Sunrises and Curses

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Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Dalene & Pete Heck

I started with a basic tee.

Then layered it with a thin sweater, my jean jacket, windbreaker, and a wool scarf. I silently coveted Pete’s warm hat, but wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of saying so aloud, given my refusal to pack one at his insistence.

Yes, we were still in Maui.

I stood with my back to the eastern horizon as the ferocious wind whipped. People all around us were huddled together shivering, some in shorts and flip flops, others with beach towels acting as a shield against the heavy mist we were shrouded in.

Apparently we were the only ones who brought enough layers to stand a mild Canadian winter, and we were still chilled. Even though the chances were slim that the weather would be this bad (15%, we had read), we knew ourselves well enough to come prepared. Because as we arrived at the summit of Haleakala (one of the top things to do in Maui) before 5am to catch the sunrise at 10,000 ft, we knew we came burdened with a curse.

We saw mere streaks of a sunrise before the fog descended. And our experience became reminiscent of that in Tikal and Angkor Wat, where we rose at ungodly hours to capture the first rays, only to be severely disappointed. (Thank goodness for our early morning in the Sahara, to save our sunrise record from being at exactly zero percent.)

Our layers allowed us to linger longer than most, others retreated to their cars mere seconds after the sunrise moment had passed. We abandoned the quest ourselves ten minutes later, packed up and began our descent to the parking lot, but quickly turned back as the sky lightened ever-so-slightly.

Could it be that our perseverance would pay off? That we would still catch some of the brilliant early morning colors, all to ourselves after everyone had left?

Zero Visibility

No. There would be no such romantic end to this story. The curse continues.

While warming in the car we made the decision to stick it out for a little bit longer. Pete, the ever-optimist (bless him) vowed to at least get to see the summit itself, even if it would not be drenched in the pinks and yellows of the first sun.

Soon, we had our view, and were really glad we waited.

A Break in the Clouds
Amazing Haleakala View
Haleakala Crater

how to do it

Staying in Wailea, we knew we had roughly a two hour drive to the summit, and our sunset was to be in the 5:40s. We left at 2:45 because we wanted some time to photograph the stars, stopped for coffee along the way (yes, there is someone up at that ungodly hour to serve us sunrise-chasers some much needed coffee and food), and did make it there in plenty of time even with all the traffic.

Many people suggest this excursion when you first arrive on the island (seeing as you are likely jet-lagged and up early anyways). This is good advice that we never followed. 🙂

Also, there is a viewing area on the parking lot level, but also a higher spot if you follow the path found on the right side. There’s not much room up there and lots of people, so being early helps get a good spot. You know, to get a prime photo of fog.

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  1. Bad weather is a patient photographer’s best friend 🙂 You will get your second sunrise light soon enough. It will be great.

    Thanks for the tips, Hawaii is on my bucket list.

    1. We debated doing the sunset, but with the clouds that roll in during the afternoon, we thought for sure it wouldn’t work out. But, perhaps we might have had a better chance. 🙂

  2. Oh my gosh, you two really DO have the worst luck when it comes to early-morning sunrises! If it makes you feel any better, I didn’t get to see much of a sunrise at Angkor Wat, either…

  3. I think fog is such a beautiful thing to photograph and these photos are lovely, but when you’ve got your heart on the sunrise it’s hard to settle for a little less. Well worth the wait, stunning sunrise!

  4. That looks like it went your way in the end, wow! I had a similar disappointment on The Big Island with Kilauea. They told us it was one of like, four nights a year you can’t see the sunset. Ha! And we had rented 4WD and everything to get up the damn hill.

    But then in Maui I had a stunning sunset on Haleakala, and I felt Hawaii had seriously redeemed itself.

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