Sunday, April 6, 2014

Hawaii Hikes (Spring Break 2014!)

I just got back from a week and a half in Hawaii with the missus.  Since the main objectives were to relax, see friends, and eat lots of raw fish, we didn't get in any huge hikes.  We did, however, do plenty of interesting, short ones which I've described below:

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park 

1. Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs

This was a short, roughly 1.5 mile round-trip hike off of Chain of Craters Rd. not far from the ocean. The main attraction is the petroglyphs carved into lava at the end of the trail, but the views along the way are great and walking on lava is a unique experience.

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2.  End of the Road

Located at the end of Chain of Craters Road, this trail follows just over a half mile more of the road out to where it was buried by a lava flow.  You are free to explore all over the lava, but must people just go 10-20 yards out and then head back.  This easy walk has some surreal scenery.  It was wild seeing bits of the road and old signs poke out from under the lava.

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3.  Kilauea Iki Crater/Thurston Lava Tube

Walking on a frozen lava lake was one of the most unique experiences we had in the park.  The lake was very unfrozen in 1959.  Even though the lake is completely solid now, parts of it are still cooling, and steam was rising out of numerous vents and cracks on the surface.  The Kilauea Iki trail (shown below) is a 4 mile loop, but we only did the part shown in blue.  Lined with huge tree ferns and dense vegetation, the hike down to the crater feels like walking through a rainforest.  Then the trail levels off and shoots out onto the buckled and cracked black surface of the crater.  People wander all over the area, but you the trail runs in a straight line and follows rock cairns to the other side of the crater.  It was interesting seeing the ferns and other early successional plants growing in such an uninviting environment.
Located across the street from one of the Kilauea Iki trailheads, is the short Thurston Lava Tube trail.  This easy, family-friendly walk takes you through the forest, and under it, via a tube/cave formed by flowing lava hundreds of years ago.

Kilauea Iki Crater

Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube

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Mauna Kea (Visitor Information Station)

We really wanted to visit the summit of Mauna Kea for the great views, interesting sights (snow in Hawaii, huge telescopes, etc), and great stargazing.  Though supposedly quite rare, we were snowed/rained out two days in a row and had to settle for exploring the area around the Visitor Information Station located six miles up the Mauna Kea Access Road at 9,000 feet. (Lesson: make your reservation/plans for the top early in your stay so you can reschedule if necessary)

Luckily, there are plenty of trails around the Visitor Station of various lengths and difficulties.  You can even hike from there to the summit on the 6 mile Humuula Trail that gains roughly 4,500 feet in elevation.

I didn't have the time, acclimatization, or nerve to hike through the thundering clouds to the snow covered summit and back so I explored around the center.  In addition to the old dirt roads and the very short, easy walk around the Silversword Trail there is a trail around a cone at the base of the road.

Mauna Kea Humuula Trail

Silver Sword Plant Mauna Kea
Silver Sword Plant

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Green Sand Beach - South Point

Located at the end of South Point Rd. near the southernmost point in the USA, on government (HI Department of Home Lands) property, Green Sand Beach is not widely publicized out of safety and/or desecration concerns.  The beach gets its color (really more of a yellow-green-brown) from the presence of lots of olivine. The hike in is not that difficult but does expose you to plenty of wind and sun.  I don't know what the rules are on this, but there are friendly locals are willing to take you one or both legs in their 4WD vehicles for a fee.  There are lots of old dirt roads and trails weaving together along the way and you can follow any of them, just keep the ocean to your right on the way to the beach and you'll be fine.  The trail closest to the water is very scenic, but rough and less direct.

Look Down at Green Sand Beach

Climbing down to the Beach

The Trail/Road to Green Sand Beach

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Lava Trees State Park

I highly recommend this simple 0.7 mile stroll in Lava Trees State Park if you are staying near Pahua. The park gets its name from the interesting tree-shaped molds left behind when hot lava flowed around trees that resisted the incredible heat long enough for the lava to cool.  While the trees are gone, their shape remains.  The lava trees were great, but we also really enjoyed the surrounding forest and its jungle feel where vines with enormous leaves climb the highly invasive, Falcataria moluccana, or Albizia, trees that tower over the road to the park.  You can see their interestingly shaped, massive canopies in the satellite-imagery of the map below.

Lava Tree

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Pololu Valley Beach

Located on the north side of the Big Island, the Awini/Pololu Valley Beach Trail is a short, moderately difficult highly-eroded dirt trail that heads down a steep slope from the Pololu Valley Lookout at the end of Hwy 270 to the beach and beyond.  The beach is beautiful and the wooded area nearby is quite scenic as well and has plenty of great places to sit in the shade.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Central Arkansas Trail Alliance

If you haven't heard about the Central Arkansas Trail Alliance, I encourage you to visit their website or their Facebook page.  This relatively new group really seems to be getting things done in Central Arkansas.  Their mission is "to establish and maintain multi-use trails in Central Arkansas that are open for mountain biking and to link all trail user groups for this purpose".  They've organized multiple trail construction/maintenance days in Burns Park, Pinnacle Mountain State Park, Western Hills/Hindman Park, and probably many others.

Check them out and then help them out:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Lake Sequoyah - Fayetteville

I covered Lake Sequoyah awhile ago, but after visiting several more times and learning about even more trails, I wanted to write a new piece focusing on the lake.  I'm working on a new book project, so I'm going to start keeping trail descriptions to a minimum here.  The trails here are great, underused, and include lots of interesting features.  On the map below, the blue trail is the only one I've actually hiked (and I've done it four times now!). The orange trails represent approximate locations of other trails at the park and I've been told there is a dense network of trails around the dam at the north end of the lake.  If you are into exploring off-trail, remember that everything shown in green on the map is a city park and you can explore all of it.

Photos of the lake and trails at:

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Mt. Kessler / Regional Park News

Update 2/18/14:  Passed!

In the near future the City of Fayetteville will likely vote to approve the purchase of 300+ acres of land around Mt. Kessler and the planned Regional Park. This purchase will be made possible by $1.5 million in matching funds from the Walton Family Foundation. This is great news as it helps guarantee that Mt. Kessler will be preserved as greenspace. The property being purchased will connect Mt. Kessler Greenways to the Regional Park, creating a much larger park with lots of potential for mountain biking and hiking trails. The map below shows the existing Mt. Kessler Trails in blue. The property being purchased along with the existing Regional Park is roughly outlined in green. As you can see much of Mt. Kessler remains in private hands.  It would be great if the University or City of Fayetteville could purchase the rest of the open space on and around the mountain since it has such great educational and recreational potential.

For photos and more information on Mt. Kessler:

Monday, January 20, 2014

Hawksbill Crag

I've always felt a little insecure about considering myself an outdoorsy Arkansan or an expert on trails in Arkansas while having never been to one of the places that helps define The Natural State via book covers, postcards, and frequent appearances in tourist-seeking TV commercials.  I'm speaking, of course, about Hawksbill Crag, aka Whitaker Point, located near Ponca.  This past weekend, I finally remedied that awkward situation by making my pilgrimage.

To get to the trailhead, turn west onto the dirt road at the bridge over the Buffalo on Hwy. 21 (six miles south of Ponca, 10 miles south of Kingston, 1.1 mi. south of the Hwy. 21/ Hwy. 43  intersection).  There are several bridges in the area, so make sure you are at the one that crosses the Buffalo River.  On maps the road is shown as 5 or Cave Mountain Springs Rd., but don't expect to see a sign calling it that at the turn.  I encourage you to use the interactive map below and read multiple online driving directions before making the trip.  The road is fairly well maintained, but it is very steep and clayey, so don't try it shortly after a rain unless you have the right vehicle for the job.

The roughly 3.5 mi. roundtrip trail heads east and downhill from the trailhead/parking area.  After crossing a small stream, the trail eventually levels out.  As you make your way down the trail, the beech (somewhat rare in Arkansas), oak, and hickory forest gives way to pine along the bluff edge.  Be sure to follow the orange triangle blazes as there are several old or unofficial trails in the area.  Along the rim, you'll come across a waterfall and then the main event.  There are a couple great spots to take photos of Hawksbill Crag just up the trail from the rocky outcropping.  Just past the Crag, is a smaller version with a small rock arch on top.  When done taking photos, return back to the trailhead the way you came.  Much of the land in the area is private property and following unlabeled trails could lead to trespassing.  

The Bridge of the Buffalo - Turn here.

Follow these Blazes

First Glimpse of the Crag

About as brave as I got.  It was WINDY!
What I imagine it would have looked like if I had a parachute on my back.

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