Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lua'alaea Falls

From Hawaiian BU

So a couple of weekends ago, I decided to explore on my own the back of Manoa Valley and find a falls I have always heard about, but have never had the opportunity to find: Lua'alaea Falls, one of the creators of the four streams of Manoa. Not as well traveled as the tourist-laden Manoa Falls, this isolated beauty runs parallel to it's sister, and ends up in an extremely shallow pool followed by another shorter falls 80 to 90 yards downstream.

Now, enough online resources have been written about finding this trail. However, it's not exactly clear where you need to go once you begin. The common thread I found was that you start at the same trailhead as Manoa Falls, cross the foot bridge, then go across the stream and find the trail. I also found the Dorkatron write-up saying that you could also find the falls by going up Haukulu Road. I'm very familiar with that road, having explored that area during my time trying to find Waiakeakua. Figuring that was enough info to get me through, as well as my instincts, I parked the car down in the neighborhood you go to park for Waiakeakua, then went up the road to the Manoa Falls trailhead.

Manoa Falls was packed! Tons of cars packed in the parking lot just below the entrance to the trailhead, and tourists were flowing to and from the Manoa Falls gate. If you take the time to look to your right and look at the stream, you can already see potential trails that might be the one you need to take, and this is before the foot bridge. With that confusion in my head, I went past the foot bridge and walked directly towards the stream and the clearing right before it. It was at this point I ran into the only local guy I saw, pants partially muddy, and I decided to ask him if he knew the way to Lua'alaea.

Luck was on my side, because that was where he came from. Unfortunately for me, he pointed up Manoa Falls trail and said that I needed to bypass another foot bridge, then look for the stream crossing! Great, I thought. I was already confused, but undeterred, as I passed that small bridge and started my hunt looking across the stream for a path. There really was no evident path. I went up a few more yards, said the hell with it, and decided to cross the stream at the next open area. I figured that if I went straight across in a straight line, I would cross the path eventually that would lead to my destination.

So away I went, through a path that hadn't been walked in a long time from the looks off it. It took me up a short distance until I spotted a a faint blue ribbon (Blue?) up towards my left. I tracked my eyes higher and far more left, until a path became more clear, leading up this side ridge. Thinking that I had finally found the path, I continued upward.

I should have paid attention sooner, but I eventually found my self looking at the expanse of Manoa Valley, climbing up this side ridge that wasn't in any of the descriptions I had read about Lua'alaea Falls. So I did the one thing my family always said to do when lost on a trail: stop and listen. I closed my eyes, and then realized that the sound of water rushing not only came from the left side of me, Manoa Falls, but on the right side of me, Lua'alaea, as well. I realized that I had spent almost 45 minutes going above the falls!

I quickly made my way back down this side ridge, following the ribbons I had mistakenly used to find my way up. Eventually, I discovered newer, orange ribbons, that were very defined, and cut across the ridge I was currently descending. I know I should have gone right to see the exact crossing, but I was so enamored with finding the proper way up, that I decided to just go left and find the right way. And this of course led me to the trail to Lua'alaea Falls!

After that, the hike was a breeze. Not a tourist in sight, I enjoyed my walk to the Falls, with the stream flowing nicely beside me on the way up. Lua'alaea is a tall Falls, just like Manoa Falls, it just has no pool to swim in. And there are a ton of mosquitos everywhere, so bring some repellent if you don't want to be a buffet. The best thing about this hike is that it has no publicity amongst the tourist population, and the hike is not "landscaped" like the hike to Manoa Falls. Some of the tourists thought I was lost when I left the Manoa Falls trail, but little do they know what I was trying to find.

I returned back towards Haukulu Road, which actually is private land, a flower orchard maintained beautifully behind Paradise Park. I lucked out because no one was there at the time, but I'm pretty sure that someone is up there on a consistent basis, tending to the plants. I returned to my car, happy to have found this jewel, yet still just as confused about where the exact starting point for this hike is. Anyone want to help me out?

PS Chinese BU has done some pretty cool hikes out with Kaleo, and he said he and Nate Yuen are doing Kaupo Cliffs today (crazy!). Here's hoping he writes about one or two of them.

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