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World´s most exclusive hike only allows 12 people annually

By Greg Goodsell
April 6th, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The most exclusive hike in Hawaii only allows 12 visitors a year, and is quite expensive. Anyone who wants to partake of all the natural wonders on this hike most have cash in hand, and rely on an annual drawing.

MAUI, HAWAII (Catholic Online) – According to National Geographic correspondent Jonathan B. Tourtellot, the hike is on the very well traveled island of Maui, in "Haleakala a well-visited national park, but West Maui's 5,700-foot cloudy summit, Pu'u Kukui, is usually closed to the public. Sacred to early Hawaiians, who believed it a realm of the gods, this area is also sacred, in a different way, to botanists. Some of the rarest plants on earth grow only here, in what is now a scientific preserve owned by the Maui Land and Pineapple Company, which keeps the area closed off to tourists to avoid damage to all the rare flora."

The preserve´s narrow boardwalk winds along the West Maui ridge top to Pu´u Kukui. Traversing the walkway will cost you $500 a day, but that includes the helicopter ride there and back. Hikers are chosen in an annual drawing from the Kapalua Nature Society.

"It's a slow walk, for what you're visiting is a unique botanical wonderland—ancient montane bogs and elfin forests that grow little more than shoulder-high in this cool climate. There are at least 70 species of fern, including one that's only one cell thick; spiky lobelias, which take ten years to grow, then flower and die; and century-old 'ohia trees, normally 50-80 feet tall, but here only 12 inches high—natural bonsai," Tourtellot says.

Tourtellot says it´s very easy for visitors to become intoxicated by the wonders surrounding them. "Beyond, green, razor-sharp ridges flicker eerily in and out of swirling fog. This is land revered by the Old Hawaiians, land primeval, land that belongs to the wind and the rain. The mist may briefly part and reveal a spectacular, view: the hotel-lined coast of modern Maui, a mile below, nine miles away, and a thousand years in the future …Then the mists close in again."

(For an application form for the hike, call 800-KAPALUA; entries are due by May 1.)

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