Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Aiea Ridge

This past November one of my old hiking partners came back to Hawaii to visit and stayed with my wife and I for a few weeks.  We were looking to do a somewhat short hike in (time wise) knowing that my wife had to work around 3pm and and we wanted to be home by around 1pm. We set off from the trailhead at the top of Aiea Heights drive at the Keaiwa Heiau state park around 730 am with the intentions of setting a fast pace (the parks gates don't open until 7am I believe).  We parked near the restroom area in the back part of the park and set off on the very popular Aiea loop trail.  We knew that the Aiea Ridge trail was around eleven miles round trip but figured that the mileage could be done alot faster than most people we had talked to had said it took them.  We began looking for the Aiea Ridge trail which juts off of the Aiea Loop trail. After about 20 or so minutes on the Aiea Loop trail we found the very obvious junction for the Aiea Ridge trail veering left and up, off of the Aiea Loop trail.  A very short time after this junction the H-3 came into sight to our right.  It was still early and the cloud cover was minimal making for a beautiful but very hot day.  We kept a steady pace and the trail was very straight forward from here on out.  It was gradual climb after gradual climb with a few steep climbs thrown into the mix every now and again.  After an hour or so we reached a small clearing to our right with some sleeping bags there.  Odd to me that very good sleeping bags were just left, but, oh well.  We grabbed some water, snapped a few picutures and on we went. 

Our next stop was about 30 minutes further along the ridge when we arrived at a peak with a huge grassy clearing, which was Puu Kawipo'o.  We sat down at this point and basked in the views and relaxed for awhile.  From this big grassy knoll we could see the top of the last peak we were aiming for and the power lines and ridge that lead to the true summit of Aiea Ridge.  We were stoked because we knew we were in for a treat because there was virtually no clouds in the sky.  We continued on at a quick pace but picked it up a tad bit in anticipation of the views that lied ahead.  A few more steep climbs up to a couple more false peaks and then we arrived at an enormous clearing with an incredible overlook of the windward side.  From Kaneohe Bay to the Kaneohe sandbar and all the way down to chinamans hat, the views were magnificent and incredibly clear.  We took a few minutes gawking in awe of the views and then quickly made our way to the right, towards the powerline towers, and towards the true summit of Aiea Ridge.  After about 5 minutes we had reached the "true summit" and once on the actual "KST" and on the edge of the mountains, the views were even more beautiful.  I wished we'd had the time to crossover to waimano on this day, being that the weather was so clear, but those days will always be available in the future.  We spent about ten minutes relaxing and talking about how beautiful the day and the views were.  We could see from Kaneohe Bay on our right all the way to Chinamans Hat and Kaneohoalani and Puu Ohulehule on our right with the Valley of the Temples directly in front and beneath us.  The views were absolutely breath takeing.

After plenty of pictures and some hydrating we started to make our way back down the ridge.  We didn't make the time we had planned on or thought we would but we arrived back at the Keaiwa Heiau parking lot around 1pm, with plenty of time to spare.  The hike could take a lot more or less time depending on who's doing it.  My buddy and I were incredibly impressed with the trail on this day.  The summit views were some of the best I have seen.  If the day is clear, this is undeniably one of the better ridges to hit, all though, it seems to be one of the ridges that is socked in with clouds most of the time.  All in all it was a great first hike with my buddy who had just arrived back in town.  We even managed to make time to stop on the way home to grab a few slurpees before heading back home and  handing the car over to my wife to go to work.  My final opinion of Aiea Ridge: A very fun and worthwhile hike with stupendous views if you go on the right day.  A hike every resident on Oahu must do but under the right conditions to see it at it's best.  Another great day on the trails and the following weeks would prove to be even better and more entertaining.

Directions to Aiea Ridge Trail (Keaiwa Heiau State Park): Coming from the airport, take Kamehameha Hwy. heading west.  Take the H1-78 E ramp toward Aiea/Honolulu.  Keep left to take the ramp toward Aiea.  Turn left onto Moanalua Road and then shortly after make a right onto Aiea Heights Drive.  Stay on Aiea Heights Drive for a few miles.  When it ends you will enter Keaiwa Heiau State Park and take the right fork towards the back of the park.  Park in the very back of the park in the stalls near the restroom area.  The trail starts to the left of the restrooms.

The entire Koolau Range was clear on this day

The H3 snakeing it's way through the mountains

The 2nd grassy knoll we came to, Puu Kawipo'o, which made for
a great spot to take a short break.

Looking towards the summit.  The
entire ridge is incredibly easy to follow.

Looking back towards the start of the trail with
the Waianae Mt. Range in the background.

At the enormous grassy knoll just before the
"true summit".  The power line tower and ridge in
front of us is part of the Koolu Summit Trail.

Just about to reach the actual summit of Aiea
Ridge, with the H3 visible on the left side of the
picture and the huge grassy knoll we had just rested
at visible on the far right side of the pic.

Another view of the H3

My buddy makeing his way towards me on the
summit of Aiea Ridge.

At the Aiea Ridge summit terminus.  Looking out
towards the valley of the temples and the Kaneohe

Looking out towards Kaneohe Bay.

Another summit view of the Kaneohe Sandbar
and Chinamans Hat with Kaneohoalani in the far
left of the picture.

Terminus of the Aiea Ridge summit and
connector with the "KST", looking out at the Valley
of the Temples.

Panoramic view from the summit.

Back on the Aiea Loop trail and almost back to
the start of the trail.

Reaching the very beginnging of the hike and the 
parking lot where we began.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Upper Makua Cave

Well, I haven't blogged in about four or five months but I decided a few days ago to try and get back into it.  I'm so far behind and I haven't even uploaded pictures to my computer from about my last twenty hikes.  I hope to get to some of my recent hikes very soon but for now i'm just gonna write about some of my adventures from last year.

Around April of last year my wife and I spent a beautiful clear day hiking in Waianae.  At the end of the day we decided to make the quick trek to Upper Makua Cave for sunset.  The hike starts just past the very well known "Makua Cave" on Farrington Highway.  The cave is nestled into the mountain a few hundred yards above and to the left of the more popular "Makua Cave".  Instead of parking in the pullout by Makua Cave, we drove about 30 seconds further along the highway and parked off the road immediately after the 15 mph speed limit sign. The trail starts pretty much right there.  It was insanely hot out and for some reason we decided not to bring water along since we knew it was gonna be a short trip.  Big mistake, because after a few minutes in the Waianae heat I was begging for water. The trail is very obvious pretty much the whole way and the incline is fairly steep for the majority of the short trip.  The ground was covered with crumbly rock but the hike up was pretty easy and tame, all though a little tiring.  There looked to be a trail going right to the cliffs edge so I followed it but it dead ended.  I backtracked and continued going up, where we found another trail going right towards the cliffs edge and towards the ocean.  We followed it for about five minutes and upon veering left around a rock face, we arrived at Upper Makua Cave.  There's actually two caves, the first being rather small but the second fairly large.  The views were outstanding, especially since it was an extraordinarily clear day out.  We found a goat skull in the large cave and hung out for some time, awaiting sunset and trying to avoid a few angry wasps.  We had to wait a rather long time for sunset due to the fact that the hike up  only took about 15 minutes, when we had figured it would take a good amount longer.  We didn't mind though and enjoyed the views from the cave while takeing some pictures and just soaking in the serenity of the place.

Finally the sun went down and we decided to head back  down to our car.  The sunset from the cave wasn't all that great and it wasn't nearly as good of a spot to watch the sunset as I thought it would be.  The view was kind of obscured but it was still nice.  This a great little hike though, especially for those who like quick treks with gorgeous views.  Due to the short distance, it's definetly a place I will always stop by every time I am in the area.  After arriving back at our car and not willing to call it sa day just yet, my wife and I stopped by a nearby beach and took a bunch of nighttime photos from the lifeguard stand and other areas and just enjoyed the peaceful quietness on the beach.  After a good amount of time we reluctantly headed out and back towards home with the only diversion between us and our bed, being a stop at 7-eleven for some tasty slurpees.

The initial, somewhat steep climb up

After heading up from the speed limit sign, we veered to the right and back towards the ocean to reach the caves.

The small cave and the bigger cave.

Inside the bigger cave, while Ryan sits outside to avoid the wasps.

Not wanting the day to end.

All alone to enjoy the beach at night by ourselves

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Waihi Falls

This past weekend my wife and I had planned to do a long ridge hike.  We went to bed early the night before and woke up around 7am the next morning only to be greeted by massive cloud cover around the whole island and some pretty heavy rains as well.  It was very apparent that doing a rige hike on this day would be pointless.  We quickly turned our sights to doing a short waterfall hike.  We drove towards the Manoa falls trailhead, parking in the neighborhood just before paradise park to avoid paying the five dollar parking fee.  We walked past the main parking lot and made our way to the start of the Manoa falls trailhead. 

I was surprised that we only passed one tour group an one other group on our way.  The usually crowded trail had very little congestion on this day, probably due to the steady rain throughout the day.  We quickly advanced on the main Manoa Falls trail to about the halfway point to the falls, when on our right hand side we saw a wide open clearing with a clear view of the stream forking.  We ventured down to the stream an then rock hoppe to get to the side an the right fork of Waihi stream, which was our intended goal for the day.  From the right fork we leisurely mae our way irectly through an up the streambed.  There didn't appear to be any trail so following the streambed up would be our best option.  The trail reminded me a lot of the neighboring Luaalaea falls hike.  I had no idea how long it would take to reach the waterfall from the right fork junction of the stream, but I was pleasantly surprised when after only about 15 minutes, the big waterfall came into view about 30 yards in front of us.  We headed up the final stretch of the stream until we finally reached the base of the waterfall. 

There was a tiny pool just below the base of the falls but it didn't get any deeper than a few feet.  I was rather surprised at how big this waterfall was.  I am not sure of the exact height but it appeare to me to be bigger than the actual "Manoa Falls".  The one negative about the waterfall was that it was a little tough to get a good picture of.  My wife and I spent some time relaxing an taking pictures but as the rain kept coming down on us, we finally figured it was probably time to go.  We made the quick jaunt back to the Manoa Falls trailhead.  All wet an cold, we jumped into our car, turned on the seat warmers that we seldomly have any use for, and headed for the nearest 7-eleven to consume amazing post hike slurpees.  While not the most amazing hike ever, it was short and sweet and the rain gave us just enough flow to see the waterfall in action.  All in all, not a bad day considering that our original plans had been ruined.

The fork in the stream.  The left fork goes to Manoa Falls and the right fork leads to the waterfall in the pictures below.

Having a little fun on our way back

A little vine swinging on a not so strong vine.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Moanalua Valley Waterfall via Kulanaahane Trail

Back in June of this year I turned 30 years old.  I would of course celebrate my birthday by getting outside and enjoying a hike.  Luckily for me, my wife would also have the day off of work and would be able to accompany me on this birthday hike.  It was without a doubt a birthday hike, being that my wifes birthday is the day before mine.  Being that we had planned to have some friends over for dinner that night we decided to do what we imagined would be a relatively short hike.

Our goal was to venture to Moanalua Valley Park and find our way to a waterfall off of the Kulanaahane state trail.  The waterfall flows directly off of the koolau summit.  We figured the hike would be about 11 miles, but due to some epically bad navigating by yours truly on this day, the trek was quite a bit longer than we had anticipated.  We started off from Moanalua Valley Park around 11am.  We made our way through the gate at the back of the park and began down the gravel road.  The gravel road seems to go on forever but after a few miles we reached a signed junction reading "kulanaahane trail".  This is where we would take a left and cross the stream and start on our main trail for the day.  Just beyond this junction is the start for the Moanalua Middle ridge trail.  For some reason I decided to follow the stream past the middle ridge junction and just keep heading upstream.  We came across a couple of nice swimming spots but eventually hit a mini-waterfall chute that blocked further progress and the stream had completely ended.  Above us was the Koolau Summit.  Deep down I knew I was going the wrong way the whole time but kept going further and further in the wrong direction for some reason.  With no other options having hit a dead end and obviously having gone the wrong way, we decided to backtrack and still give the original plan a shot, despite the fact that it was now much later in the day than we would have liked.

We made our way back to the Kulanaahane trail sign and this time crossed the stream and followed the obvious trail briefly uphill.  In no time we hit the stream and started on what would be one stream crossing after another for the next few miles.  I think it's something like 26 stream crossings in all, but I don't remember the exact number.  The trail was incredibly easy to follow.  Just as the sun was creeping through the trees and pounding down on us, we came to an opening with an amazingly clear and beautiful swimming hole.  We spent quite some time dipping in the unexpected swimming hole.  After drying off we continued back on the state trail and began stream crossing after stream crossing once again.  After a few miles on the state trail, we finally came to our last stream crossing.  This junction is crucial to finding the waterfall.  Instead of taking a left and heading up the trail that leads to the Kulanaahane summit along the KST we veered right and into the stream.  There appeared to be a trail but it was so overgrown that it was even close to being discernable.  We followed the stream and I somehow ended up in another streambed that eventually ran dry and I ran into another dry waterfall chute.  I turned around and headed back down stream a little bit, dropped down a little hill and found a flowing stream, praying that I was close to the waterfall and that we would make it home before to late of an hour.

At this point I could tell my wife was pretty upset and annoyed with me and my lack of being able to find the waterfall.  She began to trail behind me a little bit as I went ahead to see if this was truly that right way.  After climbing a few mini-waterfalls I came upon a little opening and could see a huge waterfall not far in front of me.  We picked up the pace a little bit knowing that we were a matter of minutes away now.  Finally we reached a wall at the base of the Koolau Summit and were greeted by a beautiful waterfall.  The waterfall needs a lot of rain to flow and we figured that it might not be going (it was more a hike to find it, so we knew the way for the next big rain), but luckily it was flowing just enough to make it worth the trek.  We hung out for a little bit taking pictures and getting wet in the little pool beneath the falls.  I'm not sure how tall the waterfall is but it was bigger than what I had originally expected.  After spending some time at the waterfall we realized we had better get going if we were going to be able to get home and prepare to have guests over for dinner in a few hours.  On the way out we passed some wreckage of what appeared to be an old plane that had crashed.  The hike out of the valley was very quick, now that I knew where I was going.  Once we were back onto the state trail, my wife and I took off, running all the way back to the gravel road and then continued to run down the gravel road back to the park.  I was a little embarassed when I realized how quick the hike could have been if I would have just gone the right way.  I wasn't upset though.  There's a sense of satisfaction I get from being lost but ultimately reaching my final goal.  All in all it was a fun hike and a great birthday.  We reached the park, jumped in the car and hurried home to get things ready for our friends to arrive, but not before one quick stop at 7-eleven to grab our post-hike birthday slurpees.

Nice swimming hole about 30 minutes into the kulanaahane state trail

Spending a lot of time cooling off at the nice swimming hole

One of the many small waterfalls further upstream on the trail

Heading away from the stream the trail became increasinly overgrown

Finally reaching the waterfall flowing off of the Koolau summit

Not much flow but still nice.  While it had been raining recently, it takes a good amount of rain to get this waterfall really pumping.

A picture taken by Leslie Merrell of the same waterfall after a few days of very heavy rain.