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Paradise underfoot

The peaceful trails of Maui are a runner's paradise

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Peter Estabrooks running in Maui.

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Peter Estabrooks running in Maui.

Once you've tired of the sun, the sand and the surf, Maui is still a runner's paradise.

Its elevation, humidity and warm ocean breezes make any stint on your legs more like an adventure than exercise. Each side of the island offers spectacular runs; Paia Bay to Baldwin Beach into Kahalui, tourist central Kihei out to Makena Beach, along the Hana Highway, north from D.T. Fleming Beach to the view over Honolua Bay or an ultra-run on the wide paved shoulders up the Haleakala volcano -- it's all the same, beautiful.

For the avid runner, there are two necessary trails that span the incredible dichotomy and geology of the Valley Island.

On the dry side is the Lahaina Pali trail, 8.5 kilometres of rugged, scorched-earth power, scenery forever and awesome silence. Accessible via a parking lot on the Ukumehame side, the trailhead is easy to find by passing through the only tunnel on the Honoapiilani highway to Lahaina, going down the hill and pulling over to your right. From the first few steps on a hand-paved path, built hundreds of years ago, it becomes apparent this is not a sprint, but an exercise in focus and foot placement.

Climbing steadily uphill, the first three kilometres of the Pali trail winds in a labyrinthine fashion, removing you from the sights and sounds of civilization ascending into the quiet valleys, nooks and crannies of the island. Transported into a primordial peace and quiet points, you are stepping on the exact spot where Maui rose from the ocean eons ago.

Before you can wrap your head completely around that thought, a visceral hum and unearthly vibration pulls you out of your reverie and moves you from the beginning of time to a Stanley Kubrick 2001 moment as you gaze in amazement at the unbelievable magnitude and size of a single wind tower. The tower grows into a cluster of turbines and you crest the hill onto the Kealaloa Ridge, understanding immediately the tower placement when buffeted by the warm howling trade winds common to Hawaii.

From here it gets fast, the view of Maalaea harbour and Kihei easily draws you along a navigated dirt-packed downhill path along looping switchbacks that end in the Maalaea side parking lot. That's 8.5 kilometres of fun; a quick spin on your heels and with the wind at your back the return is almost easier.

High on the other side of the island the Makawao Forest trail runs a similar distance but a world apart. Head out of the cowboy town of Makawao towards Haiku on Piiholo Road, follow the sign to Piiholo Ranch then turn right on Kahakapao Road and continue onward and upward for six kilometres, pulling into the obvious parking lot.

Follow the wide path exiting the lot down to the trailhead. Start your run on the west loop along the winding, continuous, uphill trail, so silent the only sounds are your lungs working and your feet on the soft path, exotic leaves underfoot. Once the path levels out, massive trees and lush vegetation surround you, weaving into a thick canopy. Stay tight to the trail, avoiding Fong ridge (nothing bad, just longer) and finish the east loop, which allows you to breathe in the smell of the eucalyptus and pine as you pick up speed and rocket downhill back to the trailhead.

If you have time, turn around and run back for a fun finish.

-- Postmedia Network Inc. 2013


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 14, 2013 E5

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