While staying on the island of Maui in Hawaii (our second destination after New Mexico), we spent a good amount of time lounging on the beach but eventually made the journey up from sea level to 10000 ft., arriving at Haleakala National Park. The ascent took us along a well paved winding road through heavy fog and a light rain. It was a mysterious and wonderful drive, breaking in and out of clouds and watching the greenery change with elevation.
As we made our way towards the top we began to have misgivings about the effects the precipitation might have on our backpacking trip. The plan was to hike down into the Haleakala Crater and camp at a site about 4 miles in, but one of my travel companions did not come equipped with adequate rain gear. We decided to brave it and set off into the light rain down the side of the crater.
As expected, we were quite wet by the time we reached the crater floor but the discomfort was overtaken by the awe-inspiring surroundings we found ourselves in. The ferns hanging around our ears displayed each stage of their lifespan at one time, starting as tightly curled tan spirals, opening into bright red and eventually lush green fronds, finally drooping towards the ground, blackened, as if they had been struck by lightning.
As we meandered over the crater floor, black lava rocks began to show themselves here and there, peeking out from the thick fog. We arrived at the campground thoroughly soaked and scanned the area desperately for any sign of dry covered ground. The nearby cabin and various sheds were locked tight, but there was a horse stall that we were able to take cover in. It was a strange and comical thing to be laying all our things out on saddle racks and bridle hooks to dry down there in the basin of a volcanic crater, but we were grateful to be out of the rain in any case.
The aesthetic of Haleakala gave me a reminder of the vast color and texture palette utilized by Nature. Living in communities dominated by my own species, I tend to dismiss the subtleties of the natural world in everyday life because they are not close at hand. The things we have created and accomplished as humans are impressive, but they don't compare to those things created and accomplished by life itself over millions of years on this planet. We are a product of this magical evolution, but it is very easy for us to forget or deny our origins as we are swept up in the currents of human imagination and the intricate matrix of interpretations.
Experiencing such a unique landscape as Haleakala distilled a deep sense of significance in my chilled body. As I shivered and squelched in my shoes, the volcanic rock quietly displayed confidence in its history of movement and stillness. My feelings of discomfort were put into perspective every time I contemplated the way the living things under my feet humbly accepted and welcomed the pounding rain.
The bottom line is, never outgrow respect for the natural world that we all sprang from. No matter your religion, your lifestyle, or your beliefs, it is so important to connect back to the dirt underneath the layers of concrete that cover so much of our daily walking terrain.