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Hiking to La`au Point, Part 1

It was a beautiful day on Moloka`i so I decided to hike to La`au Point. As I mentioned previously, this area was the subject of dispute between the Moloka`i Ranch and the people of Moloka`i. You may recall that the Ranch wanted to develop luxury homesites in this area but were opposed by the local folks because of cultural sites, some of which are sacred, and Native Hawai`ian burial grounds. The result was that the Maui County Government sided with the people and refused the permits to build — to which the Ranch responded by closing down the Kalua Koi Resort and Golf Course. I wanted to hike this land and get in touch with its sacredness.

The closest starting point that one can drive to is Dixie Maru Beach which I wrote about last year — not much has changed — still beautiful, still nearly deserted.

The trail is fairly easy to spot but interrupted with a number of fences, some with gates and some without. The first fence has a double stairway built over it to make access quite easy. I have no idea who built it but it looked pretty well constructed. Curiously, just to the right of it, the barbed-wire fence has been cut — which makes access even easier — just walk through. During my hike, I consistently found fences cut or incomplete and easy to walk around.

This is the path. Plenty wide enough and smooth enough for easy hiking — for most of the way. Do note the red dirt. My socks and running shoes sure did. Tom, the owner of the B&B later helped me clean the socks as best we could — but my shoes will be retired when I return home — same as last year.

Looking all about, I found an extraordinary amount and variety of lichen. As you probably know, lichen is a symbiotic association of a fungus (the mycobiont) with a photosynthetic partner (the photobiont or phycobiont), usually either a green alga (commonly Trebouxia) or cyanobacterium (commonly Nostoc) [thank you Wikipedia]. The lichen figuratively jumped out at me because I had read a very interesting article recently (I believe it was in Discover magazine) about this most unusual organism.

Every so often there was a break in the vegetation allowing both visual and physical access to the shoreline. On the very first such beach, I encountered three women intently looking for puka shells (shells with small holes) that they were stringing with a needle and thread. They were so intent on their task, and with the wind masking my footsteps, they were not aware of my presence until I said, "Aloha". The three nearly jumped out of their skins — for which I apologized profusely.

They had hiked the trail the previous day and gave me a few tips and set my expectations. Ironically, I ran into them again at the Maunaloa General Store the very next day — and we shared another laugh about our first "surprise" encounter.

More lichen — covering the bark of the trees. It was everywhere — I presume because this area has been relatively undisturbed for a long time.

What really struck me was the variety of lichen. Different surfaces, colors and textures. This sample was orange. The leaves are from Keawe trees which are abundant around here.

Then I encountered this formation of rocks. I had read that there were heiaus (Hawai`ian temples or sacred sites) in this area. I examined it carefully and judged it to be old (lots of lichen), rectangular and filled in with rocks in the center to make it more of a platform than an enclosure. If any of those factors had been missing, it would have likely just been a shelter from the elements.

All those factors were present — but the vertical rock in the middle made me conclude it is a heiau. As with all sacred sites, one should treat them with respect and dignity — and certainly do not alter or deface them in any way.

Continuing on, I came upon lovely Kaupoa Beach, consisting of two strips of sand separated by lava rocks protruding into the ocean.

Some might consider this a prime location to build a resort.

As did the Moloka`i Ranch. There is much more to this story — and, as is the case in gripping serials, I will leave you hanging until next week.

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com