by Meagan Gill

Haleakala is a beautiful volcano in Maui, Hawaii that my family and I went to visit during a family trip in 2004. The best activity we did during our trip was when my family rode up Haleakala to watch the sunset. Haleakala is very popular but is more well-liked for the sunrise (but you must wake up extremely early to see it.) My family does not really enjoy the morning so we decided to go for the sunset. Going up this volcano I had to conquer one of my biggest fears which are heights. This volcano was over 10,000 feet and definitely out of my comfort zone.

That morning my mother had gone to talk to one of the hotel workers about activities to do while we were on vacation. I remember my mom coming back to the hotel room saying that the man at the front desk said we should see this sunset from the volcano. He said that everyone who did it thought it was beautiful and worth it, and we should do it. He also told my mom that we needed to pack warm clothes because it gets cold. We decided as a family that we should try it. My mom made us pack pants and sweatshirts but my brother and I thought we wouldn’t need them because living in Buffalo, we thought we could handle it. I was a little nervous about the trip but excited at the same time to see this stunning sunset from so far up.

The day we took the trip was such a great day. We lucked out that day, because every other day we were in Hawaii it rained everyday, all day. It was finally a sunny, warm day– exactly what a person expects the weather to be in Hawaii.

We had rented a red convertible for the time we were down at Hawaii and that was what we were driving up the volcano in. I was excited because it was my first time riding in a convertible but very anxious because I wasn’t sure if the car would be able to make it. We started to drive to the volcano and when we got to the base of the volcano, we looked up from the car and saw how enormous it was. We couldn’t even see the top of the volcano; it just kept going into the clouds. The road up was a two way street all the way but the road was so skinny it felt that the road was only one way. The turns were so tight that if another car was to drive down the other way, each driver had to go out as far as they could without going over the edge. To top it all off, the road up the volcano wasn’t even paved, it was rocks. It was so terrifying I was thinking about telling my parents that we shouldn’t go anymore and just turn around.

But I kept my mouth quiet and tried to overcome my fear. This was a big deal to me, because every time I’m at a high height I get extremely nervous. My palms sweat, I get very hot and all I think about it falling and how I want to get down. So this was a very big step for me. My dad started to gun up the volcano so he could build up his momentum to get to the top. We were going really fast like a race car as it gets out of the starting gate, but then as we hit the beginning of the volcano we started to slow down almost to a halt. I didn’t think we would make it. We kept driving but all of a sudden this really sharp turn next to the cliff of the volcano came up. This turn came very surprisingly and forced my father to slow down to the speed of a snail. It felt like we were not moving at all. It was like this for a while and all the stop and go was making me feel really sick. I was hoping my father would get more comfortable and the ride wouldn’t be like this the whole way up the volcano.

We were a little bit into the trip and my father was getting more accustomed to the road now. We drove up to this scenic parking on the side of the volcano, where people could pull over their cars on the road trip to look at the beautiful view. It was an excellent idea because it allowed everyone in the car to see the wonderful view from the volcano. This trip was so intense and nerve racking it felt that if my father had taken his eyes off the road and looked at the view even for a second we would have gone off the edge and crashed to the bottom of the volcano.

We left the spot and as we keep driving, I felt the car being forced up the hill the way a car feels when you’re trying to drive up a step hill. It is like you are pushing the accelerator but you’re barely moving. It feels like you should be going way faster than you truly are. The ride at this point was not as smooth as it was at the beginning.

The higher and higher we kept driving, the more nervous I was getting about the height and making it up to the top. At this point my hands were sweaty and I was extremely hot. We hit another scenic parking and we all got out and stretched. Although I was nervous I was also getting more excited to see the view because we were getting closer. As we walked to the view spot, we noticed a bunch of people and how they were dressed warmly. People were looking at us like we were crazy. We thought we would be fine because it still wasn’t that cold. Little did we know.

We were done looking at the view and ready to go up farther to the top. We all piled back into the car ready to go. We started to drive; now it was getting darker and closer to the sunset. It was getting a little colder now because the sun was going down and my mom thought it was a good idea to close the top of the convertible. Turn after turn and higher and higher, we kept driving. It felt like we would never get to the top of the mountain!

We finally got to the top of the volcano! It seemed like it took forever and that we would die each turn my father took, but we made it and we were all safe! My father found a parking spot and parked the car. There weren’t very many people there; the guy at the front desk was right–it’s more popular for the sunrise. We all got out and stretched our legs. As soon as I got out of the car the cold air hit me like bricks. It was the coldest weather I have ever felt and I was shivering there in my shorts and t-shirt. It felt a hundred times colder than the winter in Buffalo. I jumped into the car and quickly put my layers on, shivering as I put my heavy sweatshirt over my t-shirt and warm pants over my shorts I had on. I was so happy that the man at the hotel told us to pack them and my mom making sure we did.

After I got my warm clothes on, we walked over to the viewing area. The view was amazing! It was hard to believe that something this amazing was right in front of me. The volcano was above the clouds at this point, so the view was something I have never seen before. The sunset was all different colors; orange, red, yellow and dark blue. All of these colors were mixed together but at the same time each color stood out next to the rest. These colors were like the rainbow all beautiful and bright like the sun. The farther I looked the brighter the color was. Then the rest of the color mixed together becoming darker as it got closer to us.

At the bottom of the sunset, there were thousands of clouds, all covering the “ground.” The clouds were huge and looked like it was one life-size cloud. The clouds were like a mattress, soft and puffy. I wanted to walk off the volcano and just go sit on the puffy clouds. When I looked out at the view, the top of the clouds looked like little mountains in a valley. Some of the clouds were so tall it looked like kids could climb up one side and slide down the other side on a sled or tube. Other clouds were a little lower creating the valleys we saw. It was the most magnificent thing I have seen in nature.

I was amazed that something that beautiful was right in front of me. It made me appreciate nature and remember how much I like it. It is amazing and very interesting to me how something that beautiful could be made and seen in nature. Things like that don’t appear in nature everyday, and if a person is lucky to see something like it, they should appreciate it. I was so proud of myself that I decided to face my fear of heights and come see this beautiful sunset. It was an amazing view and a very fun trip. I was so glad that my parents had decided to go and try it.