A few years ago I had the privilege of witnessing one of the most spectacular sites on the planet. The sunrise from the top of the Haleakala volcano in Maui.

After waking at 3am, taking a 2-hour car ride in the dark, and then freezing our freshly tanned butts (its about 35-40 degrees up there), my wife and I finally got to the summit of the nearly 10,000 foot volcano.

Two hours of huddling under a blanket made me feel like a refugee from a Siberian gulag, but boy was the experience worth it. In fact, it was a spiritually profound experience. Seeing the ghostly sun rise above the clouds as if rising from a steaming cauldron does that to you.

Here’s a little bit about the mythology of Haleakala from About.com:

Long before the days of written history when the ancient gods walked the earth and fished the seas, the Demigod Maui was called before his mother, the goddess Hina. The goddess complained that the sun moved across the sky so fast every day that her tapa cloth would not dry.

Wanting to please his mother, Maui, who was known for his tricks, devised a plan to solve his mother’s problem. Climbing to the summit of the great mountain before dawn, Maui waited for the sun to peek its head above the edge of the horizon. When it did so, Maui took his lasso and lassoed the sun, stopping its path across the sky.

The sun begged Maui to let it go and proceed in its path across the sky. Maui agreed on one condition. The sun must agree to slow its path across the sky and allow more time for light during the day. The sun agreed.

You can get a quick glimpse of the beautiful ceremony in the video below. Note: Despite putting on a brave face, I’m positive the buff Hawaiian in the video was having second thoughts about being shirtless and pantless on the top of a freezing mountain. Enjoy!