Hiking Judd Trail

By Rasa Fournier

“At length he reached a place where the high, arching boughs made a chapel. He softly pushed the green doors aside and entered. Pine needles were a gentle brown carpet. There was a religious half light.” – The Red Badge of Courage

In novels and poetry since time immemorial, the woods have been spoken of in hallowed terms. And who was it that said there’s nothing that a good walk in the forest can’t fix, or something to that effect? After a recent surgery, confined to prolonged bed rest, I too found myself religiously fervent for the solace of earthen paths, walls of green, and that cerulean canopy, that brave o’erhanging firmament, spoken of dramatically by none other than Shakespeare.

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To commune with that literary muse, I teetered my way behind my house to the banks of Nuuanu Stream, watched parrots squawk overhead, disappearing against the green of the nearby mountains, and I daydreamed.

The last hike I’d taken, just days before surgery was at the base of those mountains, on Judd Trail. Judd, in Nuuanu Valley, just off Oahu’s famed Pali Highway, offers an immediate escape into a tame, backyard version of wilderness, but it does begin with a shallow river crossing. A series of rocks rise from the water, offering a possible dry crossing. That very day, I watched a young man guiding his father, hop-wobbling from rock to rock, but the older man slipped, falling with a splash and an embarrassed laugh. I avoid any precarious rock jumping, and relying on my solid walking stick and amphibious hiking shoes, I wade right into the water.

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Once across, the rest gets much easier, barring some tree roots, mud and selective footholds in a few spots of sloped rocky terrain near the stream. The loop rises up, mountainside, through a stately grove of Captain Cook Pines, before descending mildly and moving through a tunnel of guava saplings. Changes in biodiversity are constant, even on this short mile-long trail. There’s a dramatic nest of hau branches and a more dramatic pit of mud soon thereafter, half a foot deep. Generally, there’s a way to bypass muddy trail stretches, but in this case, the surrounding foliage is so thick, the most propitious path is the straightest, and joyfully muckiest. In Hawaii, during the rainy season, prepare for some “Hawaiian socks” up to your ankles whenever you head into nature.

The path veers round, heading toward the stream portion of the loop, running parallel to gorgeous pools and small waterfalls. Along the way is popular swimming hole, Jackass Gingers, where I spent many a childhood afternoon leaping from rocks, swinging from rope and would only return home after “just one more jump, just one more.” By the time my mom cajoled me into the car, I’d be shivering in my towel and feeling famished from all that vigorous play.

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Now, I mosey on past that memory-soaked forest pool, smile at the sounds of splashing and whoops of delight unfolding just below my trail. As I continue along the final length of my short journey, banyan trees lining the stream-bank, stretch wide and tall with myriad intersecting branches, like gnarled, enchanted forest castles. At their base, whitewater cascades over a pile-up of rocks along the stream bed, making for a picture perfect vision. Following that lively stream, the path returns me to my original crossing where a mom and dad are holding their children’s hands, as the group of four pick their way across the waters to begin their own stroll in the woods. The whole family’s pants are rolled up and the kids are bundles of excitement, as their parents introduce them to nature’s divine beauty. This spontaneous venture into the woods are the stuff that will one day be woven into precious memories for the boisterous youngsters.

That’s jaunt along Judd is the refreshing happiness I recall as I sit behind my house and take a deep breath, feeling reverent.

TRAIL: Judd Trail

LENGTH: 1 mile loop

HOW TO GET THERE: From Waikiki, get on H-1 heading west. Take the Pali Highway (route 61) exit and then veer right onto Nuuanu Pali drive. Park along the street near two horizontal concrete pillars that lay at the entrance to the marked Judd trailhead on the right side of the road. (Or park a mile sooner, near a busier neighborhood for optimal car safety.)

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