HALEAKALA, MAUI - National Park Service rangers have a reminder for visitors: Please don't take the rocks.
This year, as they do every year, Hawaii national parks got boxes of rocks returned to them by visitors who shouldn't have lifted them in the first place.
Haleakala National Park along got 1,275 rocks returned. That's about 100 a month.
"Letters of apology to Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes, often accompany these rocks," the National Park Service said, in a recent Facebook post that's since gone viral. "Expressions of regret over taking the rocks are common; people attribute misfortune in their lives to the taking of rocks and they apologize to Pele for their error."
Lava rock is sacred to Native Hawaiians, and taking any rocks or sand from Hawaii is illegal.
Processing rocks for return to the national park isn't a simple process.
The rocks must be frozen for a month to ensure they're not carrying any foreign bacteria and diseases.
After that, they're placed in the gardens in front of the Haleakala Summit visitor centers.
'We can't return rocks to the crater because doing so confuses the geological story — we don't know what part of the volcano the rocks came from," the National Park Service said. "So leave rocks alone, don't take them home!"