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Monday, September 24, 2001

Today was hiking.

"Nounou Mountain (Sleeping Giant) is a moderately difficult trail." The book makes this sound like just the ticket. The eastern access to the trail begins just a couple of miles from our condo, up Haleilio Road. But what is the "sleeping giant"? Well, apparently there are at least three legends, which I suppose is much like any landscape feature you'll find in any country. The one we know of involves a boy who catches a fish and brings it home to the village where, as you would expect, the fish begins speaking.

It begged for mercy and said, "Feed me". Just as you and I would do, the boy decided not to eat the talking fish, at least not until it fed it. It fed it poi. I haven't eaten poi yet, that should happen in a day or two yet, but what people have told me about it suggests that feeding it to a talking fish should not be your first choice.

But, fish being fish, it apparently likes poi, and begins to grow. Now if you've bought into the talking fish so far, you'll not be surprised to hear that the fish, as it grew bigger, took on human form. It kept growing until it was a giant, all the time forcing the villagers to feed it, like slaves. Well, omitting the grisly details, a village maiden (there's always one in any village) played a song on the ukulele (when were these things invented?) and sang the giant to sleep, and he sleeps still.

The trail is about 3.5 miles round trip, with a 1000 foot rise. This is important, and I'll come back to it later.

After a late breakfast, we begin the hike at about 10 am. It was an ominous start, though. We began on the wrong road to start -- following the sign to the trail, not knowing that there are three different accesses to the trail. A quick back track to the highway. Oh wait, there is a detail about the highway I haven't mentioned yet.

You remember that there really is only the one highway. So, naturally, everyone who is driving is highly likely to be driving on this highway as opposed to, say, one of the side streets. Imagine you're designing a highway system, much like you'd design any transportation or network system. If all data appears to be on the main wire, and, statistically, very little data exists off the main wire, then there is little reason to serve the side roads (wires). This takes the form of traffic lights that only change, say, once every 10 minutes.

So, a little over 10 minutes later, we were on the right road. Now, directions out here, when not on the highway, are given not in addresses but in telephone pole numbers. So, we're driving up Haleilio Road, looking for telephone pole 38. Once we find it, we're to park across the road.

Of course, the book we have is a little out of date. So, there is no place to park across from pole 38, but there is an obvious park entrance right next to pole 38. But this same book tells us to go up a side road towards a water pump and begin the trail there. So up we go. We see the pump. We even see the sign to the trail. It points across a big concrete drainage ditch into a thicket which has no obvious entrance point.

But, Kathy thought she saw something about the entrance back at the parking lot, so back we go. Now things are cooking, literally (see below).

We begin the climb. The book said the trail would be largely exposed to start. And it was. But, it's 85 degrees and suprisingly close to 100 percent humidity. And, when you're in the clear, the sun is hot. Really hot. Now let's come back to the bit about 1000 feet of climb over 1.75 miles (half of the 3.5 miles round trip). It didn't occur to me then, but it does now, that of the 1.75 miles, something just under a mile is pretty much flat at the top of the mountain. And a fair distance is flat or a gradual climb over the rest of the trail. That leaves less than three quarters of a mile (3960 feet) horizontal with about 1000 feet vertical of climb. Which translates to about a 25% slope.

If you've ever been an avid bicycle rider, you understand about slope percentage. Three to five percent slope is a moderate climb. Eight to ten percent is a hard climb. Twelve to 14% is a serious climb. You don't climb 25% slopes.

But we did. We climbed the "moderate" 25% slope in 85 degree, 100% humidy, exposed to the raw sun. Eventually.

On the way up, we met a couple coming down. "It's beautiful scenery," they said, "worth every step of the hike." Well, I've seen lots of scenery in my life. The top left picture shows one view of the scenery. Nice, perhaps even beautiful.

The red arrow shows our hotel. You do get some sense of how high 1000 feet is by looking at the houses near the bottom of the picture. Almost straight down below us, at about the same vertical height as those houses you see, is the trail head. A thousand feet is only two tenths of a mile, but two tenths of a mile vertically is a lot longer than two tenths of a mile horizontally.

I did mention the red dirt out here, right? The next picture shows Kathy straddling the trail. I can't tell on my LCD monitor if the picture does justice to the color of the soil. But it's a deep, brown-red. And every time I sat down on a rock to rest (and I had to rest a few times, hence the "eventually"), I stained my shorts more and more. It was clear that I should change my shorts before taking a stroll in public again. Well, unless I could conjur up a good story to go along with the stain on the seat of my shorts.

The next picture shows Kathy at the top of the trail, next to a hala tree. The trees have an interesting root system. And those angular roots are covered in spines.

All the way up, we actually hoped for a quick shower to counter the hot sun. True, it would have resulted in a highly slippery, very muddy mess. But at least it would have been a cool mess. Once we reached the top, with it's tunnels of small trees, the skies became overcast. So it was hot when we had the hard climb, and cool when we had the relatively easy descent.

Oh yea, the trees. There is a constant trade wind here, usually 15 to 35 miles per hour. It would have greatly helped to alleviate the sun's heat if we could have felt a breeze. But, mostly, there were these little trees growing on either side of the trail. Not close enough to provide shade, but thick enough so that the breezes blew just over our heads. A ten foot tall hiker would have enjoyed the hike much better.

There were a couple of places where the trail was nearly washed out, making for a tricky passage. The idea was to build up enough speed so that if you began to fall down the washed out slide, down the cliff side, you'd have enough forward momentum to be able to grasp the edge of the trail on the other side and pull yourself up. At one point on the trail, we had the choice of climbing across a cliff face, or climbing a loose dirt, vertical section. I did the former, Kathy did the latter. We both made the wrong choice.

But, as is always the case when you finish a hike like this, you experience what I call the "Magic Mountain" effect. This is from my one trip on the Magic Mountain ride in Orlando, Florida. After the long wait in line, with all the warnings about the restrictions for the ride (you must be this tall, you must not be pregnant, you must have good bones, you must not frighten easily), the ride was a painful experience, wrenching your neck violently at each sharp turn. At the end of the ride, however, you have a long walk through a tunnel to leave the area. By the time you're out, you're saying to yourself, "You know, that wasn't so bad."

Hence the last picture. You know, the hike wasn't so bad.

We didn't see any chickens today until we had dinner at the Lemon Grass restaraunt. Then, across the highway, we saw a chicken crossing the road. Why? I have no idea.