The History of Hawai‘i From Our Files: Hiking with the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club

HONOLULU Magazine emerged from predecessor Paradise of the Pacific, which began in 1888, fulfilling a commission by King Kalākaua. That makes this the oldest continuously published magazine west of the Mississippi, with an enviable archive worth diving into each month. Here’s a look back at November 1937.


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Hawai‘i’s natural beauty lies as much in its dramatic volcano-created ranges as in its well vaunted white sandy beaches and waters. In 1937, M. Elizabeth Smith took readers into the mountains with the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club, which had been formed 27 years earlier.


“A motley array of people is gathering at the corner of Hotel and Richards Streets, variously garbed in hiking trousers and boots, shorts and tennis shoes, with at times a malihini in a silk sport dress at which old timers look askance and give friendly warnings as to probable disaster. …


“Watch-makers and University professors, stenographers and tailors, naval officers and enlisted boys, Ph. D.’s and students, scientists and clerks—all bound together by a strong sense of humor and a love for strenuous activity and for the beauty of Oahu’s remote cliffs and gulches.


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“Each Sunday draws forth its quota of the ambitious: sometimes one dozen, sometimes three, usually somewhere in between, depending upon the weather, the difficulty of the scheduled hike, the vagaries of the human beings involved. One particularly popular hike follows the Waiawa trail along a fern-walled ditch, with dark red mountain apples juicy, crisp, abundant in season; wild ginger scenting the air with spicy fragrance; and cool lush greenness everywhere. Or there is the Kahana Saddle, a little longer, which winds along the summit of the Koolaus and usually promises a wild, exhilarating wind to lash one’s face while ocean and valley spread out at one’s feet in placid remoteness.”


SEE ALSO: The Ultimate Guide to Hiking on O‘ahu


Smith’s favorite hikes are Ka‘ala and Kalena, the tallest and second tallest peaks on O‘ahu.


“The ascent of Kaala is steep and follows a not-too-well defined trail straight up the side of the mountain. Frequently one is rewarded by broad vistas out over Schofield to the Koolaus and Diamond Head, across a world that dozes peacefully half a mile below, swathed in the nebulous haze of a sun-drenched morning. As one works further up the height, the way becomes muddy and slippery; giant ape-ape leaves thrive in the constant dampness, queer relics of ages gone by; ropes (renewed periodically by the Army) offer welcome assistance in the scramble over rock faces that are worn smooth by weather and heavy rains and are rendered treacherous by the accumulations of mud and the green moss that makes gray stone a thing of beauty as well as an obstacle to be surmounted. The top of Kaala is a broad swamp, oozing with mud and dense with low trees gnarled, bent, dripping with hoary moss that hangs in weird festoons from every branch. …


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“In between hikes, there are picnics and parties, weenie roasts and dances, dinners and week-end outings. But it is the Sunday morning call that remains the essence of the club spirit: and it is that spirit which sends forth its summons to any worshipper of sun and sea, mountain and open sky.”


The Hawaiian Mountain and Trail Club is still going strong 112 years after its formation, leading hikes almost every weekend. Most of the hikes, however, are for members only. To read more about the organization, go to


Hawai‘i’s first fire department was established on Nov. 6, 1850, and consisted of two volunteer brigades. Alexander Cartwright later became the first chief.


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Learn more about the evolution of covers in HONOLULU Magazine and Paradise of the Pacific: 125 Years of Covers, available at