High atop the heavens of the Ko’olau. Penetrating the clouds that already seem like miles from where we stand. Lies a trail of legend. One that tests the limits of human exploration. It is: The Pu’u Manamana Trail! Dun dun duunnn! Muahahaha! (Cue lightning and thunder effects)
All theatrics aside, this is a trail that is only recommended for the advanced. In this stage of my life, I am advanced only in age and the inevitability to injury. I am no longer advanced in skill and athletics as I once was in a former life. It is a trail that covers four grueling miles ascending and descending the Ko’olau mountain range. I bet you’re sitting there saying to yourself; “how hard could it be?” Before you fill your mind with curiosity and intrigue, let’s visit Pu’u Manamana by the numbers exerting only your imagination instead of straining your leg muscles.
- After crossing the trail entrance, you will begin an approximate 30-minute tail-busting climb up Manamana. At this point, you should be able to identify the famed ‘Crouching Lion’ below you and can even venture the trail that leads right up to the lion. Also note the view of Kahana Bay and the Ka’a’awa community on either side.
- You will encounter a few free climbing sections vertically down rock faces that differ in height from 8 feet to 18 feet. There is no room for missing a foot hold here. Just look over your shoulder and get a feel of just how many thousands of feet you are from your starting point.
- If you make it past the rock climbs without soiling your briefs, you now will face a 7-inch wide ridge walk among dense clouds with a steep drop on either side into muddy, wooded valleys. Unless you are descendent of a mountain goat, this should bring your nerves to a Kentucky Derby gallop! Take it easy now! No catch nets under this tightrope!
- After navigating the ridge(s) the trail will start to loop back and downward through patches of gnarled brush that might pierce the exposed skin. Keep an eye out for views of Ku’aloa Park and Kaneohe Bay. Probably is a great time for lunch.
- You will descend from the clouds and into a forest that may start to calm your anxiety until you slip and start sliding on your backside instead of walking upright like evolution intended us! The forest floor is usually muddy and slippery due to the misty conditions. There are also lots of tangled tree roots to trip over and pits of loose leaves that look solid to walk on but end up claiming a leg so that you might face plant! Sounds like a treat!
- Finally more than 5 hours later you emerge battered, bruised, shaken and exhausted as if you’ve just been lost deep in a Cambodian jungle behind enemy lines. Would it be strange if you kissed the solid ground below your feet?
Now, after highlighting the Pu’u Manamana Trail, is your curiosity still brimming with intrigue? Or is there a shadow of doubt slowly sweeping over your mind like an ocean tide. If you get vertigo easily, or are afraid of heights, this is definitely not the hike for you. If you are not in the best physical shape, get a 6 pack, beach chair, and find yourself a better viewing spot on one of the many pristine beaches around the island. It has been widely considered one of the ‘most dangerous’ hiking trails in the islands. It is listed on Hiking Club registers as an ‘advanced’ hike by seasoned hikers! In all seriousness, I cannot stress enough the precautions needed if this hike is on your list of things-to-do.
On the cool side of the pillow, if you are steady of foot and heart, and possess all the qualities of a Greek hero, this trail is very rewarding combining all of the attributes most trails lack. And unlike most hiking trails, this trail rewards every hiker with the best picturesque scenes of East Oahu.
- Pack a lunch and lots of water.
- Bring some rope just in case.
- Wear sturdy jeans and a long sleeve shirt. Some of the shrubbery will attack.
- Use mosquito repellant. They do not discriminate!
- Gloves to protect your hands from the rock climbing, and eventual slips and falls.
- A good pair of hiking BOOTS, not sneakers or athletic shoes that will help with your footing along the way.
- A cell phone of course in the event that you defer from the trail and end up in Oz.
Good Luck! And Happy Hiking Trails!