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June 8, 2012
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                     Nothing anyone tells you, no printed words or pictures, can prepare you for the grandeur that is Haleakala crater. But it is also a harsh and unforgiving environment. Hot, dry, not a lick of water for miles.
Dust blows and blackens your snot. The air is thin at 9,000 feet above sea level and the tropical sun burns raw and fierce, banishes the clouds you look down upon. People die here. They fall into holes, succumb to dehydration, heat stroke, exposure. I hoped I had what it took to complete the 7 downhill miles to Kapalaoa. I forgot my hat. Did I have enough water? The pack was heavy and my shoes inadequate. It was a long descent. And there, rounding a treacherous bend, three young women done up for a day at the mall.*    OK, so they weren't going that far. Not much later we met a hapless entourage--stressed, sweaty, sunburned and panting--that had gotten lost and had been wandering the desert uncomfortably long. They were grateful for the water we shared. We gave them words of encouragement. It's a place I recommend. Almost everyone who goes in comes out again.