Overnight in the Hanawi Natural Area Reserve

All of the images on this page are photographs that I took during my visit to the Hanawi NAR - there is no artwork featured here.

As a reward for winning first prize in the East Maui Watershed Partnership's art contest in 2004, I was treated to an overnight stay in one of several research cabins in the rugged forest wilderness of the Hanawi Natural Area Reserve, at 5,600 feet elevation on Haleakala, far above the Hana shoreline.   (Hanawi is pronounced HA-nuh-VEE).   EMWP staff member Kat Lui escorted myself and my friend Chelsea Fahsholtz to the site.   The cabin is accessible only by helicopter, so the trip involved the additional excitement of two flights over East Maui's windward slopes.   Our first flight occurred in clear, sunny skies in which the upper mountain was completely visible, while our return flight followed a different route along the coast due to cloudy weather.   As a result, we were able to see different areas of the mountain from the air.

Po'ouli Cabin is named for one of Maui's rarest birds, which today is found only in a very limited territory within Hanawi.   In addition to the sheer beauty of the pristine cloud forest, the native birds that live here are a prime attraction for any visitor - although visitors to this area are practically rarer than the birds that they come to watch.   The birds appear in bright shades of green and red, and most have distinctively curved beaks adapted for sipping nectar from the curved flowers offered by so many of the plants that grow here - although one of the birds, the Maui Parrotbill, has broken with traditional by developing a large, heavy beak suitable for other foods.

For the researchers who spend consecutive days in the reserve, life is far from comfortable.   The nights can become bitterly cold at this elevation, and the entire area is wet and muddy to an extreme.   The cabin accomodations leave much to be desired.   There is no electricity.  Drinking water is provided by filtering rainfall that's captured on the roof.   Propane stoves allow for cooking meals and boiling water.  Food is stored in a cooler.  A small, metal tank with a manual pump allows for a brief shower with water heated on the stove. Rugged, wooden boardwalks provide easier access over the muddy ground to an outhouse and to the helicopter landing zone.   All in all, it's not for the faint of heart. But the workers make the best of it by radiating good cheer, cooking surprisingly elaborate meals and even baking cakes.  And a willingness to tolerate the rustic conditions is rewarded by the wonders of the surroundings - the ancient forest is fascinating, and filled with the otherworldly calls of the native birds, who perform an especially impressive chorus each day at both dawn and dusk.

Waiohiwi Gulch with Haleakala in the background.
The vegetation in this area is dominated by non-native eucalyptus and pines.


Upper reaches of Honomanu Valley.
The vegetation here is now dominated by 100% native forest.


Above the forest in the vicinity of Hanawi, just a minute before landing.
This is pristine native forest accessible only by helicopter.
Haleakala Crater lies out of sight behind the treeless ridge at the summit.


Po'ouli Cabin.
It's not the Hilton, but it is the best accomodation to be found in the high forest of East Maui.

The interior of Po'ouli Cabin. This is the kitchen corner, where our official
EMWP escort, Kat Lui, is getting ready to prepare dinner.

There is no electricity, so gas lanterns provide light in the evening,
and cooking is done on the propane stove below the window.

The door leads to a changing room equipped with a very simple,
manual pump shower that uses water heated on the stove.

Rainfall is captured on the roof and filtered to provide safe drinking
water, which is stored in the white container at the left edge of the photo.


Clear skies prevailed in the early morning during our first hike in Hanawi.
This shot was taken along a fenceline trail not far from the cabin.


With their pale bark in direct sunlight, Ohi'a trees like this one
stand in striking contrast against clear, blue sky.


My friend Chelsea Bryce, on the lookout for native birds.


Colorful frond of an Ama'u fern.


The flower of an unusual hybrid species of Clermontia.


Cream-colored flowers of a native mint, Stenogyne kamehamehae.


Last light, on the evening of our first day at Hanawi.


First light, on the morning of our second day at Hanawi.


Two cascades below Hana Highway. Our return flight followed
the coastline in order to avoid the thick clouds higher on the mountain.

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