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.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Puu Ohulehule via NW ridge

Tucked away in the back of Kahana valley is what could possibly be my favorite hike on the island.  Puu Ohulehule.  The hike from Kahana valley up the Northwest ridge of Puu Ohulehule is one of my favorites for a few reasons.  It is a fairly easy hike that doesn't take excessively long and the entire trail is beautiful and fun, from start to finish, beginning with a gorgeous swimming hole and some nice stream crossings and culminating with a nice climb to the amazing summit that is Puu Ohulehule.  The view from the summit is one of my all time favorites here on the island of Oahu.

On this particular day, my wife and I made the drive over the H-3 towards Kahana around 8am.  We had a time limit set on our day since she would have to work at 4pm that evening.  The drive down the coastline into Kahana was it's usual, peaceful and beautiful ride.  The skies were clear and Puu Ohulehule had no coulds anywhere in sight of it's pyramidal peak.  We knew we were gonna be in for a good day.

After the long drive we finally reached Kahana bay, where we took a left mountainside, and headed into Kahana valley state park.  We passed the visitor center and continued down the gravel road until just before the houses emerged, where we came to a open gate with a pullout for cars on the right side of the street.  We quickly parked our car and excitedly took off up the gravel road.  The entire walk up the gravel road I kept stopping to look up at the pyramidal peak that we would soon be sitting on top of.  About five or ten minutes into the gravel road, we reached a hunter check-in station with a board board and some pictures explaining about the valley.  At this point we veered left and continued down the gravel road where about a minute later we were arrived at a beautiful swimming hole on Kahana stream.  No matter how many times I visit this place, it never gets old or boring.  Once we reached the stream we took a few pictures and then crossed to the other side and continued on the trail to our left.  Not even a minute later we came to a signed Nakoa junction where we again turned left.  Almost immediately after this we hit a junction where we turned right and were met promptly by our second stream crossing.  If one isn't careful you can miss the junction going right and can end up continuing straight, ending up further upstream than you want to be and heading towards the ocean instead of the back of the valley.  After this junction we headed into some lush forest and the trail became very easy to follow the rest of the way.

We would eventually pop out into a clearing with views of Puu Ohulehule directly in front of us at this point.  We dropped back down to the stream and then made our way back up a hill, finally reaching the ridgeline shortly after.  The trail was incredibly well maintained and nearly impossible to get lost on, beside the one junction at the very beginning.  Once we had reached the ridgeline we began slowly climbing, steeply up the ridge.  As we got higher the grade of ascent lessened and the ridge evened out for a bit.  At no point was the ridge even remotely narrow or dangerous.  All though I was a little tired from the jaunt up the ridge, I took this time to relax and catch a breather before the final push to the summit.  I could see the ridge heading steeply up the right side of the pyramidal peak.  We finally reached that juncture and began the very steep climb with the aid of many ropes.  It was one steep climb after the next.  At points it felt as though we were nearly vertical and without the ropes to aid us the climb would have been pretty tough.  While I didn't see much danger in the climb, those with a fear of heights or exposure, will most likely dread this part and coming down will probably be even worse, so I wouldn't recommend this hike for those people.  With every climb, the ridge seemed to get steeper and steeper.  Finally we reached a tiny clearing and were on a somewhat flat surface.  We grabbed a few sips of water and made a quick final push to the actual summit, across what was now a fairly level ridge.  Within a few minutes we had reached the summit of Puu Ohulehule.  The crappy part was that there were no views due to all the high vegetation.  We headed to our right and downhill for about 15 seconds to a clearing where we were greeted by one of the most spectacular summit views one could imagine.  We soaked in the clear skies and the magnificent views while we ate a powerbar and sipped on some water.  Knowing that we were strapped for time we didn't spend as much time as we would have liked but we were still thrilled with the outcome.

We made our way down shortly after and set a fast pace, making it back to Kahana stream around 1:30.  I swung off the rope swing and played in the stream until my wife finally made me get out and dry off so we could get to the car and head for home.  I was estatic that the hike hadn't taken as long as we thought, saving us plenty of time to stop off the side of the highway at a rope swing that we like to swing on, right on the beach.  After swinging and playing in the beach we took one last marveling view of the ocean and the beautiful hawaiian day that had been set out before us.  We made it back to our car with plenty of time for one last stop before heading home.  We hit 7-eleven and grabbed our ceremonial post hike slurpees before arriving home with just enough time for my wife to shower and get to work.  What a great day it was.

Puu Ohulehule from the start of the trail
1st stream crossing
2nd stream crossing
Taking a left after the 2nd stream crossing and heading back onto the trail
\View of two talking apes
Breaking out and about to reach the ridgeline of Puu Ohulehule
Looking back at Puu piei and Kahana valley

 Starting the steep climb