Ahuimanu Valley Hike (1996)

Ahuimanu Valley Hike (1996)

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In the early part of July '96, I found myself with some free time on a Saturday morning. As I often do on weekend mornings, I checked the hike calendars for both the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club and the Sierra Club to see if any interesting treks were scheduled for that day. Come to find out, the HTMC had planned an outing into Ahuimanu Valley on the windward side where I live.

Led by Donna Brown, the hike, according to the club schedule of events, would take place in "an enchanting area" that included "bubbling streams and small waterfalls." Having never explored the area before, how could I not join in?

I quickly grabbed my pack, my hiking boots, and a liter of water and was on the road from my Kaneohe home and heading Kahaluu- bound along Kahekili Highway. Although I didn't know where the trailhead was, I did know that HTMC Saturday hikes commenced at 9am, that Ahuimanu was out in the area of Valley of the Temples, and that if I drove around the area, I was likely to find the group.

As luck would have it, I did. Donna assembled the thirty or so hikers roadside along Hui Iwa Road just mauka of where it intersects Hui Kelu. By the time I had parked, gathered my things and strided up to the group, Donna had completed her pre- hike question and answer session and was giving instructions on how to drive up the valley to the trailhead. Having made mental note of her turn-there, then here, and park there directions, I hopped into my vehicle and joined the caravan of cars motoring up the valley.

To get to the trailhead, we proceeded mauka on Hui Iwa and turned left onto Hui Kelu. We followed Hui Kelu and parked on it in the vicinity of Kupili Place and Heno Place. The trailhead is in a vacant lot on the mountain-side of Hui Kelu. There are no trail signs visible from the street, but as one wonders onto the lot, a sign is visible in its far right corner.

The sign offers a fairly detailed description of the significance of the sites along the trail. We'd be passing a number of ancient taro lo'i (terraces) and were cautioned to tread lightly over portions of the trail that travelled over terrace walls.

Under mostly clear, sunny skies, we set off into the forest, the ground underfoot damp and squashy from the previous night's rainfall. Soon a canopy of trees blotted out the sky and we were approaching the first of several lo'i. I lingered near the back of the group, half of who were parents and their kids, and moved slowly over the gooey, slick trail.

Just as the trailhead sign had informed us, we passed several taro terraces, several which had small metal ladders next to them to help hikers avoid stepping on their ancient rock walls. The trail meandered through the forest, making a gentle ascent toward the valleys back reaches.

Easily within half an hour, we had crossed a small rocky streambed and had reached the base of a massive 60-foot rockface, a small trickle of water cascading down its visage into a small pool at its base. Donna told us that this was our lunch/break spot. After a break, members of the group were offered two options: return to Hui Kelu via an overgrown four-wheel-drive road, or continue a quarter mile mauka to another rockface/waterfall.

I opted for the latter, and after grabbing a quick sip of water and watching a couple of guys trying to scramble up the side of the rockface we were at (they ended up retreating), I was mauka bound.

The trail had been well-marked by the HTMC trail crew so making my way was no problem. The path contoured the side of a slope and then veered upward fairly steeply for about 20 yards. An abundance of guava and other trees helped to ease my ascent of the muddy trail. Soon I found myself rock hopping up a dry riverbed and within 15 minutes of leaving the lunch/break spot, I had joined two other folks at the base of a vertical 30-40-foot waterfall chute.

Typical of a waterfall at the base of the Koolaus, the chute was just one of several that were carved by wind and water into a staircase up the mountain's steep slopes. Above the chute was a pool (I lobbed some stones up into it and hearing no splash determined it was dry), and above it was more riverbed, another chute, a pool, and so on.

I joked to others about continuing on if I had some rope, but I knew I wouldn't risk further ascent even if I did, for I'm not much of a rock climber. Gazing at the beautiful green Koolau cliffs above me, I lingered in the riverbed for ten minutes or so before retracing my steps toward civilization.

Just as Donna described, the trail descends the valley back to Hui Kelu along an old 4wd road. The road pops in and out of small guava forests before contouring along a mostly open, uluhe covered hillside. Within 20 minutes of leaving the upper waterfall, I had reached a point about an eighth of mile down Hui Kelu from my trailhead parking spot.

In all, the Ahuimanu Valley hike covers about 2 miles and is suitable for novices, young children, and veteran hikers who want to explore an interesting, beautiful valley. I enjoyed hiking there and I think you will, too.

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