Sleeping Giant Trail: Why do one trail when you could do both and fall on your ass repeatedly?


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I do believe the activity of hiking for me is mostly an exercise in drawing metaphors from the choices I make in the paths I take. As if the dirt line I walk correlates to how I walk the trail of life. The metaphor of my latest hike goes something like: ignore the clear sign to the top and go my own way which will include falling on my ass and double the lookout points.

A bit ago, I did the Sleeping Giant Hike in Wailua, on the East side of the island. I don’t know why driving an hour has kept away from that side of town, but it has, despite its beauty and variety of Hawaiian gems to discover. 

Breakfast First

Heading out in the morning, I had Sunrise Coffee food truck plugged into my Google Maps. I had discovered via someone else’s blog, that this was a decent spot for an açaí bowl, something I had been craving for awhile. I pulled into an empty parking lot and approached the line-less window. The kind woman greeted me behind her floral mask and after staring blankly at the menu, I ordered the only açaí bowl she said she had in stock. A few minutes later, the picturesque bowl appeared in the other take out window and I dove into the sweet honey, crunchy granola, bulbous blueberry, cold whip açaí concoction. Despite the ten dollar price tag, I do believe it was worth every spoonful.

NouNou East Trail

With the looming trail to wonder down, I entered in ‘NouNou East trail” into the trusted google maps and lurched down the road fifteen more minutes. (How did my parents grow up driving across the country with printed out Mapquest directions? I barely make it to my intended destinations despite the robot voice telling me exactly what to do.) From internet searches and a local friend telling me, one can hike to Sleeping Giant from three different directions; East, West, and along the Kaumoo stream. In the next four hours, I would come to know both the East and West trails because my dumbass refuses to read a sign and oblige its directions. But we are not there yet.

Lacing up the boots and applying a thick layer of sunblock to the face, I began traversing the trail. I chose the East trail based on advice that it was more of the moderate hike, compared to the steeper West side. The trail wound its way up, occasionally I fought to find my footing over the slick red dirt. The humidity of the forest and morning dew embalmed me in sweat. At different points, the view below entranced me; the Wailua coast, fields of green, clustered neighborhoods. I knew the payout of the two miles up hill would be the grand panoramic views at the summit.

Except, I made a classic blunder of mine. I came to a T on the trail with a sign. Despite clear arrows that said “NouNou West trail” to the right, I disregarded knowing I was to follow the East trail, and I went West. So now, after climbing two miles up, I stupidly began going down the the backside of the mountain. Who knows what I was thinking, because logic does not always prevail in my head, and it wasn’t until an hour later, falling on my bum twice, and walking through a pine tree enchanted forest, did I come upon a trail sign that said “.5 miles” and realized what I did.

Covered in mud, I turned around, chuckled at myself, and headed back up. The West trail was steeper in portions and much muddier. At one point, the trail got away from me and I was on my hands, digging my boots into the slippery slope mud. Grabbing onto the eucalyptus trees rooted into the ground, I managed to right myself and keep on, keeping on.

Sleeping Giant Summit

After coming up the East side, back down the West trail, up again, I came upon the illusive sign again and went left this time. Within ten minutes, a mere quarter mile from the top, passing a picnic table, I lunged the final stretches. Coated in mud and sweat, I sat at the top of Sleeping Giant and was mesmerized by the panoramic views as promised.

The Legend of Sleeping Giant

With an easy Google search, I discovered the legend of Sleeping Giant. According to the Hawaiian Islands website, “One of the legends says that a gentle giant named Nunui created deep holes wherever he stepped, helping farmers with places to plant their crops. The chief of the area wanted to gather rocks and ohia logs from the uplands to build a heiau, and Nunui was happy to help. When it was completed, Kukui Heiau was notable for the huge stones used to build its walls, thanks to the help of Nunui. To thank him for his efforts, the people prepared a huge feast for Nunui. After he enjoyed the feast and the company of the people, he laid down to rest and has yet to awake.”

I appreciate the legend; Be helpful, throw a party, and then take a long ass nap. I myself, knew that after a muddy morning of hiking, a nap was much needed. Descending back down, overthinking a pig snort and playing out being gored to death by a pig, and finally reaching the car, I then made my way to the closet beach park and stretched my legs out under a shady palm tree in my hammock.

Maybe hiking is just hiking, a rutted path to the top, stomped along by many before me and many to come. And maybe hiking is the carving out of a mentality; that sometimes the adventure is is in the misadventure, the growth is in going the wrong way.

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