Friday, December 30, 2011

Ka'au Crater Loop

The Ka'au Crater loop hike is one that I've done many times and it never seems to get old.  Even though some of the mystique for this hike has worn off for me due to increased traffic on this trail over the past few years, it is still a hike that I will do at least a few times a year and enjoy taking my out of town friends to when they come for a visit.  The loop consists of following a stream in Palolo Valley to a few waterfalls and then circumnavigating around the rim of the little known volcanic cone that is Ka'au Crater and then heading down a side trail back into Palolo Valley where you started.  While I am not exactly sure of the mileage of this hike, it should take you around four to six hours to complete.  There is a few dangerous sections going up the waterfalls and the use of ropes to climb up certain waterfalls is necessary.  Along the summit ridge some exposure and narrowness also comes into affect, so while I do not think this is a very hard hike, one must still use caution and be a somewhat experienced hiker or in decent shape to do this.

The last time I visited this hike, I was joined by my wife and two hikers who had never hiked here on Oahu before.  We started by driving towards Palolo Valley and for Waiamao road (Directions to the start of the trail are at the bottom of the page) where the trail starts.  We parked At the end of Waiamao road where there was about six parking spots on the right side of the road, just before the private driveway (I would suggest arriving early to make sure you get a spot).  Directly across from the area where we parked was a shed.  The four of us walked past the shed and down the gravel road for about ten seconds until we saw a "KAPU" sign on the left side of the road.  This is where the trail starts.  We headed into the woods and down the steep and muddy initial section of the trail, to reach the stream.  Once we had negotiated the muddy section, we followed the stream upstream making numerous of stream crossings.  There were lots of ribbons and the trail was very obvious.  At any point in which the trail disappeared we just simply crossed the stream and the trail would reappear on the other side.

About ten or twenty minutes into the hike, we reached a massive water pipe on the left side of the stream.  From this point on we simply followed the water pipe all the way to the first waterfall.  Along the way were numerous of stream crossings and lots of mud.  The trail eventually narrowed (The trail was still pretty wide though, but a slip could send you slipping a little bit of ways into the valley).  This portion of the hike took us quite a while to finish, but only due to the muddy and slick conditions.  After treking for quite some time we finally heard the noise of falling water to our right side and the first waterfall came in to sight.  We took a faint trail down to it, being careful not to hurt ourselves, and then swam in the murky water for some time.  The waterfall is probably around 50 or 60 feet and the swimming hole is only about five or six feet, but the waterfall is a beauty, especially if it has been raining lately.

After hanging out at the waterfall for a little bit our group climbed back up to the trail and found a little rock face with ropes in place.  One has to be careful while doing this but overall it's a pretty easy climb.  Shortly after making the climb up and heading just a little bit further upstream we reached the second waterfall.  It was very similar in height to the first one and just as beautiful to look at.  A few of us climbed under it to take some pictures while the others took their packs off and grabbed some water.  This waterfall looks exceptionally nice if there's been a lot of rain lately, otherwise it's only looks sub-par in my opinion, but is still a nice waterfall overall, by Oahu standards. 

Once we had exhausted our time at the second waterfall we found a trail on the right side of the stream and commenced climbing up it with the aid of some ropes.  This was probably the most dangerous part of the hike.  Once we were close to the top of the waterfall there was an insanely narrow section you must negotiate to get to the top of the waterfall and the next part of the trail.  We all more or less hugged the cliff with our heels hanging over the ledge and safely proceeded across.  This part really is dangerous, and all though it doesn't bother some people, such as my wife, if one were to fall here it would either kill them or seriously injury them.  The problem with this section is that it is really narrow and if it's been raining is very slippery and makes it hard to cross without falling.  A few years back, I saw first hand how dangerous this section can be and almost had my best friend fall off at this section, so be very careful if you proceed past here.  Once to the top of the waterfall we crossed the stream and entered back into some trees and followed the easily identifiable trail for a few minutes until we reached the third waterfall.

Many people say there are three waterfalls here but in reality there are about seven or eight.  The last five or six being all the same in height.  Once we reached the third waterfall we grabbed the ropes and started climbing up the waterfall.  This is a totally surreal experience.  At points we were literally right next to the waterfall and climbing straight up it.  As we climbed we were careful to watch our footing and to not take a tumble.  A fall here could also seriously injure someone.  We kept climbing and crossed the stream a few times, only to continue climbing another waterfall, and then another waterfall, and then another.  After all the climbing, we ended up on the right side of the stream and made a somewhat tough climb (again with ropes) up the mountain and away from the stream.  Within ten to fifteen minutes, views of Ka'au Crater opened up below us.  It was a beautiful and we had no intentions of continuing around the rim, but like I said, it was a beautiful day, so we continued up the eat rim and towards the summit.

The climb to the summit was a little tiring and very steep at points, but just like the rest of the hike, there were plenty of ropes to aid in our ascent.  Once at the summit we all took a breather and then headed down an insanely muddy stretch along the ridgeline.  If one is affraid of heights this part might bother them, but overall is not to bad.  Once we were done sliding down the muddy section, we continued around the ridge line and headed for the west rim.  The trail is easy to follow and if you do end up going the wrong way, you will end up at Mt. Olympus, but if you just simply follow around the edge of the crater rim, you wont get lost.  As we headed around the west rim and crept closer and closer to where the stream was, we noticed an insanely obvious junction on our right.  It is almost impossible to miss.

After the long trip around the rim, we had finally reached our final leg of the hike.  We took the junction and followed the trail all the way back down to the stream.  It's not a short hike down, but when you get back to the stream there's a little pool that will greet you and that you can use to clean and cool off.  From here we followed the water pipe that we had followed earlier, except this time we followed it down stream and within twenty or thirty minutes we were back to the start of the trail and our car.

I always end this hike by driving right down the street afterwards and visiting the beautiful Mu-Ryang-Su Buddhist Temple.  If you merely look up, you will see the temple as you are leaving and it will be on the left side of the road just down the street from where your car was just parked.  Visitors are welcomed to enter and walk around and picture taking is allowed.  This is a must see place and I get a ton of joy every time I visit here.  I'll update this blog with the exact street that it's on next time that I visit, but I don't know it at this moment, and to be honest you should have no problem locating it as you leave.  No reason to say this, i'm sure, but be respectful if you enter.

Directions: Take H1 East towards Hawaii Kai and exit at Koko Head.  Turn left on Koko Head avenue and then go down two blocks and turn left on to Waialae avenue.  After two blocks on Waialae avenue, turn right on to 10th avenue.  Drive up 10th avenue and at the fork, take a right on to Waiomao Road.  Follow this road all the way to the end and park at a small turnout on the right with just a few parking spaces.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lunar Eclipse - Pu'u O Hulu - Kai to Uka (Night Hike)

A few weeks ago a group of three of us set out for Waianae around midnight to hike to Puu O Hulu for lunar eclipse that was suppose to start at 2:30 am that morning.  When we left our house, near Pearl City, it was pouring down rain but as we got closer and closer to Waianae the sky slowly started to clear and the full moon came in to sight.  We were just keeping our fingers crossed at this point that it would stay this way all night for us. 

Pu'u O Hulu is located between Maili and Nanakuli in Waianae.  I have heard many people compare it to Kaiwa ridge (Lanikai pillboxes) but the only real similiarity I saw between the two was that they both had pillboxes.  There are, I believe, five World War two bunkers stretched along the summit from the the makai side of the hike to the mauka side.  While this hike is short there is a little bit of scrambling required and a few rock climbing sections (there is a contour trail if one opts not to rock climb).  The ridge section is not very narrow but I could see it giving someone problems if they are affraid of heights.

Around 1:00 am in the morning the three of us who would be hiking on this night, arrived near Kaukama road and parked our car and grabbed our packs and headed for the trailhead.  I had decided to bring my huge ruck sack, filled with pillows and blankets and hot chocolate and food for when we got to the bunkers at the top, since I knew we would be hanging out up there for most of the night.  I also brought my big folding chair.  This seemed like a good idea but by the next morning I was really regreting this choice.  As we left our car and started the hike, we found a discrete trail and followed it.  Within ten minutes we all realized that we had no idea where we were going, and decided to just rock climb to the summit.  With my heavy pack and my chair in my hand, this absolutely sucked, and to top it all off, it had started raining on us.  Due to this random route we took, the climb up took us a lot longer than it should have.  As we were almost to the top, we came to what appeared to be a trail and followed it for about two minutes until we had happily reached the top of the ridge. 

Thankfully, it had stopped raining at this point and we put our packs down and headed toward the ocean along the ridge.  Once we were done checking that section out, we proceed back towards the mountainside of the ridge and headed for the bunker where we would set up camp and wait for the eclipse to start.  We arrived at the pillbox where we would hunker down for the night with about 15 minutes to spare before the eclipse.  We set up our tripods and pulled out the blankets and pillows that I had brought to keep us comfortable and then set up my chair.  The views down the coastline were absolutely beautiful.  The sky, which had been totally clear earlier in the night, was now starting to look a little nasty and I was positive that it was gonna pour on us.

The clouds obstructed our views of the moon for a short time but they did eventually discipate and we were able to watch as the moon turned a redish color while it was in the full eclipse.  We then were able to watch the whole ending of the eclipse, as the moon went back to being full and once again lighting up the night sky.  Thankfully, the rain stayed away and allowed us to keep our cameras out all night.  An eclipse was something that I had never seen before and I was incredibly thankful to have had this opportunity and to have had my wife join me.  My wife was going to be working a 12 hour shift starting at 9:30 that morning, so she really surprised me by toughing this one out with us.  Matter of fact, we got home just in time for her to shower and get ready the next morning.  She made it to work just in time.

Just before sunrise, we all packed our gear up and took off for the mountainside of the ridge.  As we were coming down our headlamps caught someones attention and they began shining lights at us (probably to see if we were okay).  This seems to happen on almost every night hike we do, and we have even had the cops shining their bright spot lights on us a few times.  At this point we turned off our head lamps and continued down the ridge.  As the sun rose we reached the first of a few rock climbing sections.  I opted to contour since I was carrying so much stuff, but my wife and our buddy decided to rock climb every section that we passed, and they commented on how each section was pretty easy and a lot of fun.  We got closer and closer to our destination but once again, I don't think we had any idea where we were going.  We made our way down the side of the mountain and then came to a fence, which we followed in the wrong direction, taking us an insane amount of time to reach our cars.  Once back to our car, we all rejoiced and were happy to be heading home to get some rest (except for my wife).  I am a big stickler for researching things thoroughly before I go and do them, but due to us choosing to do this hike at the last minute, our group totally winged this one and we paid the consequences by getting a little lost.  Lesson learned, and now we would be in a rush to get my wife to work on time and not be able to stop and get a slurpee.

Directions: I will go back and do this hike during the day and post directions then.  I obviously have no credibility when it comes to giving directions for this trail, at this point.  I will post good directions when I go back early next year though.  There are a few good sites with directions to this hike though.  Just google Pu'u O Hulu. 

Makapuu Tom-Tom

Makapuu Tom-Tom is an adventurous 4 mile ridge hike located on the eastern side of Oahu that starts at the Makapuu Lookout and ends in a little neighborhood in Waimanalo.  Makapuu tom-tom was named after Tom Mcguire and Tom Cadle, who rediscovered the old Hawaiian trail that connects Waimanalo to the Koolau Summit.  The views one will get of the stunning ocean colors along this trail are hard to beat. 

The Makapuu Tom-Tom trail starts at the Makapuu Lookout parking lot just past the parking lot where everyone parks for the Makapuu lighthouse hike.  You will need two cars for this hike because you will be exiting in Waimanalo via the tom-tom trail and will need a car stationed there to bring you back to your car at the makapuu lookout.  Our friends staged their car behind the 7-11 in Waimanalo (you can park in the neighborhood in Waiokeola, right where the trail ends also, but the residents over there tend to get a little testy) and then we drove them back to the makapuu lookout where the rest of our crew was waiting for us to begin the hike. We darted straight across the road at the lookout. Once on the other side of the street, a faint trail became clearly visible. If you can not see it just head towards the fenceline that hugs the cliffs edge to the right and follow the fenceline to the top of the hill. Immediately after reaching the top of the hill beautiful views of manana (rabbit) and kaohikaipu island and makapuu beach came into view. The colors of the ocean amazed us and yet they just got better and better as the hike went on. Once at the top of the hill we headed right and towards the cliffs edge and picked up a faint trail. The trail is kind of hard to find at points but as long as you remember to stay near the cliffs edge you shouldn't get lost and the trail should always come back into view.

This hike has a lot of ups and downs and is pretty long (four to seven hours, so bring plenty of water and food) but overall it is not all that taxing on the body. Not to long after we started following the ridgeline along the cliffs edge we arrived at a puka (hole in the rocks). A few of us climbed inside of it and took some pictures, but I would suggest being very careful if you do this, for if you fall it will certainly not be a good outcome. Views from the rocks above the puka and picture taking from this point are great. From the puka we followed the trail as it periodically narrowed to our right and began climbing up a rock face to the next peak that was visible. There are a few different routes that one can take and on this day we all seemed to be going our own way and climbing up the rock face at the same time from every which angle. The climbing is not very technical and is more fun than challenging. In Stuart ball's "The Hikers Guide to Oahu" he writes that the Makapuu tom-tom trail is for those that love to scramble. He could not have been more right.

After a little bit more climbing and scrambling we all finally arrived at a platform with green astroturf on it. This is the hang glider launching pad. The hang gliders will often come to this very spot and then jump off. Kind of crazy if you ask me, but they seem to enjoy it. It's awfully cool to see them gliding through the sky but there is no way you could get me to jump off that little platform. From the launching pad platform we walked down the concrete steps and were greeted by an access road. Once on the access road we walked towards the top of the road and when we saw a huge concrete slab (on our right side) we took a right and headed for the cliffs edge. Just after making the right there was a little fence that we all had to maneuver around to get back on to the trail. If you are affraid of heights you will absolutely hate this part. Everyone in our group but one of us managed this part with no trouble and then we slowly coaxed our other friend to the point where we were waiting for him at.

Once we had safely maneuvered around the gate we followed the easily identifiable trail and next we came to an old missile site that is now used as a cell phone tower site. We saw a set of stairs and headed up those stairs after playing at the missile site for a few minutes. All of the old, tall military structures make this part of the hike very interesting. The trail from here is easy to follow and the next part of the hike consisted of a steep climb down a rock face. There was a rope and cable in place here to aid us in our descent but it was not that hard of a climb and the ropes weren't really needed. For those in the group that were a little uncomfortable, we just had them slowly slide down on their butts while holding the rope. After making it past this section there was a narrow contour section that we had to follow to arrive back on the ridgeline, but the trail is alway apparent. We followed the now semi-narrow ridgeline along the cliffs edge and then after another short climb up a little rockface, we arrived in a shaded area with some ironwood trees and were greeted with an absolutely amazing view of Waimanalo and Olomana in front of us with Konahuanui in the background and the rest off the koolau summit just off to our left.

From this spot the trail was wide and easy to follow but a junction came in on our right hand side (it should be ribboned) that we needed to follow. I was in front of the rest of the group and of course missed the junction and ended up heading down to the left into a wooded area with pine needles everywhere. I eventually realized that I was on the Kamiloiki trail and that I needed to backtrack. The rest of the group was looking for me at this point and was way ahead of me. Luckily a few of them backtracked and pointed out the junction to me. To prevent this from happening to you just remember that you need to get back on the cliffs edge after leaving the knoll area with the ironwood trees and just continue to stay on the Koolau Summit Trail. After taking the correct juntion, the trail once again stayed true to the cliffs edge. There was a few more rock climbing sections and ups and downs but nothing to crazy. We entered another wooded area at one point and went straight down only to come out of the wooded area and have to start our ascent back up once again. From this point, the end was in sight. We kept scrambling and climbing and we eventually reached a peak with an electrical pole on top of it. After going a little bit of a ways past the electrical pole we saw a trail on our right hand side (it had pink ribbons to mark the way) heading down into the valley.

We took this right and were officially on the tom-tom trail. I expected the trek down the tom-tom trail to be incredibly easy, but it wasn't as easy as I had originally anticipated. There are a few technical parts where you have to climb or negotiate steep and narrow sections. Everyone in the group made it down this ridge pretty quickly but one of my friends was having a tough time and was not enjoying the exposure and descent down, so I stayed behind with him and watched as he basically crawled down the entire ridge. This was fine by me and I told him just to make sure that he was comfortable and to be safe. I was starting to get a little worried about time and was hopeing that we wouldn't get stuck on the ridge after sunset since I mindlessly didn't bring any headlamps or flashlights (always have a headlamp or flashlight with you) with me. Luckily the ridge eventually leveled off and we entered a wooded area and the exposure was no more. We were almost home free. I told my friend that I was sorry and that he didn't have to hike with me anymore. I truly did not know that he was affraid of heights when we had started the hike. He seemed to be more upset with his girlfriend than me, since she pushed him to come. Now that he knew that he was in the clear, he relaxed a little bit and his anxiety started to go away. I thought that he was gonna kill me but he actually thanked me. He was so happy to have completed this trail and to have had this experience and to have accomplished something that to him, was a huge feat. I was incredibly inspired by him and and his determination to finish this trail. A few times during our descent he made comments about wanting to call rescue and I started to worry. I've never had to do that before and i'm glad this day was not the first time, because it would have been solely on my head and an embarassment that I would have never been able to let go of. Once we reached the wooded area we both talked and joked in within ten or fifteen minutes we had reached the neighborhood in Waimanalo where the rest of the group pulled up in the car to get us (having already walked to the car and driven the others to their cars back at makapuu - wow).

Hiking the tom-tom trail taught me that just because something is easy to one person doesn't mean that everyone will see it that same way. We all have different hiking levels and different things that hold each of us back and we need to be aware of these things when we hike with others. My friend stated to me that he had always wanted to hike in the mountains here before he left to move back to the mainland and that he was so happy that we helped him achieve this goal. All though I love hiking and I do it regularly, I realized that not everyone is as passionate about hiking as me and that not everyone indulges on the trails the way I do and that I need to be more aware in the future of who I am with and where we are going, for their safety and for my conscience. I learned many lessons on this trail that I will assuredly use on many hikes in the future. I was just glad that at the end of the day, we all got down safely and were able to laugh and high five while drinking a few slurpees outside of 7-eleven before heading to the comforts of our own homes.

Directions: Pretty simple.  Park one car at the makapuu lookout and one somewhere in Waimanalo (I suggest parking behind the 7-11 and when you finish the hike just walk to your car, but you can also park somewhere on Waiokeola street where the hike ends, but i've bad stories about people who leave their cars parked there).  To get to the Makapuu Lookout (from waikiki) take the H1 to Kalanianaole Hwy and continue past Hanauma bay and the halona blowhole and eventually you will pass the big parking lot where everyone parks for the Makapuu Lighthouse hike.  The Makapuu Lookout will be on your right side just after this. Park there.  To park your second car, continue straight on Kalanianaole Hwy until you reach Huli street.  Take a left on to Huli street and follow it until it connects with Waiokeola street.  Take a left on Waiokeola street and where the road dead ends is where you will exit from your hike via the tom-tom trail.  Park anywhere in this area that you feel comfortable.  To park in the back of the 7-11 where I parked, just continue past Huli street and the 7-11 is right off the highway just after Huli street.  If you do this, when coming off the tom-tom trail, proceed down Waiokeola street, take a right on to Huli street, a left on to Nakini street and then that will take you back to the hwy where you will take a left and the 7-11 and your car will be right there.