|About the Site|
|Haleakala National Park (3)|
A pleasant climate and spectacular scenery provide an ideal setting for exploring the park on foot. A variety of wonderful trails facilitate hiking in the crater and elsewhere in the park.
A short trail popular with many visitors is the rocky path to the top of White Hill (below), a basaltic knob above the crater's rim. The trailhead is adjacent to the rim visitor center, and trail ends at the top of the hill where it affords spectacular views of the crater. Along this trail there are also remains of sleeping shelters of native Hawaiians.
One of the major routes down into the crater is the Sliding Sands Trail, seen below as it snakes down along the southwest rim. There are about 32 miles of trails which cross the crater floor.
The trail leads down from the rim of the crater to its bottom, crossing volcanic sands and cinders along a moderately steep grade. It is considerably easier going down that coming up, especially at an altitude of nearly 10000 feet, a fact many visitors discover to their regret.
One popular hiking route enters the crater on the Sliding Sands Trail and exits on the Halemaumau Trail, seen below outside the rim.
The Hosmer Grove Trail, near the entrance to the park, leads through the forest of exotic trees planted by Hosmer. The quarter mile trail is adjacent to a campground and picnic area.
The park serves as a preserve for many exotic plants native to the Hawaiian Islands and contains a number of endangered species.
Perhaps the most famous of the plants found in Haleakala National Park is the fascinating silversword, known to native Hawaiians as ahinahina. The Haleakala crater is the only place in the world this plant can be found, but early in the century many of the unique plants had been destroyed. This destruction was caused not only by hikers and other visitors but also by the grazing of wild goats which had been introduced to the mountain. By 1927 only about 1000 of these plants remained, but conservation efforts in the park have increased the numbers now to about 50,000 plants.
The silversword, a relative of the sunflower, is well adapted for its life in the barren high altitude setting in which it is found. It is able to store and retain moisture in special tissue in the "leaves" which allows it to survive in the hostile environment. Layers of white hairs on these leaves help protect the plant from the strong ultraviolet radiation at high altitude and give it its distinctive frosty silver sheen.
The silversword is a large plant, with a rosette measuring up to about 2 feet across. It lives from about 15 to 50 years, blooms only once, sending a stalk 5 or 6 feet upwards, and then dies.
The rim of the mountain at high altitudes is fairly barren, as can be seen in the view below looking up from Hosmer Grove.
The Kipahulu area is well known for its vegetation. In the upper region a number of plants are found that are found nowhere else on earth.
Below is a view of some of the palms which can be found along the trail near Ohe'o Gulch.
These flowering trees are also found near the sea in the Kipahulu section of the park.
A closeup of the flowers on the tree are shown below.
A stand of bamboo trees can be found in the upper section of the Ohe'o Gulch along the trail which follows the river there. This quick growing tree is one of many which are not native but were introduced to the island by its human population.
The many plants in the park complement the colors of the sea, sky, and lava in the crater.
This blosom can also be found in the park.
There are a variety of flowers also found in the park, particularly at lower elevations and in the Kipahulu area.
At sea level in the park the island is considered a subtropical climate, supporting lush vegetation and growth year round.
Like the other islands of Hawaii, when lava rose from the sea there were no resident plants or animals of any kind. All plant and animal life on the island is descended from pioneers which floated through the air or on currents across the ocean, a truly forbidding journey as the nearest continent is over 2000 miles away.
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