Mount Alava was listed as being the tallest peak in the park, we couldn’t help but hike to the top of it. The trailhead was about 100 yards from the Seuli’s house and immediately turned into switchbacks heading up the hill.
For most of the hike we were encapsulated in the tropical rainforest. It was quite green and quite humid. It was strange though, because there were not a lot of animals in the rainforest. There were no major predators, so while hiking was quite safe it also meant that there just weren’t that many animals moving around. The rainforest was quiet and the only wildlife life viewings happened when we were able to pop out, get a look at the coast and see some birds and bats flying around. Right as we started hiking I saw a huge banana flower and it was the first time I have ever seen one in person, they are pretty amazing.
Some of the stairs and ropes to the top of Alava were essentially ladders, based on how steep they were. The construction was quite ingenious though. The ladder had been placed into the soil and the soil and surrounding roots seemed to absorb the ladder so that it held fast into the ground.
We were able to get to the other side for views of Pago Pago Harbor. Which was incredible, because we were so high up that we got an expansive look at the entire bay.
After arriving at the top we had the option to hike towards Pago Pago and take a bus back, or to hike down to the Vatia road. Being that the bus back to Vatia only leaves once a day, we opted to hike to the Vatia Road so as to not miss our only ride home if we mistimed things. We could also see Vatia from our vantage point, so it made sense to walk back ourselves.
We zig-zagged down the mountain and the steps back from Mount Alava to the Vatia road and came across some National Park signage describing plate tectonics and the formation of islands, as well as many of the different plants and animals present on the island. There was also a short trail out to a ‘star mound’, which is an ancient and not fully understood part of Samoan culture that has something to do with chiefs catching birds in a basket as a means of competition. We hiked the short half-mile trail not expecting to see much, until we came across some of the most pristinely blue tide pools that I have ever seen.
We were on the far right side of Vatia bay and hiked down the rocks until we were just above the pools. The problem was that the current and tides were absolutely ripping. Every several minutes a swell of water would push up an additional 20-30 feet and flow over the rocky edge into the tide pools.
You could easily jump into incredibly deep pools. But, unfortunately, hiking the rocky edge was the only to walk back across the rocks to get back to our stuff. The ocean was inspiringly powerful. When the surge roared up the rocks and expelled frothy, foamy water into the pools and then quickly retreated back to where it looked like it was sucking the water deep into the ocean. It was creating a three to four foot continuous wave while water retreated to regain its mass and strength and then it would come crashing back into the rocks.
While Mount Alava gave us some impressive views of the island, the sheer force of the waves contrasted with the beauty of the tide pools caused me to reconsider my previous thoughts that most short trails were quite boring. It gave us views, both up close and far away that spoke to the beauty of the island.