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Walk on the Wild Side: Hiking Kauai's Mahaulepu Heritage Trail

Less than a mile into our excursion, however, it’s clear to me that one thing on our trek will not be effortless: footwork. That is, remembering to take my eyes off the scenery long enough to watch my step through patches of jagged-edged, crumbling rocks and tangles of tree roots. I’m grateful I selected a pair of sturdy running shoes for the day.

Our first stop on the trail is Makawehi Point. The area’s lithification (transformation of sediment to stone) began some 125,000 years ago with the accumulation of sand dunes along the shore. The cementing of settling sand and volcanic sediment beneath it sculpted the point’s cliffs and ledges, which today are continually being chipped away by wave erosion and trade winds.

Sandstone-limestone pinnacles in stark formation on the trail.

Pushing on beyond the dunes we find sets of jutting pinnacles composed of limestone and sandstone. The fragile spire and needle sculptures are the natural artwork resulting from eons of rainwater washing into crevices and formation fractures. Here, and elsewhere on the trail, paleontologists have uncovered bones of now-extinct birds that lived on Kauai when Polynesian voyagers first settled in the Islands.

A downward dip in the trail soon takes us to lava rock tide pools bordering Ho‘oĆ«lui‘a, an ancient fishing heiau (temple). A sign here suggests we not stray from a narrow footpath bordering these sacred grounds. Early Hawaiians are believed to have left offerings of fish at Hoouluia in hopes of securing good fishing.

On the far side of the heiau grounds, the trail takes a somewhat jarring detour toward modern-day civilization in the form of Poipu Bay Golf Course. A sign posted on a fenced-off stretch of the trail notes that its closure is due to landslides along the shoreline. Walking alongside the course, we watch a family of nene (Hawaiian geese) busily rambling near one of the greens. The ever-stately, indigenous state birds seem completely unfazed by the activities of golfers and zigzagging carts.

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Check out these related HawaiiMagazine.com posts:
Celebrate Earth Day in Hawaii with some green work. Where to go.
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