3,160-foot Lata Mountain in American Samoa
Talofa! Welcome to the heart of the South Pacific, to a world of sights, sounds, and experiences that you will find in no other national park in the United States. Located 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii and 4,800 miles from the U.S. mainland, this is the most remote U.S. national park, and the only one in the southern hemisphere. This park is closer to Australia and New Zealand then to Hawaii. Lata is the highest peak in the National Park of American Samoa and the U.S. territory of American Samoa. This photo essay should whet your appetite for far-flung adventures.
|All photos are by Gerry Roach unless otherwise indicated|
|The looming bulk of Lata Mountain as seen from Ofu Island
Lata rises above a unique, wave-pounded shoreline where you can find coral and lava intertwined. A few feet inland on Lata’s lower, sunlit slopes, the peak’s rainforest steams in a greenhouse profusion. Higher, nearly perpetual clouds drop up to 300 inches of rain a year on the summit.
|This is what the route up Lata Mountain looks like. Ahem, this is an easy section
While close to paradise, the trek to this summit is not easy. Typhoon Olaf in April, 2005 passed close to the east shore of Ta’u and the resulting toppled trees make the already arduous bushwhack an even slower affair.
|Ron Richardson preparing to bivouac at 2,500 feet on Lata Mountain
The hike is normally done in two days with one night spent on the mountain
|Our machete men preparing to bivouac at 2,500 feet on Lata Mountain
The hike requires much machete work, so plan on hiring locals to help you and on progressing at “machete speed,” which is 200 vertical feet per hour.
|Burt Falk on the true summit of Lata Mountain
There is a map error near the summit. Lata’s highest point is 0.2 mile southeast of the map’s spurious 3,160-foot contour
|After the climb, Burt Falk enjoyed the sea breeze on Tufu Point at the southeast corner of Ta’u
The pounding surf at Tufu Point will help you appreciate your position on a tiny South Pacific island thousands of miles from any continent.
|Welcome to Ofu
The national park’s Ofu Unit is small, but one of the world’s most remarkable destinations.
|Samoan splendor on Ofu|
|Watch out for falling coconuts|
|Ofu’s Sunuitao Peak at the end of the park beach
Olosega Island is on the right
The park’s Ofu Unit protects a sanguine beach and coral reef on Ofu’s southeast shore that National Geographic proclaimed the third best beach in the world
|Gerry’s solo tracks on Ofu’s park beach
In 2005, Gerry was able to walk the 2-mile length of this beach without seeing another person.
|The greatest glory is just below the water’s surface
Walk into the water with a mask and snorkel, and simply put your masked face into the water for views of coral that will quickly boggle a landlubber’s senses
|Remember well the reef|
|Leolo Ridge leading to Tumu Mountain, Ofu’s highest peak|
|Matafao Peak, Tutuila’s highest peak|
|Aoa beach on Tutuila|
|Pago Pago’s inner Harbor from the top of Alava Mountain
Alava Mountain is the highest peak in the national park’s Tutuila Unit. The park service maintains a trail up Alava Mountain, and it is the only significant, maintained trail in this national park. This hike reciprocates for the onerous bushwhack up Lata Mountain.
|Taking a day off from his duties at Tisa’s Barefoot Bar, Candyman descends Alava’s east ridge barefoot|
|Candyman enjoying his backyard rainforest while descending Alava’s east ridge|
|Eel City 2,000-feet below sea level on the underwater slopes of
Mount Nafanua a mere 24 miles east of Fitiuta on Ta’u
Photo courtesy of Hubert Staudigel, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego, CA
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Copyright © 2001-2021 by Gerry Roach. All Rights Reserved.