OHE October 30, 1999 (Palikea)

Date: Sat, 30 Oct 1999 06:57:40 -1000
From: Roger Sorrell 
Subject: Fw: Description of Palikea trail hike, 10-27-99

"It is the destiny of certain places on Earth to be imbued with an inexplicable magnetism..." (J. Bisignani)

And Palikea of the Waianaes is one of those powerful places. The Hawaiians recognized the mysterious mana of this area, and located a heiau at the point they called "Mauna Kapu" (Forbidden Mountain--2,776 ft.) to guard the beginning of the trail. What a luxury it was to have a guided hike in this special place, particularly with such leaders as our knowledgeable and passionate friend, John Hall, and his associate, Kay Lynch! Both were trained by the Nature Conservancy to educate visitors about the tremendous historical, cultural, and ecological significance of the Palikea area. All fourteen Solemates present this trip extend our heartfelt gratitude to them, and, on a more personal note, we're always ready for John to share another of his wonderful stories!

The trail itself is not a strenuous one--it only goes up around 300 ft, from Mauna Kapu to near the top of Palikea, a tip of the Waianaes, at 3,098 ft. Mostly it follows along the ridge top, at times through narrow cliff pathways pretty much straight up on one's left, and straight down below on one's right. This medium degree of difficulty (for Hawaii) makes it rather pleasant in itself, and add to that its glorious views on a good day (and we had good weather, though cool)--and one ends up with quite an enjoyable experience in itself. After all, the combination of refreshing breezes, good exercise, and fantastic vistas--how often can one look over one side of a trail and see the glistening waves off Makaha, and on the other side have the panorama of the Ko'olaus down to Honolulu, Waikiki, and Diamond Head?--should give just about anyone a real "natural high"!

But of course the stories and the personal impressions that we gained are what will even more stay with us. We learned from John and Kay how the area's forlorn majesty is what remains of a multi-generational history of environmental devastation and purposeful degradation of the ecosystem for human exploitation--from the Hawaiians' burning of the native forest so it would reveal the coveted aromatic sandalwood, to the Western ranchers' bulldozing of the soil down the mountainside so it would cover the coral flats and allow more area for their plantations, to their beginning realization of what they had done, seeing the land naked and parched, the streams drying up, and attempting to reforest the land with alien trees that then began to spread and compound the damage. After this truly depressing recital, we were heartened to hear of the protection the Nature Conservancy now gives to the decimated area, and how the Conservancy is actively involved in eradicating some of the most problematic aliens and creating safe areas for native plants to recover.

The amount of information on the rare native plants and cultural history may have been a lot to try to remember. Many of us, however, found very personal signs of the fragility and vulnerability of the area quite meaningful. For some of us, seeing the one example--a single plant--left of a native species created a striking impression. Others unexpectedly uncovered a nursery of rare native snails--tiny coiled shells hardly more than a pinhead in size, each dangling precariously from one leaf of an Akoko shrub. Others may have savored the story behind a mysterious notch cut through the Pali (cliff) at one point--an area where the women, children, and elders of the nearby villages fled for protection from massacre in the Hawaiian civil wars while their warriors attempted to hold off the invading enemy. Many Solemates had to notice when they found themselves slipping and sliding their way down from the top because to hold on too tightly to a tree for support could mean breaking a limb of a precious native!

All in all, it was quite a day for us! We were thoughtful as we drove back on the classic bumpety-bump, roll-right-and-left Waianae road. Yes, it was a hike, but more than that, it was an experience that will stay with us for quite a while!

Till next time, happy trails! Roger and David

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