A Tale of Two Hikes

Within a week from each other, I went on two hikes that were in some ways very similar, in others, very different. Here is the tale of two hikes:

On Monday, June 12, I hiked part of the Halemau’u trail on Maui in Hawai’i. Here is my post about that hike.

Exactly a week later, on Monday, June 19, I hiked part of the Fuller Ridge Trail on Mt. San Jacinto in Southern California. Here is my post about that hike.

For similarities: On both hikes I went in and out on the same trail. There were no circular options. On the first hike, I went in for 2.8 miles and then turned around. On the second one, I turned around at the 2.3 mile point, because it was the high point. Both hikes had a high point right around 8,000 feet. On both hikes I was on the trail for about three hours.

But the differences were much more dramatic.

Trails in Hawai’i are much rougher. Volcanic rock is sharp, sometimes brittle, and difficult to walk on. Even when the rock is smooth, like on boulders, it’s slippery and uneven. Volcanic rock does not break in sheets like granite, so surfaces are rounded. Walking on Hawai’ian trails requires actively looking at foot placement of every step, to the point where my neck would start to hurt from the constant looking down to my feet. This way, I also miss some of the views. Sure enough, a few times I’d look up and enjoy the sights while walking, and I’d promptly twist my ankle. Not a good idea miles out in the wilderness. Trails in California are generally wooded. Yes, there are rocks and boulders in many places, but foot placement is much simpler. You can look up along the trail and walk safely much of the time. That’s much better for the neck.

The fauna in Hawai’i is much reduced. There are bugs and flies, but not many, and I can never remember being bothered by bugs. While there are ants in Hawai’i, since they were introduced through human activity over the last couple of centuries, they are not everywhere. When you sit down for a snack on a California hike, you always have to be careful about sitting down near an ant nest. They seem to be everywhere, and ants are one of the main reasons why I never liked cowboy camping (sleeping without a tent). There are also gnats and mosquitoes from time to time, although that depends on the season. There are a lot less bugs in California than there are on the East Coast of the United States, of course.

In California, there are always several animals you have to be on the lookout for: Bears, mountain lions and rattle snakes. I have been lucky enough that in all the decades of wilderness hiking, I have never run into any of these animals, but it is always a worry and a concern when hiking. In Hawai’i, there are no snakes, and no native mammals, so no bears, mountain lions or any other predators. There were no mammals at all on the islands until sailing ships brought them with them, including domestic animals, and of course rats and other pests.

The Hawai’ian weather is tropical; we call it pajama weather. You can live in shorts and T-shirts all day and all night long. You really never get cold. That is different at altitude, of course, so it depends on the hike. Jackets and windbreakers are needed above 5,000 feet in elevation and vital at 10,000. But for the most part, it’s very warm. Although the sun can be brutal. Sun screen is a must. There are many similarities in California. The sun is also brutal most of the time, but it gets cold at night and warm clothes are necessary. California is essentially a desert, hot in the day and cold at night. So appropriate clothing is important.

I thought you’d enjoy this short analysis of two very similar, but very different hikes I was fortunate to do within just one week. The contrast struck me.


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