John Morgan, Kualoa Ranch Manager, On Hawaii’s Hiking Highs

Dawna L. Robertson Cigarette aside, John Morgan is the definitive Hawaii Marlboro Man. He knows his spread like the back of his hand. A sixth-generation descendant of Dr. Gerrit P. Judd a missionary dentist who befriended King Kamehameha III Morgan today oversees the land that Judd purchased from th

By: Dawna L. Robertson

Cigarette aside, John Morgan is the definitive Hawaii Marlboro Man. He knows his spread like the back of his hand.

A sixth-generation descendant of Dr. Gerrit P. Judd a missionary dentist who befriended King Kamehameha III Morgan today oversees the land that Judd purchased from the king in 1850. Growing up in a beachfront home at what is now Kualoa Regional Park, he reveled in this Windward Oahu wonderland.

An avid horseman, Morgan roams the verdant valleys of 4,000-acre Kualoa Ranch on his handsome quarterhorse, Flash. Yet in his free time, he prefers hoofing it on his own, hiking throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

His early accomplishments included Haleakala on Maui when Morgan was eight, as well as Oahu’s famous “Stairway to Heaven” thriller numerous times as a teen. Today, that 3,992-step challenge is officially closed due to safety issues.

A graduate of Honolulu’s Punahou School, Morgan set off with a group of classmates to scale Mount Rainier in 2005. The arduous trek became one of his proudest achievements.

“From our group of seven, five of us made it to the top,” he said.

When training for the ambitious trek, Morgan relied on his Hawaii trail savvy to prepare for the challenge. His picks for steepness are trails in Punaluu and Kahana, just north of Kualoa Ranch, and a rigorous Koolau Summit hike.

Morgan also enjoys the popular twin peaks of Olomana, off the Pali Highway heading toward Kailua Town.

“It’s a great hike, but it’s medium to difficult in a few spots,” he said.
While this is no great obstacle to Morgan, beginners should take note. For those just getting into ped power, he recommends Maunawili also off the Pali Highway.

“It has the most spectacular scenery,” he said. “It’s an easy hike, and it’s very accessible.”

Geared to those into more mellow outings, Morgan favors the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail near Sea Life Park, Diamond Head at Waikiki and the Koolau Summit Trails above Waimanalo and Kuliouou near Hawaii Kai.

Driving his passion is the health aspect that tosses him into the heart of nature.

“There are so many benefits, whether spiritual or rejuvenating,” said Morgan.

He finds Hawaii adventures remarkable because the scenery is so unique.

As for neighbor island outings, Maui’s Haleakala Crater still ranks high.

“It’s just a fabulous place,” he said. “I’d like to do it at night some time.”
He also has fond Maui memories of Hana’s Seven Sacred pools with his kids and wife, Carrie.

“It has such a great reward with the pools to refresh in,” Morgan said.
On Kauai, he enjoys the lush jungle atmosphere of Kokee State Park, and “Hanakapiai is a two-miler edging the cliffs overlooking the Na Pali Coast. You see the ocean the entire time, so it’s hard to beat.”

But Morgan warns hikers to be prepared by packing the right gear for the trail.

When it comes to Hawaii’s Big Island, Morgan enjoys Pololo Valley. He also trekked to the summit of Mauna Kea as part of his Mount Rainier training regime.

“It’s a long trudge, but it’s absolutely beautiful because you’re at the top of a volcano,” he said.

While Morgan always gets a rush from “Flash-ing” across the ranch atop his trusted horse, he still finds an uplifting power from exploring nature and its countless wonders on his own two feet.

RESOURCES

Hawaii’s Division of State Parks:
Manages popular picks like Diamond Head, Akaka Falls, Iao Valley, Palaau, Kokee and Kalalau www.hawaii.gov/dlnr/dsp/dsp.html

Na Ala Hele: Manages trails and road systems within the State Forest Reserve. Provides descriptions, maps, difficulty ratings, conditions and permitted operators
www.hawaiitrails.org

Nature Conservancy of Hawaii:
www.nature.org/hawaii

Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter:
www.hi.sierraclub.org

U.S. National Parks: Haleakala Crater and Hawaii Volcanoes fall within the system www.us-national-parks.net/state/ha.htm

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