Monday, March 17, 2008

Kawai nui Marsh: A Hawaii Treasure

At one time, Kawainui Marsh was part of the Kailua ahupua'a or the area between the mountains and the ocean where the inhabitants lived a sustainable and self sufficient life. Today, it is the largest remaining wetland in Hawaii, and it is home to at least four species of endangered waterfowl: Hawaiian stilt, Hawaiian coot, the Hawaiian moorhen (gallinule) and the Hawaiian duck (koloa). The marsh is also a sacred place with several heiau or Hawaiian burial sites including the large Ulupo heiau (Look for an entry on this in the future).

The Army Corp of Engineers built a mile-long levee alongside the marsh to prevent flooding. Today, this levee is a popular place to take a walk in the early morning and evening. It is also a good place to spot birds and the other inhabitants of the marsh. Surrounded by the Koolau mountains, this lovely green space offers serenity and wonderful views of Mt. Olomana.

You can enter the levee from Kaha Park, at the end of Kaha Street, or from Kailua Road. Numerous ducks, including mallards, muscovies and Hawaiian ducks, hang out at Kaha Park, as they have got used to being fed. We don't encourage this, but I must admit that children do enjoy feeding the ducks.

Several community groups such as Ahahui Malama I Ka Lokahi work to protect the marsh. They organize service learning projects and educational hikes and seminars. Presently, a master plan is being developed to protect this natural, cultural and historical treasure. An article in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 2007 provides more information on the plan.

Hamakua marsh, an offshoot of Kawainui Marsh, is another good place to spot birds. Hamakua Marsh runs alongside Hamakua Road in Kailua.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Lanikai Bunkers/Pillboxes Hike

The short hike up to the pillboxes (also known as Lanikai bunkers) on Ka'iwa Ridge offers one of the most breathtaking views of the windward coast of Oahu. The first part of the hike is steep and very slippery due to the dry dusty ground. There is nothing to hold onto other than tall grass and a few bushes, so wear hiking shoes or be prepared to end up on your bum a couple of times on your way down. There is no shade on this hike - that is, until you reach the pillboxes, of course. Go early or wear lots of sunscreen and a hat (but hold on to it once you get to the ridge).

The two pillboxes were built by the military during World War II. Even before you get to the first pillbox, the view of Kailua Bay and the Mokulua Islands off Lanikai, is amazing. Once you reach the second pillbox, you can see all the way to Chinaman's Hat. We hiked up on an overcast day, but even then the view was stunning.

The trailhead is opposite Mid-Pacific Country Club on Kaelepulu Drive (off of Mokulua Drive in Lanikai). About 65 yards beyond the MPCC entrance is Blue Stone, a gated townhouse complex. On the left of Kaelepulu, just before the turnaround circle fronting the Blue Stone, a private driveway ascends the hillside. At the point where the driveway veers left, a trail that initially follows a fence leads to the top of Ka'iwa ridge. The trailhead is located in a residential area, so please be respectful of the residents.