Hawaiian Hummingbirds and Bigfoot in Makiki

Over the weekend, Michelle and I hiked the gorgeous Makiki Valley Loop Trail, located at the Makiki Valley State Recreation Area. It’s amazing to think we were only a few miles away from Honolulu’s epicenter and the busy streets around our home on Ala Moana Blvd. We were amazed at just how many ajuma’s (aunty’s in Korean) were out on this hike, blowing us by with their face shields and neat full-tilt hiking apparel. But then again, we’re right up the road from Keeaumoku…(since my lovely wife is half-korean/half-caucasian, I’m now more aware of these cultural things…).

Anyway, as we climbed the steady uphill loop trails–Maunalaha and Kanealole (the Makiki Valley Loop Trail is actually made up of three extensive trails for a total of 2.5 miles)–we would encounter and stumble across some unreal creatures.

As the beautiful singing of the birds–from above the treetop canopy–was serenaded down on us, out of the corner of my eye I saw quick flashes of color.

I’ve seen hummingbirds before up at my grandparents place near Yosemite in California; but in Hawaii nei? Again it happened, catching glimpses of orange and brown with black and white accents. I called Michelle over in disbelief.  Then, I pointed it out to her. There it was, hovering merely for a fraction of a second before darting off to the next flower. Wow! I was stoked to see such a sight; a first for me here in Hawaii. Once I got home I needed to learn more. As it turns out, while these creatures look like miniature hummingbirds at just under an inch long, they’re actually moths (Macroglossum pyrrhosticta), appropriately given the name hummingbird moths.

In Hawaii, we do not have hummingbirds, neither native nor introduced. I learned that Hummingbird moths move so quickly from petal to petal that I had to anticipate where they were going next in order to photograph them.  They’re lightning quick, beating their wings at what must be well over a thousand times per second.

As we continued our trek around the loop, we encountered some major exposed tree roots, which coupled with the lengthy uphill sections and some very steep drop offs on multiple sections of the trail made it a bit hairy.  And of course, there are no fences or barriers, one misstep can be dangerous.

This challenging, little adventure which is just a hop, skip and jump away from Oahu’s concrete jungle left us a bit tired, but very satisfied and revitalized. After three hours of busting it, I was a spent and ready to head home. At just about that time, when we could see the finish line and were around the bend from our car, I looked to my left and couldn’t believe what I saw. In absolute disbelief, I thought I was hallucinating when I called Michelle over: Check this out!

Earlier in the day we ran into a hummingbird on this magical trail. Why not this, right? Furthermore, up until this very day, I had never heard of a Hawaiian hummingbird. Now what, a Hawaiian “Bigfoot”? (Well, the late Glen Grant’s book, “The Obake Files: Encounters in Supernatural Hawaii”, makes me rethink it. He chronicles a story from a teacher from the town of Wahiawa, where she grew up. She had heard many times the strange stories told by people who try to drive the Kaukonahua Road from Wahiawa to Waialua–the two-lane, winding road through the pineapple fields. As they drive the lonely stretch of road, they sometimes see a giant man lying on the road. This giant is named Aikanaka, she explains. The older folks of Wahiawa, she said, had many times seen this giant.)

As it turns out, sleep tight everyone, there is nothing to worry about in Makiki this day. What we were actually experiencing that afternoon was a Punahou School senior project in the works. Yes, the same school that produced our current and 44th president. Finally, I just wondered: Does their $17,800 a year high school tuition include the cost of this convincing, Hollywood-grade costume? Fun stuff!

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