Hiking Sleeping Giant. Training for Haleakala. And Michael Phelps.

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Hiking Sleeping Giant. Training for Haleakala. And Michael Phelps.

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Kauai , Maui
Aug 01, 2012

I hiked Sleeping Giant behind Kapaa last week. I’m headed to Oahu this week and hoping to squeeze in a hike. Didn't you just hike Kalalau Trail, you may be asking. What's up with all the hiking? I am actually training. But not for a sporting event. Hiking hasn't made it to the Olympics yet. (Neither has surfing, although some think it deserves a spot among the rings.)

Even in remote Hawaii, we pay attention to goings on in the world outside our archipelago. As the 2012 London Olympics dominates the airwaves, I am thinking about measurements. In the worlds of Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, success comes in tenths and hundredths of seconds. That's really nothing more than the width of a piece of blue sewing thread that my mom used to hem a pair of pants for me on my last visit to see her.

In my workaday world, success and failure comes down to minute differences, as well. An extra character. An errant “dot” in the wrong place. The juxtapositioin of a couple letters. These things can make or break a web-link like this. There may not be any gold medals at stake. But my reward for continued success is a full-time, regular-paying J-O-B. Running is Usain Bolt's job. Swimming is Michael Phelps'. Writing is mine.

Over Labor Day weekend, I will join Haleakala by car, going from sea level to 9,740 feet in elevation, and head deep into the crater via Keoneheehee (Sliding Sands) Trail. We’ll hike nine miles to Paliku cabin, which sits at 6,380 feet above sea level in a wilderness valley, at the base of a lush (think rainy) cliff. We’ll tote our own sleeping bag, change of clothes, cold-weather togs, full rain gear, weeding tool, work gloves, flashlight, and breakfast, lunch and dinner contributions. Plus, I’ll need my notebook and Kindle.

We’ll spend one-half of day two pulling invasive thistles, clipping and bagging any mature blooms or seed heads. Or, we’ll take on blackberry bushes. Another invasive. Or, we may pull invasive grasses to improve the habitat for nene, Hawaii’s state bird, a goose. We may even scrub down cabins walls and re-paint them.

That’s the service part of our trip.

The other half of the day is the learning part. An interpretive park ranger will share information about the place. The story of Maui snaring the sun, perhaps. Maybe a talk on stars after dinner. Maybe native birds. Native plants. Hopefully all of that.

Day three, we’ll hike from the summit to sea level, with our interpretive guide sharing along the way.

As I hiked Sleeping Giant last week, covering nearly two miles and gaining approximately 1,000 feet of elevation, I thought about a few things:

1. Altitude. After spending a few days in Keystone, Colorado earlier this summer, I understand the effects of altitude. Thirst. Rumbling stomach. Light head. Keystone Resort’s base elevation measures 9,280 feet. On Maui, we’ll start at 9,740 feet of elevation on Keoneheehee Trail and settle in at Paliku cabin at 6,380. Will I experience shortness of breath? A headache?

2. Food. The story of Nounou Mountain, commonly called Sleeping Giant, is that the behemoth helped a nearby community build a temple by hauling rocks from the west side of the island here. After much gratitude and a big feast, the giant eased his big body onto the ground to take a nap and has yet to wake up. From spots along the main road in Kapaa, you can see the resemblance of a sleeping man in the eroded rock behind the town. What food will I take with me to Paliku cabin? More importantly, how much will it weigh?

3. Trail characteristics. The trail up Sleeping Giant switch-backs through native and introduced trees providing a nice shady canopy for most of the nearly two miles up. I’ve hiked a 20-minute portion of Keoneheehee Trail in Haleakala before. There wasn’t a tree to be seen. And the views went on for miles. I wonder what the heat will be like? How intense the sun will be?

4. Mental preparedness. Nine miles. Elevation. Heavy backpack. What was I thinking?

As I trekked back down Sleeping Giant, covering the last half-mile of steep descent, my big toe banged the front of my hiking shoe? That’s weird, I thought. I’d bought these hiking shoes a full size bigger to allow for steep descents. I hadn’t experienced any toe-banging the week before on my Kalalau Trail hike, and it certainly had stretches as steep as this. And, then, I got it. My toe nails had grown in a week. Admittedly, not much. But in hiking, the growth of a toe nail—a hair’s breadth, even—could make the difference between a comfortable trek across Haleakala and a miserable one. Between success and failure. Michael Phelps. Usain Bolt. And me.

Note to self: Cut toenails before backpacking Haleakala.



Heather George | Aug 02, 2012 06:29 AM

Nice piece Kim! Scott (my man) and I did that hike last time I was on Kauai - tasted the guavaberries, yum! Haleakala is on my TO DO list, sounds like you are doing great prep. Hope we can meet when I get over there on the 29th or 30th. :)

Mary | Aug 02, 2012 08:34 AM

Anxiously awaiting the full Haleakala report. Maybe you should add the weight of the toe nail clippers to your pack. Things grow even quicker in altitude.

Kim | Aug 03, 2012 09:57 AM

Mary, very good point. But TSA won't let them through. I put the newly trimmed toenails to the test yesterday on Oahu. Big hike with big views--Kuliouou. Perfect length.

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