HIKE: Kamakou, Moloka‘i
WHEN: September 2015
LENGTH: Pēpēʻōpae Bog and Boardwalk Trail is only 1.5 miles long
DIFFICULTY: Easy, mostly flat
FEATURES: Native plants and birds, unique bog environment, views of Pelekunu Valley
Apparently, I’m fond of bogs.
My first experience walking through one was back in March, when my husband and I hiked through the Alaka‘i Swamp in Kōkeʻe on Kaua‘i.
It was surreal, walking along a boardwalk outfitted with chicken wire for traction through a montane wet forest surrounded by stunted ʻōhiʻa lehua trees shrouded in mist.
And when I found out there was a similar environment atop Mount Ka‘ala on O‘ahu, well, that hike quickly rose on my must-do list.
There was only one accessible bog left to hike through — and that turned out to be in the Kamakou Preserve on Moloka‘i.
Which was a big part of the reason why we booked a trip there two weeks ago.
Established in 1983 and managed by The Nature Conservancy, this 2,774-acre preserve high in the mountains of East Moloka‘i is truly a natural treasure. There are more than 250 species of native plants here, of which more than 90 percent are found nowhere else but in Hawai‘i. The lush rainforest, dry shrublands and mountain bog provide the habitat for native song birds, insects and Hawaiian tree snails.
That was enough to lure me!
As with Mo‘omomi Preserve, we checked in at TNC’s Moloka‘i office for information, maps and brochures. We found out the road that leads to the preserve had been damaged by the recent rains and getting to the start of the 1.5-mile boardwalk might be rough, even with a four-wheel drive vehicle. (Which is required, by the way.)
Our only option was to park at the Waikolu Overlook and walk the 2.2 miles to the start of the bog.
So that’s what we did.
To get to the preserve, you have to take Highway 460 toward Homelani Cemetery. You’ll see a green sign on the mauka side of the highway. Turn here and drive about three miles along the dirt road toward the Moloka‘i Forest Reserve.
We drove past Australian ironwoods, silky oak, eucalyptus, Norfolk and Cooke Island pines, and South American guava trees; past some reservoirs and a barracks built in the 1930s and now used by TNC; and past the lua moku ‘iliahi, or sandalwood measuring pit, a depression shaped like a ship’s hull and used to measure a ship’s load of sandalwood. (You won’t find sandalwood trees here anymore, though.)
Finally, we reached our destination: the Waikolu Overlook, where we had planned to park our Jeep and walk into the preserve toward the bog.
The 2-mile walk to the start of the bog was actually very pleasurable. We saw a few white-rumped ‘apapane (Hawaiian honeycreeper) and enjoyed the blue skies overhead. It was such a stark different from a couple of days earlier, when Moloka‘i was hit with thunderstorms and heavy rains. We were definitely appreciative of our good weather luck.
It didn’t take long for us to get to the start of the trail that traverses through Pēpēʻōpae Bog, considered Hawai‘i’s most ancient bog with organic matter deposits dating back 10,000 years.
Like the other two bogs we’ve hiked through, this one features a wooden boardwalk with metal tracks to keep you from slipping. But unlike the other boardwalks, this one was narrow and difficult to stay on. It was like walking along a balance beam for 1 1/2 miles.
The boardwalk, which took four years to complete, allows hikers to experience this unique environment without damaging it. You walk through so many different vistas, from dark, covered rainforest with ferns and moss-covered native trees to open-air expanses where you can see native birds flitting about. Such a breathtaking landscape.
Throughout this preserve, you can see flora like the ‘ama‘uma‘u (a Blechnum fern), pa‘iniu (silver lily), moa (whisk fern), pūʻahanui (a native hydrangea), pāmakani (a native violet) and mākole (a creeping ground cover).
It’s also home to a variety of fauna, including the pinao ‘ula (red damselfly), tree snails and the endemic Hawaiian happy face spider.
The last-known sightings of the extremely rare Moloka‘i thrush (oloma‘o) and Moloka‘i creeper (kakawahie) were in this forest region. And the elusive Hawaiian owl (pueo) can also be spotted here.
VERDICT: I’m biased. I love bogs. So the hike through the Pēpēʻōpae Bog was a must for me. But honestly, anyone would enjoy the unique experience of walking through a montane wet forest filled with native ferns, trees, shrubs and birds. And it’s not a difficult walk, either. If the roads aren’t potholed and impassable, you can park right at the trailhead and take your time exploring the bog. Check with The Nature Conservancy office (808-553-5236, [email protected]) for monthly guided hikes, which I would highly recommend. And bring a rain jacket — just in case.
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