The slopes of Haleakala are the backbone of our beautiful island. This majestic mountain is my anchor. I stop many times a day to gaze up the slopes to the crater. Sometimes shrouded in mist, often in full glory "The House of the Sun" rises up to the brilliant blue sky.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to give back to the mountain I love. Since 2000, the Leeward Haleakala Watershed Restoration Partnership has planted over 52,000 native plants in the dry-land forests of Haleakala.
Under the guidance of Art Mederios over 2,700 volunteers and the dedicated staff of LHWRP are making a difference. The first Auwahi exclosure is now a functional native ecosystem.
The native 'A'ali'i ,being a fast growing understory species, is planted first to shade out the African Kikuyu grass. This sturdy seedling grows fast and strong, dropping it's leaves to help produce the appropriate soil climate for the other natives to fill in.
I had the honor of planting the Kauila tree, a rare native Hawaiian tree found in the dry-land forests. The Kauila tree was an important tree to the Hawaiians. The dense native wood sinks in water and was formerly valued by the early Hawaiians for spears and tapa beaters. Because Auwahi is surrounded by a high fence, I know this seedling will grow big and strong, protected from the cattle, deer, horses and boar of the high slopes.
The reforestation projects attracts a variety of people including the Maui youth from Americorps. Art is a wealth of information, and he feels it is important to pass his knowledge on to the youth of our islands. These hard working young adults were a delight to listen to as they were being quizzed by Art throughout the day about the properties and Latin names of the trees we were planting. Their desire to perpetuate the Hawaiian culture through their efforts was evident.
We drove through "na ulu" the low clouds of the forest to 3800' elevation with magnificent views of the ocean below. It was a wild and bumpy ride up the slopes of Ulupalakua ranch.
The beautiful orange lichen growing on a low branch is one type of the approximately 110 species of lichen. The dry-land forest is one of the richest spots for lichen in the world. Rare native spiders live inside the safe haven of the lichen.
This month's O magazine features four hotels in the world that promote voluntourism. My voluntourism program caught their eye, and I had the good fortune to be chosen for their magazine article. I was pretty excited to spread the word in Oprah's magazine. Offering our visitors the opportunity to participate in some really amazing experiences is very rewarding.
Steffan, and his godson from Germany, joined the group for the planting on Saturday. This was his second time planting with LHWRP, he came back for more! To thank all those visitors who come and give their time and effort to our aina, and to encourage more to do so, I am offering a 10% discount on their stay at Hale Ho'okipa.
So, here's to volunteering, and enjoying all the wonderful fruits of our labor.
Malama Maui, and mahalo to all who do so....