This completely updated and revised guide to 45 great hikes on Oahu includes 2 new trips the inland rainforest of Kailua and Waimanalo. Explore the beaches, cliffs, and rainforests, and learn about native plants, Hawaiian history, and local mythology.
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|Edition description:||Third Edition|
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Maakua Ridge Loop
Distance: 3 miles
Elevation gain: 720'
Hiking time: 1 1⁄2 hours
Trail map: See Trip 1.
Difficulty: Moderate, hiking boots recommended
Highlights: Tunneling under dense vegetation and enjoying far-reaching views are real treats along this loop. Sections that require tiptoeing across a narrow saddle and thrashing through a slippery gully add a touch of adventure. Note that this trail is also called the Papali/Maakua Ridge Trail.
Driving instructions: Follow the driving instructions of Trip 1.
The Bus routes: Take The Bus route of Trip 1.
Permit/permission required: None.
Description: Begin as for Trip 1 but pass the hunters-hikers checkin station. Continue on the old road under papaya, guava, and avocado trees and along an understory of cayenne vervain, mare’s-tail, and a small daisylike plant. Deep in the thickets off the road, you may spot lichen-spattered old stone walls.
Soon you come to another fork, this one marked, where you take the left branch to the Maakua Ridge Trail. You teeter along the bank of the gulch, looking out for holes where the bank has been totally undercut, and then cross the gulch to head off under guava and hau.
You make a switchback turn, climb out of the gulch, and find yourself on a hau-clad slope. Around you, Christmas berry, swamp mahogany, pink-flowered clover, and vervain crowd in, too. A later switchback turn provides beautiful views seaward over Hauula town. Soon you see a spur trail down to a picnic shelter, seaward of which is a bench with a fine view.
A little over 1⁄2 mile from your start, you make another seaward switchback turn and reach the beginning of the loop portion of this trip. Arbitrarily, this trip turns right (inland) and climbs past nonnative octopus trees and ti plants (the latter brought by the Polynesians) and native ulei and lauae (the anise-scented sweet fern). On another ridge, Norfolk pines stand stiffly at attention.
As you curve inland, huge hala trees appear, and you may have to scramble over or under hala deadfalls. The trail is littered here and there with hala leaves and fruits. It’s easy to see how the Hawaiians could use the brushy-tipped hala fruits as paintbrushes. Purple Philippine orchids peep out of the understory; through the occasional openings in the vegetation, there are fine views over Maakua Gulch.
It’s quite a change when you abruptly find yourself southbound on a narrow ridge in a tunnel of non-native acacia. There are glimpses of the ocean on one side and of Maakua Gulch on the other. The trail presently forsakes the ridgetop and begins a gentle descent southward, then curves across kukuifilled Papali Gulch. You cross a streambed under ti and mountain apple (distinguished by its feathery, shocking-pink flowers) and along ferny slopes.
After you pick your way across an extremely narrow saddle, you swing away from Papali Gulch and traverse above Punaiki Gulch on slopes heavily overgrown and shaded by acacia. Watch out you don’t bonk your head on those overhanging branches!
At last you negotiate a switchback turn, descending through much of the same vegetation you’ve been in, in sound but not sightexcept very brieflyof the ocean. As the altitude decreases and the exposure to sea breezes increases, Christmas berry replaces the acacia, and ulei appears, too.
The trail gets steeper as you dip into a gully on whose opposite side black cliff faces make you wonder where on earth the trail will be when you get over there. Down in the gully, you pick your way over slippery tangles of boulders and branches. Now you zigzag steeply to moderately out of the gully, passing a huge black outcrop, and trace your way along a blunt ridge nose, enjoying good coastal views. At last you curve inland again, soon closing the loop. Retrace your steps from here.
You’ve been hiking through an area that includes patches of Hawaiian rainforest, though much altered by the invasion of non-native plants. Recently, many fine television programs have discussed our disappearing rainforests, so you are likely to have heard that cleared rainforests make poor pastures for cattle and poor soil for crops. Agriculture depletes the nutrient poor soil in as little as three to five years, leaving it incapable of sustaining ranching and farming. Why does so rich an ecosystem the most varied of all, we are toldyield so poor a soil? We The reason seems to be that the nutrients in dead vegetation and animals don’t return to the soil. They never form a classic layer of humus, leading to rich soil, as found in temperate forests. Instead, things that have died are consumed, almost on the spot, by the voracious living things of the rainforestmosses, ferns, lichens, fungi, insects, even young treesbefore they can enrich the soil. And that, perversely, leaves rainforest soils remarkably poor. Here’s something else that may not have occurred to you, as it had not occurred to me. Look at some of the huge trees in a tropical rainforestmaybe not this one, but other Hawaiian rainforests. How old are these trees? Surely, you may think, if this great ohia were cut down, its annual rings would prove it to be a hundred or more years old. Alas, its annual rings would prove nothing, because there are no such rings to count. In the steady temperatures of the tropics, trees do not form the distinct bands of warm-season fast growth/cold-season slow growth that trees in temperate regions form. So no one really knows how old the oldest giants of the Hawaiian rainforest areand perhaps no one ever will.