EXPLORING THE SHADY SIDE OF OAHU by Steve Hendrix Jun 17, 2007
….This is as dramatic an interior slice of Polynesia as you’er ever likely to see, and getting it from the back of a horse on a thread of ridge that’s being petted by the lovely trade winds is a thrill….
CLAPPITY-CLOP ON THE NORTH SHORE
3 Day Trips From Honolulu by Steve Hendrix
American Way Magazine American Airlines
This is the least Hawaiian part of Hawaii you’ve ever seen – and it will rapidly become your favorite. Plodding softly through a forest of koa and ironwood trees, the heavy footfalls of your horse are almost silent on the thick padding of dry needles. The tropical sun and trade winds are shut out by the dense canopy. In the still coolness, it feels more like Oregon than Hawaii.
….Twenty minutes into a rambling trail ride, you lope up and along a ridge on Oahu’s North Shore. Becker’s Happy Trails Stable, a few miles from the boisterous surf center of Haleiwa,
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HORSIN’ AROUND! By Kimberly Fu / Star-Bulletin Feb 09, 1999
….But I was wide awake and nervously scratching my head at the task set before me — hitching my first ride on one of nature’s most majestic creatures, the horse.
….As we zigzagged our way past Waimea, up Pupukea and through the iron gates of the Happy Trails horse ranch, the terror finally fled and a sense of excitement set in. My sister and I locked glances. We would be riding horses!
Got a few extra hours on the island of Oahu? Bypass the beach and head off on a Hawaiian-style adventure.
OK, there are worse things in life than finding yourself stuck in Honolulu for a day with nothing on your to-do list. Paradise is a better place than most to end up at loose ends while your wife is stuck at the convention center. The obvious answer — head to the beach, right?
Not so fast. For some of us, a day on Waikiki is no day at the beach. We get restless. The prospect of another day of sunny stupor and wrinkled fingers leads to a yearning for something different. Talk to your hotel concierge, and he will rattle off a list of alternatives to sunning and swimming at Waikiki: There’s sunning and swimming at Waimea Bay, sunning and swimming at Hanauma Bay, and, if you want variety, there’s sunning and swimming and windsurfing at Kailua Bay. But is there life off the beach on Oahu?
Yes. Within an hour’s drive of Honolulu (and if you drive any farther, your car had better come equipped with a rudder), you can exercise some of those body parts growing flaccid from too much time on your beach towel.
CLIPPITY-CLOP ON THE NORTH SHORE
This is the least Hawaiian part of Hawaii you’ve ever seen — and it will rapidly become your favorite. Plodding softly through a forest of koa and ironwood trees, the heavy footfalls of your horse are almost silent on the thick padding of dry needles. The tropical sun and the trade winds are shut out by the dense canopy. In the still coolness, it feels more like Oregon than Hawaii.
“In fact, this is a very Hawaiian valley,” says trail guide Mark Becker. A professional polo player, he rides easily on his Thoroughbred. “Much of the island once looked like this. In ancient times, a sizable community lived here. You can see the tea leaves they planted for cooking. We even have some petroglyphs on the property.”
Twenty minutes into a rambling trail ride, you lope up and along a ridge on Oahu’s North Shore. Becker’s Happy Trails Stable, a few miles from the boisterous surf center of Haleiwa, is adjacent to one of the island’s largest temple ruins, or Heiaus (pronounced hay-ee-ow). Three captured British seamen were reportedly sacrificed on this site in 1793. Calmness reigns here now, broken only by the snorting and shuffling of your mount as you climb the same ancient pathways.
You emerge from the forest onto the ridge top with a spectacular view of the Waimea valley. This used to be endless sugar cane country. Now the cane has been replaced by coffee and alfalfa plantations. The horses push through chest-high Pili grass, the kind used to make hula skirts.
Soon you’re back in the woods, looping around to the stables. Becker reaches out to snag a strawberry guava from a low branch. “We have fruit year-round,” he says, passing it back. In a mango grove you spy the remains of an old ranch house. A weathered tire swing hangs from a massive Banyan tree, its rope hard to see in the multitude of vines that fall down like a rain shower. A little farther, an overgrown mound of rocks marks another ancient temple ruin. The air carries the tang of fallen, fermenting fruit — the smell of a Hawaii long vanished. AW
HAWAII ON HORSEBACK
DRIVING TIME: About an hour from downtown Honolulu if you’re treated kindly by the city’s mercurial traffic. An hour and a half if you’re not.
DIRECTIONS: Take H1 out of Honolulu and pick up H2 at Pearl City. Take H2 all the way to Wahiawa, where you’ll pick up 99. Take Hwy 83, the Haleiwa Bypass Road, to Kamehameha Highway. Just past the popular Waimea Bay Beach Park, turn right at the Foodland on Pupukea Road. Look for the Happy Trails Stable sign about one mile on the right.
INFO: Happy Trails offers several rides per day, mostly one-hour trail rides on their ample grounds. Call (808) 638-7433. Reservations are required.
DIVERSION: Take time to visit the Puu O Mahuka Heiau (ancient temple) just down the road from the stable. The ruins are preserved as a state monument.
This is something Hawaii needs more of — ferocity. The trade wind that normally caresses the shores with warm whispers roars like a freight train on this towering rocky point. The velocity is so great you have to cup your hand over your mouth just to get a sip of air. And far below, the otherwise placid Pacific rams the island with explosive tenacity — one mighty wave after another detonates against the island in a wet, white cloud and a thundering boom. This is the 647-foot peak of Makapuu Point, where a coastal lighthouse marks the easternmost corner of Oahu. The hike up here is a pleasant challenge in
itself — a scramble up a scrubby ridge, higher and higher into the view. At the peak, the wind is screaming; lean into it and it takes your weight. The force is a pleasure, but not one to linger over. Having made it up one side of the point, it’s time to head down the other to the rocky shore below.
A lighthouse access road twists up the west side of the point. Follow it down a few yards to a set of mounted binoculars placed there for whale watching. Behind a sign that describes the activities of humpbacks, a faint thread of trail leads to the ridge and plunges, seemingly, over the edge. But the trail is sound — if taxing — all the way down. At times, you may have to hang onto the black jagged rocks with one hand as you lower yourself down a short drop or a tight switchback. The wind is mostly blocked here and the soundscape is dominated by the rhythmic booming of the big surf. The air is full of salt mist, and every few minutes a blowhole spouts in a 20-foot geyser from a fissure in the rock.
As you descend, a broad shelf of rock comes into view at the base of the cliff. The far edge is under assault from the waves, but closer in, a broad plain of sheltered rock is pocked with deep pools. The various organic shapes range from birdbaths to Olympic swimming pools, some of them linked by channels in the rock. These are the intertidal pools that appear twice a day when the surf rolls out. At high tide,
the entire shelf is flooded, and at the ebb you can walk around and peer — or jump — into the clear, cool ponds that sparkle in the tropical sun. At the center of these contained, fluctuating pools, you can swim comfortably, even as occasional outsize waves flush a few thousand gallons of water through the pool. Along the edges, you can walk among rocks crowded with sea urchins, multicolored shells, bizarre aquatic plants, and various fish waiting for the liberation of the next flood tide.
That’s a tide you don’t want to take yourself, so keep an eye on the surf that begins to creep over the far edge. After a couple of hours of solitude among the tide pools, you’ll deem the Pacific close enough and make your way back to the trail and higher ground. From the top of the ridge, you can watch the ocean reclaim this bit of Hawaii.
SOARING OVER KAENA POINT
A big man steps out of his flip-flop sandals and climbs into his cramped cockpit. He’s a glider pilot, known island-wide as “Tall Don” Rohrbach. You’re behind him, in the jump seat of a sleek, orange aircraft. It’s a Schwietzer 2-32 sailplane, needle-nosed, low to the ground with a vast wingspan. Next to you, an engine fires and a prop whirls to life; the tow plane is rolling out. Rohrbach shouts back a few last instructions. “Don’t pull that handle unless you want to release the towline,” he says. “And if you’re going to be sick, try to tell me ahead of time.”
The 200-foot nylon line pulls taut and you lurch onto the runway. The tow plane floats off the runway and you’re right behind, yawing gently from side to side until you reach cruising speed. The green grounds of Dillingham Airfield fall away, and the startling blue Pacific spreads beneath you. Your ride banks inland and you follow in a steep, rounding climb. When you top 3,000 feet, Rohrbach pulls up on his stick and you rise above the tow plane. With the slack off the rope, Don yanks the release handle and the line pulls free. The tow pilot, free of his load, waggles his wings and flies away. You’re on your own, alone with the wind.
But you go up, not down. With Oahu dwindling at your feet, you mount the thermals and rise over Waianae Range at a rate of almost 300 feet a minute. Waianae Mountain Range is the landform that gives the west end of Oahu some of the most reliable gliding air in the country. Hour after hour, the ridge deflects wind off the ocean in a steady updraft ideal for sailplanes. The record for a continuous glide here is more than 70 hours. And so soaring clubs have taken over one end of Dillingham, a WW II-era airfield that sits adjacent to the beach. Rohrbach works for The Original Glider Rides, one of two commercial companies offering scenic glider rides of 20 or 30 minutes each.
“That’s the route the Japanese took on their way to Pearl Harbor,” notes Rohrbach, pointing up the valley toward the Pali Pass. He flies lightly, feeling through his stick the movement of the wingtips through the air. He banks in constant graceful curves. You head out over the water, a sheet of azure that clearly reveals stocks of coral. Rohrbach keeps his eyes peeled for schools of yellowjack tuna. If he sees any, he may go fishing later. The viewing is so fine that gliding rides have become popular with whale watchers, and Rohrbach has become a source of whale population information for Hawaii’s marine fisheries office.
“In water this clear, a 45-foot whale sticks out like a sore thumb,” he says. “They love to calve off of this coast. We’ve had three babies born here this year.”
After half an hour, you slowly climb down from the sky, zeroing in on the landing strip at Dillingham. You touch down, lose speed until one wing drops and skids on its metal strut and rolls to a stop … about six inches from Tall Don’s waiting flip-flops.
DRIVING TIME: Forty-five minutes to an hour — avoid rush- hour traffic.
DIRECTIONS: Take H1 west out of Honolulu and pick up H2 at Pearl City. Take H2 all the way to Wahiawa; pick up 80 to 803 just outside of town. 803 turns into 930 (Farrington Highway) at Waialua. Dillingham Airfield is on the left. Continue to the second gate for the glider field.
INFO: Twenty-minute glider flights are available 10:30 a.m.
to 5:30 p.m. every day, weather permitting. One passenger is $100, two passengers (on the same flight), $120. Call The Original Glider Rides at (808) 677-3404 or visit www.honolulusoaring.com.
RESTAURANTS: Haleiwa is the nearest town blessed with a range of local and franchise options. But don’t miss Oahu’s best burgers at Kua Aina (808-637-6067) in the center of town.
RESTAURANTS: Hawaiian plate lunches and burgers are available at the Sunset Diner (808-638-7660), where you can watch the big-wave surfers on Sunset Beach. Also, look for the periodic but tasty Oceanside Grill, which serves vegetarian burgers from a white trailer often parked on Kamehameha Highway just north of the Foodland. And there’s plenty to choose from in Haleiwa.
DRIVING TIME: Thirty minutes from Waikiki
DIRECTIONS: Take H1 east from Honolulu, which turns into Highway 72. Ten miles past Waikiki, pass the eternally crowded Hanauma Bay, the island’s most popular snorkeling beach. Just down the road is Sandy Beach, beloved to surfers, and a mile and a half farther is the parking lot for the Makapuu roadside overlook.
INSTRUCTIONS: From the overlook parking lot, follow any of the numerous trails to the right heading up the bluff. Make your way down to the paved access road and follow it away from the lighthouse to a whale-watching area marked with a sign and a mounted telescope. Behind the sign, a trail winds down the ridge face to the Makapuu tide pools. Use caution, and only descend all the way to the pools at low tide. When you climb back up, take an alternate route to your car by following the access road all the way to the highway and then a third of a mile farther to the overlook parking area.
continued… HORSIN’ AROUND! By Kimberly Fu / Star-Bulletin
My head was spinning, the morning sun blinded my tired eyes and I was about ready to heave-ho in full view of passersby in beautiful Waimea town.
And I wasn’t even out of the car yet. Great start to a brand-spanking new day.
But I was wide awake and nervously scratching my head at the task set before me — hitching my first ride on one of nature’s most majestic creatures, the horse. ……..continued below
Yes, I was terrified. But not of the horses themselves. They are beautiful, graceful creatures that bring to mind Black Beauty, Roy Rogers’ Trigger, even Mr. Ed. It’s the fact that they are also powerful creatures with well-muscled legs and massive bodies that could kick me to hell and back in less than a second that scared the bejesus out of me.
No doubt every first-time horseback rider
has felt the same way. At least I hope that’s true.
As we zigzagged our way past Waimea, up Pupukea and through the iron gates of the Happy Trails horse ranch, the terror finally fled and a sense of excitement set in. My sister and I locked glances. We would be riding horses!
This was a long time in coming. Since we were kids, Carolyn and I had dreamed of riding ponies — doesn’t every kid? But the closest we ever came to such animals was a donkey hitched to a tree at Pokai Bay Beach Park.
And someone was always watching that donkey.
But that’s the past. Within 15 minutes of arrival, the Happy Trails Gang had our horses saddled and ready to go. There were six riders and two instructors out on the trail Saturday — it looked to be a challenging 90 minutes.
The fun began when we had to mount our horses. Riders could choose to use a stepping block or no — I chose no. If tiny Martin Short of “Three Amigos” could hoist his butt up without a block surely I could, too. And I did.
But unlike Mr. Short, I kept on going. Thanks to speedy instructor Mark, I kept my precarious seat atop Noe. A belated thanks to you, Mark, and wipe that smirk off your face!
Then my horse, 20-year-old Noe, decided she wanted to pick up the pace and tailgated poor Bushes, Carolyn’s horse. When I got the go-ahead to pass them Noe became excited, letting loose a brilliant “wind” as we pulled in front.
Bushes’ wild neighing clued us in to her ill feelings. But hey, everyone (and every horse) has got to go sometime. And boy, did Noe go a lot.
Maybe it was the excitement of running with a team, or getting used to a new rider, or maybe she just couldn’t hold it. I’m just glad I was upwind, though I was treated to Noe’s fragrance once or twice.
I have to admit, being in the saddle is a great feeling. There really is nothing like it. And the gentle showers that poured over us from time to time just couldn’t ruin the feeling.
With the flick of a hand or gentle dig of the heel, Noe would take me wherever I wanted to go. With each pace we took my fears fell away, and I was able to enjoy the views: the sun glinting over an opulent ocean, bursts of foam out by breakers that could have been hiding joyriding whales, spiraling views of green mountains and multicolored flora. There was always something breathtaking to see.
Occasionally, my fears would return. Going uphill was scary but I remembered to lean way forward to ease my horse’s burden. Traveling downhill I made sure to lean way back, making Noe’s trip a bit easier. And at certain points along the trail Noe would take corners at a brisk trot, trying to catch up to the rest of the “herd.”
Photos by Ken Sakamoto and Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Kimberly Fu gets acquainted with her new
best friend, Noe, at Happy Trails ranch.
At those rough points I found myself praying to Noe instead of God, saying “Please, horsie, follow the other horsies,” and “Please, Noe, let me get through this alive.”
OK, and maybe a couple of squeals were involuntarily wrenched from me, but whatever Noe did I made sure to praise and pet her. After all, she was doing the hard work.
A few times we stopped for a bite — Noe was hungry and would grab a taste of whatever exotic grass, weed or plant was available at the time. While she nibbled I was sure to sit ramrod straight in the saddle — I didn’t want to make a wrong move and fall. Mark had said some inattentive riders had stretched above and beyond a safe reach for strawberry guavas and found themselves sitting in “unpleasant” places.
As the polo announcer in “Pretty Woman” said, “Beware the steaming divots.” See, mom. It pays to watch TV.
After awhile the riders’ chatter died down and we focused on the beauty of the trail, the power of our carriers, and generally got lost in our own dreams. There’s a peace that comes with being out in the countryside, roaming free, knowing you’ll reach your destination in safety.
This ride taught me there’s nothing to fear about horseback riding. If anything it helps you face your fears and brings peace of mind, opens you up to the world around you.
It gave me a greater appreciation of horses and all that they can do. It also made me realize the Pony Express mail carriers had to have a lot of guts to speed race across the country on horseback just to pass people their letters.
In any case, I will definitely see the pearly gates of Happy Trails again. I have a yearning in my blood now for more riding, and I count Noe as one of my best friends. Heck, she kept me safe and alive. She’s my bestest friend!
As we dismounted back at headquarters and the horses were led away, I was sad. I looked my friend in the eye, had a few last words, we rubbed noses and she trotted away to be with her boyfriend Freckles.
While my legs ached for no more than two days, memories of riding will forever be burned in my brain.
If you’ve got a yen to go ride horsies, please do! It’s an adventure everyone should take a crack at. And if you see Noe before I do, let her know I’ll be by someday soon.