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Vol. 17, no. 2
April / May 2014


The Pioneers 

Story by Paul Wood
Photos by David Liittschwager

“Well, we won’t be needing binoculars,” someone says. The rest of us silently eye the towering mass of botanical entanglement called Waikamoi – a Hawaiian cloud forest on the mid-slopes of Haleakala. We’re on a quest to find native ferns, and more than a hundred species of Hawaiian pteridophytes reside in the forest before us. Our leader, the renowned naturalist Bob Hobdy, raises his voice (which is often just a mumble) and says, “As an old guy from New Zealand once put it, ‘This is a place where the hand of man has never set foot.’”

We loiter, adjusting our stuff, catching warm patches of sunlight as fast-moving clouds whisk past in the blue sky. This little sunlight feels human and kind. The trek ahead — there is no path—will involve pushing our way through chest-high grass, then slipping sideways into the thick of the forest, where the ground is a guess and the residents are all cool and botanical.