Day 1
The moon just rose amidst high altitude clouds. I have no gloves. It’s cold typing, but I’m inspired to write. It popped up behind the ridge line I have as my own personal amphitheater. Moments before, the setting sun was blanketing the ridge with its last golden rays. The clouds were many shades of pink, moving fast, like a real life time lapse. I thought to myself, the moon will rise soon and I have a front row view: sure enough there it was, like on E.T. minus the bike the kid and the alien. It could not have been more picturesque.

The cold winds howl now. The cold is refreshing however. I hiked through ten miles of hot arid moon like dormant volcano. No shade, not one ounce, except for my sun hat and 100 SPF sun screen. All in all it was a glorious day: packing four liters of water and strange enough, I only got through two.

I lay here now in my bivy, snug as a bug, the moon continuing it’s ascent into the night sky. The stars should be epic, though dimmed by the monstrous moon, until 3am or so, when it sets. Then the starry sky will be mine to capture. If I get up, that is. Good night.

Day 2 (wee morning)
The moon set much later than I had hoped. It dipped behind the west edge of Kaupo Gap at 4:20am. I woke in blissful awe, but the lumina (lumins?) of the moon and the soon to rise sun made it difficult to do any star shots; too much glow in the upper atmosphere.

It is 6:50 now, the sun has yet to hit me; I’m shrouded by high ridge lines. The birds are singing. One in particular sounds somewhere between a baby crying and a dog barking. The park ranger I got my permit from mentioned this bird to me and its peculiar song.

It was a cold night. Frost covers everything. I’ll lay here for a while until the rotating earth moves into the sunlight.

Day 2 (afternoon)
I wish I could have a nap. It is 3pm and hot. A cool breeze brushes by every few minutes, but there is little shade. My campsite is a circular dirt patch 8 feet in diameter. A step down from the grassy nook I had last night. The view however is magnificent. The edge of the clouds continue to billow up my direction and then dissipate, condensate, disappear. I just took a time lapse of it. I’m off for a walk in search of cool shade with a view. The sun needs to cool it.

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Day 2 (night)
I must be deep outdoors more often. Away from Babylon. The experiences are profoundly rejuvenating. I lay on the soft dirt. The moon I cannot even describe. It’s blistering, soul pandering, straight to the center of everything. It silhouettes lava rock and low-lying high-arid desert vegetation around me. The sounds are incredible and close, real close. I hear Ewoks. No joke. Little yelps and snirkes like they are making fun of my bright green hat. I hear nene’s, I think they are nene’s, just out pretty late. One just flew right above me. I saw little pigeons early today. Shit, they might be bats. There are other sounds. Like a background high squeal chatter. Yip yip. A low throatal drone. I swear R2D2 is here. I’m not even joking. Oooooo flying saucer right there. It’s a symphony. The parts, the segments, the solos, the decrescendos. And the stereo effects are well orchestrated.

“So don’t get scared if you hear a bird that half sounds like a crying baby and a barking dog”, the park ranger lady said as she showed me a picture of a duck-looking foul with a scraggly beak, “they are nesting.”

Ah, I see now. I remember now. These are some wonderful sounds.

Day 3
It’s 7:38 in the morning. The sun rose early today. I had no protective ridge lines to delay its arrival. I woke minutes before and caught it rising above the sea of clouds that extend to my north, glowing in pink. I moved my bivy twice to avoid the heat, just so I could sleep a little longer. Oh my legs are cramped. But good cramped. I will be camping here again tonight and look forward to the brilliant show I had last night. Today I will leisurely hike through old lava fields and look for a vista to which to say hello.

Day 3 (midday)
I sit on the edge of a ravine, a dry bed of ancient lava rock. I can’t place the location but I hear birds. The breeze is cool and welcome, though it sure can gust. The sun beats and bakes (though I am not suffering from it as I usually do). Looking north is the ever present layer of clouds. They extending for hundreds of miles over the Pacific. I’m trying to spot other Hawaiian islands–thousands of feet below–but I think they are cloud mirages. Across the ravine is a shoulder of the mountain Hanakauhi, 8907′. It is mostly cliff covered with spotted fields of green. I check for a route to ascend, but nothing appears doable from this face. The sky is a hazy blue above. I want to continue on into the ravine but water is a concern around these parts. I have only one liter. Not enough for 10 (maybe more) round trip miles. And who knows if those clouds will billow up and engulf me, as they did for a short while last night. That is an adventure I’d rather not tempt, unless the are friendly, of course. This is a land of extreme temperatures, where the difference between sun and shade are heat stoke and hypothermia. I digress. For now I sit and soak in the view.

Day 3 (night)
The symphony. Rinse and repeat. It’s a phenomenon. High arid dormant volcanic desert’s moonlit star-filled bird-in-heat symphony. If it is one bird each phrase needs to be deciphered for meaning.

Oh and I saw a shooting star tonight. Life complete. I hope that bat does not crash into my face. Good night.

Day 4
The sun just rose casting a rusty color on the cliff above me, it will brighten soon. The air is still cool. Mornings and evenings are best, when the heat of the sun is nigh. I hike out today. Excited to eat some poke and swim in the ocean, sad to leave the Crater.

Day 4 (afterword)
The northwest trail out to the Crater Road is know as “the switchbacks”. In loose conversations with other trekkers we’ll discuss what directions each other is headed. And “the switchbacks” inevitably comes up.

“Oh you’re going out the switchbacks? That’s what we are doing”.

“Excellent”, I might say, always wondering why these particular switchbacks are known as “the switchbacks”. I have hiked grueling trails many times and I couldn’t understand a trail exclusively known as “the switchbacks”. Yet after feasting my eyes on them for two days it’s easy to accept the name. No other trail in the Crater has switchbacks like these. They cut through steep cliffs and sometimes leave only 18″ between rock wall and drop off. They take you further above and towards the pillowy bank of clouds. Yes they are called “the switchbacks”, but it should not suggest that they are difficult to overcome. They are too majestic and perfect to be anything but a simple walk in the clouds.

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