Face it — we were born way too late. Barring a biblical revelation, we'll never know what the Beginning of Everything looked like, whether it was a Creation or a Big Bang or something else we haven't figured out.
But after one sunrise on Haleakala, I do know what an epic earthly event looks like.
You fly to Maui, take to your hotel bed nice and early, and ask for a wake-up call around 2:30 a.m. Then, even though this is a balmy Hawaiian island, you bundle up and drive up the slope of the dead volcano that dominates the island's geography. Or catch a tour bus; many make the trip every day. However you go, you'll need to reach the summit observation area of Haleakala National Park a few minutes before dawn.
When you step to the railing, you'll be 9,740 feet above sea level. The landscape below will be cloaked in darkness, and the wind will be gusting at 40 degrees or so, which will feel arctic after days of 76-degree breezes.
Then the darkness will begin to come alive, and even though your fingers are going numb, you'll likely forget them as the hints of first light rake the moonscape below. The eastern horizon will erupt in golden rays, the sky will go crazy with yellow and orange light, and as the sun begins to warm the mountaintop, clouds of sunlit mist will swirl and race down the rough black slope. Even though those golden Maui beaches and deep blue seas are miles away and invisible, you know they're waiting. You're on top of the world, enlightened, breathless and beginning to feel your fingers again.
Then again, your Haleakala sunrise may be nothing like this. Especially in winter, locals say, many early mornings are rain-soaked and cloud-bound. If you draw one of those, you could spend your twilight years whining to friends and family about the day you nearly froze on a tropical island.