While scanning the map of Maui, I was struggling to see where I could hike to a peak. There’s Haleakala, which is a drive-up peak, and there’s Pu’u Kukui, where you have to know someone in order to get access. I wanted it to be reasonable hike, as I was on vacation, so I found Lanilili, which looked like a nice hike. I found some trial beta online and was ready to go.
Since I was staying in Wailea, I had to drive to the other side of the island. It was Thanksgiving Day, but our family trends toward the unorthodox, so I thought the timing was perfect.
It was raining, but I was hopeful that it would stop by the time that I got to the trailhead. On the way, a rainbow appeared before me. I took this as a good sign. Hiking in Hawaii always gets me giddy and this hike to Lanilili was no different.
I got to the trailhead, which already had many cars in it. I wouldn’t be alone for this hike. I got my travel gear together, which does not include trekking poles, and headed up the trail. A group of trail runners passed me, heading down, covered in mud. Before long, I entered the forest and was hiking on tree roots in order to avoid the deep mud.
Once again, like my hikes to Kaala, I was reminded of the differences in flora and fauna from the mainland. Exotic chirping came from the trees as gnarled roots rose from the mud. Ferns waved in the breeze. If you haven’t hiked in a tropical setting, I highly recommend it.
The muddy trail continued to climb. I passed more hikers who had muddy hands and legs. I wrote it off to improper footwear. In the steeper sections, however, I started to wonder a bit. My feet would slip a few feet backward from time to time and I would have to use my core strength to catch myself.
I emerged from the forest canopy and saw a bench that looked out over a drainage to the north. The Makamakaole Stream cascaded down a steep gully, with some large drops, creating two large waterfalls. I wasn’t tired, but I sat at the bench for a while. It isn’t every day that I can see waterfalls in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, so I wanted to sit there for a bit and listen to the distant roar. Lanilili was calling, so I pressed on.
The trail then topped a ridge and steeply followed its spine for a while. On one particular bend in the trail, the Waihee Valley opened up before me, with the Waihee River rushing below. Once again, I took my time there, to enjoy it. Occasionally there were steps set into the trail, but mostly it was a muddy scramble. People continued to appear ahead of me, gingerly descending the mountain. I had a feeling I was in trouble.
I briefly entered the forest again before dropping into a meadow just before the final ascent to Lanilili. Some high school-aged kids were headed down, enjoying themselves and talking about Thanksgiving Dinner. I started to get hungry. We were eating Italian tonight. I told you, we are not the typical turkey and cranberry gel kind of family.
As I climbed up the final part of the trail, which ended up being the most slippery, I encountered a young Hawaiian woman who was very anxious about her descent. She was not wearing shoes that had sufficient traction. She was crying a little. She was the last in her group and didn’t feel comfortable on the slippery mud and didn’t like being left behind. I talked with her a little bit. I let her know that it wasn’t a race, take careful steps, and hike her own hike. If she got a little muddy, it would wash off without a problem. The trail was easy to follow and she’ll be back down to the car in no time.
I am not sure if it helped, but I hope it did. There were plenty of hikers on the trail, she wouldn’t be alone for any stretch of time. I wished her good luck and continued upward, knowing full well that I was going to end up muddier before long.
I made it to the top of Lanilili and there were only two people there already. They were a couple from Alberta. This was their annual trip to Maui and they were avid hikers. We shared some stories of where we’d been. They let me know that it rained almost every day on this trail and it is always muddy and slippery. They had picked up some walking sticks from the trailhead and would put them back when they returned. I wish I had seen those sticks upon my ascent, because I would sure need them on the way down.
They headed down and I had the Lanilili summit to myself. I sat on top of the picnic bench, as the ground was one giant mud puddle.
I was thankful for being able to see under the clouds to the coast. I was thankful that the rain stopped, for the most part, as I hiked. I was thankful to be in a position to have visited the Hawaiian Islands 5 times in the past 5 years. I was thankful to be healthy enough to make the climb. I was thankful for a loving family that understood my need to get outside.
On the way down, I was thankful for hot showers, since my feet slipped out from underneath me on several occasions, and I landed on my rear end, covering my hands, elbows, pants, shoes, and socks in rich Hawaiian mud.
Thank you for reading.