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.
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.
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.
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:
And you’ll eventually come to this:
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.