Thanks to another half-day of work on Saturday morning, Don and I decided to go for a repeat session of the afternoon short-hike club along with Brian O'Hara, a hiking buddy from past legendary Koolau adventures. Although not as ambitious or spectacular as our quick climb to the Koolau crest above the Wilson tunnel last week, our plan was to check out Lulumahu falls in Nuuanu.
Again very close to civilization and almost in the backyard of Nuuanu resident Don, Lulumahu had been overlooked in the past as it was in kind of a kapu watershed area. However after some checking with a friend who works for the Board of Water Supply, it turns out that it's not a real problem anymore, and the chances were good that we would not be hassled.
Nevertheless the start of the hike involved a climb over the gate in the fence near the junction of the Old Pali Road with the main highway. Actually at the present time, there's not even a No Trespassing sign on the gate, only a Leptospirosis warning1
Once over the gate after a short distance the road stops, and a trail overgrown with ginger and high grass winds off into the shady forest. We had planned sort of a loop hike following the stream up and then back down on the old road next to the reservoir. Soon we reached the inevitable fork in the trail. We decided to to try the right hand turn for awhile just to see where the off-and-on trail with an occasional red ribbon was headed. After crossing the stream, it began to climb upwards in the direction of perhaps a connection with the Nuuanu overlook.
Backtracking and taking the other trail, in a short time we climbed up a small bank and found ourselves on the last portion of the grassy reservoir road. In a few minutes, we were standing on a rock wall by a small check dam in the stream. Rock-hopping to the other side, we ended up following a trail that eventually disappeared as the hillside steepened. Looking down onto the clear water of the stream meandering through mossy boulders, we spotted what looked like a more well-defined track on the opposite bank.
Aha! We should have stayed on the other side. Only one wrong turn so far. Better than bulldozing through head-high uluhe any day as we picked our way down the slope and crossed back over. For another twenty minutes, we did some pleasant stream-side hiking and then reached a spot where the valley walls were beginning to close in as the stream bed climbed up through some large boulders and downed trees. A lttle higher up brought us to a place where to our left was an old rock wall and a big pile of stones that looked like the remains of an old heiau. Adding to the interest of the spot was a rusted 12-foot section of what appeared to be a narrow gauge railroad track half buried in the bank.
Picking our way upwards, we knew we were close now as we saw the lower section of a waterfall through the screen of trees. Yes! Lulumahu Falls! We were standing at the base of a moderate-sized shallow pool with a picturesque 40-foot cascade at its head. Gazing up,we saw two more sizable waterfalls not coming down in the usual plunge-pool configuration but each at a different angle so there was a striking zig-zag effect. On our right, the fine spray of a small gossamer waterfall drifted down in front of a fern-covered wall. It was a pretty magical spot especially late in the afternoon so we sat, splashed and took pictures for awhile, enjoying another one of Oahu's special wonders. A little surprisingly, there was no sign of any recent visitors.
On the way back down, we discovered our missed stream crossing and headed down the road to the reservoir. Yellow ginger was bloomong everywhere alongside, and the warm late afternoon light cast long shadows of three hikers on the grassy roadway.
Passing by the reservoir, it was another one of those situations where we were enjoying familiar sights from a new vantage point. I thought of all the many times I had looked down on this spot from high above on the ridge heading up to Konahuanui. It was easy to imagine a step back in time to the days when upper Nuuanu was a pristine valley.
However we were soon jolted back to reality as we walked above the cars whizzing by on the Pali highway below us. One more climb over a locked gate (not the least conspicuous place to exit), and we were shortly back to the cars. Along the way, we noted several holes in the fence affording a little easier and less obvious access.
We'd spent around two hours exploring in a familiar area on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and met no one. Have to give a little credit to the fence and locked gate I suppose plus the same reasons we had not gone there as well. From the ultimate 16-hr day hike to a couple of short afternoon adventures, Oahu had been very good to us lately! Next??
Pete & Don
Thank you Peter for your excellent description of this trail. It really is a pleasant stroll in the woods, although poorly marked. "The inevitable fork in the road" can be deceptive but even more so the occassional ribbon going nowhere. We put up some orange ribbons to better identify the wooded crossing before you reach the reservoir road. At the falls we then tried to see if we could snake our way up (on the railroad tie side of the hill) but found it too crumbly.
On the way back out, (Phyllis insisted that we swoop up to Waahila for a see how fast we can get to the scenic plateu), we noticed that someone had started making their own trail toward the highway, they were using blue ribbons. Curiosity had us follow it for a short bit but lunch in St. Louis Hts awaited us. I wonder if someone is trying to make some switchback up the waterfall?