Let’s Hiking Episode Four: Kealia Trail + Access Road

This is not a hiking blog. I’d like to make this abundantly clear. There are a lot of hiking blogs out there about Hawaii, and they give considerably better directions to and descriptions of trails than I would ever be capable of delivering. I mean, I don’t even know the full name of that North Shore trail I hiked with Jess a while back. Not a clue. Kealia, and then some sort of dirt road marked off by signs with little Jeeps on them (“Access Road,” according to the state website), and then what may have been Kuaokala Trail but I’m not sure. Once we hit the landmark picnic bench at the end of Kealia, we simply continued on past the Big White X and hunting signs until we reached the lookout point over what I’ve been told is Makua Valley.

This is not a hiking blog. I don’t mean to be informative, so oh my god, please don’t take anything I ever say to be anything so illustrious as fact. This is just a blog. It exists because I like to write. About… stuff. About Hawaii? About life? About life in Hawaii, then. And sometimes I’ll talk about hiking because I do enjoy it. So much.

I will admit that most of my recent posts have just been about hiking, but there’s a good reason for that.

Kealia Trail

Everyone, everywhere, has his or her Thing. That Thing, you know, the one that makes you feel most like yourself, makes you feel alive, when you think to yourself, hey, cool, so life is actually worth living. For some people it’s reading and for some people it’s surfing and for some people it’s lifting really heavy things and then dropping them again while looking at themselves in a big mirror. Some people like to help other people; others enjoy providing for their families, and that is all they need. For some it’s making video games or playing video games or solving problems or answering all manner of trivia questions. All of these are wonderful. People who know their Thing are incredibly lucky, or maybe they’re not lucky and just worked very hard and searched very long to find It, but either way I’m jealous.

I’m not sure what my Thing is yet. You’d think I would, given my age, but I’m already twenty-five, and I haven’t the slightest. This is not a special circumstance. Being existentially lost is not particularly uncommon but neither is it particularly fun.

All that’s left to do is to go with what feels good, I guess. And hiking feels good. Being more fit and more physically capable than I ever was in high school or college feels damn good. (I can do a push-up, guys! More than one, in fact!) Lugging along my stupidly heavy camera and lens to the end of some ridge in the middle of nowhere, and composing photos that, despite being generally unsatisfactory, make me feel as though I’m at least getting practice–that feels pretty good too. We look out over the impossibly green, secluded Makua Valley and think to ourselves, this is it. It doesn’t get much better than this. Because it doesn’t.

So as long as I can, as long as it keeps making me happy and giving me the satisfaction that I am blessed enough to have been born in such an amazing, beautiful place, I’m going to keep hiking. And you’re going to keep hearing about it. (Or stop reading. There’s that too. But please don’t!)

I may not know what I’m going to do for the rest of my life–or where I’m going to do it, for that matter–but I’m going to keep exploring this beautiful island home of mine until I drop, because that’s all I can think to do anymore. It’s all that’s keeping me (relatively, visibly) sane.

Kealia Trail

Anyway, back to Kealia.

The trailhead is located on Dillingham Airfield, and because this is an officially sanctioned and maintained trail, once you drive through the gates, you’ll already start encountering signs telling you where you ought to be going. There’s free public parking, a shockingly un-disgusting restroom with rare and elusive paper towels and disposable toilet seat covers, and trail markers all the way up.

Brilliant! you think to yourself as you start making your way up the side of the mountain, trudging up the seemingly endless switchbacks, until you realize that for that past hour you’ve been walking back-and-forth up the side of a mountain, seeing the same view over and over again, and you’re not only tired now but bored.

Never fear! Once you reach the top, you’ll know you’ve arrived because there’ll be a picnic table with a conveniently-placed roof, and you can take a bit of a breather to replace all the fluid you sweated out during your increasingly dull, sun-exposed walk up Kealia Trail, and there you might sit, hugging your knees, wondering when the interesting part’s gonna start.

It starts now.

Kealia Trail + Access Road

Kealia Trail + Access Road

If switchbacks aren’t your thing (they certainly aren’t mine), you’ll like this next part. The paths of the access road and whatever else follows it are wide and well-kept, but the steep inclines and surrounding shrubbery will still keep you interested. This second half was my favorite part of the hike. I felt like I was going somewhere, heading towards something, while the switchbacks just kind of made me feel as though I was pacing back and forth like a crazy person. Keep on going past the hunting signs and whatever the hell this awesome thing is:

Kealia Trail + Access Road

And you’ll eventually come to this:

Makua Valley

And it’ll have been worth it. You’ll know by the way your breath catches and your heart flutters childishly at the sight of the depth of the valley below and how absolutely, devastatingly green it all is. You’ll understand what I mean when I say that my photograph of it does it absolutely no justice whatsoever. You’ll remember why you came, why you drove all the way out to the North Shore, why you clomped your way up all those switchbacks an hour or so ago. The space in the valley feels endless and vast, as though the moon could snuggle quite comfortably between the ridges, and it’s all so big, bigger than any one person, and certainly bigger than you. You’ll look out, and take in that immense, limitless, titanic beauty, and remember not to take yourself and your existential crisis quite so seriously.

At least for now.

Let’s Hiking Episode Three: Kaniakapupu Ruins

sacred; taboo; holy; forbidden

Look, I’m not going to pretend to know very much about Native Hawaiian culture or history or religion or language. I live here, grew up here, took the required Hawaiian history classes in school, and gave the docents at the Bishop Museum my full attention during field trips like a good little girl should. But as I’ve mentioned, my grasp of the concepts of belonging and identity are tenuous at best. I’m definitely from Hawaii; I was definitely born here and so were my parents. But I likely know as much about Native Hawaiian culture as the average person from the mainland knows about Native Americans: not a lot, frankly.

The tragedy or not-tragedy of the fact that this is pretty much standard for most of the people who now reside in the islands is a discussion for another day (and to be honest not one that I’m likely to volunteer for, being overwhelmingly ignorant in most things, myself). Still, I’d like to think that I’ve managed to live out the majority of my life in a way that doesn’t step on too many people’s toes*. One of the few exceptions to this toe-treading rule is hiking.

Hawaii is loaded with hikes. Bursting at the seams with them. From lush, verdant ridge trails that top the high and misty mountains, to valley hikes that lie hidden and quiet between their peaks. Dry trails and damp trails. Rocky and muddy and dusty and cliff-y. All sorts.

A good chunk of these are perfectly illegal to do now.

Whether it’s because they’re too dangerous or a nuisance to the neighbors, they’re illegal. Gated off, often. Totally not allowed.

Needless to say, people do them anyway.

Not that I’m promoting this sort of activity. Certainly not, not me.

The “okayness” of other trails is… vague. Take Kaniakapupu, for example.

The Kaniakapupu Ruins, whose name means “the singing land of the shells,” are the remains of the summer home of Kamehameha III. At some point in the mid-1800s the old house appears to have fallen into ruin, but before it became a part of ancient history it was a place where royalty lived and dined and entertained guests. (pacific worlds)

Royalty. Kings took up residence there. So it would have been kapu, right? Back in its day.

And now? Now that the walls have fallen and nature has come to grow wild in green patches over the stones?

I want to go. So we go.

The way there is dark and muddy and mosquito-infested, but it’s a short walk beneath the cover of the trees that opens up into a small clearing where the sun shines down as though it’s smiling. I abandon my completely mud-encrusted slippers on a small patch of grass to dry, and tread quietly, barefoot and warm in the sunlight.

It’s eerily quiet save for the far-away murmurs of a troupe that is very obviously a family of tourists. The floppy hats and trek-worthy backpacks give them away. A middle-aged woman in a bright pink t-shirt and oversized khakis snaps away with her camera as her children pose, all smiles, in the dilapidated, moss-covered doorway to the once-great household. A father waits patiently in the shade. We wait our turn.

“Agh, fuck it.” They’re taking too long, and Kylie marches up to the sign in front of the ruins to read their history. Jess joins her. I stand by with my own Nikon strapped across my shoulder and watch the mom as she carries on.

Click click. Click.

Shit, I think bitterly. I hope that’s not what I look like.

Eventually they leave. I take my pictures, silently, hesitantly, still unsure if what I’m doing is sacrilege or perfectly acceptable. Horrified and conscientious about whether or not I look like a tourist. We wander around, staring, contemplating, wondering. It’s peaceful here. Having finally arrived after a slight misdirection down a muddy hill upon which I got stuck in the muck and nearly lost my footwear as well as my sanity, I start feeling pretty bad about being so grumpy at my companions. It wasn’t their fault none of us bothered to look up proper directions, opting instead to wander around rather aimlessly in the jungle. It was my idea and therefore my bad. My mud-covered hands and feet, drying finally in the warm sun, are my payment for being a lazy idiot.

(I still have mud under my nails, I swear. Honestly, wandering around that place mud-covered and grime-covered and barefoot, I must have looked like some orphan out of Oliver Twist if orphans from Oliver Twist carried SLRs.)

Before making our visit, I did (to my credit) read up on the historical site (though not how to get to it lolololol). Varying reports claimed that Kaniakapupu is illegal to visit or not illegal. We need permission, or we don’t need permission. I could not for the life of me figure out which it was. Seriously. I still have no idea.

I am fairly certain now that it isn’t illegal to visit the ruins. Whether or not it’s cool with cultural authorities, however, is still up for debate. I am not, as I said, any sort of expert in Hawaiian history. I haven’t the slightest of whether or not going to Kaniakapupu is kapu or not. The most we can do, as people visiting and people interested, is respect the place. Understand what it was and what it is. And what it means to the community.

As we turn to leave, my thoughts turn bitter again. I’m angry at the family we saw there for treating the place like an exhibit at Disneyland, posing goofily for photos in a place so rare and unique and with such a sad history. But how different are we, really? Didn’t I go there to gawk and stare and pretend that I felt some sort of connection to the place, camera flashing?

We hop over the muddiest parts of the trail as we head out, squelching as we go. In front of us a group of students take to the flora with clippers, pruning the brush and laying down leaves and small branches on the otherwise untraversably muddy path. They’re likely kua’ana student volunteers there to care for the area. And dammit if I’m not a little embarrassed to be seen there, clearly someone who doesn’t belong.

*I am neither particularly tall nor particularly muscular, and a girl’s got to look out for herself, you know.

Links from Last(ish) Week #004

  • DanRad, sometimes I don’t give you enough credit. “Okay, ‘friendzoning’ is a terrible thing. The idea of a friend zone is like a terrible, male… have you ever heard a girl say she’s in the friend zone? It’s a thing that I think men should be really careful about using. At one point, when they were kicking around titles for What If, before What If was chosen, I think that came up, and I was like, ‘No! Don’t do that!’ […] But I definitely think the idea of ‘friendzone’ is just men going, ‘This woman won’t have sex with me.'” Oh, my dear Mr. Radcliffe, you are splendid. ♥ (the mary sue)
  • This three-legged dog is amazing, and the portrait of him (taken by Martin Schoeller) is also stunning. (natgeo proof)
  • Americans only touch once or twice during a single interaction with friends, while the French do so over 180 times. 180! Guys, we gotta touch more. Friends, prepare to be hugged. All day. (a cup of jo)
  • The marvelous CGP Grey explains America. (youtube)

Let’s Hiking Episode Two: Judd Memorial Trail aka Jackass Ginger Pool

(aka Mosquito Swarms from Hell)

As I sit here on my butt typing these words and enjoying some unusually strong coffee, something on my leg itches. Rather, somethingS itch. More precisely, nineteen little red bumps itch, an allergic reaction that everyone seems to have to mosquito saliva, which causes the skin to produce histamine and itch like a mother. Nineteen little itchy bumps on my legs. Three more on my arms, and one more on my back, just within reach.

I feel just fabulous.

Ah, fuck you, mosquitoes.

My mother and I have always been mosquito-magnets, but I swear that my magnetism has only gotten stronger with age. Apparently this is due to the fact that, like many people, I am a great deal bigger than I was when I was five and exhale more carbon dioxide as a result, which can attract the little buggers even over long distances. This makes me very sad. Because as much as I enjoy not being bitten by mosquitoes, I do enjoy breathing a whole lot more. Also hiking, which tends to be the reason why I’m out and about in the first place. But hiking means sweating and breathing a lot and an increase in body temperature, and gosh darn if those three things don’t draw mosquitoes to humans like hipsters to a Neutral Milk Hotel concert.

According to WebMD, I should blame my mother for my affliction. (Thanks, Mom.) Research tells us that mosquito attraction is 85% due to genetics, and given that my father is about as attractive to the buzzing little pests as a leathery old piece of newspaper on a sunny day, I’m opting to go with my mother on this one. After bemoaning this genetic disadvantage to my brother, I found that he has come to the same conclusion (and suffers similarly, poor lad).

I’m not sure how I managed to acquire so many mosquito bites on one particularly short hike, but I use Monday’s little trip now to demonstrate the sheer power of my mosquito allure. It’s pretty devastating. I hiked to Jackass Ginger Pool and back, and it probably took far less than an hour, and the two friends I adventured with that day got one and none bites, respectively. You’re welcome.

Jackass Ginger Pool, named for no apparent reason after a donkey who was once tied up nearby, is a one-mile round-trip trek through some wonderfully gorgeous bamboo and eucalyptus and various other trees I am completely unable to identify. It’s easy and beautiful, and if you don’t mind having to scuttle over some rocks a couple of times to cross the stream that runs over the beginning of the trail, it’s a definite recommendation for pretty much any level of fitness.

Parking is pretty much just whatever you can find on the side of Nu’uanu Pali Drive, so get there early and be sure to lock up your car securely and hide all your valuables (or take them with you). Don’t forget your phone on your dash (like I nearly did) or your car keys on the hood of your rental minivan (like one family we saw and had to hide the keys for, leaving a note on their windshield indicating where they could find them). This is Oahu; people will take your shit.

Upon arrival, we spotted a gaggle of Korean women in ponchos who looked rather worse for wear and as though they’d just had a shower fully-clothed. They left, quickly, after snapping a couple of pictures, and given that they’d arrived by taxi not too long ago, Kylie deduced that they’d fallen in the stream while trying to cross and had consequently decided they’d had quite enough of Judd Trail for one day.

(After all my mosquito bites, I did too.)

Crossing the stream can be accomplished easily for those with any sense of balance. For those of us who hear the word “balance” and LOL hard and bitterly, shoe removal really expedites this process of hopping awkwardly from rock to rock.

After this, the going is easy though muddy as all hell, but it is Nu’uanu after all (and the same can be said for Manoa). Would you blame a creature for behaving as nature intended it to?

The scenery really is something, though.

Jackass Ginger Pool is technically a swimming hole, but it’d rained rather fiercely the night before and the water was dark and murky with mud and probably lepto, so the three of us were like, nah.

(Still worth it.)

In summary,

Judd Trail / Jackass Ginger Pool
Nu’uanu / Pali
Talking Points: Mud, streams, swimming, bamboo, eucalyptus, pretty pretty walk, easy, short, lepto, MOZZIES SO BRING REPELLENT AGH.

Links from Last Week #003

This is so late, I’m sorry!

  • “Extreme sports on the walls of Holy Jerusalem.” Von Wong always does crazy extreme stuff with his photography, and the results are amazing every time. His dedication to his art, as well as the hard work of Von Wong himself and the people he works with, is suuuuper admirable. Definitely want to see one of his talks one day! (vonwong)
  • Some things you can do to not get robbed. It’s so depressing that this kind of stuff is necessary, but it is. I feel so bad for the writer. (xojane)
  • I was fortunate enough to not experience sexual harassment in the office when I worked in Japan–in fact my office was full of amazing, kind, helpful people–but this is by no means the case for everyone. This article cites cases apparently rampant throughout Gaba, an eikaiwa company in Japan, and the following article isn’t the first time they’ve come under fire for questionable ethics. For those thinking of going to Japan to teach English, I cannot recommend the (government-run) JET Program enough, as many of the other companies out there have less than savory reputations (though I’ve heard good things about some). Do your research, and don’t let the shadiest of the shady take advantage of you. (japantimes via eryk)
  • Here’s something considerably less depressing. A super comprehensive guide to Sailor Moon history. (the mary sue)
  • A little bit about real-life giant whirlpools. (today i found out)
  • I’m guilty of this more frequently than I’d like. There are those days when I’ll have some ice cream in the afternoon and then think, “Fuck it, today’s a bad food day,” and then proceed to eat all the ice cream, tortilla chips, cereal, and sweet bread in the house. This is just a friendly reminder to take a step back, not take yourself so seriously, and get back on track. Building good habits takes time and comes gradually. Don’t give up! (zenhabits)

I did iiiiiiit.

There’s something incredibly liberating about driving. It’s really a remarkable thing. Perhaps I speak too soon, as I have only been solitary in my driving (as in, for once, even though I’ve officially had my license for three months now, no one was accompanying me to make sure I didn’t hit any innocent bystanders or oncoming traffic or those notoriously deadly parked cars) for just a few weeks, but dammit, the freedom feels good. To be able to go anywhere I please, any time I please has been proven to be an exhilarating buzz very near tantamount to that scene from Harry Potter where our dearest hero Harry rides a hippogriff for the first time and Dan Radcliffe lets out this weirdly hoarse, half-whispered cry of sheer, unadulterated joy.



It’s just like that.

140628 13-11-32 pp

This is my brother’s car. Or it was. And now it’s kinda-sorta mine also. I think. This is what I’ve been led to believe, at least, in not so many words.

Whatever the case, I been drivin’ her around town lately, puttin’ the pedal to the metal, needing 4 speed, being 2 fast and also a bit 2 furious at times, and even, when I’m feeling rather rebellious, rowing some saints. (I’ll stop now.)

It’s nothing special, comparatively speaking, when you put it next to, say, my father’s very fancy BMW, but youknowwhatIdon’tcare. To me, it’s a vessel of freedom, a symbol of all the things I’ve been waiting for: the ability to leave for work when I need to because I work weird hours, the ability to go to my volunteer work site high in the misty mountains without taking the bus for like an hour or having to flag down some marching orcs, and most importantly, to be able to go out and see How to Train Your Dragon 2 with Kylie whenever I damn well feel like it because we’re aDULTS.

I’ve been told that eventually the novelty of it will wear off, that eventually I will really dislike driving because it’s a pain and Hawaii traffic is godawful. I’ve been told that this day is nigh.

Despite all these fair warnings, to that day I have but this to say: bring it on. I love driving right now, and if I hate it in another week, fine. But at the moment it makes me feel free. I’m twenty-five years old, and I am finally, finally no longer trapped in this crazy tower of a house like Rapunzel. I can drive to the beach to feel the sand between my toes, to a hike on a mountain ridge to see the ocean from its highest peak, to work so that I can earn money to pay for gas (oh, gas). I can go anywhere and do anything within reason and the limits of federal and state laws, and I don’t even need to trouble anyone for a ride. I’m finally free, and I didn’t even need a prince (or, it turns out, a thief with a charming smile) to help me along.

(I did sort of commandeer my brother’s car, though.)

Look at my food and think about your life for a moment.

Anthony Bourdain on the Nerdist Podcast:

How foodies use Instagram. Hypothetically when somebody takes pictures of their food–and everybody does now–I’m guilty of it, we all sit down and eat at a restaurant, everybody out with the cell phones and we’re all taking pictures of our food. Are we sharing? “Look at this wonderful food I’m eating.” Are you sharing, are you educating, are you inspiring? No, it’s an aggressive act. You say, “Look what I’m eating. I really hope you’re sitting there in some shit-stained undies on your couch eating Cheetos right now.” You don’t want other people to share with you and say, “Oh, that’s so interesting, look what I’m eating.” No, it’s an aggressive act, and I think a lot of foodie-ism is sort of aggressive. It’s the whole point of taking pictures of your food, is to make other people feel bad about their food choices. […] It’s something that I’m guilty of for sure.

Well, he’s not wrong.

If we’re honest with ourselves, taking pictures of our food is terribly aggressive. Perhaps not entirely in the way Anthony Bourdain asserts–that we want to make other people feel bad about their dining decisions–but in that we want other people to think we’re living this really fabulous life, one that’s significantly more classy and interesting and exciting than everyone else’s. “Look what I’m eating–isn’t it amazing and much, much tastier and prettier than what you’re eating, therefore validating the way I live my life and making you feel as though it’s superior to the way you’re living yours.” (And, like Bourdain, I’m certainly no innocent party to this.)

I don’t think the aggressiveness is about food choices. I think it’s about lifestyle choices, or even life choices. This has been covered extensively before by much better writers than myself–about how Facebook and Instagram and Twitter are all about branding yourself, selectively displaying the parts of your life that are the most “interesting” and leaving out the long, dreary hours of you sitting on your couch alone watching Netflix and eating corn nuts–so I won’t get into it, but I just really enjoyed this interview with Mr. Bourdain, and I wholeheartedly recommend the Nerdist Podcast if you’ve never listened to it.

Also he’s got a graphic novel out now.