Caution: Spirit Crossing - Part 2
Look up into the blindingly bright green valley to find the 2,250-foot tall Iao Needle. Now, take a time machine backward and imagine it's 200 years ago. The valley was filled with fierce Hawaiian warriors in hand-to-hand combat. The streams ran red with the warrior's blood. Big Island chief, Kamehameha fought and conquered the Maui chief Kalanikupule, uniting the islands under one ruler. Today the peaceful Kepaniwai Gardens, named for the famous battle, are a respite from the 50-mile per hour world.
Next stop, mountaintop. Standing by the visitor center at the top of a 10,023-foot mountain it isn't hard to imagine the demi-god, Maui, throwing a rope to capture the sun. Haleakala translates to House of the Sun. At daybreak the sun spills into the 3,000-foot deep crater-like core of the mountain. Looking like the surface of the moon, the crater is deep enough and wide enough to hold the entire island of Manhattan. Turn away from the crater view and watch the shadow of a 10,000-foot mountain shrink as the sun rises.
The tale is told that Maui lassoed the sun so his mother would have more daylight hours to dry her kapa fabric. This is the same demi-god who pulled the Hawaiian islands from the sea with his giant fishhook. Today, the mountain wears garments of green flower farms and pasture lands and is circled with pristine beaches, like a lei. Good work, Maui.
Back at sea level, the place called Mokuula is something to be felt, rather than seen. Back in the 15th century, the area was the residence of high chiefs. It was surrounded by a natural spring-fed pond where taro and fish thrived. Look up to see the origination of the spring: the pristine cloud forest of the West Maui Mountains, home to an ecosystem of 300 species of native plants.
Today the historic Lahaina site is covered by a baseball field located in the center of the island's tourist metropolis. Unseen, but not lost, the history lives through tours offered by the Friends of Mokuula. Following the appropriate ancient chant, the guides say, "walk this way." Guests can follow them back several centuries. Hawaiian royalty will be waiting to show the trail. Happily, visitors are never alone on Maui.
Kaanapali Historical Trail & History and Legends Tour, 808-661-3271
Lahaina Town Action Committee, 808-667-9175
Haleakala National Park, 808-572-4400
Iao Valley State Park, 808-984-8109
Hawaii Nature Center, 808-244-6500
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