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Trails in Error

Caught up in the spirit of adventure, we decided to try something different on our day off this past Monday.  Rather than doing something necessary, like facing the mass of sample whores at Costco or doing something fun, like watching the whales in the ocean from the warmth of the beach, we decided to hike a few trails over in Kapalua.

For years, I have had one of the most extensive trail systems at my disposal, but I never had the ambition or drive to head out to Kapalua to try it.  With a little push, I was well on my way to trying something new.

The information we were able to find online (the pdf of the trail system can be found here) had us checking in at 9:30 AM at the Kapalua Village Center to catch a shuttle to the beginning of the trail.  When we arrived at 9:00 AM, there was a sign that suggested we call and make reservations on the complimentary shuttle, due to the limited space and no guarantee that walk-ons would get a seat.  Concerned, I dialed the number and spoke to a lady who said she wasn’t sure the shuttle was going to drive up there at all today, because of all the rain they received the previous day.  She assured me she would call me back with an answer before 9:30.  With plenty of time to spare, the lady called me back to tell me she had not gotten a call back from the person in charge, so she assumed it was business as usual.

A few other people sauntered up to us and seemed less informed than us about where and when they were going.  The shuttle arrived on time and a total of eight of us, climbed aboard.

The air conditioned vehicle that drops you in the middle of nowhere.

The air-conditioned vehicle that drops you in the middle of nowhere and makes you think you have entered the “Hunger Games” arena.

The ten minute shuttle ride leaves the resort area and takes you past the beautiful Kapalua Plantation golf course, into a gated community (with full-uniformed security guard) and drops you off at the end of a gravel road…kinda in the middle of nowhere.  I immediately began looking around for a weapons cache and thought I might have been selected Tribute from the Kihei district.

Mahana Ridge Trail map.

Mahana Ridge Trail map. Courtesy of Kapalua Trail booklet.

Looking at the trail map before we began made me question out loud, “What have I gotten myself into?”  The trail is considered difficult with steep elevation changes, slippery trails, and a length of just over six miles.

The trail has its beauty above and below.

The trail has its beauty above and below.

Weather wise, we couldn’t have picked a better day to hike.  The sun was shining, the clouds were white and fluffy, and the birds were calling to us to join them in the woods.  The beginning of the hike starts off level and almost immediately begins to increase in steepness ever so slightly.  Eventually you hit a few steeper areas along the ridge of the mountain, and if it was raining it would have been much more difficult.  Some of the trees are labelled for you (it is an arboretum after all), but not enough to satisfy my curiosity.

Thirsty ferns.

Thirsty ferns.

There was one good vantage point at the top of the ridge line, but in a surprise move it faced towards the mountain, not down overlooking the ocean.  It was amazingly beautiful, and we took a few minutes to really appreciate the 12,000 acre preserve in front of us.

Pu'u Kukui vantage point.

Pu’u Kukui vantage point.

After the lookout it was all downhill…literally.  We meandered through some beautiful forests, crossed a small stream and just lost ourself in the surrounding nature.


Trees upon trees upon trees.

Although the hike was beautiful, I found the trail markers to be less than helpful and seemed to be missing in places that could have used more information.  I would suggest more information regarding the trees and plants, as well as mile markers along the trail so that hikers have some idea of how much distance remains.

"...signs, signs everywhere there's signs..."

“…signs, signs everywhere there’s signs…” But in reality…not so much.

Some of the loops and trails that lead away from the main trail are overgrown and look abandoned, which was disappointing, but then again, there was no distance information, so who knew how long the the loop would have taken if it was well travelled and clear of overgrowth and debris.  One in particular, the Pineapple Loop, sounded appealing, but it was not easy to find any sign of the trailhead.


Pineapple Fields Forever.

Walking down the trail, you get into an area that used to be pineapple fields.  You can see the well laid out and designed ridges that would have been the rows of pineapple plants.  Even though the pineapple fields were abandoned many years ago, that hearty, delicious fruit continues to grow along the invading trees and unwelcome shade.  The trail weaves its way past row after row of determined pineapple plants still trying to produce fruit for nobody but themselves and the wildlife.

The final stretch.

The final stretch.

The trail continues down until it butts up against the edge of the Kapalua Plantation golf course.  From there the trail is ugly, uneven, and uninspiring as it cuts through a new housing community that is under construction.  The trail takes you right into the parking lot for D.T. Fleming Beach Park and from there we hiked another mile around the soon-to-be former Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, now the future Montage Kapalua Bay resort.

We were courteous enough to walk around the resort, rather than track mud through the main lobby (even though it would have saved us so many more steps) and as we walked up Office Road with the Cook pines lining the street, I had a sense of accomplishment that we had completed a wonderful hike, as well as tried something new.

Tired and hungry, we got back to the car and agreed that today was a good day.