Sleeping Giant. Like any name or word in Hawai’i, this mountain which rests behind the town of Kapa’a has many stories, the most common about a giant named Nunui who helped a community build a temple, hauling rocks from the west side of the island. In return for his efforts, the villagers served up a feast fit for a giant, including this giant’s favorite food—bananas. With a full belly, he promptly laid down, fell asleep and has yet to wake up.
Now, I have hiked the three tails that striate Sleeping Giant’s body probably 100 times, and I have yet to spot a banana tree. Lilikoi (passion fruit), strawberry guava and noni—yes. Bananas—never. So, where did the villagers collect enough bananas to feed a giant? I’ve always wondered that.
Today, like every time I climb The Giant, I looked for bananas. Here is what I found instead:
At the very start of the hike—with my visiting girlfriend Julie and Hound dog Nickel—we spotted a fallen noni lying in the middle of the trail. (See yesterday’s post about the Hanalei Farmers’ Market for a picture of the Hawaiian native fruit known as noni—also called the “Hawaiian aspirin.”) A few steps further down the trail, and I stopped dead in my tracks. "Lilikoi," I called out and spun around. This particular passion flower smells as exotic as it looks. As far as I was concerned, I could have sat down right there in the middle of the trail and got lost staring at the inside of this flower and inhaling its heady fragrance. But we pressed on.
In the flower category, we also saw the blossoms of hau bushes, a member of the hibiscus family; wild orchids; and blue porterweed. We spotted mosses ranging in color from lime to evergreen to sage--and even white and orange. In walls of lava, we saw faces--here, a laughing buddha.
In the distance, rock formations reminded me of puzzle pieces. Kaua'i is known for its distinctive mountain ranges--thanks to wind and water. Nature easily and quickly erodes the porous lava rock that makes up these islands. That's why so many of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands are now atolls.
There are several reasons why Sleeping Giant is such a popular hiking trail. First, it's centrally and easily located on the east side of Kaua'i. Second, it's a moderate 5-mile round-trip hike. And, third, it offers 360-degree views from its summit.
There is much to appreciate along the Sleeping Giant trail: Flowers, views, colorful moss and lichen. Even fruit. But, alas, no bananas. Maybe the banana question is really a koan of sorts that serves as a quest—for me, at least—to entice me back to look, thereby, keeping me in shape.
While I looked for the world's largest herb, my friend Julie contemplated what to do with her newfound freedom as the mother of college-aged children--immerse herself in her art, build her businesses, travel, volunteer, yoga. Even cook her favorite foods for dinner, instead of someone else's. In a way, Julie is in the same position as her children--poised to fly.