Hike Journal - Halape - by Drew Erickson, June 2005
by Drew Erickson, June 2005
I am a volunteer for the National Park Service working in the Division of Interpretation at Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. The majority of my time is spent working at the visitor center and guiding short walks. My real passion is backpacking so my supervisors and I thought that I should keep a journal of the hikes that I’ve done so that when you visit you will have a better idea of what to expect. I’ve been backpacking in several places throughout the United States and guided week long trips in the Sierra Nevada’s. This weekend I had my first experience backpacking in Hawaii. Keiko, Keolahou, Vance and I went down to a beach called Halape.
We got a late start, getting on the trail at 4:30 p.m. in the afternoon. The hike started out at the Mau Loa o Mauna Ulu trailhead. It was cool and misting at 2,680 feet where we started and to make matters worse we were hiking through the VOG from Pu’u O’o vent . We crossed the dark pahoehoe lava flows, following the ahu (stone cairns) for a mile. We then entered a sparse `ohia forest and left the VOG and rain behind. A short time later we hit our first junction that confirmed we had completed two miles and were making good time.
From here on out there was nothing but tall grass and lava flows until we reached the coconut grove by the beach. The trail began to head down hill following the lava flows of the 1974 Mauna Ulu eruption. From the hillside you can see Apua Point off in the distance. By the time we got to the junction for Keauhou it was getting dark and we still had three miles to go. After a short break we continued on through the dusk with our headlamps. As it got dark the trail became somewhat difficult to follow which slowed our pace. Finally, we arrived at the shelter only a few hundred yards from the beach where we were going to camp. Behind the shelter was the water tank. We stopped to fill our water so as to avoid a return trip. Remember to filter your water, it is not safe to drink directly from the tank.
Prior to 1975 there was a cabin much closer to the beach at Halape. Find out more about what happened to destroy this cabin and prompt the park service to move the cabin back up the hillside by reading Tsunami at Halape. While this area is usually a paradise, there are times when it can be a very dangerous place.
After we filled up at the water tank we continued a quarter mile to the row of coconut trees. There we were greeted by two girls working with the Hawksbill turtle project. They were surprised to see fellow park employees down at the beach. I was interested in the project they were working on and we chatted for a while about turtles. They informed us not to use bright lights on the beach so we wouldn’t disturb the turtles nesting habits. They had special red lights they let us use to explore our temporary home. If you plan on visiting in the summer you can tape red cellophane over your light to avoid disturbing the nesting habits of the turtles. After a quick swim under the bright moon we ate dinner and fell asleep.
Early the next morning I was awakened by a fly. It would not buzz off so I got up and ate breakfast. After a hearty meal of beef and rice we went off to Halape Iki (Halape little or small). To get there you hike past Halape heading to the southwest and follow the white chunks of coral across the black lava for a half mile or so. At Iki there are two small white sand beaches tucked into the lava flows, and a well protected swimming hole. Even as the waves broke hard off the coast there was very little current in the protected cove. We snorkeled for the better part of two hours checking out the fish and coral. It was some of the best snorkeling I’ve done on this side of the island. There were many species of fish I had never seen before. We also had the beach to ourselves.
This area was once host to several small settlements that depended on fish as a source of protein. While I did not know very much about the culture before the hike, Keolahou and Keiko, my coworkers, taught me about the people that lived in the area. We looked at some archeological evidence of the settlements that you can find on the trail to Halape Iki. We were also treated to a lunch of fresh fish that Keolahou speared in the cove as his ancestors have done for thousands of years.
I was sad to have to leave this place and I recommend that if you have the time you should stay for two nights. This will give you more time to explore the area.
Vance and I packed up our bags and filled our water bottles getting ready to make the ascent. It was a mistake for us to leave in the middle of the day because there was no chance for shade. We were able to push through, but I would not recommend it. The only comfort we had was that the further up the volcano we got, the cooler it was.
After about four hours we made it to the Mau Loa o Mauna Ulu parking lot. Overall, hanging out at the beach was worth the hike, but next time I plan to take the coastal trail out. I also recommend that if you do this hike, spend more time there enjoying the paradise called Halape.
Photos and text by Drew Erickson
Last updated: March 31, 2012