When we finally came to some flora – mostly dried silverswords, which look like huge pointy ferns that have been dusted with glitter – the change after so much rock and dirt was surprising. Clouds drifted below us in the distance. We no longer felt like we were on this earth.
Eventually the path brought us below the clouds, and the landscape turned into a verdant rainforest and savanna-like grassland. Our first night’s cabin sat at the base of a cliff dotted with trees, and we fell asleep after watching the brightest moon I have ever seen rise over the edge of the crater.
The next day was like the first, but in reverse, as we climbed back to higher elevations. On the way to our second cabin we passed the haunted Bottomless Pit, into which Hawaiians used to put their dead relatives to save them from grave robbers. After struggling to keep up with the pack for the previous two days, I was blown away by the love and dedication that would inspire someone to carry a body all the way to the top of a mountain without the aid of a motorized vehicle.
That evening we watched another unbelievable moonrise and conked out. We needed the rest; the next day was all up, up, up. We finished the hike with a treacherous four-mile switchback trail that took us 1,500 feet out of the crater, while I tried (but failed) to prove that the tortoise wins the race. Whenever we would take a break from concentrating on our footing and glance around, we were treated to stunning views of the crater and the beaches thousands of miles below.
We did eventually get to a luau on our last night in Maui, complete with lei and pineapples. It was considerably easier to enjoy a luau than to traverse a crater as I watched my siblings turn into small dots in the distance, but if you ask me what I’ll remember for the rest of my life, it’ll be the few days we spent hiking through Mars.