We often joke that we are cursed here. Curtis’ days off are ALWAYS raining, and the mountain ridge is only unobstructed by clouds when he’s at work. Hopefully this pattern doesn’t continue into the “dry season” — we are anxious to do so many more ridge hikes! Not only that, but the rain also makes trails extremely muddy for the days we are able to go out. Maybe we’ll miss the cooler temps come summer, but for now we’re convinced that we’re ready for some sun!
Thankfully, things were in our favor on Earth Day. Thanks, Earth! We made our way to Mount Tantalus, a somewhat popular hiking area on the Honolulu/Waikiki side of Oahu for a loop hike, hoping to find a letterbox series and do our part in sanitizing the area of litter. (I don’t mean to try to make us sound good by saying that. Our intentions are half selfish — we enjoy the bottle deposit refund from the many bottles and cans found along the popular trails.)
We started our day off with driving to the Tantalus Lookout for views stretching from Diamond Head all the way to the Wai’anae Mountains out West. There were a few informational signs where we learned that this area was once rich in growing sweet potatoes and macadamia nuts. Sounds much better than skyscrapers and city scenes, right? I am always struck by the old pictures of what the area used to look like nearly 100 years ago. No city, fields of produce or lush, tropical plants, dirt mountain passes over the Ko’olaus — that looks like true paradise compared to the busy city and roads that are there now. I wish I could have known that Hawaii.
Anyway — on with our hike! We drove back to a trailhead for Pu’u’ualaka’a State Wayside Park and began looking for letterboxes. The first one turned out to be geocached, so we removed it and continued following the clues. Or, our interpretation of the clues, that is. It became clear why only the first box in the series had ever been found — it tells you to continue down one trail when it means the opposite. Once we realized this, we decided to just enjoy our walk and since we were on a loop, we could search for the boxes and find them in reverse.
For today’s trails, we took the Ualaka’a Trail to the Maikiki Valley Trail, then the Moleka Trail to the Manoa Cliffs Trail. None of this was especially difficult, nor did it provide any views, it was mostly just wandering through the woods. The highlights of the trail were the giant banyan trees that have grown over the trail, creating giant arches. As always, I love the Norfolk pine trees — everything about them, from their horizontally striped trunks to their thin pine branches and dull “needles.”
One interesting interaction we had was with a couple of guys who were assisting with an exercise for Hawaii Search and Rescue operations. When we came to a trail crossing, Curtis spotted a beer can next to a sign and picked it up out of instinct. “Actually could you leave that there?” a nearby hiker asked, “It’s a prop for our exercise.” They explained what they were doing — pretending to be a couple of drunk hikers lost on the trail and in need of rescue — but after realizing that it was Earth Day and there would (hopefully) be other environmentally conscious hikers that might also remove their “prop,” they decided to use surveyor’s tape instead.
My favorite trail that we hiked was the Manoa Cliffs Trail. It provided the best views of the Manoa Valley (where Manoa Falls is). My favorite views on the island are always the ones where you see no man-made structures, and this one fit the bill, at least from many vistas! At one point we reached a bench with amazing views of the Ko’olaus. The clouds were moving quickly, hiding and revealing different peaks as they passed by. We were able to see Mt. Olympus, our first Ko’olau peak hiked, just briefly. We stopped and took our time here before continuing on.
We finished the Manoa Cliffs Trail, which ended at an access road, then road walked to the Pu’u Ohia Trail, then road walked back to the Moleka Trail (finding just as many bottles and cans along the road as we did the trails). We made our way back to a trail junction where we went the opposite way from which we came and were able to find 3 out of 12 letterboxes. Pretty typical… Another highlight of the Moleka Trail is the giant bamboo forest along the way. Trails through bamboo always tend to be muddier, but we love to stop and listen as the sticks crash against each other in the wind.
Overall, we hiked about 5 miles around this area. Unfortunately Curtis forgot his phone so we don’t have an AllTrails recording, but the trails are pretty well marked, and just looking at Google Maps helped me recall trail names to record here. The hike we did is fairly easy to moderate, depending on how muddy certain parts are, but I quickly learned that bug spray was necessary!