O‘ahu’s hiking trails
O‘ahu’s hiking trails: a disappearing act?
Posted: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 5:00 am
Laura Meyers, Contributing Writer – Ka Leo O Hawai‘i
Anyone who harbors doubts that this island is paradise should spend a few hours on one of its hiking trails. Many trails offer sweeping vistas of mountains and the ocean, meander through forests of bamboo or fragrant native foliage or feature waterfalls with pools for a cool, refreshing dip.
However, these trails did not magically materialize for our enjoyment. Many routes were scouted and developed into trails by early members of the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club.
Contrary to logic, extensive foot traffic doesn’t keep the trails clear and passable; only the driest trails are self-sustaining. As nature relentlessly endeavors to reclaim O‘ahu’s disappearing hiking trails, a determined group of trail clearers fight back.
HTMC has taken on the responsibility, whenever possible, of preserving trails that aren’t maintained by the state. About 25 club members volunteer to clear trails each weekend, for a total of about 50 trails a year. Hefty backpacks and weed whackers must be carried, often through unforgiving terrain on trails up to 10 miles or longer. The work is hard, but the rewards are priceless.
A typical trail-clearing expedition begins at 8 a.m. on Sunday mornings as the volunteers congregate near the trailhead to hear crew leader Mike Algiers give the day’s briefing. The minimum age for volunteering is 18, but most are much older.
Nate Luzod, a web designer who is one of the youngest and newest crewmembers, described his first clearing.
“My first time hiking with the HTMC, everyone who showed up was middle-aged or older,” Luzod said. “My friend and I thought to ourselves ‘this hike is going to be slow and lame.’ About halfway up the mountain everyone was blowing past us, laughing and carrying on conversation like it was nothing. Meanwhile, my friend and I could barely catch our breath. The club definitely earned my respect within the first few hours there.”
“I’ve learned so much from crew members about native plant species, hiking this island and invaluable tips on just about everything,” said Betsy Fisher, a dance professor who has been clearing trails for three years. “Most fundamentally, though, our weekly trail-clearing sojourns have brought me closer to this place, this mud, this aina. Getting dirty with the plants, rocks and earth brings me deep joy and deep solace. … Trail clearing is fortifying on many levels. Getting close to this land is always a good idea. The lessons are multifold and profound.”
“We are the only volunteer organization dedicated to keeping Oahu’s trails open and accessible,” said Steve Davis, 12-year HTMC member and trail-clearer.
“We do this for the love of nature and the mountains. Hopefully, this work will continue well into the future so that hikers will continue to have access to the most beautiful parts of the island.”
Barb Bruno, a geologist who has been clearing trails for five years, noted that hiking is a fun, healthy activity for all ages, including kids and senior citizens.
For more information, visit the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club’s web page at www.htmclub.org. Guests are welcome on many hikes, and the website publishes quarterly hiking schedules, along with facts and safety information. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.