Last week, I was on Maui, expecting to drive up, up, up the windy, twisty road that leads to the summit of Haleakala. I was thinking I might even roust myself out of bed before sunrise to do it, because in the 25 years of visiting and living in Hawaii, I have yet to watch the sun emerge over Maui’s tallest mountain. Sacrilege, right? Because as we all know, Haleakala is known as the “house of the sun” and, like all mountain summits, was sacred to Hawaiians. In 1916, it was christened a National Park. Today, it’s one of the top visitor destinations in the state.
It’s just I’m not much of a morning person.
At least, that’s been my excuse for the past 25 years.
And, now, I have another one: the government shutdown. All federal lands—national parks, national wildlife refuges and the like—closed last week along with the government.
To be honest, what had really taken me to Maui was the birds—the kiwikiu, to be specific. I am researching a story on the Maui parrotbill, a descendant of the first honeycreeper that eventually spawned 42 different species, thanks to adaptive radiation. (That kind of news might get Darwin to rise from his grave.) I had hoped to hike Waikamoi Preserve, one of the last strongholds of this tiny forest bird, to see, if the gods were willing, one of the estimated 500 left in the wild.
Yes, at a population of 500, the tiny bird with a serious overbite—it likes to crack open tree branches for the yummy larvae located inside—is included on the endangered species list. And, yes, the preserve is located inside Haleakala National Park. So, yes, the hike was canceled.
Often, it’s the sweeping vistas that capture our attention. Haleakala Crater is one—with its seven- by two-mile yawning maw dropping some 2,600 feet to the crater floor. Plus, as you make the descent from the summit of 10,023 feet, the panorama views of central and west Maui will give a person whiplash. But, after meeting with Hanna Mounce of the Maui Endangered Forest Bird Recovery Project, I found something else to capture my awe and draw my camera to my eye.
Waihou Spring Trail is located above the upcountry town of Makawao by way of another windy, curvy, oftentimes one-lane traverse—Olinda Road.
The loop-trail circles through a tree plantation road and a side path meanders through a forest of Monterey cypress, pines, eucalypti and, at least, one native koa tree. Trees. Trees. Trees. It was glorious—the scent, the cool air, and what’s more—the tree bark. It seems, instead of the big views, I’d traded my day and trained my camera on a different canvas—close-ups of tree bark. Oh, the variety.
Sometimes, as they say, we cannot see the forest for the trees. That is, we’re too focused on the fine details, the minutiae, that we forget to see the forest—the big picture. Well, I find the reverse can be true when it comes to Hawaii. The landscape is so grand—the picture so big—that we don’t see what’s right in front of us, the trees.
Last week, I was given the gift of seeing the trees in the forest—up close. Can there be such a thing as gratitude for the government shutdown? No. But I am grateful for the new discovery of Waihou Spring Trail on Maui.
Do you have a favorite hiking trail in Hawaii? If so, please share it with us in the comments below.
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