Moanalua Valley Trail

Moanalua Valley Trail

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As a youngster, I took great delight in dashing about in the rain. My Keapuka neighborhood buddies and I weren't the sorts to stay hunkered up inside when showers poured down from our Windward Oahu skies. Instead, we'd head up the street to Jim Miller's front yard for a spirited game of tackle football. Mud covered and sopping wet from head to toe would we be. And we loved it. Every minute of it.

Undoubtedly, such experiences made permanent impressions on my soul, and even though every day that marches by moves me further from those moments of youthful exuberance, I long for them often.

These thoughts of far off days came to me as I hiked alone up Moanalua Valley. The hike commences at a quiet community park at the end of Ala Aolani Street. Although dark clouds hung over the far reaches of the valley, I set off anyway, hopeful that the skies would clear in the two hours or so it would take me to traverse the four miles to the foothills at the base of the steep Koolaus.

My goal was to hike to Pu'u Keahiakahoe (elevation 2,820), a peak along the sheer ridgeline that towers above Kaneohe. If I was in a daring mood when I reached the summit, I would inch my way along a dangerous series of dropoffs to complete an existing loop trail. Otherwise, I would grunt my way up to the top and return the same way. I also wanted to explore that cabin-like structure--easily visible from most parts of Kaneohe--that sits precariously on the edge of the ridge.

But I faced a long haul to get there.

The first third of the hike, which follows a gently-winding cobble and dirt road up the valley, is quite easy. As I trudged along, alone with my thoughts, I calmed myself before I had to face the rugged climbs that lay ahead. When I wasn't engaging in sessions of self-contemplation, I tuned in to the sounds around me. At some points, the wind hissed quietly through the leaves and branches of koa, monkeypod, and guava trees lining the road. At other places, where the trees were elevated and more exposed, the whirring seemed to increase in a crescendo of sound with each step I took.

The road up the valley weaved its way over the gently-flowing Moanalua Stream. Early on, stone bridges spanned the stream's waters. About a mile up, a petroglyph-covered pohaku lay alongside the road. I stopped for a few minutes to examine these ancient renderings, wondering what prompted Hawaiians of old to venture up so far mauka. Even further up, following the road all the while, I shuffled carefully through ankle-deep water over several moss-covered concrete causeways.

And then the rains came.

I was about 75 minutes into the hike when the torrent began. Armed with the knowledge of the brevity of most Isle rainstorms, I continued mauka, confident that the precipitation would be just one of the many "passing showers" locals are accustomed to. But this storm was neither passing nor just a shower: it was a deluge. After about 20 minutes of steady rainfall, rivulets formed in the hilly sections of the rocky roadway, racing downslope and gushing into larger gullies at points along the slope.

Enveloped in thick whitish-gray cloud cover, the upper valley and Keahiakahoe itself had vanished. So too had the sound of the wind, replaced by the soothing constancy of the cascading rain. Under a canopy of seven-story high koa trees, I stood there shivering, dripping wet, and alone. I reckoned that while some people might be depressed by the rain, particularly while hiking in a semi-isolated valley far from the comforts of a warm shower, a mug of piping hot cocoa, and a tender embrace of a loved one, I found comfort in it.

I decided against a summit try on that day, stopping about two miles from my intended destination. I know I will return to set foot atop Keahiakahoe some other time. And I was not at all discouraged by how the hike turned out.

I loved it. Every minute of it.

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