Hiking an old historic Mt. Alava trail

Hiking an old historic Mt. Alava trail

After 2-3 weeks of consistent rain in American Samoa, the sun finally came out last weekend!

We wanted to get out of the house while still staying socially distant. Ian suggested an old historic trail by Mt. Alava that we could try, so we grabbed our hiking essentials (water, snacks, and my camera), and got Yodi in the truck and headed east. I’ll spare you the details on how to get there (for now) since the national park is still working on the trail and it’s still technically closed to visitors, but once it officially opens up, it’s going to be awesome.

Yodi and Ian led the way, and Ian shared some of what he had learned about the trail.

It’s said that the trail was used centuries ago when the invading Tongans ruled over Samoa, and Pago village had relocated up to the mountains.

We hiked slowly through the saturated forest. We started around 11am, the skies were finally blue, and we were in no rush.

I wandered around frequently, looking at all the beautiful plants and tall trees, excited whenever I could identify a few of them, like these abundant and beautiful tī plants.

This spot, where the trail crosses these trees, was my favorite. Standing in between the tree trunks, feeling the cold breeze, and the ferns on the ground made reminded me a bit of our trip to New Zealand. It was a nice little escape, and change of scenery for us.

Midway through our hike we stopped for a water break for ourselves and Yodi, and looked out at a great vantage points of coastal Pago Pago and the stream delta that flows into the harbor.

Might be hard to tell from this photo, but you can see my foot, and just a few inches away, the trail drops almost straight down. I didn’t realize how narrow the ridge was until I took this photo.

The hike had some difficult parts. We hiked along the Alava ridge and in some areas found ourselves scaling across steep and slippery mountain faces.

Not pictured, but as we neared the end of the trail, we climbed two steep sections with the provided rope. I had to hold on to tree roots as I ascended the slippery slope, and alas — we made it to the top.

Up here, is where Pago Pago village had moved up to long long ago.

There is also an archaeological site where a starmound (or tia seu lupe) sits.

Early accounts tell of Samoan Chiefs who participated in the sport of pigeon catching and the English translation of “tia seu lupe” is “platform for netting lupe” – the large fruit-eating Pacific Pigeon. This prized food was a delicacy reserved for chiefs, who often gave them in ritual exchanges, but locals believe their star mounds probably held much greater social and ritual significance.

We hiked back even slower than we started, just admiring all the plants — the mushrooms, random seeds I couldn’t place, coconut trees growing in thickets at the bottom, and in weird shapes. It was overall such a relaxing and enjoyable hike. I’m excited to come back here again in the future, and to learn more history surrounding it.

Sunday Fun Day: Tidepools and Whale Watching

Sunday Fun Day: Tidepools and Whale Watching

There isn’t much to do

on Sundays in American Samoa.

It’s usually a day reserved for church, big to’ona’i lunches, and rest across the island.

Some friends from our “American Samoa Adventure Crew” Facebook group got together for a morning at the Vatia Tidepools, at the bottom of the National Parks’ Lower Sauma trail. We were running a bit late–our friends had just gotten out of the water and the tide was coming in. Of course, Ian jumped in anyway… so I made a GIF of him below.

After Vatia Tidepools, I got right back in the water at home. No photos but I snorkeled for a couple of hours with two other girls. Ian was hanging out onshore and realized one of the girls was swimming further out than she should have been. He kept an eye on her for a while and when he lost sight of her, he grabbed the SUP and paddled out to check on her. I stood on the treehouse and tried to find her white fins. She was caught somewhere in the waves, but it was difficult to pinpoint her a quarter mile away from shore. Ian must’ve had an eye on her just then because he held his arms in the air signaling to her in the wash. He put his nose to the waves and charged in. Soon he was in the water and she was on the board. They paddled out of the foam and made their way back to shore. She was totally okay and was a complete champ about it! She didn’t panic like I probably would have, and described the situation as if she was in a washing machine–getting spit up by the waves and pulled back with the currents. I’m so glad Ian reacted so fast to the situation! Things might have turned out very differently if he wasn’t there.


We showered, stuffed our faces, and hung out for about an hour, then headed over to Dustin’s place at Lealā. It’s whale season in Tutuila and Dustin’s got front row seats to the migratory giants passing by. Alanna and I were on our way to the seawall with our cameras in hand when we heard Ian yelling “WHALE! In front of you!” I was looking out further in the horizon and finally realized it was literally right in front of us, about 100 feet away from shore. We oohed and aahed over 3 whales that showed off their pectoral and fluke slapping.

Dustin and his guy gang were experimenting on some all natural wood coals. The kiddos were running around the yard making mud cakes. The lovely Ma’i grilled up some grub, and we watched the sky’s mood change to a warm soft glow. 

Just another Sunday Fun Day in American Samoa.