Hiking the Judd Trail Loop • The Kaniakapupu Ruins • First Christmas in Hawaii • December 2017
It’s hard to believe this was our 5th Christmas married. Where have the years gone? I love when the holidays roll around each year, and we have more and more years with memories to look back on. Last Christmas, we were doing our best to stay warm in New York, and were trying out our snowshoes for the first time. The year before that, we had just moved into our house in Charleston that week and were trying to find our way around the Low Country. Then of course, the years before that were spent celebrating with both sides of our family. It’s hard to be so far away from those we love the most and miss out on family gatherings. However, I feel like this year was a little easier than last because it didn’t feel like Christmas at all. Warm weather, flowers in bloom, and the complete lack of Christmas decor in our home made it seem like it was anything but December. We went to the beach, we went for a hike, and we enjoyed the little extra time we had together. Of course, we did continue our own Christmas day tradition of watching Die Hard while doing a puzzle.
On Christmas Eve, we took Charlotte on a little family hike because it was so beautiful outside. Curtis saved clues for 4 letterboxes, and so we drove to the Judd Trail just off of the Pali Highway. This is an easy 1.2 mile loop hike through the forest, though there are other trails that branch off and make their way up the Ko’olau Ridge.
Parking for this trail is along the road, and the trail is clearly marked the whole way around. It begins by entering the forest and taking you down to a stream, and once across you choose your way around the loop. Per the instructions for the letterboxes, we went counter-clockwise. Overall, the trail is easy and gradually goes up and down, the one thing to look out for would be muddy trails.
I like to think of this hike as the “Norfolk Pine Appreciation” trail. They were all over the place here. I love the way they look — to me, they represent someone who dreams of the pine forests in the Rockies, but can’t quite handle the colder temps so they’re trying to fit in in a more tropical setting. Kind of like me. I feel you, trees.
At one point in the trail, there was an abrupt change: the Norfolks were gone and these Eucalyptus trees began. There weren’t any vistas along the loop trail, so the difference really stood out and took us by surprise.
We made our way around the whole loop and had no luck finding any letterboxes, and Curtis realized one must be on a side trail that we had passed by at the beginning. We started the loop again, this time finding the side trail that leads to Jackass Ginger Pool. This is the reason many go on this hike. The side trail goes down and follows the Nu’uanu stream, passed some cascading waterfalls and ends around a waterfall with a large pool. Curtis wasn’t able to find the letterboxes, but he found plenty of bottles and cans as these places tend to attract those who are more prone to littering. It turned out that our favorite part wasn’t the pool, but the trail following the stream. It was so serene and lush, with bright green leaves, aqua colored water, and long vines hanging down [see the top image of this post].
Dogs are allowed on the trail on leash. We haven’t been bringing Charlotte along on many hikes recently, because many are so exposed to the sun and steep, and she is stubborn and won’t drink water when we stop and try to get her to take a break. This trail was a good one for her though, as it was all shaded and not steep or strenuous. The one struggle she had was following the side trail. There were a few points with large rocks or roots that she had to make her way around…and sometimes she’s just so sure she knows how to get around, but ends up getting stuck. See above for reference.
After we finished the Judd Trail, we decided to go up the road a bit to do one more short and easy hike to the Kaniakapupu Ruins, the summer palace of King Kamehameha III during the mid-19th Century. The GPS on Curtis’ phone wasn’t working for the AllTrails app, but we assumed this one was easy enough that we would be fine. As we walked through the bamboo forest, we came to a fork in the trail. Someone else was coming from the right with a dog, and the dog and Charlotte stopped to sniff each other. I asked the hiker if the trail she was coming from was the way to the ruins, and she said yes. We parted ways and continued on the path. After a while, we came to a clearing and there were no signs or trail markers. We started to follow a narrow path through the bamboo, but quickly realized this was the wrong way, and went back to follow the stream of water. The trail went steeply downhill, with some fallen trees in the way, and ended at the top of the Luakaha waterfall. It became evident that the other hiker must have misunderstood me, and thought I asked about the waterfall instead of the ruins. There were other people around here as well, but the waterfall is technically on private property and there didn’t appear to be a safe way to get to the base of the falls, so we turned back and continued our search for the ruins.
We are glad we didn’t give up in our search, because the ruins were quite impressive and worth the trouble. It reminded me of when we used to go searching for church ruins in the forests of South Carolina. We wandered through them quietly, admired the vegetation surrounding, attempted another (missing) letterbox, and finally made our way back to the car. Altogether, the hike to the ruins and the waterfall added another mile to today’s total. If you’re headed to the ruins, turn left at the fork and it’ll be an easy, enjoyable hike.