Walking the King’s Trail

Rather than spend the evening obsessing over election results I opted to take a hike. Nothing dramatic, just a short loop hike close to home, along the shoreline south of ʻAnaehoʻomalu Bay .

Looking north the Waikoloa Resorts along the King's Trail
Looking north the Waikoloa Resorts along the King’s Trail

The plan was to use the King’s Trail to quickly hike a couple miles out, then to take my time hiking back along the shoreline. I timed my start so that sunset would occur while I was coming back along the beach.

While this section of the King’s Trail is over 150 years old, it is in excellent condition and allows easy hiking across the lava fields. The trail cuts absolutely straight over the ridges and tumuli of piled rock, much faster than slogging through the beach sand.

I had hiked the shoreline here many times, but had not hiked any real length of the King’s Trail. The trail crosses the lava flows well above the coastline, as a result it can be brutally hot under a tropical Sun, while the shoreline offers regular shade and a cool ocean breeze.

This particular election day evening the Sun was muted by a broken overcast sky. Why not use the trail?

Hiking in this area offers more than pretty scenery. There is an abundance of archeological and historical sites along this section of coastline. The area was heavily populated in ancient times with excellent fishing and plentiful fresh water available supporting several fishing villages here. Along the shore there are house platforms and enclosures, canoe pullouts, and large collections of petroglyphs.

The surprise for this hike was a collection of historical remnants along the trail, well above the shoreline and in the middle of the lava plain. Something I did not expect.

Petroglyph along the King's Trail
Petroglyph along the King’s Trail

This particular section of the trail, or alaloa was likely built around 1870 as an upgrade to older foot trails that run closer to the shoreline. The very similar section of this trail much further south at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau is known to date to 1871. Interestingly a prominent petroglyph beside the trail at Waikoloa shows an 1871 date, possibly carved by someone involved with building this section of trail.

The first collection of archeological remnants along the trail is a large abrader quarry covering many acres. I had no idea this was here, so close to home. Examining the quarry was an interesting contrast to another ancient Hawaiian stone tool quarry I have visited.

In this quarry stone tools known as abraders were broken from the lava surface and shaped. Used for shaping and smoothing, an abrader is a bit like a sanding block or file, a useful tool in a culture that made almost everything from wood or bone in the absence of metals or ceramics.

Depressions in the pahoehoe surface made while shaping stone abraders
Basins in the pahoehoe surface made while shaping stone abraders

The coarse, scoriaceous pahoehoe lava found here was considered ideal for the purpose. The surface of the once smooth pahoehoe flows are shattered by repeated pounding with large rocks to break the rock into hand sized pieces. These broken pieces would then be shaped into the desired form by rubbing on the pahoehoe, resulting in hundreds of shallow depressions found throughout the quarry area.

The next surprise was a large ahu, a stone platform beside the trail at the southern border between Waikoloa and ʻAneahoʻomalu ahupuaʻa, or ancient administrative districts. This ahu is said to have been constructed by Lonoikamakahiki, a much storied ruler of the island in the late 1600’s.

ʻAnaehoʻomalu Beach Sunset
A fading sunset over the calm waters of ʻAnaehoʻomalu Beach

Besides the King’s Trail other more ancient footpaths crisscross this lava field. One wonders where they came from, and where they led. To the quarry, from a village, or some other destination. Creating a trail through the rough lava would require considerable labor, not something that happened without good reason.

In the end I spent so much time exploring the King’s Trail that my walk back along the shoreline was cut short. I barely made it to the water for sunset, and hiked along the beach in the gathering gloom.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i.

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