Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Mauʻumae - Lanipō Trail

Ok, it's time to check out another O'ahu ridge trail. This time we're on Mauʻumae Ridge, the next ridge east of Waʻahila Ridge, which puts us straight uphill from the trendy Kaimuki neighborhood. The trail itself goes by a couple of names for some reason, "Mauʻumae Trail" and "Lanipō Trail"[1], and has a reputation as one of the harder ridge trails that's still doable by mere mortals of the sane persuasion. And yet you'll see other people online insisting it's no big deal, and they do it all the time. I think it's a psychological thing: The trail's famous for its near-constant ups and downs, but even knowing that, when you hike it for the first time, you keep scrambling up these steep rocky slopes and then realizing you now have to scramble at least as far back down, and you can see the next climb from where you're at, and it looks steeper and gnarlier than the one you just did, and you can sort of guess what's waiting for you on the other side, and you remember you need to do this all in reverse on the way back -- well, it starts to get discouraging before long. I suppose it probably gets easier if you've experienced it before and have more of a feel for what you're getting into, but I've only done the trail once so far and am describing it based solely on that. I can tell you that while I was doing this, I was passed by several elderly couples just out for a walk, a couple of families with small children, people walking their dogs -- including a couple of tiny unleashed dachshunds -- and even a teenage boy walking along strumming a ukulele for a couple of girls, and trying to be nonchalant about the climbing parts. Though, in my defense, I was stopping a lot for photos and not trying to speedrun the trail.

So the trail was pretty busy, and there were a lot of cars parked on neighborhood streets near the trailhead. Over time this tends to cause conflicts with local homeowners, so let me again put in a plug for riding the bus to the trailhead -- the closest bus stop is just a couple of blocks from the start of the trail, and you can catch Bus 14 on Kapahulu, right on the Diamond Head side of Waikiki. You can even hop off a bit further up Kapahulu and pick up a box of malasadas (a local fried pastry, sort of like a round jelly donut) to eat on the trail if you want, as a convenient source of carbs or whatever, though you'll definitely get sticky hands out of it.

The AllTrails page for it rates it "Hard", with nearly all reviewers warning people to wear long pants due to all the scratchy overgrown 'uluhe ferns along the trail. People seemed to dislike that more than all the ups and downs. And here I have to say that I wore shorts and I thought it was fine; a few scratches here and there but it's not like you're hiking through blackberry vines, or devil's club, or poison oak, and there aren't ticks everywhere trying to latch on to you. Still, my experience may vary from yours -- maybe I was there outside of peak fern season, if that's a thing, or after someone had gone through with a machete and whacked the worst offenders, I dunno. So don't necessarily rely on my experience as a guide to how things will go for you.

If you're visiting from a more northerly climate, like I was, you might subconsciously assume that if it's a hot day, it's also a long day, and you'll still have some summer daylight to play with past 9pm. That is very much not true this close to the equator; at the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, the sun sets around a quarter after 7. Which, on this particular trail, means that if you're doing the return leg of the hike around 3-4 pm, you'll be scrambling up and down rocks with the sun in your eyes, and lengthening shadows on some of the handholds and footholds you need. Which is doable, but not really ideal.

So all of that said, the trail does have great views of the surrounding landscape, including views back toward the urban jungle of Waikiki and the inland side of Diamond Head, so it may sound like I'm down on the place, but I'm really not. I was sore the next day, but I thought it was worth doing. But don't just take it from me; here's a selection of other articles & blog posts about the hike, from across the interwebs.

Couple of other assorted items I ran across while looking for links about the hike:

  • A paper by Bishop Museum botanists regarding non-native orchid species taking up residence on O'ahu. Apparently if you're hiking the trail the right time of year, you might run across a patch of 50 or so Dendrobium orchids with yellow to yellow-brown or yellow-green flowers. It isn't known how they got there, but apparently this is a common variety used in the state's nursery and cut flower industries. The researchers found the orchids were being visited by ordinary European honeybees, though with a low rate of successful pollination; they even found a deceased bee that had become trapped by a flower's complex pollen-dispensing parts. So this sounds like it won't be the state's next catastrophic invasive species. The paper doesn't mention anything about removing this patch of flowers or recommending that others do so.
  • A bizarre police brutality incident in 2017. Two guys were hiking along the trail, minding their own business, when a police helicopter swooped down and ordered them back to the trailhead. At which point they were held at gunpoint and then beaten by at least eight cops, and shoved into separate squad cars to be taken downtown, and questioned on the way. Seems the local five-o was looking for an armed robbery suspect who looked nothing like either hiker, but a positive ID from somebody in a helicopter was enough for them to do all this. At some point along the way, they realized that mistakes had been made, and turned around and dropped the hikers off at their car with no explanation or apology. All of this was in the news only because the two victims had lawyered up and were making noise about the incident. A quick search didn't reveal any followup articles about this, so my guess would be that a generous and highly confidential sealed settlement was arranged, and all eight officers either got promoted or retired with full pensions, since that's how these things usually go down.
  • In the recent Kuliʻouʻou Ridge post I had a bit about people climbing the "Bear Claws" route to the summit from the windward side of the island. It turns out that something similar has been done here at least once. A page at -- oddly enough -- the Appalachian Trail Museum relates a 1996 chance meeting with a local hiking demigod, relaying a few of his anecdotes including a Christmas 1944 climb down the windward side of the Koʻolaus from the Mauʻumae Trail summit, managing to tear off all his fingernails in the process while scrambling for handholds. As far as anybody knows this is still the only time it's been done; a 2011 Extreme Hiking Hawaii post shared a rumor someone was about to try it, and a 2014 Kenji Saito post on a scouting trip checking out possible routes from above, but from what I can tell nobody has actually had a go at it. I think that -- coming from some of the more out-there corners of the O'ahu hiking interwebs -- is a useful data point. If extremely talented people keep checking it out and then noping out, this may be a job for a National Geographic mountaineering team. Or at least this would have been right up their alley in the pre-Rupert Murdoch era. I don't think I've looked at an issue since he took over. For all I know their staff has been retasked with finding Noah's ark, or the edge of the flat earth, or oohing and aaahing over the splendors of Mar-a-Lago and how they surpass anything from the Italian Renaissance. Rumor has it the flat earth expedition has actually been searching for a few years now but they just keep going around in circles.
  • To the east of Mauʻumae Ridge, on your right as you head up the trail, the narrow valley you're trying not to plummet into on that side is named Waiʻalae Nui Gulch, and the narrow ridge on the other side is Waiʻalae Nui Ridge. The valley starts with a bit of 'burb that peters out before long; I imagine the rest is too narrow to be worth developing. And the ridge is home to a subdivision even ritzier than the usual ritzy ridgeline subdivision, with someone's gigantic mansion at the top, and no trailheads anywhere, I suppose because rich people don't have to follow the same rules as everyone else. One of the links in the list above details a different approach over there, hiking up Mauʻumae Ridge and then bushwhacking down Waiʻalae Nui Ridge until the trail bumps up against the impassable mansion barrier. From there, the route scrambled down the side of the ridge into Waiʻalae Nui Gulch, then up the other side of the gulch somehow, rejoining Mauʻumae Ridge a short distance from the trailhead, and living happily ever after. After that, someone took the idea and ran with it, inventing a route they dubbed the East Honolulu Rollercoaster Hike, which involves a lot of somehow climbing up the side of a ridge, somehow climbing down the other side, then the next ridge, and the next, etc., and please note how the name says "Hike" and not "Trail". Someone else ran with that idea and dreamed up an East Oʻahu Super Loop, which creates a loop by doing the ridge rollercoaster thing in one direction, and then following the Koʻolau Summit Trail for the return trip, or vice versa.


I was really hoping there would be an interesting story about the two names, but I haven't found one. A sign at the trailhead says "Mauʻumae Trail" (named for the ridge the ridge the trail follows, per the USGS), while the state GIS map ( ) calls it "Lanipō Ridge Trail", and you sometimes see "Lanipō Trail" (after Puʻu Lanipō, the peak on the Koʻolaus where the trail ends up) or "Mauʻumae Ridge Trail" too. Normally I'd check the state trail system site and go with whatever name they use, but it's not there. For some reason the city-county government operates this trail, rather than the state, and the city doesn't appear to have a web page for the trail. I also don't have an interesting story around why this isn't a state trail; it would be cool if there was an arcane state law to point at, or a semi-juicy tale of bureaucratic infighting to summarize, but there doesn't seem to be one, and it seems like nobody's at all wound up over it. The trail itself is maintained to about the same standard as the various state trails are, so I suppose these little details don't really matter very much.

As for what the names mean, Hawaiian Place Names says it means "wilted grass", and notes the name is also used for a small cinder cone at the bottom of the ridge, a couple of blocks off Waiʻalae Ave., as well as what's left of a heiau (temple) somewhere in the area. There's also a city nature park nearby with the same name, which I, uh, have an unfinished draft post about. There's also a Mauʻumae Beach near Waikoloa on the Kona side of the Big Island. Meanwhile Pu'u Lanipō seems to be the only place with Lanipō in the name, the name meaning something akin to "The hill of dense plant growth". So if you do the trail and the ferns get you, I suppose you can't say you weren't warned.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Puʻu Pia Trail

Next up we have some photos from Oʻahu's Puʻu Pia Trail, a short and relatively easy trail up a small ridge at the back of Manoa Valley, sort of between Waʻahila Ridge and the Manoa Falls / Lyon Arboretum area. This post languished in Drafts for a while, and overall it wasn't the most memorable hike, and I didn't make detailed notes right afterward, but if you're looking for really meticulous detail you ought to go read the canonical book on O'ahu trails instead and not rely on little old me for that sort of thing. That said, here are a few random thoughts and memories about this one.

  • In the previous post, I said that Kuliʻouʻou Ridge was the trail to do if you're visiting and only have time or inclination for one hike. Let me amend that a little: That's true if you have some experience hiking back on the mainland, or wherever you're from. If not, or you're really out of shape after the pandemic, Puʻu Pia might be a better choice, just because it's easier. I did it a couple of years ago when I was dealing with some knee trouble, and I figured an easy hike was better than no hike at all. (Note: This is not professional medical advice, if you somehow got here by googling "knee trouble".)
  • This is only partly a ridge hike, and starts at the valley floor. So you may run into mud and mosquitoes at the start, and again at the end on your way back. Middle part was fine, though.
  • You can get to the trailhead easily on city bus #6. Though not necessarily quickly, as the stop comes a few stops after a designated driver break spot. So you might have to sit on the bus with no AC for 15-20 minutes while the driver has a musubi and a few cigs. Which is fine, of course; just try not to be on a really tight schedule if you do this one.
  • The much more difficult Kolowalu Trail starts at the same trailhead and then goes straight up the side of Waʻahila Ridge with only a couple of switchbacks, connecting with the main ridge trail near the official (and widely ignored) "End of Trail" sign. Or in theory you could do this, but the trail has been closed for several years now due to a major landslide. Either the state hasn't figured out how to fix it yet, or the fix would require money they don't currently have. So try not to take the wrong turn at the trail junction and then ignore all the Trail Closed signs, or your hike may get a lot more interesting than you had in mind.
  • On the other hand, if you take the bus to the trailhead and the bus driver looks at you and assumes you're doing the hard trail and marvels about it, and relays that their friend tried it once and said it was insane, you are not legally obligated to correct said assumption. Although it's possible you might get the same driver again on the way back, so in case that happens try to have a believable story ready for why you're done so soon. Like maybe you were halfway up when an angry wild boar came after you, and you called it quits at that point, I dunno.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Kuliʻouʻou Ridge Trail

Switching gears a little, here's another post from my (somewhat smaller) backlog of Oʻahu hiking trails. This time we're visiting the Kuliʻouʻou Ridge Trail, just west of the Hawaiʻi Kai area [1]. If you only have the time (or inclination) to do one ridge trail on Oʻahu, I think this is the one I would recommend, of all the ones I've tried so far (including Waʻahila Ridge, Manana Ridge, Nuʻuanu-Judd, and a few others I haven't posted yet). It's sort of a concentrated version of those others: You still get the full ridge trail experience, while expending a bit less time and less effort overall. Specifically, the trail gets you to the top of the Koʻolaus and back in around 4.3 miles, versus the usual 6-10 mile roundtrip you often see elsewhere, and the summit point where you turn around at is a bit over 2000 feet up versus the usual 2500-or-so, and you get to that altitude without doing a bunch of endless up-and-down stretches first. There's also more shade here than a lot of ridge trails, and not a lot of wind or exposure except right at the very top. But it's no cakewalk, either; it's still pretty steep and challenging in parts, and you still obviously need to bring food, water, and sunblock, and watch your step, and just generally not try anything stupid. Remember all of that and you'll probably do fine. Which is a very long-winded way of me saying that I made it to the top on this hike, and didn't on the others I mentioned, therefore I like this one better. Some additional blog posts and such about this hike can be found at Unreal Hawaii, Oahu Hikes and Trails, This Way to Paradise, and The Katie Show Blog, and many other locations around the interwebs.

The one area where this hike loses a few points is around getting here by bus, I guess due to being located way out in the 'burbs. The nearest bus stop is out on Kalanianaʻole Highway, and from there you have to hoof it through a sprawling subdivision just to get to the trailhead. This adds another 1.3 miles each direction to your total distance, and the additional distance is just not very interesting, and there isn't a lot of shade to be had, but at least that part is basically flat. If you're getting there by car, be aware that there's limited parking at the trailhead, and the trail's increasing popularity has been causing the usual tensions with local residents in recent years.

There is technically another official trail here: The Kuliʻouʻou Valley Trail starts at the same trailhead but continues up toward the back of the valley instead of switchbacking up onto the ridge. I tried this after doing the main trail just to see what it was like, in case it turned out to be a secret gem I needed to go on and on about. No such luck this time, though; I thought the trail was fairly pointless, but if you've got a hankering for an extra 1.4 miles of thrashing around in underbrush with no interesting views of anything along the way, maybe you'll enjoy it more than I did.

As usual there's a whole web of unofficial trails in the area too. None of which I have actually tried (so far), so please take this section with one or more grains of salt. Having said that, it may not look like it, but the summit point here doubles as a junction with the fabled/feared Koʻolau Summit Ridge Trail, which (as the name suggests) runs along the top of the mountains for the full length of the island, around 45 miles total. While it's possible to through-hike it end-to-end, a much more common thing is to go up one side ridge, do a stretch of KSRT, and then come down another ridge. And eventually cover the whole trail that way, by doing bits and pieces of it segment by segment. One popular route that starts and ends here is the so-called Kuli'ou'ou Ridge Loop Trail, where you continue left/north from the official summit over to (and over) Puʻu O Kona -- a high point along this stretch of trail at ~2200 feet -- and then descend via the next ridge over, ending up in the same valley where you began, so you don't need a second car parked somewhere else if you came by car. Somehow this loop is only .3 miles longer than the official out-n-back route; I gather that this is partly because the unofficial route on the west-side ridge doesn't have any switchbacks, and is steep and muddy and sketchy and hard to follow in parts. So another popular route just extends the out-and-back over to Puʻu O Kona and sticks to the nice maintained trail for the ascent & descent parts (examples with photos via The Hiking HI, Hik3beast, Kenji Saito, and Oahu Hikes and Trails.) The last link is part of a set of late-1990s hiking web pages that haven't really changed since then, which is kind of amazing. It mentions that the current ridge trail route is not really that old, or at least it wasn't old yet as of 1998, and the original trail used to start somewhere at the back of Kaʻalakei Valley (the next valley to the east) before the current trail was built. Before anyone goes hunting around for it, that old route is probably not accessible anymore since the whole area where it would've started is now part of a big senior assisted living complex.

An extra twist on the Puʻu O Kona out-n-back involves somehow setting up camp on that stretch of KSRT and spending the night up there, so that you're up there in time for sunrise photos. A few other miscellaneous trail variations I ran across include two routes to the Kuliʻouʻou summit that begin over in Haha'ione Valley, the next one to the east past Kaʻalakei. These both involve an obscure junction with the main trail that I don't recall noticing (which ought to spice up your return trip a bit), and sneaking across private property to get to and from that junction. Or if that's too mainstream , a route that goes up the aforementioned & unmaintained west ridge route and drops you off in Haha'ione Valley behind a gate that's signed "Government Property - No Trespassing". For a different change of pace, here's a page about only taking the ridge trail as far as the picnic area partway up, but doing so by mountain bike.

Or, for people who want to do something truly extreme, Pu'u O Kona is one of the few places along the Koʻolaus where it's (barely) possible to start over on the windward side and climb up and over the mountains. If you look at a terrain map of the area, you might notice that the windward side of Puʻu O Kona has a pair of, I hesitate to call them side ridges exactly, but sort of projecting fins so that that bit of windward side isn't just a 2000 foot vertical wall like it mostly is elsewhere. This spot has picked up the name "Bear Claw", and the two fins are simply called the left fork and the right fork, and people have climbed both of them; here's a video of an ascent of the right fork, for anyone who's curious what that looks like. The video description suggests popping a Dramamine before watching, if that gives you any idea. Personally the only kind of bear claw I have any interest in experiencing firsthand is of the pastry variety, and Yelp says Liliha Bakery makes the best ones on the island. I gather the ridge trail here is the standard way down after climbing either of the Bear Claw forks, so if you really want to impress people I suppose you could do the ridge trail and then claim to have done half a Bear Claw, and cross your fingers that nobody asks which half.

So I guess this is the point where I direct your attention to a Civil Beat guest column from a few years back about the state's ever-increasing number of hiking fatalities and expensive rescues, and what the state ought to do about it, but hasn't yet and probably won't. As part of a larger point about inadequate trail signage, the author mentions that his wife and child had recently taken an unsafe wrong turn at Kuliʻouʻou Ridge because it wasn't clear which way was the correct route. I recall that this was confusing in a few spots, so that's something to be aware of. I mean, overall this isn't the most dangerous trail but things do still happen now and then; just over a week ago a hiker had to be airlifted out after slipping and possibly breaking an ankle on the way down. He also makes a point about the state trail website being inadequate, lacking canonical difficulty ratings or any information at all about unofficial trails, not even explaining where a trail goes or how it changes beyond the official end of trail sign that everyone ignores, the resulting void being filled unevenly by social media. Present company included, I suppose. He points at a French mountaineering website as an example of what he'd really like to see here. And yes, it's a good site, very clean and logically organized. The obvious problem here is that French mountaineering websites aren't shaped by the vagaries of US personal injury law, which incentivizes you to limit your own liability above everything else, even if that outcome is less safe overall. There's an especially egregious example of that just before the very top of the Kuliʻouʻou Ridge. Right at the top of the trail, immediately before your very first glimpse over the summit to Windward Oʻahu, an official sign informs you that it marks the official End Of The Trail, and you need to turn around right there at that very spot and go home right this instant. Nobody ever does this. I am a fairly risk-averse person, and I rolled my eyes and walked right past this sign just like everyone else does. If you keep going, before long there's a point where you really do stand a good chance of plummeting off a two thousand foot cliff, but you have to use your own judgement on exactly where that point might be, because the state officially washed its hands of you back at the end-of-trail sign. Whereas if they put up some guardrails -- maybe even something nicer, like a steel or concrete viewing platform so visitors aren't standing on bare dirt (which turns to slippery mud when wet) -- then legally they'd be inviting people to go right up to those guardrails and they'd end up liable for any dumb life choices that visitors made after that. Someone stands on top of the guardrail and takes their very last selfie, you're at least going to end up in court over it, arguing whether the railing should have been flat on top for safety or rounded to discourage people, and even if you win the case and keep winning cases like it, it's going to be prohibitively expensive to keep this up in the long run.

So when you see me using phrases like "Legal says I have to tell you not to do this", that's the sort of landscape I'm trying to navigate here. And please understand I'm not implying that you, personally, were about to do the thing I told you not to do; that warning is for the second-after-next person to stumble across this page, who -- just between us -- is a complete blithering idiot, with no instinct for self-preservation and without a single atom of common sense, and who might just decide to go sprinting off the cliff here because I didn't explicitly say not to, or I didn't explain that there have been exactly zero miraculous rescues of falling people here in recorded history, whether by Superman, or Neo, or gigantic eagles, or Bruce Willis and his taxi, or Mr. Spock in antigravity boots, or whatever. Or maybe now that I've added those particular warnings, the problem would be that I didn't specify that I am not writing this on Opposite Day, and it also is not Opposite Day whenever the aforementioned idiot happens to read this. And so on. You can try to guess at all the absurd things someone might try, or what their bereaved next-of-kin and their hotshot lawyers might put in front of a jury, but you'll never think of all of it. And if it looks too much like you're trying to be serious and authoritative, you just might be taking on even more liability that way. So with that in mind, here are a few more important safety tips to consider, with a somewhat varying degree of usefulness and tongue-in-cheek-ness:

  • You will keep seeing warnings about how slippery the mud is here. I'm not a soil scientist and don't know why it's like this, but it is. If you're the sort of person who learns best by doing, maybe try a wet valley hike like Manoa Falls first before tackling something with any altitude to it. Which is a much lower-stakes way to get a sense of what the local mud is like; you can fall down all you want without plummeting off of anything. Just keep an eye out for flash floods, and dengue-carrying mosquitoes, and leptospirosis cooties and whatnot while you're doing this, and you'll be fine, probably.
  • I think I've mentioned before that you'll sometimes run across a bit of trail that's just wall-to-wall exposed tree roots, and that those roots offer essentially zero traction. There are a few spots like that here too, along with a somewhat more unusual hazard: A stretch of the lower part of the trail here passes through a large grove of some kind of nonnative pine tree, and the whole forest floor -- and the trail -- are covered in a thick blanket of pine needles. Which is weirdly soft and quiet and kind of nice to walk on just generally, but on a slope it's not exactly a reliable source of traction and sure footing. And sometimes it's pine needles on top of slippery wall-to-wall tree roots, which is just ridiculous and deeply unfair. So watch your step. How the pine needles stay in place on top of those roots without sliding away is one of the great unsolved mysteries of the jungle, I'm afraid. This whole situation does remind me a little of a certain dimwitted ex-president who insisted states needed to rake their forests to prevent forest fires. So although that might actually be a non-terrible idea here and there, I feel like we should hold off for now just so he can't take credit for it.
  • I have been encouraged, offline, to add a plug for tetanus booster shots to my list of safety tips. This was partly as a gentle reminder that I'm overdue for one myself. When you see references to tetanus shots, that's usually how it goes: Person was behind on their shots, and needed to get one just in case after being stitched up for some kind of dumb injury. And I have an occasional running joke here about various things being so rusty or dirty that you can get tetanus just by looking at them. So I feel like I ought to point out that the disease itself is seriously bad news. A child in Oregon caught it in 2019 after a forehead gash, was hospitalized for two months with the full range of nasty tetanus symptoms, and nearly died, all because his parents were (and still are) antivaxxers. Which brings me to a broader point, if at all possible never let an antivaxxer make health care (or other) decisions on your behalf. Given the way conspiracy thinking tends to infect a person's whole worldview, I wouldn't trust an antivax plumber to plumb my house correctly. They could turn out be a cholera denier who will hook your water up to the city sewer system and vice versa because it's "more natural" that way.
  • If you saw my bit about the second-to-next visitor who's going to head straight for the cliff and you immediately wondered about bringing a parachute, I already googled that for you and it's kind of a mixed bag. I didn't see any mentions of people just flat-out base jumping the drop, which I think is because you'd be jumping into the prevailing winds, which will try to blow you into the cliff, or up and back to where you jumped from, more or less. I am absolutely not joking about that part, by the way: Here's a 2011 news clip where a very experienced paraglider pilot was carried up over the Koʻolaus and ended up somewhere around the Pearl City / Manana Trail area. In a similar incident from 2009, the pilot ended up somewhere on the way to Wahiawa, believe it or not. Both pilots were fine, and the experience of being sort of catapulted up and over a mountain range is probably extremely awesome, let's be honest here. Though probably even more so when you -- and your friends down on the ground helplessly watching you -- understand what's about to happen. Please note, however, that the prevailing wind situation also makes this spot, or any other Koʻolau summit, an exceptionally poor place to scatter ashes -- think that one scene in The Big Lebowski -- unless you and your fellow mourners want to go home with a lungful of Uncle Morty.
  • If you're keen to avoid dangerous stuff, you'll want to look at this from a broader perspective: Back in 2016, the Civil Beat folks set conventional wisdom aside and ran the actual numbers and figured out that the single most dangerous tourist activity in Hawaiʻi is not hiking, or climbing, or surfing, or paragliding, or bungee jumping; it's actually snorkeling, particularly at Hanauma Bay, usually due to a combination of overexertion and underpreparedness. This is not really a hiking safety tip; it's more that if you're reading this post and paying attention to safety tips, I feel like I should mention the big underappreciated one people don't know about. So don't snorkel, it's not worth it. Or at least don't try it for the first time here, in the open ocean, under the hot sun, while trying to learn how by reading the packaging on your convenience store snorkel kit.
  • I hate to follow a statistical item with an anecdotal item, but there's a phenomenon I've noticed that I've never seen concrete numbers about. I can't keep track of how many accidental-demise news items I've seen that mention the victim had moved to Hawaiʻi just a few months to a year ago, and was out there living their best life every day when tragedy struck. Now, Superbad gags aside, a Hawaiʻi state ID is a powerful tool around these parts, unlocking steep discounts everywhere and sometimes letting you bypass long tourist lines and so forth altogether. I know of several Oʻahu hikes where the trailhead's located inside a gated subdivision, but the HOA will let you in to explore their trails if you can show a local driver's license at the gate. A state ID does not automatically make you good at local outdoor stuff, though, and it can't repel sharks or jellyfish, or anything like that. I mean, go ahead and live your best life obviously, don't let me talk you out of it. I mean, who knows; if you believe in fate or destiny or whatever, maybe it's been set in stone from day one that in this particular lifetime you get to wrap things up with 4-6 months of amazing tropical bliss and then some sort of blameless accident that won't hurt very much, and then you get to come back as a dolphin or a sea turtle next time around, just for a little variety. I'm not a professional theologian and am not 100% clear on how that stuff works, so again: Who knows. I suppose there would be vastly worse destinies to have, all things considered.
  • Remember that noping out is always an option. If you followed the "Hanauma Bay" link earlier, you'll see my brief tale about trying to learn snorkeling by doing the exact things I just told you not to do, and let me point out that this was long before the Civil Beat study, and I had no idea that it was a particularly dangerous thing to try. I soon concluded that breathing through the little tube and keeping it clear of seawater was actually kind of difficult and tedious, and I wasn't enjoying it, and wasn't likely to start enjoying it soon, and noped out. The Nu'uanu-Judd Trail post is another lively tale of noping out, that time after losing my remaining unopened water bottle. And there are others, and there will be others in the future. If you aren't mushing across the Alaskan tundra to get a vaccine to Nome, or skiing cross country across Norway to stop Nazis from getting the Bomb, you have the right to pull the plug at any time for any reason or no reason at all, and not apologize to anyone for it, even when that fin-and-mask kit cost over $20 and the store doesn't do refunds.
  • Maybe I'm just more clumsy or disorganized than the average hiker, but I can only think of a couple of times over mumble-mumble years of hiking where I've been close to taking a bad tumble, and it always involved being thrown off balance and yanked backwards or sideways when something of mine randomly got snagged on underbrush -- a loose cord from a jacket or hoodie, a long dangling strap on a backpack, that sort of thing. Safety tip writers never seem to lecture you about minimizing your snaggable surface area. Until now, I mean. Based on this, I have to conclude that either a.) This never happens to anybody besides me, or b.) This happens all the time, and somehow I am the only survivor. Either way, keep an eye on those dangly bits and don't snagged, ok?
  • One thing the usual safety tip lists do include is to tell someone where you're going. Now, I will admit this is something that doesn't always come naturally to those of us who were kids in the 1970s. It was more of a "get on your bike and go, try to be back in time for school tomorrow" thing back then, and I am only slightly exaggerating. If you resemble this description too, this is your gentle reminder that your joints aren't getting any younger, and if you think you feel old now, just wait til you blow out a knee slipping on a tree root, and you've fallen and you can't get up, and nobody knows where to look for you. Texting or tweeting or IG-ing a photo from the trailhead should do the trick. Or -- and it pains me to say this -- if you're somewhere that has cell service the whole way (and trails on Oʻahu generally do), I suppose you could just livestream the whole thing, and try to keep an entertaining running commentary going for the whole 4-5 hours while wheezing your way up the the hill, remembering to stop and plug your sponsors regularly and whatnot. That way, when you slip on a tree root and blow out a knee, and are lying there writhing in pain among the mud and pine needles, you also get to deal with trolls from across the globe mocking you and accusing you of faking it. But at least you aren't alone, I guess.
  • Did I mention the trail's haunted? No? Well, the trail's haunted. At least according to local rumor / legend / message board. The person relating this tale describes hiking up the ridge on a foggy day, and getting terribly lost and muddy in the process. Eventually the hapless party encountered a nice elderly Japanese lady, who just sort of appeared out of the fog, dressed up kind of like a worker on an old-time pineapple plantation. She gave them directions when asked, saving the day. The clincher detail proving she was a ghost was that there was no visible mud on her shoes, which normally would be impossible. I'm awarding partial credit here for trying to adapt Occam's Razor to local conditions, but my personal experience with Oʻahu mud is that it will happily stick to ghosts just like it sticks to everything else. (Never ask me how I know this.) Clearly the only way to pull this off would be find a dry place to stand, teleport in directly to that spot, provide the needed directions while remaining perfectly still, and immediately teleport back out without ever touching any mud. So yeah, I'm not saying it was aliens, but it was aliens. So watch out for aliens.


1. I had seen the word "Kuliʻouʻou" spelled a few different ways, both with and without ʻokina characters, so I figured I ought to double check on that, which led me to the official Hawaii Board on Geographic Names website. It turns out they have a whole big project devoted to putting the ʻokina and kahakō symbols back where they belong, and they have a guide covering the place names they've sorted out so far. A UH page on Hawaiian spelling includes an example of why you can't just drop the unfamiliar characters, as English speakers are always tempted to do: "pau" means "finished", while "pa‘u" is "soot", "pa‘ū" means "damp", and "pā‘ū" is "skirt". That page also points out that using an apostrophe character for the ʻokina is not really correct, and suggests several rather clunky ways of getting the correct Unicode character, including finding the word you need in an online dictionary and just copying and pasting from there. The Board on Geographic Names has a more recent page on the subject, with an explanation on how to add a Hawaiian keyboard layout to Windows 10, which is what I did. That layout swaps in the ʻokina in place of the regular apostrophe character, and just using the ʻokina everywhere instead of apostrophes is also wrong, so you need to toggle layouts back and forth if you want to write a blog post in English that contains a few Hawaiian place names. All of which is a long way of saying that I've looked this post over a few times and I think I've gotten the names right, but spell check doesn't flag this as an error and I may have still missed a spot or two. And before anyone starts shrieking about this being political correctness run amok or whatever, that's not it at all; the deal is that I was a spelling bee nerd back in grade school and I still hate getting words wrong, even when it's a simple typo, and getting somebody else's place names wrong because doing it right is kind of tedious just sort of doesn't sit right with me.