Kohala Coast Getaway, Part 2: King's Trail

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Kohala Coast Getaway, Part 2: King's Trail

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Hawaii Island
Feb 13, 2011

Vacations are good ways to kick-start, resume or enhance exercise regimens. And, so, my friends M. and W. and I started our morning with a vigorous walk. Turns out the walking path we chose has been trod by many, many people. And I don’t metaphorically. And I don’t mean visitors on a concrete sidewalk poured since the time Waikoloa Beach Resort was built.

The King’s Trail, also called the Mamalahoa Trail, once ran for 32 coastal miles from the village of Kailua-Kona in the south to the village of Puako in the north. The sign along Waikoloa Beach Road says it was originally built in the mid 1800s by prisoners and Hawaiians who paid their taxes in labor. It was used as a highway, of sorts, for pack animals. As such, it was stretched taut, in a straight line, with curbs of stone built up along the sides in order to keep the horses, donkeys and mules on the right path, just in case their riders nodded off to sleep during their long ride. I would imagine many of these riders set out at night to avoid the heat of the day, because there is absolutely no shade on the trail. (Hint: Get an early start. Wear a hat.)

The path itself is primarily flat, although the surface will give your ankles a workout. Cinder, gravel and small rocks will keep you focused on where to place your next step. Of course, this material comes from the erosion of lava that once flowed through here and has long-since hardened. One sign describes the two types of lava from which the Hawaiian Islands were made:

A’a (ah-ah) lava covers the northern portion of Anaehoomalu in a flow from which varies from twenty to forty feet thick. A’a is composed of a layer of brittle fragments termed “clinkers” or “cinders” covering a core of very dense basaltic rock.

Pahoehoe (pa-hoey-hoey) lava is relatively smooth, with ropey, corrugated surfaces and cracks caused by contraction during cooling. It is formed by extremely hot, liquid lava flows, glowing rivers of molten rock that cool into billowy mounds. Below the cooling crust, the liquid layer interior often empties out, leaving cavities and caves. Gasses rupturing up through the hardening crust raise dome-like “blisters.” Molten lava, piled up by the force of a flow, hardens into bulbous or columnar “stacks” and pinnacles.

Some signs along the trail seem to give conflicting information, until you read them all and gather them together like pieces of a puzzle for the big picture. Another sign indicated this trail is much older than a century-and-a-half years old, that is was an ancient walking path. (Barefoot? Ouch. Or, as the joke around here goes, the exclamation a person makes when they step on this particular type of lava is “ah-ah.”)

The composers of the second sign we encountered suggested that this trail was primarily used by commoners, because it runs just inland of the border for a one-time royal sanctuary. Another paragraph introduced Hawaii’s notorious “Night Marchers,” who most likely passed this way during certain times of the year and who were known to kill you on the spot if you did not get out of their way or show the proper respect.

The biggest treat and treasure of the path for me was the petroglyph field. Stone carvings covered almost every available smooth surface area--that would be pahoehoe lava. Artistic styles varied from petroglyph to petroglyph, possibly indicative of the evolution of tools. Or, maybe just different people expressing their individualism.

Like most things in Hawaii, what this trail represents is the layers of culture passing through these islands, including three, middle-aged women of European descent out for a bit of fresh air and morning walk.









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