Kalauao - June 12th, 2011

When it rains, head to Kalauao Valley.  I like to refer to it as the Maunawili Falls of Aiea, except that the waterfall in Kalauao Valley needs a good downpour to start flowing.  Plus, the odds that you'll be there by yourself are pretty good even though the trail gets trampled on more than often.  As an in-and-out hike, Kalauao is short at about four miles round trip.  The trail is muddy, steep at times, and slippery along the stream trail.  When it's flowing, the waterfall gushes, and a pretty large, deep pool sits at its base, perfect for jumping off the available ledges near by.  From the waterfall, you can either turn around and go back out the way you came in or explore beyond the waterfall upstream.  It is also possible to do Kalauao as a loop. That option serves up more of a challenge as the junction out of the valley is obscure, little used, and very steep.  Eventually it rejoins the Aiea Loop Trail.

Directions for the hike can be found below:
The hike begins at Keaiwa State Park.  Click this link for directions.  Go to the very top parking lot and park your car there.  You'll see a bathroom and a picnic area.  Take the Aiea Loop Trail.  You'll eventually reach a power line tower on your right.  Keep walking a little ways and you will see a very obvious junction on the left.  Take that junction.  You will reach another power line tower and will walk directly under it.  Keep going.  The trail will then open up and you'll find yourself gradually heading downhill on a broad ridge with paperbark trees and eucalyptus.  At first you will see an indistinct trail sharply turning right.  DO NOT TAKE THAT TRAIL; IT LEADS NOWHERE.  Instead, keep following the ridge downhill until you see another trail on the right that is more distinct and marked with ribbons.  It, too, turns a sharp right and heads steeply down hill.  You will eventually hit the stream.  Turn right and follow the trail upstream.  End at the waterfall and turn around, or take the trail on the left to explore further upstream.
To make the trail a loop continue upstream for about 20-30 minutes.  Keep looking on your right.  You will see a marked junction heading uphill.  The first junction is a very steep pig trail that is not recommended, but is doable.  The second junction is the route that is used the most and is well-marked and well-trodden.  Both junctions eventually intersect at a spur ridge heading straight toward the Aiea Loop Trail.  Once you're back at the Aiea Loop Trail, turn right for the 20-30 minute walk back to your starting point.  You can, however, turn left for an even longer hike along the Aiea Loop Trail.  Eventually you'll get a view of the H-3 Freeway and Halawa Valley.  Then the trail will split.  Turn right and follow the trail back to the parking lot.

For more pictures and write-ups about my previous outings on Kalauao, click on the following links:
Kalauao Falls - May 23rd, 2008
Kalauao Loop - March 14th, 2010

photo: B. Bautista

Getting our feet wet.

photo: L. Yamasaki

The waterfall.  (photo: B. Bautista)

Video below by Ryan Chang:


Wailele Gulch - May 29th, 2011

Back to Wailele. Yep. After one week of hiking the same place, we were back. The last time we just hiked to the first pool/waterfall. Within the past week, I found out that the first waterfall is also dubbed PCC Falls and Turtle Falls. PCC Falls seems apt, so I'll call it that from now on. It's the waterfall that people usually visit, and then when they've had enough, they turn around and head back home. The REAL Wailele Falls is the waterfall that is five miles in at the very back of Wailele Gulch. Our intent was to reach the back of Wailele Gulch, but the stream at Wailele had other ideas.

Wailele is a quite a gulch. It's lush, serene, peaceful, and, more than not, untouched. The stream was still clear and flowing, just as I remembered it. The birds chirped, the wind rustled through the trees: why is there not a traditional Hawaiian song named "Beautiful Wailele"? Someone needs to make one. Someone had marked the stream route with red tape since the last weekend we were there. I don't know why. It's hard to get lost when all you have to do is follow the stream mountainward. The stream, vibrant as ever, harbors giant prawns and o'opu. The prawns in Wailele are ridiculously huge, almost the size of a small lobster. Lei snagged one for a photo op; the prawn spread out its long limbs and "smiled."

We reached the first pool and took a quick swim before heading upstream. Above the first pool is a nice little camping area under some ironwoods. Nearby, nesteled in bushes, we found a geocache. Inside the cache was a camera and log book. The camera looked pretty beat up, and ants were colonizing inside of the camera, so we wrote the day's date and our names in the log book and began our journey upstream.

Beyond the first pool there is no trail whatsoever. Getting our feet wet was the only option. The stream, though, never got too deep to the point where it couldn't be walked in. But because we hiked directly in the stream, our progress was very slow. We passed our first sign of something manmade about an hour from the first pool -- a steel cable anchored horizontally to a rock wall on the left side of the stream. Another 45 minutes in and we reached another steel cable, this time connected horizontally to a rock wall on the right, extending across the stream to a rather large rusted tin can and a splintered block of wood. Not sure what the cables were for, but we would use it as landmarks to indicate our progress on the way back -- first cable: 45 minutes to the 2nd cable. 2nd cable: one more hour to the first pool.

Further into the gulch we went. We then entered the largest tangle of hau I had ever seen. The hau plant is a native plant in the Hawaiian islands. Ancient Hawaiians used the inner bark of hau to make cord for slingshots and spears. Hau branches grow close to the ground and intertwine. It is a beautiful plant, but a downright nuisance to hike through, especially in a narrow stream. The hau tangle we encountered was massive. It clogged the entire stream and even slowed the flow of water to a trickle. At first glance, the hau was such a mess that we debated on whether or not we should press on. Closer inspection proved that it would be a daunting task, but navigating through the mess was doable. Ryan Chang and Kyle Rennie and his two other friends decided to turn back. I, with Lei Yamasaki and Keith Mahon, decided to push forward. Over, under, up-and-over -- the hau tangle took a long time to pass through. The stream opened up periodically, only to greet us with other short stretches of tangled hau.

Once we passed the hau tangles, it was very apparent that we were in no-mans land. Not a single shred of evidence showed that anyone had been past the hau tangles: no machete marks, no ribbons, no footprints on the muddy embankments, nothing. It was a bit eerie, and the gulch walls were noticeably higher and closing in as we hiked further and further upstream. The gulch walls acted as a corridor for the breeze, the cool wind eerily blowing downstream. Looking upward we could see what we thought to be the very back of the Ko'olau mountain range, hoping that our trek would soon terminate at our destination. Instead, the stream kept bending at every turn, seeming to never end.

After four-and-a-half hours of hiking in the gulch, we finally reached a site worth dawdling at. A quaint little falls with a nice clear pool at its base situated in a remote area near the base of the Ko'olau mountain range. We set down our packs, took some pictures, and prepped ourselves for the chilly swim in the mountain pool. Keith elected to climb the falls to see what was upstream. He came back and said that the stream just kept going and going. Who knows how long it would take to reach the back of stream? The stream could bend more than we had wanted it to. It was 2:00pm, and we started at our cars at 9:30am. Considering the amount of time and labor it would take to head out, we decided to not head upstream to find the real Wailele Falls. It was a bit disappointing, but the regret was washed away once I jumped into the mountain pool below the falls. The water was instantly shocking, yet revitalizing. We ate our lunches, tied an orange ribbon to a guava tree on the right side of the pool, wrote our names and date on the ribbon, and made the long, arduous trek back to our car.

On the way back, we passed the landmarks we pointed out that would indicate our homeward progress. We passed more prawns, more o'opu, and the hau tangle was still as taxing as it was heading in. We reached PCC Falls at around 5pm, took a quick swim in the pool, and headed back on the main stream trail to the farm road. Ryan had texted Lei on her cell phone that he and Kyle and friends had made it safely back to their cars but was worried about our situation. Lei texted him and reassured him that we were fine. Once on the road, we looked back at the Ko'olau mountain range and were taken aback at how far we had walked. "Somewhere in there," I pointed for Keith. Somewhere. An understatement. We were as far as you could get. Our bodies were exhausted. Eight-and-a-half total hours along a stream -- unheard of on Oahu! I kept saying "never again, never again." But now, as I sit here typing this, I wouldn't mind going back. With an early start, we could definitely make it to Wailele Falls -- the real one. An overnighter would suffice, too. But for now, the real Wailele Falls sits at the back of the gulch, lonely and cascading, waiting for a camera flash to show off its rarely viewed beauty. That is what intrigues me. That is where I want to be. That is what I want to accomplish. That is why I will be back.

Monster prawn.  (photo: K. Mahon)

PCC Falls.  (photo: K. Mahon)

The Wailele Cache.  (photo: L. Yamasaki)

photo: L. Yamasaki

The "trail" through the hau tangle.  (photo: L. Yamasaki)

In the stream.  (photo: L. Yamasaki)

The pool and waterfall after hiking four-and-a-half hours upstream.

Keith spotted a cool looking rock.  A  bowl fit for a menehune?  (photo: L. Yamasaki)


Waiakeakua - May 27, 2011

Waiakeakua is a lesser known stream and waterfall hike near the eastern wall at the back of Manoa Valley. It is similar to the Ka'au Crater trail in Palolo Valley: it is rather short to the first waterfall, and it possible to climb multiple waterfalls to progress further. However, in relation to ascending with rope, Waiakeakua is more dangerous.

The waters of Waiakeakua are clear and cool. Hawaiian royalty often basked in the pools of Waiakeakua during the summer. It is also the site of Hawaiian folklore. Waiakeakua means "Water of the Gods." It is said that two gods, Kane and Kanaloa, arrived at Hanauma and traveled all the way to Manoa Valley. Along the way, Kane's younger brother, Kanaloa, would complain of thirst and hunger. Kane would penetrate the ground with his staff and create a waterhole for he and his brother to drink from. The waterholes from Hanauma to Manoa Valley are said to be created by Kane, for the waterholes were resting spots for both Kane and Kanaloa's during their arduous journey.

Because of this legend, Hawaiian chiefs would often order men to capture water from the falls of Waiakeakua at night. The darkness and aura of Hawaiian spirits often turned back many, and only the bravest would come back with the pristine water of Waiakeakua. The water was so pristine that there were noticeable bubbles in the catchment brought back to the chief. If there were no bubbles found in the water, the chief knew that it wasn't from Waiakeakua.

The hike to Waiakeakua is short: about one mile. The trail leisurely follows upstream to the first waterfall. At twenty feet high, the climb up the first waterfall seems a bit intimidating, but there are strong ropes and many grooves and ledges near the waterfall to make the climb a heck of a lot easier. The rock, though, is very slippery. Beyond the first waterfall is another waterfall about fifty feet high. It is possible to climb the second waterfall with the aid of strong ropes situated on the left side of the falls. The climb is very steep and very slippery. The last fifteen feet to the top is near vertical. Once at the top of the second waterfall, it is possible to hike further to see a couple more waterfalls, none as big as the second. Again, climbing the waterfalls beyond the second waterfall is definitely doable. On this outing, though, I decided to turn back once I reached the third waterfall. Going down the second waterfall was equally challenging as climbing up.

For those in the know, Waiakeakua is an awesome hike. At only around two miles round trip, it offers up a good workout and a spectacular Oahu stream and waterfall experience. The trail is well-trodden but hard to spot off of the Pu'u Pia trail. With that said, take a stroll along the Pu'u Pia trail to find it. You will not be disappointed. It is definitely one of the clearest streams I've seen, and one hike that I will definitely be doing again many times in the near future.

Keith climbing the 1st waterfall.  (photo: L. Yamasaki)

Lei climbing the 1st waterfall.  (photo: K. Mahon)

Climbing up the 2nd waterfall.  (photo: K. Mahon)

As small as it looks, this pool is deep enough to jump into.


Pool near the start of the hike.