Monday, March 10, 2014

Lahaina-Pali Trail, Maui, HI

There's nothing particularly appealing about this trail when tracing its route on a map. It starts nowhere and ends up nowhere and doesn't seem to visit anywhere interesting in between. I can't explain why it attracted my attention but it offered a nine mile return trip and a reasonable amount of climbing. It therefore met my requirements as I worked my way back from injury.
On the initial ascent

I had planned to do this run earlier in the week but a spell of heavy overnight rain put me off. I didn't want to run through a potential mud bath and I was unsure about starting in the dark. On our final morning on Maui I took the opportunity to set out a little later and this was a wise choice.
Lahaina Bay with the coast road bottom right

The trail starts on the west Maui coast in a large pull-off sheltered by dense trees. This turns out to be the only tree cover on the whole route and various guidebooks advise on doing this trail early to avoid the worst heat. By running the trail I expected to be done well before the sun became a problem. As it turned out I got a refreshing "shower" half way through.
Looking back on the ascent - all runnable

This trail is part of a network of ancient Hawaiian by-ways. The ascent from Lahaina coast is steep and rock and the switchbacks enable height to be quickly gained. I passed a family after a half mile and they were aiming to do the route one-way and had someone picking them up at the end - I would see them again on my return.

Information board at the far trailhead - "The Zigzagiest Road"
I was able to make decent time on the ascent to the ridgeline. This holds the largest windfarm on Maui and the turbines were completely still as I crested the ridge and traversed to the top of the long, steep descent. And it is a very steep and rocky descent. Thankfully I was able to pick my way down by skipping across the tops of larger rocks and boulders and avoided the looser rocks on the surface, but this wasn't going to be an easy ascent.
Looking back from the top of the steep ascent - lots of cars heading from Kahalui to Lahaina

The final half mile to the trailhead was fairly level and I took a short break before the return trip. I had passed 4 runners ( two individuals and a pair) who were climbing up the steep descent but I wasn't sure if I would meet them again on the way back. It seems that most people either do the trip one way and have someone pick them up, or just run to the half-way point and return. I seemed to belong to the "idiot" section who does the whole trip both ways.
Two runners in sight climbing towards the halfway point on the way back

I wasn't looking forward to the steep climb but I was helped by having some runners ahead of me as targets. I thought I might catch the pair of runners, but they had about a mile start. I pushed hard up the steep section and then caught sight of them about a half mile above me. I eventually caught them up below the wind farm at the point where the other two runners were on their way back after a half-way trip. I quickly left them behind as the gradient eased and with the undulations I was out of sight.
Trail cuts up and right from the windfarm access road

Crossing a deep gulch on the final descent
Starting the descent to the car I passed the family who were still ascending. They were making hard work of it and it seemed to me that it was too tough a trip given the time they were taking. I left them some water and made a quick descent. In the Lahaina Bay I could see humpback whales breaching every few minutes. It was difficult not to be distracted and I had to concentrate to avoid falling over. With so few people around this wasn't the place to get a broken leg.
Descending to the trailhead at Lahaina Bay

This is definitely a recommended running trail. Despite there being no summit and no landmarks on the route, the trail is really enjoyable.

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