Early Hawaiians considered ʻEke Crater (also called Puʻu ʻEke, Mauna ʻEke and (rarely) Mauna Eeka or Eeke) near the summit of the West Maui Mountain to be Heaven’s Gate, or a doorway between the physical and spiritual worlds. (West Maui Watershed)
“Mauna ʻEke is the name given to the circular range in the bosom of which lies the valley, whose sides, moistened with mists and trickling streams, are perennially green.”
“Ferns and convolvuli adorn the precipices ; shining leaves, delicately stemmed, tremble and gleam with every breath of wind.” (Twombly, 1900)
Maui is the second largest island of the archipelago, its oldest volcano (West Maui Mountain or Mauna Kahalawai) ca 1.3-million years old, East Maui Volcano (Haleakalā) ca 750,000-years old and considered active (last historical eruption in 1790.)
“You can see why, in 1841, the captain of a whaling vessel wrote, ‘See how that east part of the island rises abruptly into one high mountain, while the west section, though rugged, is not so lofty.'”
“‘Mauna ʻEke, on the west, is little more than five thousand feet high, while Haleakala, on the east, runs into the clouds nearly twice as far. But you will find that the more lowly of the two mountain masses has wilder scenery to offer.'”
“‘East Maui has wonderful attractions, but I find keener and more lasting pleasure in climbing up and down the ridges thrust out as ʻEke reaches down to the sea.'”
“(T)he wild valley and its surroundings have been left unchanged. In fact, everything must look much as it did when the first Polynesian migration entered Maui long centuries before America was discovered”.
“(Y)es, hundreds of years before the Norman Conquest of England – that is, unless ʻEke has been in eruption since then. If so, the lava long ago disintegrated into the richest sort of soil.” (Paradise of the Pacific, 1929)
ʻEke Crater is an extinct volcanic dome with eroded sides and gently concave summit. The summit bog is underlain by a clay hardpan over a compressed lava core and is characterized by numerous pits and open water ponds. (Powell)
Towering at nearly 4,500 feet in elevation, the name ‘Crater’ is quite deceiving, as no visible crater remains today. The mountain is actually the remnants of an eroded volcanic cone.
Measuring 1,600-feet in diameter, its rock core provides a moist impermeable surface on which unique montane bog communities thrive.
Highlighting and adorning its surface are mirrored pools of water with shimmering ʻEke silverswords and Nohoanu (a Geranium.) While beautiful, it is dangerous and riddled with sink holes and lava tubes. (West Maui Watershed)
The ʻEke silversword is endemic to the summit and ridges of ʻEke and Puʻu Kukui. It is described as a “branching, dwarf shrub” and “creeping profusely over the ground and progressively dying back at the base, thus isolating the branches into independent plants.” (Powell)
Nearby is Kiʻowaiokihawahine (Violet Lake.) The lake is small, only 10-20-feet in size, and formed in the boggy areas near ʻEke Crater and Puʻu Kukui.
Puʻu Kukui is considered the 2nd wettest spot (behind Waiʻaleʻale, Kauai,) and it and ʻEke Crater are often hidden in the clouds.
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Debbie Poepoe Sakamoto says
I am constantly amazed at the history lessons you always provide, Peter. And about things I would never have known about it our my life. Heartfelt mahalo…
Terry Sterling says
I remember hiking up to Eke when I was 6 months pregnant. It was during the rainy season (up there anyway) and the trail was pure mud and we had to hike along side the trail over the brush, but it was beautiful when we got up there. I was able to see Honokohau Valley waterfall when the clouds parted, and since I was living there at the time-that was really exciting. There is no place as beautiful to me as the valleys etc of West Maui mtns. Thanks for this article!