Hawaii Solitude on Molokai

Biking at the Ranch
  |  Gorp.com

It took some convincing to get me to Molokai the first time. After several unsatisfying Hawaii experiences, I'd dismissed the entire state as a marketing gimmick. My husband talked me into the trip by promising me 100 miles of mountain-biking trails. He showed me a picture from a tourism brochure of an impossibly happy couple riding along the edge of a pristine cliff overlooking the Pacific. I shrugged and said it was probably fake, but I was tempted enough to go along.

The entire western third of the island makes up the Molokai Ranch, an upscale resort that's the main draw for adventure travelers. From the center of "town" (which consists of a general store, a post office, and a restaurant), it's a 25-minute bus ride on an unpaved road to our corner of the island. The ranch is the perfect home base: The owners maintain an extensive network of trails (most of them singletrack), and accommodations range from a swank lodge decorated in understated paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) decor to canvas bungalows set on raised wooden decks near the beach. We set up in one of these "tentalows" for the week.

At the ranch's well-equipped bike shop, row after row of front- and full-suspension bikes line the floor, flanked by shelves full of optional gadgets. We chose two front-suspension bikes, screwed on some toe clips and water-bottle holders, grabbed a couple of maps, and hit the trails.

On other Hawaiian islands, the standard mountain-biking experience involves waking up at an unreasonable hour, getting shuttled to some very high place, and shivering along with dozens of other tourists who are waiting for the sun to come up so that they can snap a photo and begin the slow, crowded bicycle descent to the lowlands.

Not so on Molokai. On our afternoon ride, we covered 20 miles of trails and came across only one other biker. The ride took us down a short fire road and over some cattle guards to a fence, which we hopped to get to a long stretch of nontechnical singletrack called Keoki's Trail. It dipped into shallow canyons and curved around leafless trees that looked like giant nerve endings poking out of the blood-red ground. At the bike shop, they'd described this route as intermediate to advanced, but there were very few tricky spots. In general, the ranch's difficulty ratings seemed to overstate the challenge.

Even so, there was plenty of variety. As we rode toward the ocean, the trees became less sporadic until we were racing through a thick, spiny forest that ended abruptly at an ocean overlook. We stopped to look down onto a sandy beach with no one on it. In front of us, the Pacific disappeared into a distant layer of clouds. Waves dropped and pulled away below us; breeze crackled in the kiave branches. My husband smirked. He didn't even have to say, "I told you so."


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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