Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wiliwilinui to Lanipo -- by LastKoho

From the Oahu Hiking Enthusiasts archives
Date: Thu, 15 Mar 2001 19:59:07 -1000
From: LastKoho (
Subject: A Walk on the Spinal Side

The plan hatches when Mrs. Koho reads about a recent Sierra Club hike from Wiliwilinui to Lanipo. We decide to follow suit. That is, we'll hike to the end of the Wiliwilinui trail, turn left, hike on the Koolau crest to the end of the Lanipo trail and turn left again and trek back to civilization. We hope the path, given that it's only been a few weeks since the Sierra Club outing, will not be too badly overgrown or too treacherous on this, our first, Koolau summit jaunt.

And so it is that we find ourselves in separate cars heading up Sierra Drive to Mauanalani Heights, parking one vehicle at the Lanipo trailhead. Together, we then coast back down Sierra Drive and ultimately up into Waialae Iki where we park at the Wiliwilinui trailhead after obtaining a permit at a guard shack. It's mid-morning, a weekend, and, slinging on our packs, I note that quite a few other cars are already in the lot.

I say, "Hope there's not a lot of people up there."

My wife says, "Just expect it."

We walk on a sure-footed road past acacia confusa, guava, ironwoods, and a water tank. Farther up, curving left behind a hump there is dueling plant-life: non-native versus native. On the right there's botanically unpopular guava fringed with evil clidemia; on the left there's koa and ie'ie.

"Nice dichotomy," I say, waving my arm dramatically.

My wife says, "Yeah."

At the end of the wide road but not at the end of the Wiliwilinui hike, we reach yellow boot brushes under a brown sign that asks hikers to wipe their shoes so that they don't carry the seeds of pest plants -- like, no doubt, guava and clidemia -- farther on. We run our boots over the brushes and then walk up a hill and by a set of utility poles and on to another set of utility poles where we stop for a break as we watch a long line of hikers climb steeply to the radio relay station, gateway to the Wiliwilinui summit. We are in no hurry to join the hordes, so we drink some water before pushing up the dry and eroded mountain and past a bevy of boy scouts who have suddenly appeared, heading down, this a different crowd from the one we had seen going up. One of the scout leaders, a bit of a wiseacre, tells us that at least twenty people are currently on the summit lookout.

"Have fun," he says.

Hot and tired, we eventually reach the relay station and look toward the summit just ahead and see that the scout leader was not exaggerating: it's more crowded than Starbucks on Ward Avenue. So we sit exactly where we are, eat some cream crackers, look at the cigarette butts littered around the building, and, through the arches of utility wires curving over the valley, survey a slice of the Koolau spine heading west. While I can't make out the width of the crest or how overgrown it might be, the grade up to a set of six utility poles looks not too severe. After the six poles, however, there's a sharp rise. I say out loud, "I don't know how we are going to go up that."

My wife says, "What?"

I point and trace the route to the steep section. "See over there? Looks tough." I pause, shuffle my feet and add, "Of course you never know what it's like until you're there."

I turn back to Starbucks on the Hill. A fellow is violently thrashing a tree, essentially doing his best to uproot the thing. I figure that it is a guava and that he is shaking and pulling it down in the name of pest control. I wonder, however, if he plans to pull down all guavas on the island with his bare hands.

After twenty minutes, the crowd still occupying the lookout, we climb up and wade into the masses, -- spotting the brown and yellow "End of Wiliwilinui Trail" sign and seeing that the emasculated tree is indeed a guava -- then excusing ourselves two or three times as we baby-step through and exit left, descending carefully on the summit path, which is narrow with a seriously steep drop windward.

But it's not all that bad, not all that bad because there's also a wall of vegetation up to my knees -- at spots a little higher, at spots a little lower -- that provides a certain amount of security. And opposite, on the lee side, the drop off is generally not so steep in pitch and the ground is thick in uluhe and ie'ie and clidemia, plant life that, I calculate, will slow down, if not halt, a falling body.

About halfway down the slope from the Wiliwilinui lookout we stop and look and it becomes immediately apparent why someone might want to venture out to the crest: Not necessarily for the scare or the dare or the brag -- but for the view. Tremendous. Unspeakable. Some other modifier that would make sense coming in the wake of the previous adjective. It's a rare feeling, floating free-style over the island, the greenery clinging onto the near perpendicular pali and -- makai to the right, makai to the left -- the tropical blue ocean framing tiny, silly, and insignificant civilization within.

I say to Mrs. Koho: "Wow."

She responds: "Calm down, Last."

I now turn and scan the summit lookout -- empty -- and then look right and see a line of hikers marching down and by the relay station.

On the crest we walk to a saddle and then start back up, passing two clusters of lapalapa trees (three to a cluster in this instance) and six utility poles and then, not too much farther, I stop dead in my tracks. Ahead and above is the portion of the ridge I had viewed earlier. Up close it looks the same as it had from a distance: steep, overgrown, and narrow. I wonder if it's really something I want to climb and, too, if this represents what the remainder of the hike will be like. One other thing, there is a mildly tricky spot -- a windward step-around -- that initiates this sharp-angled segment.

I turn to my wife and point out the obvious. "You see this?"

She interpolates. "It looks scary."

I reiterate. "No kidding. It does look scary."

I examine the trail and, confidant that I can ascend farther and, too, if need be, descend back, I lean into the cliff and hoist myself safely up and beyond the tricky spot. With the aid of some clidemia, I then continue up a bit more, wiggling into a snug place and sitting. I look back down at my wife who has, in the meantime, moved forward and is now face-to-face with the same little step-around obstacle. Behind and below her is nothing but air.

She says, "I can't move."

I say, "You can't move?"

She says, "No, I'm frozen."

It's a rather common scenario -- frozen hiker syndrome -- and one that I dread for myself or anyone else, including my wife -- my wife who is, at least for the moment, wide-eyed and paralyzed.
I say, "OK, relax. Not a problem." She half-nods. I explain that if she wants to head back, now would probably be the time, no need to come up. I simultaneously consider just how to negotiate the death step on the way down since I expect her to say, "Yes, let's call it off."

But she doesn't say that. She doesn't say anything -- she just looks at me.

I start to speak: "Just---"

"What's it like above you?"

I turn and look and then give her the straight dope: It's steep, there's a lot of brush obscuring the trail so I have no idea what's afoot, and I can't see the top.

The wind comes up, gusting pretty hard, and now she says, "I don't know about this."

"OK, then, that's--"

"I don't want to go back." She points. "What's up there?"

I pause, caught off guard, somewhat happy that she wants to carry on but now adjusting to the task at hand, namely, me climbing into the unknown rather than her falling into the abyss. I say, "Hang on," and take a deep breath and turn and head up, clinging tightly onto clidemia with one hand, -- lovely, remarkable, beautiful clidemia -- and keeping the other hand on or near the ground, hunched over in my own little cocoon of uluhe and ie'ie before soon discovering that a few makeshift steps -- lovely, remarkable, beautiful makeshift steps -- have been cut into the cliff. I report the good news to my wife and next thing, just like that, she climbs past the point of almost-no return (maybe it isn't an incredibly tough spot as much as it is unforgiving -- long way down -- and made more imposing by the steep ridge above). I shout out something vague in as peppy a tone as I can muster, something like, "All right," and then turn back to the incline. We inch our way carefully up, without incident, to the top of the puu where we stop and catch our breaths.

And soon enough we continue on, descending ewa and finding that the trail is again OK, sometimes steep and almost always narrow, yes, requiring a certain amount of concentration to safely cross, yes, but not so terrible that we can't stop and take a picture or two and stare in wonder up and down and left and right amid the fanned ridges.

Negotiating our third summit smile -- the irregular curve between knolls -- we are joined by a red-vented bulbul that's snacking on the orange fruit of the ie'ie, the bird fluttering away as we approach and thereby loosely foreshadowing the hiker who we now see descending from ahead. She's alone, wearing shorts, no gaiters, a t-shirt, just a small fanny-pack. Meeting up, we say hello and learn that she's already come up Lanipo and is now heading over to Wiliwilinui.

She looks down at our gaiters and says, "I wish I had worn long pants."

I look at her cut, red-streaked legs and say, "Yeah, well, I can see that."

Soon enough, wishing her luck, we part company. And not too much later, ascending and descending, we finally reach the grassy area at the end of the Mauumae Trail. We are more than mildly pleased to have made the crossover. I'm not in the least bit hungry but we break out lunch (3-minute eggs with salt and pepper, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, oranges, trail mix) and continue to drink in the views for nearly forty-five minutes. And then we pack up and head down the mountain.

We've trekked Lanipo (Mauumae ridge) a couple of times previously and the trail is no less enjoyable than before, starting with the stern descent from the summit lookout and on to the semi-serious ups and downs through a mostly native forest of koa and ohia. We're not in any hurry and we stop and sit and I peer through binoculars across the Palolo Valley at the Kaau Crater and the water cascading down the cliff.

My wife says, "See any pigs over there?"

I say, "Nope."

Afterward, standing and moving again, we walk through my favorite part of the Lanipo hike as the hills round off and the forest folds in and embraces. On the kokohead side, below, large patches of green -- koa and ohia foliage -- sway in the wind and host a fair amount of birds that we clearly hear chirping away, including an unseen apapane's throaty hee-hee-hee. Soon the area becomes a little drier and the flora becomes a little more mixed: a koa tree and a strawberry guava tree, a lama tree and a eucalyptus tree, some clidemia (lovely, remarkable, beautiful clidemia) and some ie'ie.

We eventually reach a large knob that sports three Cook pines -- a Lanipo landmark, one my wife noted from the crest. We sit for a little while and drink water and then, packs again slung on, move down the path and spot an artful arrangement of naupaka and pukiawe, an occasional ilima blossom -- dust now kicking up -- more and more guava trees, stick-like vervains with their little purple flowers, my wife falling, more pukiawe, she's all right, ulei, no broken bones and she eventually gets up and moves along as we pass a telephone pole and I now trip and almost bite the dust.

We're tired.

But in time we are climbing up boulders and, afterward, strolling by an autograph tree and through a grove of ironwoods and then walking along a narrow, fenced corridor running between a big house and a big water tank. A minute later, we arrive at the trailhead and sit and relax in the shade of our car. We drink a little more water, change out of our boots, then drive back down to H1 and over and up to the Wiliwilinui trailhead. I get out of one car and get into another, and, finally, respectively, we roll toward home.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Haleakala Secret Spots -- by Eric Stelene

From the Oahu Hiking Enthusiasts Archives
Date: Thu, 8 Mar 2001 09:00:47 -1000
From: Eric Stelene (
Subject: Secrets of Haleakala

I've been working at Haleakala National Park for about 5 months, but my job never gets me into the back country so I have to go on my own. Last week I went into the "crater" with another ranger on his back-country patrol. The plan was simple: he'll take me to the secret places he knows about and I'll show him the secret places I have discovered.

Keep in mind that hiking off established trails in the Park is prohibited and I am providing this write-up for "informational purposes". I'm not going to get specific about the locations of some of these places so don't bother to ask.

We started from the Halemau'u trailhead (elev 8000 ft.) about 6 miles up from Park HQ. Next time you go to Haleakala be aware that you pass no fewer than 5 lava tubes all within spitting distance of the road between the entrance station and Halemau'u. (Don't bother looking, you'll never find them unless you know where the are.) These tubes are fairly small but have some interesting history. When the road was built by the CCC in the 30's, the workers apparently used these little caves for shelters. There are remnants of dynamite boxes and other debris left behind. One has some petroglyphs which are believed to be pre-European.

Although I can't tell you where the lava tubes inside the Park are (well, I could but then I'd have to kill everyone who reads this) so here's one just ouside the Park which is similiar to the ones described above: When heading up the mountain pass mile marker 9 (Park boundry is mile 10). Park at the first guard rail mauka of mile marker 9. About 50 ft off the road you'll see the small cave.

Anyway, back to Halemau'u. The Halemau'u trail in use today was built after a landslide wiped out the old Halemau'u. No one I talked to seems to know how long ago this happened but from what I learned, the new trail is about 30 years old. The old Halemau'u was a pre-European route into the crater. We left from the parking lot and headed for the old trail. We were at the crater rim in a few minutes and spent some time looking for some petroglyphs rumored to be in the area. We found no petroglyphs but did find a small shelter (an alcove in the cliff with a small rock wall built in front of it.)

The old Halemau'u trail dropped steeply to the crater floor in a series of short switch backs. The footing was rough since the trail was rocky and ummaintained. About half way down we came the old landslide area. A huge, deep gouge cut into the crater wall and took most of the lower switch-backs with it. From here we just cut straight down the the steep cliff and were soon at the crater floor. Total distance from the parking lot to the crater floor on the new Halemau'u is 2.8 miles, the old Halemau'u: about 1 mile! At the crater floor we picked up a faint trail through a grassy area and in few minutes came to the gate at the bottom of the new Halemau'u.

From the gate, an unmaintained trail branches off in the direction of Koolau Gap. (Not being an established trail, its use is prohibited by visitors). Soon this trail branches. One fork cuts across Koolau Gap to Waikau, the other fork heads down Ke'anae Valley a short distance to the fence at the park boundry. There is a locked gate there and the trail continues past the fence. I have not been beyond the fence yet but I have been told by some hunters that it ends at a cinder cone or pit of some kind called "Dead Man's Hole". There have been past instances of Park personnel assisting in search and rescues in the area for lost hunters and one report of someone falling to their death off a ridge.

We took the fork that led across Koolau Gap to Waikau (pictured at right). There used to be a cabin there similar to the other cabins in the crater. Soon, we made a short side trip to some small lava tubes I found on a previous trip to Waikau. One of these small caves had skeletal remains that I thought were human. I have studied human bones and can identify them; however these bones were slightly out of proportion. They were small like a child's but too a little too thick. My friend thinks they were goat bones. I've never seen goat bones so I can't be sure. Maybe they were Menehune?

A little farther along the trail we made another side trip to huge a lave tube I found on my first exploration of the area. At the entrance there were more bones like the ones we found in the smaller cave. This tube is about as big as the one near Holua cabin. I paced it off to be about 150 yards long. In the back of this tube is one of the strangest things I've encountered while hiking. There is sort of table-like rock formation with about 50 seashells all lined up on it. In front of this is what appears to be shingle-sized sections of palm tree bark arranged in an even pattern. There was also a ti leaf lei and fresh ohelo berries indicating some one else has been here recently. The was also a circle of rocks arranged like a minature heiau on the cave floor.

Everyone in the Park who I asked about this has the same idea as to its origin: hippies probably did this. We do get a lot freaks and new-age types leaving weird offerings in Holua cave - candles, bird feathers, animal bones, etc.

We left the cave and continued to Waikau where the trail ended at an intersection with a streambed. This is as far as I have been in this part of the crater. Distance from Haleamu'u to Waikau is about 2.5 miles. Our plan now was to find a route into the central crater. We followed the gravely streambed upslope about 1/2 mile to the leading edge of a huge a'a flow. We were happy to find a rough switchback trail ascending the flow. We followed this narrow trail up the lava and climbed steeply through a gully. The trail leveled off at a beautiful meadow with the base of the pali on the right and the a'a flow to the left.
The guy I was with said he was familar with this area and was sure he get us to an old trail through the a'a to the central crater. To make a long story short, we spent the next 2 hours walking though hell with no trail in sight. The a'a finally ended in a sea of black cinders. We joined up with the Haleamu'u trail about midway between Bottomless Pit and Silversword Loop. My plan from here was to continue to the central Crater to check out some archeological sites I heard about and to look for a pit called "Dante's Inferno" and a lava tube called Crystal Cave. The trip through the a'a exhausted me and we still had over 5 miles to go to get back to the parking lot. Dante's Inferno and the arch sites weren't going anywhere, so we headed for home. I'll go back in a few weeks and let you know what I find.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Kamakou and Halawa Valley (Molokai) -- by Dave Webb

From the Oahu Hiking Enthusiasts Archives
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2001 08:59:53 -1000
From: Dave Webb (
Subject: Molokai hikes

I did a couple of fantastic hikes on a recent trip to Molokai that I thought you folks would be interested in hearing about.

1. Kamakou Preserve - Pepeopae bog trail to Pelekunu valley overlook

For some time I've wanted to hike this trail but the problem was getting to the trailhead. Well, on this particular trip we had good fortune with us the entire time. The first night we were on Molokai we went down to the Hotel Molokai bar/restaurant for some pupu's and drinks. As we were enjoying the live entertainment, Sandy mentioned that she recognized someone that she knew from the Nature Conservancy here on Oahu. After speaking with him she told me that he was on Molokai to check out their preserve in Kamakou the next morning! We met the lady from the Molokai N.C. (Cathy) and her husband Brian who were going to take him up there and she agreed to take us as well. What luck!

To get to Kamakou you have to drive up a rough dirt road. You can find this road about 4 miles west of Kaunakakai. Turn mauka at the sign for Homelani cemetery and keep going mauka for about 10 miles until you reach the Sandalwood Pit and Waikolu lookout. The Waikolu overlook is awesome! From that vantage point on the west rim of the valley you can see all the way to the ocean. There is a large offshore rock just beyond the mouth of the valley. Across on the east wall are 3 or 4 beautiful falls plunging down from the heavens. The largest one in the middle feeds the Molokai tunnel that provides irrigation water for west Molokai. We were lucky enough to have mostly clear conditions here as the clouds were high that day.

On a dry day, you could probably get this far in a rental car if you were reallly careful. We saw two groups of people who made it in and back out OK. Beyond the Waikolu overlook, I would DEFINITELY NOT attempt to drive a rental car. To get to the beginning of the Pepeopae bog boardwalk it is necessary to drive another couple of miles and the road gets really bad. I wouldn't try unless you have 4wd with high clearance and you know what you are doing.

After negotiating the road we reached the beginning of the Pepeopae boardwalk. It's about 10 inches wide and covered with metal lattice to keep you from slipping off. The boardwalk trail is about 2 miles each way. At first, the trail passes through a nice forested area before gaining the bog itself. The bog is quite amazing, much like Kaala. Most amazing to me was the abundance of stunted Ohia Lehua growing right on the ground! I had never seen such a spectacle! If you like native plants, I'm sure this would be the place for you. I don't know many of them, but I learned a few from the NC folks on this day.

We walked at a leisurely pace, enjoying the morning and talking story. I don't know how long it took us to reach the Pelekunu overlook. When we got there the wind was gusting up from the valley and it was full of clouds. After waiting a few moments, the fog lifted and we were blessed with a truly amazing view! We were perched on the rim of the west wall of the valley near the back, and the whole expanse of Pelekunu was before us. You could see all the way to the ocean! The awesome east wall of Pelekunu was directly across and you could see Olokui and the ridge separating Pelekunu and Wailau valleys! Brian regaled us with some of his old hunting stories in Pelekunu and the time he and a friend climbed up a side ridge chasing some goats until the ridge became less than a foot wide!! He told us that in the past, people would travel between Pelekunu and Wailau on a trail that crossed over the low saddle in the ridge. Supposedly there is a cave up there where they used to spend the night. This vista must be one of the most amazing in the Hawaiian Islands! Right up there with the view from Poamoho summit, Konahuanui summit, Kalalau lookout, and Haleakala rim looking into Kipahulu valley.

II. Halawa valley waterfalls

Before describing how to get to the trail, let me first explain the Halawa situation as I understand it. As of right now, the trail is off limits to the general public because the valley landowners don't want people "trespassing" on their land. I have heard stories about someone breaking their ankle up in the valley and then suing the landowners, but that simply never happened. I guess these folks are just paranoid - whatever. So, that leaves you with two choices as I see it. You can join a $25 "cultural tour" and have a guide take you to the falls if you wish. This would actually be quite interesting to learn about the history of the valley, but I'm too cheap for that and I don't really care to hike this beautiful valley with a big crowd of tourists. Don't get me wrong, I certainly don't have a problem with some enterprising Molokaians taking people on hiking tours to earn income. After all, if the demand is there why not take advantage of it? Anyway, tourists would never be able to find the trail on their own anyway.

Your other option is to take my advice, pucker up your lips, and get ready to kiss up to some valley resident and ask their permission to hike in "their" valley. This has worked for me twice, and although the folks that I met were at first reluctant to let me pass, I eventually won them over with my pretty smile and even prettier disposition! Good luck if you dare venture into this valley! Trail directions are pretty simple as they were given to me. Park at the end of the paved road in the valley and then take the small dirt road down past a little church. At the first junction go right and continue until you cross a bridge over the stream. Almost immediately, take the first overgrown road on the left through the grass. You should see a sign with a heart on it saying something like "private driveway, no trespassing". Continue and you will see two houses on the right. Go around these on the left and then cross a small irrigation ditch on a board. The trail is right there, turn left on it and follow it up into the valley.

From this point it is about 2 miles to Moaula falls. The trail is really easy to follow with no confusing places. At the end, you cross a stream just before reaching Moaula falls. The falls are really nice, with 3 or 4 different sections that are sometimes hidden from view. The lower cascade is really powerful and the pool is quite big and deep. Strip down and enjoy a great swim. If you want to visit the other falls, Hipuapua, you need to backtrack to the junction where the stream splits and rockhop unstream for about 30 minutes. Bring your tabis. It is really worth it because Hipuapua is truly awesome. The topo lists it at 500' (but it probably isn't quite that high). Maybe 300' or so, it's hard to tell. The volume of water in this fall isn't quite as high, so you can stand directly under it. No low-flow showers in Halawa! The pool is shaped like a dumbbell and the side opposite the waterfall is quite deep and nice for swimming. This place has a lot of mana. Standing back there with the falls coming down and feelig the wind on your face it is impossible not to be moved. This is one of the most remote places in all of Hawaii and something not to be missed.

Have fun if you go to Molokai! Some recommended things are:

  • Hotel Molokai: Cheap and really nice. Nice restaurant and pool and the whole thing is right on the beach. Great entertainment at night poolside.
  • Molokai drive-in: One word: Platelunch.
  • Kamuela cookhouse: Located in Kualapu'u, on your way to the highschool. Broke da mouf grinds and cheap. Go for breakfast, you wont be disappointed.
  • Kalaupapa lookout
  • Sunset from Kaluakoi pool