates by the parking area.

Some gentle curves and my first bridge. There will be plenty more of each although most of the curves will be nowhere near this gentle.

Curves and bridges often come together and there is usually some good looking scenery nearby, too.

Produce stands and other attractions dot the roadside but I was too early for them to be open.

The ocean is completely out of sight much of the time but it sometimes almost touches the road. I was surprised several times by small waterfalls popping out of the foliage. Most disappeared in a flash and a pullout for stopping wasn't always available. Once, when I impulsively slowed for a particularly striking falls, I was treated to a polite horn toot from behind. "Pull over for locals" is good advice that had slipped my mind. Not everyone on the road is gawking at scenery they've never seen before.

I spent some time relaxing and sipping ice tea at Hana Bay and I checked out the local museum. The 1871 courthouse is still used today. A 2017 calendar is under the glass on the judge's desk.

Hana Highway is commonly referred to as "The Road to Hana". What I understood to be the typical tourist experience is driving or riding a tour van to Hana and then returning over the same route and that's what I had in mind. However, when I saw a sign showing Haleakala National Park to be about ten miles further on, I headed there. The fellow with the drone is just inside the park's boundary. The drone is hard to see against the trees. It is almost directly over the girl. The road to the park is narrow and winding but so well paved that even the little Beemer looks comfortable. It turns out that today most tourists at least reach this far before turning around. The visitor building is being refurbished so rangers are operating outside under canopies.

At the park exit, a sign pointed to Hana in one direction and Kaupo in the other. I had just left one of those places so I turned toward the other. It was obviously the right choice. There were places where driving into the ocean would have been pretty easy but I worked at avoiding that. I believe the nicely decorated place in the second picture was selling bananas and coconuts but I didn't see anyone around and was unsure of what I was doing so didn't stop. I wish I had to at least get a better picture. Like the Haleakala Park visitor center, the old store at Kaupo is undergoing some repairs and the business is operating under a canopy at its side. I refreshed myself with a sit-down and some guava juice.

The condition of the road varied beyond Kaupo but it was always quite passable as it apparently has been for at least 150 years. Just past the church, a crew was working on making it even better. I was the first car stopped at the work site but by the time I was flagged on a scooter and a pickup truck had pulled up behind me. I waved them around when the flagman without a flag waved me on. The scooter was first but he pulled over and turned around at about the point where he could first see over the hill. The truck went merrily on its way.

About two miles beyond the work site, things suddenly improved a bunch. The road was still narrow but the pavement was smooth with a nice white stripe along both edges. Sure, there might be a little flooding and gravel now and then but so what? In another few miles, a centerline even appeared.

The return to "normal" roads concluded my planned activities for the day and I figured I'd just continue on the circle back to my motel in Kahului. Then I saw a sign pointing to Haleakala Crater. The crater is supposed to be one of the coolest spots in the world to watch a sunrise and, after a lot of waffling, I decided to give it a go after another friend (Brian R) gave it a rousing recommendation. However, when I really looked into it I learned that, as of February 1, a permit is required. The permits are cheap ($1.50) but none are available for any of the days I'm here. A quick check of high priced tours, which presumedly include a permit, show them booked into May. I had planned on driving up tomorrow -- long after sunrise -- but why not now?

It really is quite a climb to the summit at 10,023 feet. There is a shelter at the top which is probably handy when it rains but the views are much better outside. After looking over the incredible views, I headed back down toward the clouds I'd driven through on the way up.

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