I'm on vacation this week (Spring Recess). Ditto for my friend Bill Melemai. We hadn't hiked together for a bunch of months, so Bill suggested an overnight backpack. His first choice was Haleakala and his
second was Poamoho-Schofield. However, circumstances indicated we best not attempt these. The third option was Waimano-Waiau, and we agreed that this would work.
We started at 12:45 on Tuesday afternoon at the Waimano trailhead. Bill's wife, Donna, dropped us off and she'd pick us up at the end of Kaahumanu Street at the end of our trip sometime on Wed afternoon. I was carrying a fairly light load--no more than 15 lbs. In comparison, Bill's pack was about 35. During our trip, he heard me extol the virtues of lightweight backpacking so much that he's convinced he should make modifications to what gear he'll use in the future.
Our plan for Day 1 was to pack in to the five-mile marker campsite along Waimano. From there, we'd make camp then fetch water via the trail down to the stream just before the 5.5 marker. Our hike in was slow and leisurely, and we took a long break at the picnic shelter just past the 2.5 marker. We arrived at five-mile camp at 4:30 and set up our tents quickly as dark clouds swept down toward us from up-valley. I was using a Walrus Micro Swift bivy and Bill a Peak 1 Cobra. These held up well though mine lacked roominess.
We obtained a couple of gallons of H20 from the stream via a trail just makai of marker 5.5. Back at camp, I added iodine to the water and later filtered a liter at a time with my SafeWater Anywhere squeeze bottle. After adding some Crystal Light iced tea mix, we had plenty of drinkable fluid for hydration for the night and next day. Since we were just overnighting, we decided to go the cookless route. For dinner, I ate a can of vienna sausage, some peanuts, and a protein drink (2 scoops of whey with some Waimano Stream Water Iced Tea). Bill ate an MRE entree with a Tiger's bar for dessert.
After dinner, we talked story in the clearing next to our tents under a splotchy night sky that hid all but a handful of stars. Rain chased us into our tents around nine, and after gabbing for a few minutes, I was off into z-land. The night turned a bit chilly and I could have slept more restfully if I had packed a sleep cover and a long-sleeve top. I decided not to bring the former and forgot to pack the latter. That'll teach me. Camping, as I always discover, is a never-ending learning experience.
The patter of rain on our tents greeted us at 6 the next morning. By 6:30, the light shower had passed and we were able to emerge from our tents to check out what kind of day we'd have. Though the sky was gray up toward the summit, the makai skyline was brighter, giving us hope we'd have a decent day to hike.
And we did. We were packed up and on our way up the trail to the summit at 7:30. The earlier rain made the trail a bit muddy, but on the whole it wasn't bad. Just like the day before, we hiked leisurely, arriving at the summit at 9:00. The summit crest was clear and a brisk breeze swirled up the pali from Waihee Valley below us. I pointed out to Bill the wrong-way ridge in the crossover section toward Manana and, looking in the opposite direction, the broad flat-topped summit plateau of Waimalu middle ridge. I also made an entry in a logbook someone had left in a bottle at the summit. Perusing other entries in the book, I spotted a handful of familiar names.
Bill had never made a summit crossing in this section of the Koolaus, so he was a bit unsure of what to expect. As I've done with others in the past, I rehashed the maxim of summit hiking: If you have to fall, fall to the right (the left, in this case, being the sheer windward pali). Bill laughed nervously at my words.
The crossover to Waiau is brief, only taking about fifteen minutes, but it's one of the windier summit stretches. Upon arriving at the heavily ribboned Waiau terminus junction, I stopped to plant the stalk of a red ti plant I'd obtained on a lower section of Waimano. Hopefully, the plant will grow and flourish there and be a marker of this location for future generations of hikers.
Bill and I made our way down Waiau Ridge and really enjoyed the upper section of the trail, which is still wide open from the TM the club did back in mid-October. The footing was also excellent, with no mud. About midway down, the trail became brushier, and I recognized this as the section where the TM crew started pushing thru due to fatigue and time limitations. Nonetheless, Bill and I had no problem hiking with our bulky packs.
We ate lunch at the junction with Brandon Stone's trail down to the old cabin by Waimano Stream. There's not much of a trail to speak of but I recognized the telltale double ribbons marking the spot. Plus, a visual reckoning told me the spur heading down to the stream had to be the one.
After lunch, we continued down the ridge, arriving at the Big Dip. I pointed out Wing's rescue spot and also the point where I had stopped to yell out for him a couple hours before he summoned Fire Rescue to pluck him out. We passed the junction with the trail down into Waimalu Valley and then began the notorious rollercoaster middle section of Waiau. This wasn't fun, especially since the heat of the day intensified, but taking one hill at a time, we progressed toward our final destination.
Further down, we met a lone male dayhiking up from Kaahumanu. The guy told Bill that the rest of the way was all downhill, but I told Bill that this statement was false. In fact, we still had several big hills to climb. "This is one helluva downhill," I yelled to Bill as we huffed our way up every ascent we encountered on the way out.
I found the new Halapepe Nui trail that connects Waiau to Waimano and hiked it for a short stretch. The club will conduct its maiden hike on this route on April 28. Check it out, HTMC members.
The final section of Waiau follows a jeep road, which leads to a watertank and then a paved road down to the end of Kaahumanu Street. Prior to reaching Kaahumanu, Bill called Donna via cell phone and she said she'd drive up to pick us up. Along this final stretch, I spotted a black rabbit, likely a pet someone let go, dashing off into the brush.
Donna was delayed by afternoon traffic, so Bill and I walked down Kaahumanu. Next to the curb about a quarter-mile down, we found a turtle crawling along the road. Bill took a liking to it and decided he wanted to take it home as a pet. So he took a towel out of his pack, wet it down, wrapped the turtle in it, and stuffed the towel-covered turtle in his pack.
So earlier, I'd spotted a rabbit and now Bill had a turtle. Maybe we'd interrupted a race between the tortoise and the hare? Ok, sorry, bad joke. :-)
To my surprise, a security guard was on duty at the shack at the start of the gated community of upper Kaahumanu. I approached the shack slowly, thinking the guard might read me the riot act for hiking out of the area past his post. But he was a nice guy and said hikers are allowed access in vehicles past the security post as long as they leave their name and the guard records the license number of the car. Good deal.
Bill and I hiked down to Waiau District Park and kicked back in the shade of a large tree as near us Little Leaguers practiced fielding grounders and teenaged soccer players honed their kicking skills in a massive green expanse. A few minutes later, Donna arrived and presented us with super-sized soft drinks and hot dogs. Without pause, Bill and I scarfed these down. Thank you, Donna!
So ended our overnight trip. In all, we covered about 15 miles and enjoyed decent weather. Though this route can be done as a dayhike, using it as an overnight backpack trip was a pleasant and interesting variation that others might want to try.