Ride a bike down Maui’s dormant volcano

The van arrived at our resort at 2:00 a.m. to take our questionably sane group of 14 to the top of Mt. Haleakala, the highest peak on Maui and the world’s largest dormant volcano.  Our mission was to watch the spectacular sunrise over the crater in Haleakala National Park and then bike 28 miles back to sea level.  At 10,025 feet, the night winds were unexpectedly cold, but the heavy rubber rain suit issued to each rider helped keep out the elements.  Looking like a gaggle of blue and yellow aliens, we ambled out in the darkness to await the moment of sunrise.

At 5:20 a.m., a faint glow draped the edge of distant mountains and gleamed through clouds and foggy mist.  Suddenly the sun burst over the mountaintops, shattering night in an explosion of light and warmth.  Temperatures rose 20 degrees in a matter of minutes as daylight arrived with incredible intensity and beauty.

What a spectacular photo opportunity that was, but soon it was time for the next task.  With helmets and bikes issued, a brief practice riding session under our belts, and instructions given on hand signals for “stop” and “move off the road” (our path was down the same highway used by cars), we were off.

It’s all downhill, so you only have to pedal about 400 feet during the entire journey.  Being a lightweight, I found myself continuously leaning forward over the handlebars, hoping aerodynamics would boost my speed, so I could keep up the pace. Sadly, that left me peering at the inside of my helmet over my sunglasses instead of absorbing the spectacular scenery.

Morning mist shrouded the early ride as we pedaled through the clouds.  The first 10 miles curved into 29 switchbacks. Miss a turn or skid on the treacherous road (there were no guardrails), and you would disappear down the rocky mountainside. We swooshed along, descending 3000 feet at speeds up to 34 miles per hour.

After 14 miles, we stopped to rest and admire the landscape that stretched out before us. I breathed deeply of the clean, crisp air, relieved that the hardest part of the journey was behind us.

Our descent continued through eucalyptus forests, pineapple fields, and plantations as we made our way to the seaside town of Paia and a welcome breakfast at a local restaurant.  Nine hours after leaving, we returned to our resort, weary but ecstatic for completing this unforgettable ride.

Bike It Maui—Sunrise Tour



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