Monday, April 26, 2010
Plans of hiking Ma'akua Gulch has been lingering for some time, but doubts have hindered any previous attempts. It is said to be more dangerous than the neighboring Sacred Falls that killed eight people and injured fifty others due to a landslide in May 1999. The potential of getting caught in an inescapable predicament is greater in Ma'akua Gulch since it is much narrower and longer. Doing this hike during or after heavy rains would be suicide! However, six of us were willing to take the risk to bear witness to spectacular views of the narrow gulch and to step right in the middle of it.
We met at Hau'ula Beach Park and walked up the road leading to the trailhead which also leads to a network of other trails such as Ma'akua Ridge and Hau'ula Loop Trail. We followed the paved road leading to the water pump station. At this point, we thought it was a dead end since the pump station sat right in the middle of the road. We retraced our steps back until we reached a signed junction. I pulled out my Stuart Ball book, and after carefully reading the directions, I realized we were going the right way from the start. So, we walked back up to the pump station and went around the fence to the right where we walked on a concrete retaining wall. As we passed the pump station, we could see the trail leading to a wooded area. The pink ribbons were removed as it was scattered on the ground at the beginning of the dirt trail. The only guide we had was the stream itself which we hoped would lead us to the narrow gulch. The dirt trail was relatively flat and easy to walk on, but it wasn't until we reached the stream bed where we found it technically challenging. Hopping from one boulder to another was a daunting task and it would be like this for the rest of the trail. Unstable, wet, and slippery rocks can easily make one slip and fall. I found myself using my arms frequently to keep my balance or to push my way up. My mind and body had to stay alert at all times especially when trying to keep up with the rest. As we entered the gulch, the dry stream began to flow with cool water as it meandered around fallen rocks from previous landslides. Walking in the gulch gave me an eerie feeling. The awe-inspiring scale of the towering cliffs on both sides was a sight to behold but some of this satisfaction was reserved with fear. At one point, we heard a thundering roar which could only mean that rocks were falling nearby. I couldn't help but to look up from time to time.
Without hesitation, we continued onwards until we reached the first waterfall characterized by a huge boulder above. We had to submerge ourselves to get across the damn freezing swimming hole where a thick rope hung at the base of the waterfall. At first, it was difficult to climb the slippery wall face with barely any footholds to place my toes on. Taking off my waterproof Keens sandals and climbing barefoot proved to be the way to go. As I climbed near to the top of the waterfall, I had to duck into a void space beneath the huge boulder where a gush of water was still flowing. The route led to an opening above and I pulled myself out with the assistance of a rope. From the top of the first waterfall, it took us a few yards up to see the next waterfall which was much higher. After a few minutes of taking pictures, we decided to turn back. Fortunately, we all made it out safely without any injuries or scratches.