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Kuli’ou’ou Ridge

August 21, 2008

When our friend Grant committed to visiting us at the end of last month, I started to freak. Grant likes nature. Grant hates tourist traps. Grant is a free spirit. What the hell are we going to do with him for six days in Waikiki?

Running through my still limited knowledge of the island and what it has to offer, I thought back fondly on the Manoa Falls hike we did. But that hike, while dense with lush rainforest, is short and well-traveled. If a hike was to go on the agenda, it needed to be a little wilder, a little more challenging.

My outdoorsy co-worker was able to recommend a few, and handed me his copy of Stewart Ball’s classic tome on Oahu hikes. Leafing through the pages the legendary Lanipo hike caught my eye, but the night before I wussed out and decided on the easier, shorter and more popular Kuli’ou’ou Ridge.

The hike starts out with a series of long switchbacks up the valley. We made a quick start to put some distance between ourselves and the group of pre-teens in matching yellow shirts that was assembling at the trailhead with their parents. The foliage is not nearly as spectacular or diverse as you find in Manoa, but the views looking back down the valley make up for it. Midway up the trail flattens through a few groves of Cook pines, which make you feel like you are wrapped up in a cocoon of green mesh – a nice, kind of mysterious sensation, but one that doesn’t necessarily feel distinctly Hawaiian. After that, the trail steepens over too many exposed roots – wet exposed roots that took me out once on the way down. The trees gradually thin out and then you are up some stairs installed to prevent erosion on the ascent to the ridgeline.

The views of the windward side are well worth the price of admission: rippled green peaks undulating gently to the north and south and green, sparsely populated flats extending out to the ocean. We hiked a little ways up the ridge – again, to escape the tweenies that were hot on our tails – and, in fact, it looks like you could go pretty far in both directions along it. If you had the cajones, and weren’t wearing a pair of worn out New Balances as hiking shoes.

All in all, a perfect half-day hike for the occasional trekker.

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