Bike ride up (and down) a volcano

The next 7 miles were what seemed like a never-ending string of switchbacks, first meandering around nice residential areas but only after 2 miles presented me with wide open space. During that 7 mile section, you are climbing up about 2,300 feet and reaching 5,700 feet after a total of around 21 miles. I reached that point after roughly 3 hours (to put that in perspective, the fastest rider in the 2011 Cycle to the Sun bike race was already enjoying the views from up top for 11 minutes at that time).

A pretty much straight climb to 6,500 feet over about 3.3 miles brought me to a right bend with lots of forest and vegetation before reaching another milestone: The Haleakala National Park entrance (where I paid my $5 entrance fee) at 6,700 feet and a total of just over 24 miles. 11 miles and 3,300 feet of climbing to go. You have either the option to fill up your water bottles at the entrance (water hose at the back of the building) or at the Haleakala National Park Headquarters Visitor Center (restrooms with water fountains on the left side of the building), which is about 1 mile up the road from the park entrance.

Above the Clouds

From here on out, there were 8 more turns (stretched switchbacks) between me and the final stretch to the top. The vegetation grew more and more sparse with every feet of elevation and the views more and more gorgeous (above the line of clouds at this point) as I climbed further towards the summit. 7.7 miles of gruel climbing up to 9,200 feet, with rest stops about every 500 feet finally brought me to that last stretch where you feel real close to the top (the operative word is “feel”).

At 9,800 feet your mind might trick you into thinking you are already there (with the parking lot of the Haleakala National Park Visitor Center to the left), but no, there is still a significant stretch to go. Actually it is only about 0.7 miles and a bit over 200 feet of climbing, but having been on the bike for 6 hours and 15 minutes, this felt like a real real hard challenge. Eventually, after a total of 6 hours and 24 minutes, I reached the summit at 10,023 feet, 35 miles away from the beach in Pāʻia where I had started this epic ride.

For about an hour I took in the scenery and surfed the waves of emotions of my accomplishment, it was then time for the equally thrilling downhill ride (for which the regular tourist type has to pay for). Luckily it was not terribly cold at the summit (mid 60s), but nevertheless I put on my arm and leg warmers as well as my wind breaker and long finger gloves and cruised down. The downhill took me about 90 minutes.

Thoughts on the ride

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