OHE January 29, 1998

Date: Thu, 29 Jan 1998 09:07:36 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (prorie@hekili.k12.hi.us)
Subject: Maakua Gulch Waterfalls

Saturday, Jan. 24th, was a beautiful day on Oahu (a near 10 on a scale of 1 to 10), variable winds with the mountains completely clear of any cloud cover. Because of a tough day of exploring/trail clearing the day before and increasing age, Dayle Turner headed for the HTMC club hike Pu'u O'Hulu. I was scheduled to go with him but changed my mind that morning. Instead I called Laredo and we decided on the Ma'akua Gulch waterfalls.

I picked up Laredo at his Haiku Valley home shortly after 10 a.m. and we departed for Hauula. His hair was yellow on that day. As we drove to the trail the two of us spocked the clear Ko'olau summit crest and reflected on hikes we had done on the various segments. Also, Mount Ohulehule looked marvelous ! Passed the fire station and parked across from Hauula Beach Park.

Following final preps Laredo and I started walking up Hauula Homestead Road toward the trailhead at 10:56 a.m. The paved road became a dirt road (Ma'akua Road) in a forested area. We made a left turn and encountered new construction including concrete walls along the side of the dirt road. The two of us broke out into the open and climbed gradually above Ma'akua Stream. At the end of the road at a turnaround were two new buildings. The area had changed a lot (not for the better) since the last time I visited. Above and to the right was a gorgeous Norfolk Island pine grove and below it a lovely ironwood grove. The sky was an incredible shade of blue without a cloud in sight.

Laredo and I finally reached the trail and entered the forest. We descended briefly thru hau and crossed Kawaipapa Stream in a grove of ironwoods. Next we descended to Ma'akua Stream and crossed it numerous times. Sometimes the trail went along the left side of the stream and sometimes on the right. Occasionally it took us thru the dry stream bed. As we proceeded further and further into the gulch the valley walls began to close in ! Eventually the trail went along the stream bed almost exclusively. We carefully rock hopped as the stream bed twisted and turned. As the two of us approached the normal termination point of the trail we noticed water in the stream bed as well as spectacular waterfall chutes carved out of the near-vertical cliffs.

At 12:07 p.m. Laredo and I sat down at a spot not far from the first pool. I changed my footwear from Nike Landsharks to green tabis. Because it was such a clear day there was an abundant amount of sunshine in the gulch which kept away most of the mosquitos. Laredo pointed out that this was the first swimming hike he and I had done together. I was surprised not to see other people (esp. military personnel) at the location considering it was such a pretty day.

Leaving my day pack behind and strapping a waterproof camera around my kneck, I lead us as we began moving deeper into the gulch. We climbed over some rocks and Laredo swam thru the first pool. I was surprised that the yellow dye in his hair did not wash out ! I followed him but walked along a ledge a few feet under the surface to keep from getting my upper body wet. The water was incredibly cold !

Once we reached a second, larger pool Laredo and I could see a rope hanging down from a small waterfall. Laredo dove in and swam to it while I attempted to get to the rope by walking along the right edge of the pool. I lost my balance, however, and fell in ! Laredo laughed as I moved quickly thru the frigid water toward the rope and waterfall. A steady stream of water was flowing down the first waterfall. The two of us used the rope and footholds in the rock to get ourselves up thru a short vertical tunnel in the rock. When we reached the top we noticed a natural rock slide. I told Laredo of the time I slid down the slide and hit one of the underwater ledges with my foot. I badly bruised it and struggled to make it out of the gulch.

Pressing on, Laredo and I swam thru a couple of small pools in route to the second waterfall. Some swimming was required but for the most part we went along the right edge of the second waterfall pool to get to a newer red and black rope. The rope was several feet to the right of the waterfall and had knots in it. The pool wasn't very deep so if someone fell while climbing up the waterfall serious injury would probably occur. The second waterfall was atleast 40 feet high and very steep (almost vertical). Imagine ropes hanging down from the first two waterfalls along the Ka'au Crater Trail and having to climb up and over them using only the rope and footholds and you can get a picture of what Laredo and I were up against. Just before I started going up I told Laredo the golden rule - NEVER LET GO OF THE ROPE !!! I went first and pulled myself up while carefully placing my feet in decent footholds in the rock. About three quarters of the way up I reached a thin ledge and went left walking along it until I could grab another older rope. I completed the ascent soon after. Laredo followed and I took a picture of him as he slowly gained elevation. I'd never seen him so intense. Sometimes its fun to see your friends squirm !

Laredo successfully climbed the second waterfall and the two of us headed upstream until we reached the third waterfall. I went along the right side of the pool until I arrived at the rope which was almost directly in the path of the waterfall. The rope was saturated with water and had a strange feel to it. The cold water was splashing me in the face as I began to ascend. Adequate footholds were available and a second knotted rope was provided for assistance. With one rope in each hand and making use of solid footholds I carefully climbed up the third waterfall which was similar to the second (40 feet high and almost vertical). When I was almost at the top I encountered slippery green moss on the rock and I noticed that both ropes were frayed from the constant chafing against the rock. Also, that they were tied around a lone loulu tree on the left. Nevertheless I finished the ascent and encouraged Laredo as he made his way up.

The stream went left and then curved right. The fourth waterfall was not as tall as the second and third. However, it had fewer footholds and the rope was directly in the path of the rushing water. Once again I went first, slowly and methodically ascending to the top. I could feel the strain on my biceps having pulled myself up the three previous falls. Laredo followed and after he reached my position the two of us rock hopped our way along the stream bed for some 20 minutes.

We came to a fork, went right and eventually came to a tall steep waterfall similar to the previous three we had ascended. Unfortunately no rope was present to get us up and over. I concluded that we had taken the wrong fork so Laredo and I backtracked to the junction.

When we arrived there we went left and a short distance later encountered the fifth waterfall. It was not as steep as two and three but was higher and there were no footholds near the top. We could see the rope tied to a huge boulder above the falls but it had been cut about three quarters of the way up. I was bummed because I wanted to try and conquer this waterfall (the last time I attempted to reach the top I failed because the final few feet require the climber to pull himself/herself up - there are no decent footholds). Laredo was relieved.

The two of us enjoyed the area for a few more minutes then carefully worked our way back down the stream. For the most part the narrow walls of the gulch were covered with a variety of green flora and the sunshine beautifully penetrated the crystal clear water in many of the smaller pools. While staring into one of them Laredo asked me,"So where is the lepto ?".

We reached the top of the fourth waterfall at 1:45 p.m. Going down was easier than ascending and Laredo took pictures of me as we slowly made our way back to the normal termination point of the trail. I reached my day pack at 2:21 p.m. The two of us retraced our steps along the trail/stream bed until we emerged from the forest.

At 3:34 p.m. Laredo and I arrived at my car and departed shortly thereafter.

== Patrick

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