Kahakapao Loop Trail – Makawao Forest
The story behind this hike is a tale of imported trees that cast different amounts of shade. There are many types of ferns, both native and introduced and there are remnant native trees in the gulches.
The entire area had been cleared of native trees in the past and in the early 1960’s was replanted with non-native species by prisoners from the local jail.
The trail starts from a large gravel parking lot (the second of two as you drive up the hill). Cook Pines frame the trail entrance at the far end of the parking area. Just inside the yellow metal gate, on the right, is an Australian Red Cedar with its dark green paired leaflets. Here the trail follows an old access road.
You immediately enter a very shady area, and this shade will vary from deeper to dappled as different non-native tree species dominate. The old road drops quickly and turns right. Palm Grass lines the road in many areas. The 2-3’ tall grass with wide flat leaves is a delicacy for horses that often share this trail.
Just as you start climbing out of the low point, on the left, there is a clump of Christella Fern. This is a non-native from Australia and is the most common fern we will see. The frond segments or pinnae are narrow and the outer edges nearly parallel and there is a distinct distance between the pinnae. Just after this, also on the left of the cut slope is a native fern, Palaa, with lacey green fronds and a thin leaf stalk or petiole.