Jill Engledow's just-off-the-press book is a Haleakala compendium. About the only thing she missed was the joy of riding Crater Road.
After two weeks on the island, it was time to saddle up and head for the summit. My horse, a Triumph 500cc motorcycle, was ready for the ride. I wore only a sweatshirt and a jean jacket. No gloves. Big mistake.
Back and forth on the asphalt snake. Good fun. In a sharp, uphill turn in open pastureland, the bike hit a fresh cow pie. Whoa! The sweet-handling bike went sideways but stayed upright, no thanks to the rider. Nothing like an adrenaline rush to sharpen senses. At the top, I used the hot engine to get some sensation back into my hands. Couldn't wait to head back down to a warmer clime.
Since then, there have been sunrises, sunsets, one collarbone-breaking crash, photographing an ice-clad silversword in the snow, a hike up from Olinda, a trek down Kaupo Gap during a Kona storm and a wedding on the top. Even so . . . For years, Haleakala was largely a challenging motorcycle ride to a faraway place close to home.
Four decades on Maui resulted in an accumulation of stories about the mountain. Is there a kama'aina who doesn't have a similar collection? Personal accumulations of facts and anecdotes paled to insignificance after reading "Haleakala: A History of the Maui Mountain."
Jill, a decades-long colleague, emailed an excited announcement Tuesday afternoon: "The books are in." We arranged a meeting for later that day. The plan was to give the book a quick once-over and churn out a column. The once-over turned into hours of sleep-deprivation. Straight-ahead prose, 200 illustrations and the thrill of discovery kept eyes wide open deep into the night.
Five years of research, writing and scouring public and personal archives for time-stopping photographs has paid off handsomely. When asked about the photo search, Jill told about an ill-fated trip. She was looking for photos of a scientific expedition. The search eventually led to the University of Hawaii Botany Department. She made the trip to Manoa and found nothing but shots of plants and birds. "I wanted pictures of the people involved."
She found them. Portraits include little-known individuals who played major roles in creating Haleakala National Park - early advocate Alexander Hume Ford, archeologist Kenneth Emory, early mountain guide Aikichi Arisumi working for Worth O. Aiken, "mountain man" Lawrence Oliveira, crater guide Frank P. Freitas, photo archivist and fence expert Ron Nagata, Friends of Haleakala founder Mary Evanson, a string of park employees and many others whose lives were changed by mountain-high experiences.
The book begins with the geological history of the mountain and modern revisions of old beliefs - e.g., the last eruption was not in 1790 but sometime between 1450 and the 1600s, and the "crater" isn't a crater but a valley created by erosion and gravity.
The geology section segues into Hawaiian stories handed down by generations of Polynesians here and in the South Pacific.
She honors the stories and suggests the "gods" might have been actual early overachievers. Jill also covers archeology and the development of theories about how Hawaiians used the "crater."
In 1912, The Maui News trumpeted the need for a hotel at the summit and two years later suggested an electric railroad handling the traffic "would not be at all surprising."
A highway to the top wasn't finished until 1935.
Each of the nine sections of the book can be read independently. Pick a topic, check the contents page and go right to it. I guarantee you'll end up reading all 177 pages.
The last chapter is labeled "Unfinished Business," detailing unresolved controversies over the future of Haleakala. Jill discusses them evenhandedly and objectively. "I'll update this section in later editions," she said.
Copies of "Haleakala: A History of the Maui Mountain" will be available at a publication party Nov. 30 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Maui Historical Society's Bailey House Museum in Wailuku. The $29.95 book also is available at Amazon.com, mauiislandpress.com, retail outlets and Haleakala National Park.
Jill Engledow has produced a must-have for everyone who loves Maui. "Haleakala: A History of the Maui Mountain" will occupy a permanent place among my most valued reference works. Thanks, Jill.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.