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Giant Steps: Hiking Nounou-East "Sleeping Giant" Trail on Kauai

A marathon runner who sometimes enjoys the dare of a trail run, I find the fun-to-navigate uphill trail too perfect to pass up. I drift ahead. But my faster pace soon slows as I encounter a brittle, if brief, lava-rock outcropping.

My photographer friend turns down my offer to hold his gear while he ascends the rocks. (I suspect some worry on his part. Given my impulse for impromptu running, I might jog away still clutching his camera.) When we’re both on level ground again, he smiles and gives me the OK to dart ahead. We will meet up next at the giant’s chest.

Approaching the trail’s halfway point, I stop to take in some new views: reddish details in the outline of the giant’s massive head. I want to leave the path for a closer look, but a cliff-hazard sign warns that overhanging ground could break off 
under the weight of a hiker. For now, I keep my feet firmly planted on the trail.

Can you see the reclining figure of the sleeping giant? Hint: It's head is on the left side of the photo.

A quarter-mile below the giant’s chest, I pass through a thicket of hala (pandanus) trees stitched together by aerial roots. My solitude is interrupted by the chatter of hikers at a nearby trail junction. I follow their sounds to a grassy patch with sheltered picnic tables—the giant’s chest. 

Here, I find sweeping views of the 
Pacific, the mouth of the Wailua River and cloud-veiled Wai‘ale‘ale, Kauai’s dominant mountain, which, with annual 
rainfall of more than 452 inches, is also one of the wettest places on the planet.

The other hikers continue on another trail, which descends the giant’s neck 
before rising to his head. My photo-snapping friend and I decide to push on, too, finding the path well worn and fairly easy to follow. Even so, trail-running is not an option for me here, as there are narrow sections with scary-steep drop-offs near either side.

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