Interview with Dick Carlson: Dick’s Loop Trail at Lyon
Have you noticed new orange trail signage at Lyon Arboretum? Learn about Dick’s Loop Trail in the interview below with Dick Carlson.
When did you first visit Lyon Arboretum?
I came across Ray Baker* in about 1977, when I was walking my dog by the Lyon Arboretum and he was by the entrance picking weeds. I would walk past it on my way to Manoa Falls with the dog and just say hello to Ray. Mainly I went up Manoa Falls and other trails in the back of Manoa. Like most people I didn’t appreciate the arboretum or know what they had there.
I retired in 2001 and I lived nearby the Arboretum, it was easy walking distance from my house and my wife had retired earlier and was volunteering there, so I started volunteering in the micropropagation lab and then in the greenhouse too. I kept walking up to Manoa falls and then I noticed that Ray was looking for a “trail sweeper,” so I asked him what was involved. He wanted someone to put fronds, branches and debris into piles. He was already doing the main Jeep Trail (the wide trail that goes up the center of the Arboretum).
Can you share the history of Dick’s Loop Trail? Who else has worked on the trail over the years?
My wife and I did a lot of hiking, mainly with the Sierra Club and overseas in Switzerland. I got the Lyon Visitors Map showing the trails, but a lot of the trails on the map were overgrown. I spoke to Ray about the overgrown trails and about joining some trails together to make a loop. But at the time the ground crew was tiny, four people including Ray, and they didn’t have time for it. So I just kept going on those trails to find them and clear them.
When Ray passed away in 2010, Dr. Mashuri Waite was in charge of the grounds, so I asked Mashuri and he thought it was a good idea. Mashuri gave me the go ahead. Next came Liloa Dunn, we walked along the trail and he was okay with me continuing to do what I had time for. At that time I went one or two times a week. Then unfortunately my wife passed away in 2012, we had just moved to Kahala Nui, so now I have more time.
At Kahala Nui, “Deetsie” (Dr. Edith Hunter Chave) introduced me to John Hall (both long time HTMC Members) and then John started helping me to clear about once a week. I know absolutely nothing about Botany. Tylor Schwarze, is the current arborist and is in charge of the volunteers. So he has one of the volunteers, Bobbie Foster (HTMC Member) along with the Monday volunteer crew going up there and helping on the trails lately.
How did Dick’s Trail get named after you?
Lyon Arboretum was re-making their trail map and told me they were naming the trail after me. I suggested naming it after Ray Baker, but at the time they were planning to name a building or something more important after him so they wanted to call this trail Dicks Loop Trail. I am an old guy who wanders around and joined some of the trails together and they named the trail after me.
Just off of the trail there is a Ray Baker Memorial Tree and his boots are still on the rock near the tree and his shirt that he used to wear is buried underneath it. The visitors map shows the trails that Ray Baker put in. Ray was in the Marine Corp during Vietnam and then got interested in Botany. He became interested in Palms. The International Palm Society had their annual meeting in Hawaii recently and enjoyed visiting Dick’s Loop.
Do you have a favorite section of Dick’s Loop Trail?
Not really, but I stop every once in a while and look around and say, gosh, what a great place this is, what great Mana there is, you can feel it in the place.
An albizia tree has been poisoned recently, around the palms in the second valley and it is now dead but may take a while to fall down, so that section of the trail has been closed. So you have to go around it now.
Do you have a favorite tree along Dick’s Loop Trail?
Sort of. If you go off the trail and look across the 8 valley streambeds, there are several blue marble trees with nice patterns of the roots. Through the Weedy Ink Berry trees, I saw an interesting tree and cleared out in front of it, so now you can see this amazing tree that has all of these nobby roots on it and the trunk of the tree has nobby spots on the bark. It is an interesting, great, Blue Marble tree near the Mauka crossing of the 8th valley streambed.
How often do you work on Dick’s Loop Trail?
I used to go everyday, sometimes four days a week, but now I only work about one or two hours every day. Unless it’s raining or I don’t feel like it. I don’t go as often, but I still go and work on clearing the trail. I am working on clearing the palm grass now.
If you see this old guy who is sort of stumbling along the trail with hiking sticks, that is probably me. Feel free to stop and say hi, I love to talk to people along that trail and I can share a little about the history of the Arboretum.
In your opinion what is the best season or time of day and or season to hike Dick’s Loop Trail?
I sort of like it in drought conditions because it is easier to cross the stream. My balance has gotten worse now, so I use hiking sticks and I go slow. But I have no preference because it can rain anytime or be clear anytime.
How did the Dick’s Loop Trail get its bright orange signage?
I took Zak (Dr. Rakan “Zak” Zahawi), the past Director of Lyon along the trail and told him about these great trail signs that I had seen on the mainland. I found them online and bought an assortment of the orange trail labels to mark the trail. Tylor made the big wooden log trail sign with a chainsaw. I donate items that Lyons needs along with sponsoring some interns that work on the trails in the summers. When you walk by the bromeliad garden, you will see the beautiful trails they put in last summer.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
The arboretum is such a beautiful place and it is so unappreciated. Dr. Lyon was concerned about the rain water runoff as well as a danger of brush fires back then, because Manoa Valley was filled with scrubby plants and invasive grasses so he felt it would take too long to restore, which is why he ended up reforesting it. There was an interesting book that used to be at the giftshop that consisted of Dr. Lyon notes and letters. If you read it you can understand what he was thinking when he reforested Manoa for the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association (HSPA). By the way, although Dr. Lyon was aware of invasive species, he didn’t bring Fiddlewood, Albizia and Swamp Mahogany’s (Eucalyptus robusta) to Hawaii.
Dick’s Loop Trail is still a work in progress and I am very grateful to Liloa, Tylor and Bobbie for their support and for putting up with me.
For more information about Lyon Arboretum visit their website:
Lyon Arboretum Trail Maps (Dick’s Loop Trail is in Yellow):
Join HTMC on a club hike of Dick’s Loop Trail on Friday December 8th. Check the website hike listing for more details. Dick encourages hikers to use this trail, as foot traffic will help maintain it, although overuse of any trail can lead to issues, so like everything in life, in moderation!
*Although they share a similar namesake, the Ray Baker mentioned in this article, is not the same man as the HTMC Member Ray Jerome Baker who was a renown photographer, film maker and lecturer and wrote A Brief History of the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Corporation in 1960.
Please note: This interview was conducted via phone on November 14, 2023. All photos in this article were taken by Dick Carlson, aside from the trail signage and portrait.