Saturday, September 12, 2009

Kalauao Falls

From Hawaiian BU

We actually did this hike a while back, and I'm going to write about that trip first so you can get a small idea of what I did today with the Atherton students I work with. Kalauao is located off of the Aiea Loop trail (yes, that Aiea Loop trail) and most people don't go to this falls, either because they don't know it exists, or they have no idea of the exact turns that they need to make to get to the bottom of the valley. And to preserve this gem, I won't go into detail here about how to get there. You'll just have to try and interpret the best you can from my description.

My sister and her boyfriend took my parents to this waterfall and of course I had to get to it, being the waterfall lover that I am. On the hike was myself, Chinese BU, and our friend Robin (Grandma!). My sister had given me pretty solid directions and we had made our way down the side ridge, but couldn't figure out which way we needed to go right, down to the valley floor. After waiting for her to call her boyfriend and get the details, we found the mango tree and headed down.

My Mom had said that it was pretty steep..and she was right about that! This descent to the valley floor was some of the most dangerous yet enjoyable hiking outing I had ever encountered. There are many different trees that line both sides of the path, sturdy enough to hold onto and make your way down the ridge. Just take your time so you don't fall head first 1000 feet to the ground. After about 25 minutes of careful zigging and zagging, we had reached the valley floor and the stream trickling by. This was where we made a big mistake by not memorizing this spot. More on that later.

We ended up going up the valley, crossing the stream several times for about a mile + more and got to this extremely impressive waterfall with a nice big swimming hole. It wasn't raging, but it had a steady flow, and you could see the potential for some massive amounts of falling water. The hole was nice and deep, and it felt like you were in an arena, with all the rock walls surrounding you and the falls right in front of you. At that point, I knew that I liked this falls and would return to visit it again.

On the return trip back downstream, we couldn't find the way up. There were several ribbons in places that looked very similar, but we couldn't decide which way was up. This is the first time I learned that Chinese BU had the "just rush'em" mentality. Him and Grandma rushed headlong up the mountain into something that kinda looked like the way up, but as you probably figured out, wasn't even close. We ended up taking almost an hour and a half just to regain the side ridge. We ran into sheer rock faces with no visible way to climb, so we had to go around. We ran into all types of tree tangle. We also came upon a patch of Strawberry guava trees. Good thing right? Wrong! This part of the mountain had loose gravel and dirt, and we kept slipping back down, lurching for branches. I tried placing my foot at the bottom of a guava tree and the thing went tumbling down the mountain. I basically pulled my groin trying to maintain balance and not join the tree on it's plummet down. And that slowed us down even more.

Eventually, we found this old Boy Scout trail that thankfully led us to the side ridge, but I was hobbling the whole way, and a pain to be with because I was so slow. I told Robin and Chinese BU that I was going down the side ridge towards the small subdivision and would meet them on the road. My leg was in no condition to keep going uphill, and it was easier going down instead of up. Both of them trucked it back towards the start of the trail, and left me to limp down to the road.

None of those problems came into play today. I had a big student group that really wants to see the "real Hawaii", and I decided to bring them here. I made absolutely sure that we found the tree, and that we all marked the bottom of the valley. The only thing that didn't go right was the falls. It was bone dry, so badly that you could see the bottom of the swimming hole. That thing is about 20-30 feet deep, depending on the water volume. The students were obviously disappointed, but they loved the hike. By the way, the proper way up only takes about 30-45 minutes with a large group like the one I had.

I still do like this falls and the hike to it. Someone from Central Oahu pray for some rain so that it gets flowing again.

PS this was before Chinese BU got into picture taking our trips, so we don't have photos from the first adventure. I'll try and get some from the students later. Peace.

The path to Kalauao

The bottom of the valley

The Empty Waterfall

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