Hiking Pearl Harbor Bike Path

By Rasa Fournier

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“Crossing a bare common in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear.”

What better poet to draw inspiration from while walking in nature than Ralph Waldo Emerson? Yet, I wasn’t exactly heading into nature when I jumped up at 5 a.m. recently. And it clearly wasn’t twilight, nor were there snow puddles. Yet, I found Emerson’s transcendent words infused with a hint of nervous anticipation, reflecting my own inner monologue as I ventured onto the Pearl Harbor Bike Path before the sun had even begun to stretch its rays over the horizon.

Arriving at Neal S. Blaisdell Park, I am instantly overlooking waters resting calmly in the Pearl Harbor inlet. I can head left toward Aloha Stadium for just under two miles, or I can turn right and walk 3.5 miles as far as Waipahu. I opt for the shorter route.

As Proust was thrust into vivid sensory recollections of his childhood when taking a bite of a madeleine, my senses awaken and I’m instantly thrown into memories of previous walks in the solitude of morning on the urban outskirts of villages in Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. I pass mangrove swamps on the makai (ocean) side, and a stream runs mauka (mountainside) of the path, passing by quaint houses. In one back yard, a children’s shirts and pants are strung across a clothesline and a tire swing hangs from a tree, a stagnant echo of the boisterous children’s antics that must = occur in the daytime.

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I pass over cement bridges and wooden bridges, and under freeway overpasses. Purple bougainvillea spill over onto my path here and in the stream there, a dozen mangoes have collected, a watery little nest of sunrise-hued fruit-eggs. Elsewhere along the stream is a patch of strewn trash and I make a mental note to bring a garbage bag next time. A couple of tents are nestled in a tuft of makai bushes, housing some of Hawaii’s homeless no doubt. Always one to seek the thrill of forested mountain trails, I gaze about, soaking in this less-oft experienced urban grittiness tempered by moments of charm.

Now and then a bicyclist whooshes by, but more often elderly walkers pass gingerly along, calling out “good morning.” A loud series of cock-a-doodle-doos erupt from resident chickens, shrilly tearing through the morning stillness. Smells assault my nostrils, both pleasant and pungent. One moment it wafts of city sludge and inoffensive smoke, perhaps from a trash pile. The next, it’s an all-encompassing sweet, yeastiness that only a bread factory can emit.

Fences of every kind line the way. They enclose small parks, housing developments, a car dump, a truck lot. Graffiti decorates walls and telephone posts with a splash of worn color. My walk ends as I come clambering out of the path and there in front of me is Aloha Stadium. I turn around and head back, this time facing views across a flat expanse, straight to the Waianae Mountain Range. Chuckling, I recall a friend arriving in Honolulu 25 years ago, shocked that there were no grass huts or ladies clad only in ti leaf skirts. Well, we may not have billboards, but Honolulu is a city. Smoke rises from factories and we do have a homeless contingent. Along the Pearl Harbor Bike Path, you’ll see all there is to see on the fringes of an industrial area in urban Honolulu, but you’ll also see inspiring views of our mountains and a less-visited, more intimate view of a placid bay that once upon a time was accosted by Japanese Zero fighter planes. Today, all is calm on this Western front, and I’m feeling perfectly exhilarated by my mellow morning stroll.

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TRAIL: Pearl Harbor Bike Path

LENGTH: 3.5 miles round trip

HOW TO GET THERE: From Waikiki, take H-1 Freeway going West. Continue onto H-201 and onto the 99, which is Kamehameha Highway. Turn left onto Kaahumanu Street to arrive at Neal S. Blaisdell Park. The path runs along the far side of the park.

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