Makawao Forest Reserve
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.
In addition to horses and hikers this multi-use trail is also shared by mountain bikers, and just as we come out of the small gulch there is the first of 2 bike riding training areas. The first is the novice training area and you often see young children with their parents there, there are several different ramps and jumps to practice on. On the left the Pineapple Express bike trail (a downhill section only for bikes) comes in from the left.
The light level begins to change with tall Eucalyptus planted on the right. Their canopy is much more open than the Cook Pines and dappled light drifts through their branches. On the left the shade is deeper with Tropical Ash taking the stage. These trees are prolific seeders.
A second slight downhill with sharp curve is followed by the 2nd bike training area, the expert or Akamai area. At the entrance to this area on the left is Palapalai, a native fern that we will see often on the trail. The frond segments here are triangular to dagger shaped and touching each other.
Two other bike trails come in here, on the right is the Secret Trail and on the left is the Tweener Trail. In the more open area on the left are several green Ti. It’s a curious mix, Eucalyptus and Ash with Ti, only in Hawaii.
The light level drops somewhat as Tropical Ash begins to dominate. The foliage is a light, almost yellow-green, and older trees have buttressing trunks. There is a moderate rise in the old road or trail. The understory is filled with Lilikoi (Passion Fruit, a non-native vine with a three lobed leaf), more Palm Grass and Kahili Ginger. Although this ginger has a beautiful flower it is terribly invasive choking out all other plants. I routinely pull up the rhizomes to slow their spread. There is one native shrub on the left, almost 10’ in height with small leaves. This is Pilo and will have orange berries (do not eat they are a diuretic).
Within sight of the trail junction ahead there is a Hawaiian Tree fern, Hapuu pulu on the left. There will be many of these majestic ferns along the trail. They are very slow growing. Reaching the trail junction of the Kahakapao Loop trail the west side comes in from the right and the east side trail bears off to the left. We will go left here.
The ½ mile marker appears soon after the trail junction. Then another junction with Fong Ridge coming in from the left. The east side loop branches off to the right, and the trail narrows to a foot path. A very nice native fern begins to appear. This is Ii, which means reddish brown, possibly referring to the dark colored sori on the underneath of the frond. The lower edge of the leaf segment or pinnae overlap the adjoining segment and the stem is hairy.
The trail begins a series of switchbacks as it climbs the ridge. At the end of the first run we come to the edge of a gulch and in these gulches, we find the remnant of the old Native forest. They seemed to have cleared all the native trees off the ridges but left a few in the gulches.
In this first gulch there are 3 native trees (2 large and 1 narrow in front), 2 are alive while the third, on the right appears dead. They are about 30’ from the trail, with dark nearly black trunks and about 30 high. I cannot identify them yet as I have not seen flowers or fruit on them.
Back on the trail we come to another turn and a sign warning of the Pineapple Express Bike trail. Continuing on to another gulch view and turn in the trail we find a park bench set along the edge. This is a wonderful place for a short stop. There are several native trees here about 20’ below. One large tree on the left is Papala kepau. The leaves are long and elliptical with clusters of small white flowers having long stamens. This is the bird catchers’ tree as the seed pods are coated with a very sticky substance that was used to capture birds when they landed on it. Closer to the bench is Hala pepe with narrow Yucca-like or dagger shaped leaves. Older plants become vine like and climb up into the old native trees.