Monday, April 26, 2010

Ma'akua Gulch

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by welikehike

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.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Aihualama-Ohi'a (via Manoa Falls)

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by welikehike

This hike combines Manoa Falls, Aihualama, Pauoa Flats, Manoa Cliffs, and finally, Puu Ohi'a Trail for a total of 8 miles round trip. This was suppose to be an easy hike to recover from the merciless 12-mile Dupont trail done last week, but this trail gave us a moderate workout. We started off hiking the busy and tourist-infested Manoa Falls trail and we turned left to the Aihualama trail right before the falls. We met up with some old folks who kept us company at the switchbacks and later ditched them when we had the chance. Finally, we had some peace and quiet but the air started to get a bit chilly as we elevated ourselves to higher ground. We had to keep on moving to keep our bodies warm and muscles loose.

We were in a complex network of trails and we regretfully took some wrong turns as we retraced our steps to the right path. We turned into Kalawahine Trail when we were suppose to continue on Pauoa Flats; we turned right on Manoa Cliffs Trail when we were suppose to go straight (Stuart Ball's said to turn left. This is may be misleading because the trail options are either straight into the gate or right.); we turned left into Puu Ohi'a trail instead of taking the left fork up the paved road. I mentioned this so you don't have the make the same mistakes we did.

We walked through many bamboo forests, and at times, we were alerted by the sounds it made. At first, it sounded like a land slide comin' our way but it was merely the wind and the bamboo rubbing against each other. The view at Puu Ohi'a was actually amazing. I wasn't expecting much, but I have to say, it's a sight worth hiking for. At a distance, you will see Diamondhead Crater to the south with Nuuanu Valley to the north, and adjacent ridges along the Ko'olau mountain range. I did not like the paved roads near the end of the trail. I could not stop thinking that there is probably a vehicle route that is accessible near the peak. And having to hike all the way up here would feel like a waste. However, we did meet up with a couple that told us about an easier route to the peak of Puu Ohi'a. We were a bit disappointed to hear that, but at least we can say that we conquered this trail route, and we can officially cross it off our list.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


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This trail kicked my ass, mainly due to me being out of shape, but everyone who did it can attest that it's no walk in the park with a 4,100-foot elevation gain within a 5.5-mile stretch (11 miles round trip). There were a few tricky sections that involved the use of a rope or cable, but no extreme conditions to test your nerves.

The trail starts at a private road near Waialua High School. Along this road, there are many gates and warning signs like "Private Property", "No Trespassing", and "No Hiking". It's amazing how many hikers manage to get by without heeding to the signs. The state owns the ridge part of the trail but everything near the trailhead belongs to private owners such as Dole, Waialua Ranch, and Kamananui Orchard. If you do plan to do this hike, make sure you contact Kamananui Orchard (Randy: 808-778-6014).

For the beginning part of the trail leading to the summit plateau of Ka'ala, we hiked under the hot scorching sun on a dirt road. We took a detour to a scenic lookout on the hilltop which eventually led us back to the main trail. Once we arrived at the Mokule'ia Forest Reserve boundary, the dirt road ended and the trail narrowed. There is a section that was overgrown with tall grass with heights soaring above me, and sometimes, it became difficult to make out the trail. The only cuts I had this day was from the annoying grassy section, I had nasty scratch marks all over my arms. After this point, the trail got more serious as keeps going up and up with steeper inclines. My leg muscles were getting tighter at every step and I could feel a cramp on my left calf muscle. Later, I felt the tightness on my quads and hamstrings. We were on our last hill, and my legs were done! My legs would cramp up and it would force us to take longer breaks. It was mid-afternoon, and at this pace, we began to worry about the return trip. When we arrived at the concrete steps, I thought my cramps were gone so I picked up the pace. But the pain hit me on my right calf and it was a real bad one. I called out for my hiking buddy for her assistance. I lied on the muddy steps with my right leg lifted up. I wanted her to bend my foot back to stretch my calf, I asked her to place my backpack between my foot and her body so she wouldn't get dirty. Instead, she hung my backpack on my foot. We were both confused, "what is she doing?", "what does he want me to do?" After all the pain, we got to the end of the trail. My hiking buddy proceeded up the paved road and I trailed behind her. Around the corner, she came running down with fear. She thought she was being chased by the guards since she hopped over the fence to take a picture. I turned around and I limped right behind her, I could barely run.

On the return trip, it took us half the time and it was much easier.