Walk for the Wild at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge


October 5, 2024 

Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge will host the 3rd Annual WALK FOR THE WILD on October 5, 2024. WALK FOR THE WILD is a unique opportunity to visit a magical destination on MaunaKea with a dozen stations along the limited access 5K Pua Akala loop sprinkled with knowledgeable biologists, botanists, entomologists, and other natural history interpreters. Those of you not able to attend in person, can register and walk 5k wherever you are, and celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week from a distance.

While participation is FREE, you can support the Friends of Hakalau Forest NWR by donating to our team by checking the donate option.

In 2023, registration was capped at 500 registrants which were filled up in September, so please register early.

Registration will go live on August 28th – check back here then!

Walk for the Wild

Please contact Susan Miyasaka (volunteer coordinator) at miyasaka@hawaii.edu if you are able to help. She will send you a google form for you to fill out where you can indicate your job preferences or willingness to be assigned to any job.

We need many volunteers for:


Gate duty – You will be assigned a shift and will be free to enjoy the walk and the exhibits when not working. The first shift will need to arrive early to manage the Mana Rd gate for the other volunteers and exhibitors. Then their job will be to help the Walker participants park along Mana Rd until the Mana Rd and interior gate officially open at 9am. All participants will need to be off the refuge at 3pm.

Volunteers will be working in groups of 2 at each gate so no one is manning a gate by themselves. Radios will be available at each gate to communicate with the other gate and the parking crew near the barn.

Parking– A briefing will be given after the introduction for volunteers at 8 but before the event is open to the public at 9 am.. You will be assigned to a shift. Your shift will involve standing for 2-3 hours, rain or shine – please come prepared for all weather. When not working you will be free to enjoy the walk and the exhibits.

Each shift will help the participants by directing them to parking spaces and helping them reverse into the spaces either at the barn parking area or the overflow lot. They will also welcome the Walkers and help point out the locations of the exhibit area and where the walk starts. The first shift will help park the crush of early arrivers. The last shift will help coordinate the people leaving so no cars meet going in opposite directions on the one way road into the refuge. The coordinators will have radios to communicate with the gate crew.


T-shirt sales – A briefing will be given before sales start to familiarize everyone with merchandise available, assignments in the booth, processes and other information. You may be involved in some or all of the following roles:

  1. Assist with setup and tear down.
  2. Greet visitors warmly.
  3. Assist customers as needed answering questions about merchandise and pricing.
  4. Handle sales transactions. Instructions will be advised for cash, credit card, or digital sales transactions.
  5. Handle on-site pre-sale merchandise pickup
  6. Keep the booth organized, help out where needed.
  7. Be courteous and patient and cheerful and flexible.
  8. Give suggestions and advise any issues as they arise.

Have fun!

Note: All participants will have time to complete the walk before/after their shift.

2023 Walk for the Wild Flyer

The National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) is the largest system of public lands and waters in the world. Home to thousands of iconic wildlife species and the backdrop to some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities on earth, NWRS sites are located in all 50 states and are mostly within a couple of hours’ drive from metro areas. There are 588 National Wildlife Refuges across the US, including 11 within Hawaii, 2 units of which are on the Big Island (Hakalau Forest Unit and Kona Forest Unit), the only refuges in Hawaii protecting native forest birds.

WALK FOR THE WILD went nation wide in 2022 as a signature annual event to coincide with National Wildlife Refuge Week, observed the second week of October.


Gifts made through WALK FOR THE WILD are administered under contract with NWRS. All donation receipts will be issued by Public Lands Alliance. By donating to Team Friends of Hakalau Forest, your gift will go to FOHF to help support this unique habitat.. In 2022, FOHF received over $7,300 in donations through WALK FOR THE WILD.


For the Second year in a row, Team Friends of Hakalau Forest NWR outdistanced the other 46 Refuge Friends Teams from around the Nation in celebrating National Wildlife Refuge Week with a special 5K WALK FOR THE WILD.

Just short of 500 “Walkers” were treated to a spectacular day guided by two dozen natural history experts along the Pua Akala Track of the Hakalau Forest NWR. Walkers boots were cleaned by Pat Hart’s UH Hilo LOHE Lab under the watchful eyes of and with materials provided by JB Friday from the ‘Ōhi‘a Love (ROD) initiative.

Ten natural history exhibitors also unpacked the mysteries of Hakalau’s forest and it’s over a dozen threatened and endangered native birds and plants. Over a half dozen Refuge Service personnel were on hand to mix with Walkers and to proudly talk story regarding the Treasures of Hakalau’s forest under their protection. All for FREE!!! Nothing can compare to this experience, which began at the 6,500 foot elevation off Mana Road.

None of this would have happened if it weren’t for the 80 or so Friends volunteers chaired by Ken Kupchak, herded by Dick Wass, Day of the Event Coordinator, Patty Kupchak, National Registration Coordinator and co-honcho with Susan Miyasaka on exhibitors, publicity, and volunteers. Cathy Lowder covered the Friends’ Tent gathering place, Don Wier and Pippa Swannell managed the parking of 190 cars. Layne Yoshida’s gate crews handled single lane comings and goings through two gates, and Jack Jeffrey wrangled our expert guides.

Leah Messer, the Refuge’s Volunteer Services Coordinator, interfaced with us at every turn and in every way. Bruce Dempsey, Refuge Maintenance Chief, prepared the grounds and ensured that support services were in place. Tim Cusack, Service Pacific Basin Security Chief was not only a visible force on site, but he also teamed with volunteer Dr. Judith Lively to provide EMT support. Laura Beauregard, Acting Pacific Basin Chief of Refuges and Monuments, flew in from Honolulu to walk with all of us on behalf of the Service.

Eldridge Naboa, Nanea Valleros, and Lahela Camara beautifully lead us in oli and protocols to obtain permission from the forest to enter. And on this beautiful day, Springer Kaye, the Refuge’s Acting Manager, was there for everyone sporting the biggest smile in this special forest!

Once more, as we watched the Walkers depart, each face was smiling, hands were waiving, and each and every one sent their mahalos as they left our special forest. Reward enough and then some. Mahalo to each and every one of you, whether you be walker, volunteer, or staff- see you and your many new Friends again in 2024 as we try for a NATIONAL THREE PEAT!

Click on the images below to enlarge view.

Please watch and share the 2022 WALK FOR THE WILD celebration video – we’re excited to share our success stories. Be sure to check out one of our valued FOHF Board Members and WFTW Team Leader, Ken Kupchak, talking about the 2022 Hakalau Forest NWR WFTW experience at 7 min 25 sec.

Nene Goose. Photo by Dean Masutomi
Sunday Morning at Hakalau Forest. Photo by Dean Masutomi
Hawaii ‘Akepa. Photo by Jack Jeffery
‘Ōhi‘a (ohia), photo by J.B. Friday
Photo by Lauren Gutierrez
Ma‘ohi‘ohi (Stenogyne calaminthoides). Photo by Dean Masutomi