Rising from the mist


POSTED: Sunday, June 07, 2009

Rose Gardner wasn't rich or famous, and she didn't live in Hawaii.





        » Meeting place: Hosmer Grove (just inside the entrance), Haleakala National Park, Maui

» Day: Third Sunday of every month (the next hike will be June 21). Reservations recommended; call no sooner than one week in advance. Hikes go out rain or shine; occasionally they are canceled because of strong winds.


» Time: 11:45 a.m.


» Cost: Free, but participants must pay $10 per vehicle to enter the park


» Phone: 572-4459 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily


» Web sites: www.nps.gov/hale (Haleakala National Park) and nature.org/hawaii (the Nature Conservancy)


» Weather: Conditions in Waikamoi Preserve and Haleakala National Park can change dramatically in minutes. Wear layered clothing, long pants and sturdy closed-toe shoes with good traction. Terrain is rocky, uneven and muddy. Bring rain gear, a jacket, a snack and bottled water.


» Restrictions: Hike is limited to 12 participants who should be relatively fit with no heart or respiratory conditions. Children are welcome if they can walk quietly with adults for four hours.


» Also: A free three-hour hike along the preserve's Bird Loop Trail runs Mondays and Thursdays at 8:45 a.m. Three miles long round trip, it is rated moderately strenuous.




But she left an indelible mark deep in Maui's Waikamoi Preserve, the pristine cloud forest in the northeastern sector of Haleakala National Park that she so loved.

The Nature Conservancy manages the spectacular 5,230-acre preserve and allows limited public access to it. Park staffers lead a monthly hike to and over a boardwalk that is dedicated to Gardner, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) in 1992 when she was in her early 40s.

Gardner managed grants and headed the human resources department for the David and Lucile Packard Foundation (David Packard was co-founder of tech-product giant Hewlett-Packard.). Based in Los Altos, Calif., the foundation encourages its employees to spend one week every year volunteering for a nonprofit organization.

TNC's Hawaii chapter, one of the foundation's grant recipients, was Gardner's choice. She came to Hawaii in 1990 at her own expense and set up a computer file system for pictures and documents for TNC's Honolulu office.

During that trip, Gardner also went to Waikamoi to help eradicate introduced plants that were overwhelming the native species. The following year, she returned to Maui to spend her volunteer week and part of her vacation working at Waikamoi.

“;She really loved nature and she really loved life,”; said Cole Wilbur, who was the Packard Foundation's executive director at the time. “;She saw the importance of conservation, and she was a dedicated steward of the environment.”;

Gardner's will directed that her modest estate be divided among friends, including Wilbur. Aware of her affinity for Waikamoi, he donated his $14,000 bequest to TNC, which earmarked the money for the construction of a 1,500-foot boardwalk that would enable visitors to see a magnificent part of the preserve with minimal impact.

Volunteers completed the Rose Gardner Boardwalk in July 1995. A few months later, TNC officials took Wilbur and other Packard Foundation representatives to see it. As they started down the trail, an amakihi (native green honeycreeper) flew in front of them, as if to lead the way.

“;The bird would wait until we caught up with it, then fly ahead again,”; Wilbur recalled. “;This happened over and over again. When we finally reached the boardwalk, the bird alighted on a tree branch near the dedicatory sign to Rose and stayed there for a few minutes.”;

Amakihi normally move quickly through the canopy, so for one to linger beside the group was amazing. Said Wilbur, “;It was as though the bird was Rose saying, 'It's good to see you again. I'm glad I was able to help build this boardwalk so people can enjoy the beauty I enjoyed when I worked here.'”;

Often veiled in mists that imbue it with a mystical, primeval ambience, Waikamoi provides a rare glimpse of what Hawaii looked like a thousand years ago. Its verdant forests support an incredible variety of native herbs, shrubs, lichens, mosses, ferns, flowers and trees, including centuries-old, 60-foot stands of koa.

Bird enthusiasts will be thrilled to spot the alauahio (Maui creeper), akohekohe (crested honeycreeper) and kike koa (Maui parrotbill), which only can be found on the windward slopes of Haleakala.

TNC launched hikes into Waikamoi in 1989; ranger Jeff Bagshaw has guided them since the National Park Service became involved two years later.

To prepare participants for their memorable rendezvous with nature, he requires them to turn off their cell phones and disconnect from the distractions of the outside world.

“;When you're in the preserve, you're in the real Hawaii,”; Bagshaw said. “;You're in a setting where nearly all the plants are native, meaning they got there via wind, wave and wing (birds), with no help from humans. That's a really different picture from the introduced species you see just about everywhere else in the islands.”;

From the trail head it is two miles—a good hour's walk—to the boardwalk through a forest of eucalyptus, Western red cedar, coast redwood, lodgepole and sugi pines and other non-native trees.

“;Many of them are invasive and considered major threats to the survival of the native species,”;

Bagshaw said. “;Settlers planted them around the turn of the last century in a failed attempt to start a timber industry. The trees look sickly compared to their cousins on the mainland, where they should be growing instead of here.”;

The farther you go into the preserve, the more abundant the natives become. By the time you reach the boardwalk, you are immersed in a Hawaiian ecosystem that is intact, healthy and functioning at its well-balanced optimum.

To Bagshaw that is the wonder of Waikamoi: “;It's like a full symphony playing in perfect harmony.”;



The East Maui watershed spans more than 100,000 acres across the windward slopes of Haleakala, the 10,000-foot-high dormant volcano. This vast forest is the last stronghold for 63 species of rare plants and 13 species of birds, seven of them endangered. The Nature Conservancy established a preserve at Waikamoi, in the heart of the watershed, to provide a sanctuary for these birds and for hundreds of other native Hawaiian species.

Located on land owned by the Haleakala Ranch Co. since 1888, Waikamoi Preserve became a reality in 1983 when management rights were conveyed to the Nature Conservancy through a permanent conservation easement. The preserve protects part of the East Maui watershed, which provides 60 billion gallons of clean water annually to Maui's residents, businesses and agricultural community.

The conservancy and the ranch work together to protect some of the best remaining forest in Hawaii. Waikamoi Preserve is managed in partnership with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Source: nature.org/hawaii


Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Bulletin have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.