This is the least Hawaiian part of Hawaii you've ever seen - and it
will rapidly become your favorite. Plodding softly through a forest
of koa and ironwood trees, the heavy footfalls of your horse are
almost silent on the thick padding of dry needles. The tropical sun
and the trade winds are shut out by the dense canopy. In the still
coolness, it feels more like Oregon than Hawaii.
"In fact, this is a very Hawaiian valley," says trail guide Mark
Becker. A professional polo player, he rides easily on his
Thoroughbred. "Much of the island once looked like this. In ancient
times, a sizable community lived here. You can see the tea leaves
they planted for cooking. We even have some petroglyphs on the
Twenty minutes into a rambling trail ride, you lope up and along a
ridge on Oahu's North Shore. Becker's Happy Trails Stable, a few
miles from the boisterous surf center of Haleiwa, is adjacent to
one of the island's largest temple ruins, or Heiaus (pronounced
hay-ee-ow). Three captured British seamen were reportedly
sacrificed on this site in 1793. Calmness reigns here now, broken
only by the snorting and shuffling of your mount as you climb the
same ancient pathways.
You emerge from the forest onto the ridge top with a spectacular
view of the Waimea valley. This used to be endless sugar cane
country. Now the cane has been replaced by coffee and alfalfa
plantations. The horses push through chest-high Pili grass, the
kind used to make hula skirts.
Soon you're back in the woods, looping around to the stables.
Becker reaches out to snag a strawberry guava from a low branch.
"We have fruit year-round," he says, passing it back. In a mango
grove you spy the remains of an old ranch house. A weathered tire
swing hangs from a massive Banyan tree, its rope hard to see in the
multitude of vines that fall down like a rain shower. A little
farther, an overgrown mound of rocks marks another ancient temple
ruin. The air carries the tang of fallen, fermenting fruit - the
smell of a Hawaii long vanished. AW