In Hawaii, stand above the clouds without leaving the ground
Hawaii's breathtaking views inspire eco-philosophizing.
Friday, January 27, 2012 - 23:43
Photo: Katherine Bailey
In early January, I left Rochester's wily weather swings and embarked on a journey to Hawaii. This was my first long distance vacation where I swapped time zones and climate zones. It was also an experience I will never forget, not only because of the breathtaking volcanoes and oceans so blue you can see the corals below, but because of the realization that climate change is a real threat to islands and coastal communities.
The view of the clouds at eye level with the terrain was taken at an elevation of 10,000 feet above sea level. At this elevation, atmospheric oxygen concentrations decrease by 30 percent, and it is noticeably cooler than the mild 75 degree weather down below. This was taken at Haleakala National Park just about a half hour before sunset. My friend and I decided to go on this excursion because we both love volcanoes, and the picture below is just one snapshot of the crater at the top of Haleakala. For all the geologists out there, our tour guide told us that the crater is an "erosional depression," formed over thousands of years as the volcanic activity subsided. It was truly awe-inspiring to stand above the clouds; I felt like I could just keep walking off the edge and fly across the clouds.
Once the sunset began, the colors that illuminated the clouds made the horizon look like it was scattered with embers from a fire. Before we knew it, the sun was going down fast, and in less than thirty seconds it was gone below the clouds.
There is something about being up so high that is empowering yet daunting. Up at the top of the crater, the air was so clean compared to Waikiki Beach, and it made me wonder about the what-ifs. What if there were no internal combustion engines, and no greenhouse gases associated with energy? I can't help but get philosophical over the wonders of nature, and I can safely bet that everyone on this crater tour felt some sort of "wow" moment as they watched the sun glide down the horizon, leaving only shades of amber and iron red in its wake.
Photos: Katherine Bailey