Laie Falls - March 28, 2009

With my vacation dwindling down, I had to get one more hike in before going back work. I had thought of doing a certain ridge hike, but a waterfall hike seemed like a good choice being that my friends Matt and Daniel hadn't been on a waterfall hike with me yet. I followed Stuart Ball's "Hiker's Guide to Oahu," the most informative hiking guide to Oahu's most popular hikes. Having completed the Koloa and Kaipapa'u Gulch waterfall hikes in the book, I opted for Laie Falls, the last waterfall I had not completed in the text, aside from Ma'akua Gulch, which is closed indefinitely.

The trailhead for Laie Falls is located across the road from the Laie Mormon Temple. If you are coming from the North Shore, and you pass Laie Shopping Center, you've gone too far; if you are coming from Kaneohe, and you pass Hukilau Beach Park, you've gone too far. Drive down the road. A yellow, open gate comes in to view. The side of the street offers parking. Walk down a paved road until it terminates to dirt. Ignore side roads along the way until another gate comes into view with signs indicating the start of the Laie Falls Trail. From there the trail is very easy to follow, and if one does become hesitant about side trails on the left and right, pink ribbons will direct the path correctly.

Soon after, the trail gradually ascends up long and hot eroded sections. Hiking these eroded sections in the summer would definitely be uncomfortable. The trail does offer some shade at times in between the eroded sections. Shade becomes more abundant once the trail cuts through a beautiful section of Cook pines. From the Cook pines and beyond, there aren't any eroded sections. After the pines, a long section of the trail contours the left side of the ridge, first passing uluhe ferns and then passing a long, dark, tunneled stretch of strawberry guava trees. This section of the trail does get monotonous, taking around half-an-hour to reach the junction that descends to Laie Falls. The junction is welcoming sight.

The Laie Trail is actually a graded ridge trail to the Ko'olau Summit, eventually reaching the junction with the Ko'olau Summit Trail. From the waterfall the junction, the trail continues straight to the summit. The trail to the summit from the trailhead is about six miles, making the trek to the summit a round trip of about twelve miles. The trail to Laie Falls is probably around two-and-a-half to three miles. It's not overly exerting, making for a great family hike, but the semi-steep trail to the falls does require some caution because some parts require minor scrambling with the aid of a rope or two.

Laie Falls is a two tiered waterfall, the higher one being the largest at around fifteen feet. A pool at the bottom of the higher waterfall offers a cool, refreshing, sweat-cleansing dip after an hour-and-a-half of hiking. In addition, the surrounding area is a quiet and peaceful lunching spot, accompanied by soft breezes. There is a trail that leads up to the top of the highest waterfall, and I'm pretty sure progress upstream is possible by following the trail. If one goes far enough, there may be another waterfall, but don’t take my word for it.

We headed out from the falls around 4:00pm, eventually reaching our car at 5:15pm. The hike back was pleasant; the cool wind kept us dry, and the sun was setting behind us, eventually dipping below and behind the Ko’olau Mountain Range. Picturesque views from Malaekahana to Laie Point lay out in front of us, with views of Malaekahana Ridge to the left, and another lush ridge to the right. Laie Falls is definitely a trail I will do again, and the summit hike is one I look forward to as well.

Wide open, exposed section about an hour into the hike.

The view looking toward Laie Point.

The section of Cook pines.

Contouring the left side of the ridge.

Two ribbons on hikes means a significant junction along a trail. Here is Matt, standing in the trail that leads to the waterfall. Continuing straight tops out at the Ko'olau summit.

The waterfall wasn't gushing, but it was still well worth the hike.

Fish eye view from atop the highest waterfall.

Foot shot.

Laie Falls.

Heading back.


Waianae Kai to No Name Peak - March 24, 2009

The Waianae Kai trail was a great introduction to the various trails around Waianae Valley for Chase and me. There are many trails in the valley; some are used by hunters, and several have been recently pioneered by a man who calls himself Waianae Steve. The trails Steve traiblazed are very well-marked and defined, and if one gets lost, finding his orange trail markers affixed to trees will direct the hiker back out to the Board Of Water Supply road that eventually meets back up at the trailhead. Some of the trails he pioneered are Waianae Ramble, Star Trek, and Tiki Ridge. The Star Trek Trail, in my opinion, is his crowning achievement, where one climbs up an impossible looking cliff to the Waianae summit ridge just short of Pu'u Kalena.

We arrived at the dirt parking lot at the end of Waianae Valley Road and began trekking past a locked gate at 9:30am. Beyond the gate is a one mile paved road that is used by the Board of Water Supply. The road initially passes a water tank on the left with a view of massive Kamaileunu Ridge dead ahead. Chase and I eyed the ridge of Kamaileunu and shuddered at the fact that we were up there just several weeks ago. That ridge hike will forever be burned in our memories – pun intended. The gradual ascent up the paved road soon passes two fenced in water wells. The paved road then exterminates at a covered picnic table and continues on a dirt road into the valley. Getting to the picnic table from our car took about half an hour, giving us a good warm up of what lied ahead. After about five minutes of hiking on the dirt road, we reached the lush valley.

Our goal on this day was an unnamed peak on Kamaileunu Ridge just shy of Pu'u Kawiwi. To get there we took a steep, heavily used trail to a lookout known as Three Poles. The three poles are actually utility poles, and at this lookout one can take a junction that follows a steep ridge trail to the top of Mount Ka'ala, the highest mountain on Oahu. We debated on whether we should climb to Ka’ala, but I had a rendezvous at 5pm, so we opted to turn away from the Mount Ka’ala junction and head toward the No Name Peak instead. Waianae-Ka’ala will have to wait.

On our way to the peak with Makaha Valley on our left side and Waianae Valley on our right, we encountered a fence that has been installed to protect native plants and endangered species in Makaha Valley from wild boars. The fence degraded the hike as it cut directly into the narrow ridge en route to No Name Peak. We scrambled up and over huge tiki-like boulders and scaled a couple vertical sections with the aid of ropes, signifying that someone had done the trail before. The trail also weaved in and out of the fence line, so we had to climb over the fence a couple times to regain the trail. As we neared the top, the trail became less defined.

We finally reached the top of No Name Peak at 1:00pm. It was very overgrown with dry grass, taking on an uncomfortable setting for a lunch spot, so we headed back to some rocks along the ridge to sit and eat, enjoying the strong breeze and snapping some photos with our cameras. The breeze was so strong in fact that I almost fell off the ridge while taking pictures. After a short rest, we headed back down the ridge at 1:30pm to a junction with Kumaipo Trail, a trail that has been used since the days of early Hawaiians. This trail was not very steep, but it did get us down to the valley floor faster than going up to Three Poles. Before we knew it, we were back at the Board of Water Supply road heading back to our car.

The weather was perfect for a west side hike. The tradewinds were strong and cool, and although the sun was beaming for the majority of the hike, it wasn't blazing. In addition, the valley trail was heavily shaded, making for relatively pleasant walking all the way to Three Poles. From the lookout of No Name Peak we could see the route to Pu'u Kawiwi. The trail looks nuts! We spotted a very narrow, zigzag section just before climbing to the summit of Kawiwi. I hope to try that section out one day. For starters, though, this was a great hike: super good workout and a good way to gain knowledge of the many junctions that make up the trails in Waianae Valley. We arrived back at our car at 3:15pm; fifteen minutes shy of a six hour hike.

Here's a picture of the unnamed peak we were aiming to summit at. Elevation at the top is about 3,000 feet.


First streambed crossing.

Climbing out of one of the two gullies.

Resting at Three Poles, elevation 2,700 feet.

Here's the trail climbing up to the top of Mount Ka'ala.

Exposed, level section along the ridge to No Name Peak.

Almost there. No Name Peak in the distance.

The narrow ridge was heavily vegetated, masking the drops on both sides.

Climbing up the first rock face.

There's that annoying fence on the way to the peak.

And here's the last vertical rock section to the peak with the aid of a rope.


The view from Three Poles.

Mount Ka'ala.

View of Pu'u Kawiwi and Kamaileunu from Kamaileunu Ridge on the way to No Name Peak.

View looking south atop No Name Peak.

Makaha Valley and Kea'au Ridge.

Chase's view of Kea'au Ridge through his 200mm lens. Check out those narrow dikes reeling off the side of the ridge. (photo: C. Maglangit)

Another view of Kea'au Ridge, with the pyramidal Pu'u Ohikilolo. If you look closely, there's a house situated at the bottom left of the peak. Who would build a house and live up there? (photo: C. Maglangit)

Here's a closeup of the house. (photo: C. Maglangit)


Konahuanui - March 17, 2009

Hiking for nine hours takes a major toll on one's body, especially if the trail consists of climbs that burn calories like hell exists in every body part below your chest. That's exactly how Chase and I felt today. We hiked a trail that I aptly named "The Calorie Destroyer Trail." The trail's not really named that; the trail is really named Konahuanui: a climb to the two highest peaks in the Ko'olau Mountain Range. At a little over 3,000 feet, the two peaks (K1 and K2) require stiff climbs over the muddiest terrain I've ever experienced, which is probably why I was dying almost the whole way up. It was either that or the fact that I was totally unprepared for tackling a strenuous eight mile climb to the Ko'olau summit. Chase, on the other hand, said he felt like a champ the whole way. Bastard.

The weather forecast predicted rains in the afternoon. I thought of ascending Kaluanui Ridge (Mariners Ridge) and descending Kamiloiki Ridge, parking two cars at each trailhead before we started the hike, making the hike a loop. But as I was driving on Nimitz Highway, I could see that Konahuanui was free of clouds, with overcast skies, an event that rarely happens atop the giant Ko'olau peaks. I called Chase and asked him if he wanted to do it. We've been anticipating hiking Konahuanui for almost a year now, so of course he said yes.

There's three ways to climb to the two peaks of Konahuanui (well, the ones that I know of). We opted to start from the Judd Trail, connecting to the Nu'uanu Trail, and taking a left junction off of the Nu'uanu Trail that follows a ridge to the Nu'uanu overlook. We actually got lost by taking an obvious left junction that eventually led to nowhere. Fellow hikers that we had met from the mainland that we chatted with up the switchbacks decided to follow our lead. We felt really bad because we led them on a trail that eventually disappeared into extremely heavy brush. If you folks are reading this, we're truly sorry for your scraped legs and puncture wounds from the uluhe ferns. If you guys ever get to hike with us again, that will never happen. We promise.

We reached the scenic overlook around 11:30am. (Getting lost back tracked us about 45 minutes.) After a quick rest and some handshakes with our new hiking acquaintances, Chase and I headed to the obvious junction that led to Konahuanui. Chase set his Trail Guru iPhone application to track our progress to the peaks. (If you don't know what Trail Guru is, go to TrailGuru.com; it is an unbelievable application suited for the iPhone, and it is extremely useful for hiking.) The trail takes a graded route just below the ridge, contouring around about fifteen corners. (Yeah, we counted.) The contour trail is really narrow. The drops opposite of the ridge are pretty mental. There are lots of trees to hold onto for security, and the thick vegetation masks the true magnitude and risk of the pali. A fall along the contour trail could cause serious injury or even death. I'm pretty sure the ridge crest itself is doable if a right junction that I spotted in the beginning is taken, but don't take my word for it.

After contouring, the trail cuts into the ridge crest all the way to the Ko'olau summit. There are four steep climbs, and it will surely give you a workout you won't forget. Along the way, waterfalls trickled its way down the mountain. I'm pretty sure the waterfalls are part of Lulumahu Stream. Hiking to the Lulumahu Falls is possible, but it has to be done with an approved group that has a valid permit, such as the Hawaiian Mountain Trail Club because the trail lies in a restricted water shed and also passes King Kamehameha IV's former summer house. As we neared the top, we could see a large, dried out waterfall that must look unreal when it's flowing.

Our luck of a clear view at the summit was blocked by thick clouds devoid of rain. From K1, we turned left along the Ko'olau summit ridge and headed for K2. It was on the summit ridge that we encountered shin deep mud. I was so glad I wore pants on the hike; it was easy for me to push through. Chase, on the other hand, wore shorts; his legs were painted with mud. Hiking along the summit ridge to K2 was no easy task. It took us about 45 minutes to get K2, with more steep climbs along the way. The clouds tried to clear out, and when it did we could see how massive the drop to our right side was. There were a few sections that were deathly; one slip, and there was nothing to hold onto to slow your fall; just an exposed portion of the ridge with a massive vertical wall straight down to the Maunawili Demonstration Trail, 3,000 or so feet below us.

We finally reached K2 around 2:20pm. We ate musubi's, beef jerky, granola bars, trail mix, and saw a beastly looking horsefly land on my backpack. The whole time spent at K2 was in clouds. What a disappointment. We headed back down at around 3:00pm.

The descent was a lot faster than going up. We reached the contour section in a little under an hour-and-a-half. Instead of hiking the ridge that led to the lookout from the Nu’uanu Trail, we decided to take the Pauoa Flats Trail to the Nu'uanu Trail. Going down was so hard on our legs. Chase even saw a bunch of pigs cross the state trail as he descended the switchbacks. Once we reached the bottom, we dipped our feet in the cool Nu'uanu stream to get all the mud off our shoes. I used up all my water on the hike, and I highly recommend bringing more than I did: two liters or more should be sufficient. We got to my car at 6pm. We checked Chase's Trail Guru program, and it said we walked a little over four miles from the summit. And what a difficult four miles it was. But we can't complain: the weather cooperated well -- constant overcast skies, and no rain. Chase liked the hike so much he brought up the idea of doing the it again someday. Yeah, well, looks like he'll be doing it with someone else or by himself. It's going to take a lot of motivation for me to do Konahuanui again.

The long trek to K1, looking up from the Nu'uanu overlook. (photo: C. Maglangit)

The trailhead.


On the initial section of the ridge.

Looking back. That's a long way from our car.

Above the clouds on the summit ridge.

Narrow, with huge drops on the right side of the trail.

Resting atop K2 in the clouds.

Chase's pictures:

Lulumahu Stream waterfall #1.

Lulumahu Stream waterfall #2.

Chase's 200mm lens is awesome.


Waihe'e Ridge (Maui) - March 8, 2009

I never realized until this past weekend how beautiful Maui is. The island has wide amount of areas that are largely undeveloped, unlike Oahu, where everywhere you turn there's a subdivision to the left and right of a ridge. Upon arriving in Kahului, I could see that the western portion of the island harbored mountains that dwarf those here on Oahu, with an endless amount of ridges to boot. But would those ridges have trails? I had no idea.

Instead of finding an exhilirating ridge (I wouldn't want to meet my doom on an outer island), I opted to hike Waihe'e Ridge, which is located in the west Maui mountains. The trail starts off on a cement road, eventually heading into a lush forest filled with Cook pines, ohi'a, and guava trees. The trail (state owned and maintained) was in very good shape, and a lot of people were on the trail as well.

The view of Makamaka’ole Falls to the right side of the ridge was beautiful. I found out later that you can actually hike to the multi-tiered waterfall on a trail called Thirteen Crossings. To the right of the ridge was an amazing view of Waihe'e Valley, another doable hike. The stream in the valley was in full force, and a large waterfall feeding the stream in the back of the valley could barely be seen.

Mile markers indicated progress along the ridge. After the first mile, the trail became extremely muddy and wet, and it's probably been the muddiest trail I've hiked so far. The trail eventually switchbacks uphill to a peak named Lani'ili, elevated 2,563 feet above sea level. The peak was completely shrouded in clouds, and I didn't spend much time at the top because the rain came, and I didn't feel like stuffing a soggy backpack and wet clothes into my suitcase.

The hike totaled five miles, and it took me a little under three hours to complete it. It's not hard at all, and there aren't any steep sections, but the muddiness doesn't ease up past the first mile marker. All in all, the gradual ascent gave me a nice workout with unreal views. There are a lot more hikes on Maui; there are loads of waterfall hikes I've heard about, especially in Hana. I'll probably make it a point to hike the island for a full week next time. That should be enough time to take in what Maui hikes really have to offer.

Makamaka'ole Falls.

Waihe'e Valley.

Last portion of the hike. The trail switchbacks up this hill to the peak of Lani'ili.

And here's the end of the hike. A picnic in the mud.