Wahiawa Hills - April 25, 2009

At the end of California Avenue in Wahiawa there is a loop trail that I would have to claim as one of the most beautiful five mile hikes on the island. With the Hawaiian Trail Mountain Club trail clearing last weekend, the Wahiawa Hills trail was extremely easy to follow. I’ve heard many stories about how easy it is to get lost on the Wahiawa Hills trail (in the past, one hiker was lost and never found), but the club did such a good job on the trail clearing that getting lost was nearly impossible. Don’t get me wrong, though; the trail has a lot of junctions that lead elsewhere, but as long as you keep an eye out for ribbons, the correct path is easy to follow.

Daniel and I were so stoked to be hiking in our hometown. Usually we have to wake up early and drive a good length to get to certain trails, but today was different. The drive to the trail was only about five minutes. We arrived at the trailhead around 8am. The trail parallels a fence that surrounds two large water towers. Soon after, we found ourselves in a beautiful paperbark grove. From this point, finding the first ribbon indicating the official start of the trail was difficult, but after some searching we finally spotted a fresh pink ribbon at the bottom of a broad ridge.

After a brief walk, we reach our first stream crossing. A lone, hidden waterfall could be heard as well, but not seen. We crossed the stream, walked for a few minutes, and came to an obvious “T” junction. We took the left junction. At this junction, the stream we just crossed could be seen below on our left. To our right was Kaukonahua Stream, the longest stream in the state at 33 miles. The stream was wide, flowing, and beautiful.

Shortly after, we had to ford Kaukonahua Stream. At its deepest, the stream was shin deep. Once we reached the opposite side of the stream, we had to scramble up a steep bank to get back onto the trail. It was here that we encountered our first steep hill. The ascent was long and brutal. After a good ten minutes of uphill sweating, the trail leveled out in a grove of eucalyptus and koa trees. Soon after, we encountered another critical junction. The right junction looked freshly weed-whacked, but we had no idea where it would end up. Instead, we took the left junction, following directions in Stuart Ball’s hiking guide. My assumption is that the trail clearers split up to clear both junctions. A small bamboo grove is a good indicator that you are on the right path to get to the stream. From the small bamboo grove, the trail swings straight for the Ko’olaus. After about a third of a mile, another junction comes into view. We went right. The right junction took us downhill in a lovely shaded grove of towering eucalyptus trees.

We soon found ourselves at Kaukonahua Stream, with an idyllic lunch spot and a cold, deep pool to swim in. After about an hour of lounging, we headed back to the trail. It was here that we again found ourselves sweating on a steep uphill ascent in the midday sun. Along the way up were unbelievable views of untouched land for as far as the eye could see. Not once did we see any utility poles or electric wires.

After snapping a good amount of pictures with our cameras, Daniel and I headed back through a lovely section of the trail that passes some of the greenest landscape I have ever seen. We eventually met up with a junction and turned left, only to find ourselves quickly back at the first stream crossing in the beginning of the hike. A nice, long trek up the broad ridge we had descended initially gave us a good last sweat. We ended the hike at my car at 1pm.

If you are planning to do Wahiawa Hills, I would definitely do it within the next two months. The trail is in exceptional condition right now because of the recent trail clearing: they weed-whacked the hell out of the uluhe fern sections. All in all, the loop is not as intricate and complex as it has been hyped up to be. Daniel and I were blessed with the best weather any hiker could ask for. With that said I would not recommend this hike when it’s muddy or raining. The danger of slipping and falling is obvious, and with a heavy rain, Kaukonahua Stream can fill to fatal proportions. At the lunch spot, we could see how high the water rose with the past onslaught of recent rains; the tangled debris and shrubs were about 30 feet above us: what a scary thought. Nevertheless, it is a gem of a hike, and one of the best forest walks on the island Oahu. I will definitely be back to do the trail again sometime.

First steep climb. Notice how clear the trail is. The Hawaiian Trail Mountain Club did an amazing job.

2nd sight of Kaukonahua Stream, about 2 miles into the hike.

Daniel, doing some exploration downstream.

Nice area to take a dip.

Heading back.

Final ascent to get back to the car.

Views and other pictures:

View looking toward Mount Ka'ala.

Not one building in sight.


Pu'u Ma'eli'eli - April 19, 2009

The weather this past weekend was phenomenal. Clear skies made for absolutely no cloud cover atop the Ko’olau and Waianae summits. And while I shuddered at the fact that I could have scaled a Ko’olau trail on this rare, cloud-free Sunday, I had to remind myself that the mountains will always be there, and days like this aren’t actually “rare” on this island (or in this state for that matter).

The day started off perfect. I arose to the sound of my rooster at 6:30am, packed up my hiking and surf gear, and picked up Daniel. The surf forecast looked good as well, and the day before, my friends and I had a perfect little surf session. We had intended to hike on Saturday, but the waves were too good on our way to the trailhead. So instead of donning our hiking gear, we headed out to the ocean. The same was true on Sunday. As we headed for the trailhead, we stopped by where we surfed on Saturday. The waves still looked fun, so we jumped in. About an hour-and-a-half in, the wind changed, the waves were getting smaller, and getting a short hike in didn’t sound like a bad idea. Daniel and I dried off and headed toward Kaneohe to Pu’u Ma’eli’eli.

From Kahekili Highway, we took Kamehameha Highway toward Kaneohe. There is a shopping on the left, just across of a graveyard on the right. We parked on East Hui Iwa Street near McDonalds and a bunch of townhouses. From there, we walked back onto Kamehameha Highway and turned left. Just past the townhouses is a well-defined and obvious trail that leads uphill. The trail here is in very good condition. I’ve heard of other ways to climb the 720 foot hill, but this route seems to be the best.

A short walk uphill eventually leads to an old 4x4 road. The road is moderately steep and gives a good warm-up for the hike ahead. The trail then forks. Daniel and I took the left fork. Ribbons helped out our progress along the way as well; in addition, many side trails to the left and right, much of which I believe come from the townhouses below, came at as minute after minute. These trails we ignored.

A little ways in there is a double ribbon junction affixed to the trunk of a tree. Daniel and I took the left junction; the right junction can be taken as well, and it will terminate at the same spot, and I think taking the right junction instead of the left is a better option. After taking the left junction, the trail contours the side of the hill and eventually meets up at another junction. From here we took the right junction going steeply uphill.

The remainder of the hike from this point is on a broad ridge. First, the trail climbs steeply to a hidden bunker that had an awful smell emitting from inside. After passing the first bunker, the trail reaches an exposed second bunker. The view atop the second bunker is breathtaking, especially on this day. Straight ahead were the sandbars of Kailua and Kaneohe. To the right was Mokapu Point and Kaneohe Bay. To the left was a view from Kahalu’u to Kualoa.

The Ma’eli’eli trail is about a three mile hike: a perfect trail for a post-work hike/workout. From trailhead to terminus, it took us a little over half an hour. Also, the trail is heavily shaded, so it’s pleasant walking all the way to the second bunker. Truly a novice hike, and one that anyone can do, Ma’eli’eli is worth a try, with a great view at the top. It’s not too often that a surf and hike session can be done in one day, but Daniel and I are stoked to say we’ve done it. And on a beautiful day like Sunday, it reminded us that we are so lucky to live in Hawaii.


Ka'au Crater - April 10, 2009

After hearing so many good things about the hike to Ka’au Crater in the back of Palolo Valley, I had to try it out for myself. Getting to the trail is simple. Take the 6th Avenue cutoff on the H-1. Turn left. Take a right on Waialae Avenue, and then take a left on 10th Avenue. Drive a ways until the road forks. The right fork is a street called Waiomao Road. Drive to the end of the road, and park just before a private driveway.

The weather was really sketchy for a stream/waterfall hike. Instead of walking up the private driveway to the official trailhead, Daniel and I took a trail to the left of the gate at the beginning of the driveway. This trail immediately took us down to Waiomao Stream. After following the trail upstream we eventually spotted trail ribbons, indicating that we were on the right track.

The trail to the first waterfall doesn’t do much climbing at all, and it isn’t very long either. There is a short, gradual ascent out of Waiomao Stream, but from there the trail levels out as it proceeds deep into the heavily vegetated and lush Palolo Valley. The only detraction is a metal pipe that has to be followed all the way to the first waterfall. The pipe does get irritating at times, but on this day, the trail was really wet and muddy, so using the pipe as an option to walk on to avoid the muddy areas kept our shoes clean for the most part.

After about an hour, we reached the first waterfall. I took a few pictures and then we proceeded up to the second waterfall. Both waterfalls were beautiful, with the second being higher than the first. The second waterfall was raging furiously, and Daniel and I got a bit jolted. When we reached the second waterfall, the rain started to come down hard. As soon as this happened, the water level started to rise over the boulders we were standing on within only a matter of seconds. We immediately proceeded up the trail to get to the top of the second waterfall. Fortunately, the rain slowed to a drizzle once we reached the third waterfall. The third waterfall doesn’t cascade vertically as does the latter waterfalls, but it is long. To get to the rim of Ka’au Crater, the third waterfall must be climbed. There were ropes everywhere to aid in our upward progress. The climb is an unreal experience. Where else on Oahu can you climb a waterfall to get to the rim of an extinct volcanic crater? Well, this is the hike to do it, and the feeling is surreal.

The view from the crater rim is amazing. Further progress is possible along the crater is possible. The trail climbs the eastern portion of the crater rim to the Ko’olau summit and then descends the western portion of the crater rim, making a full loop of the crater. Our sights were set on the summit, but it wasn’t good idea after the heavy downpour. The eastern portion of the rim to the summit is steep, and with the addition of rain, the trail was extremely muddy and slippery. We decided that that route would have to wait until summer, so we he headed back down the waterfall.

We got back to our starting point at 3:30pm: five hours on the trail. Going back to the car was a cinch. From the first waterfall, it took us only thirty minutes to get back to the trailhead. Thirty minutes! With that said, this is probably one of the most easily accessible, mulit-tiered waterfall hikes on the island. The climb up to the second waterfall does require some muscle, but as long as it is taken slow, the second waterfall is worth the climb from the first waterfall. There is a sketchy section when climbing the right side of the second waterfall. The trail is extremely narrow with a perilous drop on one side. The climb up the third waterfall is extremely dangerous. Because the climb up the third waterfall uses both the left and right sides, you will get your feet wet, and it is very, very, very slippery. But if you’ve got what it takes, you’ll be rewarded with an awesome view of a hidden crater nestled along the southern walls of the Ko'olau Mountain Range. I’m looking forward to the summit hike this summer, so keep checking the blog for an update.

The beginning of the pole that has to be followed all the way to the first waterfall.

First waterfall.

Daniel climbing to the second waterfall.

Second waterfall.

Narrow spot near the top of the second waterfall. A fall here would definitely seal someone's fate.

The bottom of the third, long waterfall.

Like I said: a surreal hiking experience.

Rest spot/lookout at the rim of Ka'au Crater.

Looking back at Palolo Valley towards town.

Nice view of Ka'au Crater.