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Tip: These gentle Hawaiian reptiles are listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1978.
Hiking Aiea Loop Trail
By Rasa Fournier
Today, I’m moseying along preparing to hike the only trail on all of Oahu — Aiea Loop. I say “only” because it happens to be the trail my mother always took me on, so in my small kid world, it was the only one that existed. Sometimes she’d stay at base camp relaxing and pay my brother and me a few bucks to run the five miles so that we could get our daily exercise. Once my brother made a wrong turn and found himself utterly lost. Right when my mom set into panic mode, he surfaced from the trees, panting and wide-eyed about the group of hunting dogs he’d encountered.
Back to the present day: I’m wending my way along my old familiar path, when I make a turn and my hair bristles. Is that … A BEAR?! Wait, two … what is that? By the time I realize what is in front of me, a large family ? grandparents, aunties, uncles, teenagers, smaller kids and all ? has gathered behind me, and just as shocked, they whip out their dozen or so smartphones to capture the Nat Geo moment. We are all eye-locked on two wild pigs in the heat of love’s embrace. Even some grunting and interference from their three piglets doesn’t faze the unabashed, mucky oinkers. “This is X-rated,” giggles one of the teens. Amused, the adults have the group move on.
I, too, move on, setting out on my own amorous pursuit by following a memory-filled trail. A light ascent reaches a lookout point distinguished by veins of roots rising from the earth. The generally muddy ground feels more like damp clay under my bare feet. I revisit all the familiar scenes: a tunnel of strawberry guava saplings, a cluster of paper bark trees, hills alive with springy ferns, a mammoth rock that requires scrambling over. In a grove of fresh eucalyptus, I open my lungs to their fullest, occasionally ducking under fallen forest giants obstructing the path.
I feel carefree as a child until I hit the halfway mark with a view of H3. This used to be the most remote stretch of forest on the path. Now, the great, curving arch of one of the most expensive highways ever built rises from the otherwise pristine valley, a breathtaking scar. Built across environmentally and culturally sensitive grounds, the sight of this historical monument wrought in controversy, weighs with me as my legs move on, descending through moister climes to a small stream. Then comes a steep ascent and the previous expanse of tall-treed forests and wide paths becomes narrow and dense before depositing me back to my starting point, where the conjugal bower between swine took place.
I’ve been cautious with my naked feet the entire time, aware of my every step. As I pass over a dead leaf, I wince and squeal. It’s a sharp pain I know all too well. A wayward bee has found itself the recipient of all my weight, and I, the recipient of its angry reply. I hadn’t felt that throbbing pinprick since I was a kid, constantly losing my slippers, climbing trees and running around barefoot, much to my mother’s chagrin. Nature has been out in full force today, with keen reminders of my childhood on the one and only hiking trail in all of Oahu. But the entangled pigs really take the mud cake.
TRAIL: Aiea Loop Trail
LENGTH: 4.8 mile loop
HOW TO GET THERE: From Waikiki, take H1 heading west. Follow signs for H201 toward Aiea. Merge off of the interstate onto Moanalua Road, and turn right at Aiea Heights Drive. Follow the road into Keaiwa Heiau State Park. Continue driving along the one-way loop to top of the hill. Park near the restrooms and follow the signs marking the trail head.
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