Haleakala National Park

We met Paras on the trail down into Haleakala Crater as he saw us trying to take our daily selfie and very kindly offered to take put picture. We hiked together and talked for the rest of the 3 miles to the bottom until he turned around to brave the uphill return and we continued to our backcountry campsite. He’s on vacation from San Fransisco where he works in tech. Although originally  from the UK,  he has lived in the US for the past few years and has taken every opportunity to soak up the US National Parks. He has a passion for photography and loves the diverse landscapes of the parks, especially out west. After Haleakala he was headed to Hawaiian Volcanos, where our journeys will again overlap. Unfortunately we won’t be joining him for the helicopter ride over the active volcanos that he booked!


Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

We literally found Julian on the side of the road… looking for a hitchhike back to the campground at Hawai’i Volcanoes. Of course we picked him up because it was dark and camp was 10 miles away. He had an ambitious lab to hitchhike during his entire 2 week visit to the Hawaii. We offered for him to join us as we explored the park the whole next day and we got to share a lot about each other’s adventures. Julian is from a small town in the Black Forest of Germany. He graduated high school last May and is partaking in the popular European tradition of “gap year” year to travel the world before starting university. So far he has traveled solo from hostel to hostel all across South America and is stopping on the Big Island before setting sight s on New Zealand and Australia. What an adventure! We had a great time hiking the craters and steam vents of the park with him. Finally, we couldn’t resist recreating our meeting on an old lava covered road.


National Park of American Samoa

In no other park have the people played such an important part in our visit. The first thing we did upon landing was find our hosts, the Seiuli family (there’s no camping in the National Park, but you can arrange a stay with the contacts in their homestay program). They brought us to their Vatia village, a beautifully remote place encompassed by the National Park land. Whatever anxiety we had about being in a very exotic place with different language and customs quickly evaporated as we experienced the remarkable kindness and generosity of our hosts. I never got a full count of all the family members, but I think counting all generations on the property there were around 14. The kids gave us a tour of the village, we played sports with the neighborhood, the family invited us to church, we had dance parties and we ate traditional Samoan foods straight from the backyard. I can’t imagine visiting the park for a week without getting the full picture from a homestay experience (learn more about it in our American Samoa post).

Another bonus was that we were joined for 4 days by some friends we had met online. We discovered Darius and Trevor from 59in59 were on roughly the same mission as us – to visit all 59 National Parks in 59 weeks – last fall. When we found out we were visiting American Samoa at the same time as us, we coordinated to stay with the same hosts. We had an awesome time exploring American Samoa with Darius and Trevor.

Hot Springs National Park