A few minutes later, the gravel driveway we were on bent north passed a very nice ranch house. It seemed the obvious way to go, and up we went. Soon, though, we could not see any more of the parkservice's trail posts, and ahead of us was a parked truck and a locked gate. We looked around uncertainly for a few moments before I spotted a trail sign in the far distance off to the left, separated by a small dropoff and a fence.
Unsure of where we went wrong, we decided to make a beeline for the sign, doing a little bushwhacking and fence-climbing in the process. We decided to take a break once back on the trail, and I dropped my pack and headed back along the proper path to see where I had gone wrong (and to fix my GPS track). The correct route crossed very faintly across open pasture to a point on the gravel driveway just before it bent north. There was a trail marker quite a ways off in the distance at that point, but it was not at all obvious. If you are climbing the Kaupo Trail, make sure you pay attention as you first sight the white ranch house with the green roof. Stay left as you walk past it, leaving the main driveway and heading off on a side track. You will soon see the next trail marker. Or, just follow my GPS track!
I returned to where Jenn and Brian were having a snack and drying out their feet. We resolved to have a nice long boots-off break like this with every 1,000 feet of elevation gained.
After a few more minutes of relaxation, we hoisted our packs and continued on - hopefully without any more wrong turns.
The trail markers and signs were numerous and obvious enough to keep us on the proper route of the Kaupo Trail, as it passed through stretches of shady forest, small open fields, and along and across old grassy farm roads. It was turning out to be a hot and hazy day (and so far, little rain), and we were quite overheated and glad for shade when we encountered it.
At about the 2,000-foot level, after climbing over a gate that had been wired shut (but with a trail sign clearly showing it was the right way to go), we emerged into a substantially more open area of pastures. 2,000 feet, as agreed to earlier, meant a boots-off break.
As we set off to continue on the next segment of our Kaupo Trail ascent, we met a gaggle of about ten or so youngish-looking hikers, coming down the trail from above. They would be the only people we saw on the entire Kaupo Trail today.
As we climbed higher, the pastures opened wider and wider. Occasionally there would be a small tank or a big innertube filled with water, presumably for irrigation or for cattle. We (especially Brian) were consuming our water at an alarming rate - we were on a trajectory to be out of water well before reaching our campsite at Paliku - and we started to eye these water sources more closely.
With a National Park service signpost to keep us on track every few hundred yards, we continued up, following a very steep grassy tractor track. As it twisted and switchbacked up the almost completely open grassy slopes, it felt a tiny bit like climbing an alpine meadow in the alps.
At 3,000 feet it was time for lunch and another boots-off break. We were now high enough and our vantage point open enough that we could see a broad swath of the southern part of the island of Maui, especially to the west, where we could see at least 20 or 30 km down the coast. We could also clearly see the tiny little matchbox that was the Huialoha church, and the little black dots of the treacherous rocks off of nearby Mokulao Beach, where we had dipped our feet into the ocean only four hours before. We had come a very respectable distance.
A warm sun and a pleasant breeze dried us out nicely.
Another closer Huialoha look
Solitary tree, Kaupo Trail
Up until now, we had been climbing the wide open slopes that spread out below the Kaupo Gap. We were now getting close to the gap itself, and the walls on either side started to get higher as we proceeded along. The Kaupo Trail led us right, over to the base of the right-hand (i.e. eastern) wall of the gap.
Nearing the Gap
As we climbed, we noticed that we had past most of the irrigation infrastructure, and aside from a few unused-looking plastic pipes here and there, there were no further tanks or troughs. We were starting to worry that we had missed our chance at a water refill, when we spotted a structure a few hundred yards off to our left. As we climbed higher, we saw that on a bench above the structure (which was a fairly large farm structure of some sort) there were several plastic tanks of water, roughly 1,000-litre sized each.
Water Tank Refresh
I went over to have a closer look, and yes, they were indeed water tanks - probably at least a thousand litres each. One of the tanks had a 'not potable water' notice and a screw-off top. I took that as not being a sign of 'usage prohibited by hikers', and so I called the others over and we gratefully filtered two litres of water each from the tank. We now had more than enough to make it all the way to Paliku.
Arriving at Park Boundary
Just a few minutes uphill from the tanks, we came upon another fenceline, with a working gate and a sign. On the other side of the fence was a different world: the grass, which had been up to this point short scrubby grass, was on the other side of the fence a rich, thick flowing carpet, gently waving in the wind. Above, a rich forest of large koa trees and other plants crowded out the sky. This was the Haleakala National Park boundary, and the difference between ranch land and park land was like night and day.
Beautiful natural landscape