OHE July 9, 1999 (Lulumahu Falls)

Date: Fri, 9 Jul 1999 13:46:39 -1000
From: Greg Kingsley (gkingsle@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Lulumahu Falls, 08JUL99

An emerald gem in the forest, Lulumahu Falls is a sweet little waterfall tucked neatly away into a Koolau mountain fold. Hidden from both the harried bustle of automobiles and power luncheons and the proximate novice trails teeming with enthusiastic casuals, its quasi-trailhead stands on Nuuanu Pali Drive, only a quarter-mile from one of Oahu's busiest highways. Quasi only because a hole in the thick stands of bamboo constitutes the "trailhead" (elev. 840 feet).

Fallen giddy over this quaint jungle waterspot, I relished another opportunity to return. Thus, Blossom and I tackled the chance to tag along with the informal HTMC-offshoot "WEHOT" group as they ventured forth into upper Nuuanu Valley. Congregated and trail-bound by 9 AM, our crew included HTMC's trail maintenance boss Mabel Kekina, Thomas Yoza, Charlotte Yamane, John Hall, Bill Gorst, Miles & Maureen Brubacher, "Kalalau"-Rich, and Ken (last?). Mabel, an avid expert of the locale, was introducing the Brubachers to the trail for which they will coordinate a club hike on a later date.

After a quick walk up Nuuanu Pali followed by a short trek through a bamboo hallway, we turned off a relatively wide path through the canopied stand into a coffee plant-clouded ramble. Blossom and John Hall, having both spent some time in the biochemistry field, discussed nucleic acids, nitrification cycles, and anaerobic respiration while we filled our lungs and nostrils with the natural forest scents. In a manner of minutes, we broke out from the collusion into the expansive, but well-canopied, area of sparse trunks and brush and home to the Kaniakapupu ruins. We spent a moment amidst dilapidated fragments of stone masonry, figments of a Hawaiian monarchy long since assigned to the annals of history, which marked the previous existence of King Kamehameha III's royal summer home. (For more information, see Lulumahu Falls write-up dated 01NOV98.) Ginger with our footsteps, we left the historic site unmolested, passing two strung-up tarps, marking flags, and other signs of the presence of archaeologists.

Pressing into the plethora of rose-apple, kukui, and coffee, we poked and prodded various routes, trying to find the correct "trail" toward the falls. After a bout of both trail-following and trail-making, we reached our first crossing of the shallow Lulumahu Stream and followed it upstream for a hundred yards or so. A small group tried to bypass the meandering stream with an "up-and-over" the rise route. Climbing up some boulders and ascending the sparse, but still well-sheltered forest, we finally hit an obvious route thinly graded into the rising hill. Another moment of confusion ensued in the deep forest of paperbark trees and bamboo shoots, but we correctly altered course to the left and connected with the stream, again, in about ten minutes.

From then on, it was a simple course of following Lulumahu's flowing waters with the occasional crossover. Two-feet deep in wide spots with scattered waterholes up to five-feet in depth, we enjoyed the soft babbles and rippling gurgles on the ascent to 1,400 feet. Littered with boulders, the gentle stream was often transformed into small showers and gushing fountains.

Including the relaxed pace and the frequent foraging for a path or trail, it took about two hours to traverse the less-than-one mile before the sight of the double-decker falls filtered through the tree trunks. A total of a good seventy or eighty feet in height, the first falls stands about forty feet above a shallow pool. The higher waterfall is perched behind the first, just beyond sight when gazing from the pool. Our group encircled the fifteen-foot diameter body of water and fallen boulders for lunch, conversation, and a little flute-music by Ken. Blossom and I climbed onto a boulder jutting into this little lake, fronting the cascading beauty, and watched the many tadpoles glide about the sunken leaves and algae. The bamboo chopsticks we crafted from the forest (since we forgot forks) were working splendidly with our saimin! As we ate, we spotted two mature frogs and a pair of fish (between 8 - 12" in length) which Kalalau-Rich and John Hall identified as o'opu (probably o'opu akupa- one of only five species of fish native to Hawaii).

Lunch concluded, we headed downstream and collected by one of the first stream crossings. Instead of following our previous route, we took a more direct approach back to Nuuanu Pali Drive. In fact, this was along the same "trail" we used back in November '98 - except in the opposite direction. Passing the concrete culvert and abandoned shack, we bumped into Jason Sunada, who had started the hike just after noon and heard us rambling on a parallel course. We pressed on through ginger and hau. Reaching the grassy road, the confusion began at the bamboo grove (once again). I spotted the overgrown "hole" we came out of all those months ago. Signaling the group, we penetrated the stalky bamboo forest at this point and ducked and dodged the spears laid across the path. This trail, already narrow when we previously cleared it, was completely ambushed by the bamboo. Yes, we were bamboozled.

Navigating only by pink ribbons, we managed to find the original path of bamboo stumps which had been cut last year. We followed the ribbon/stump combination for some time until it petered out into a clearer forest of coffee plants and towering trees. By now, the group was completely scattered throughout the forest as our hiking throng included only John Hall, Kalalau-Rich, Blossom, and I.

As the ribbon placement became more confusing, John stayed behind to follow-up on the group. Kalalau-Rich, Blossom, and I continued out of the forest, temporarily following a powerline. When we realized we were parallel to Nuuanu Pali Drive by only a few feet, we ducked through the thick bamboo and jumped down onto the road.

The rest of the gang filtered out over the next fifteen minutes as some of them tried to clear the bamboo explosion. We gathered by our vehicles and enjoyed passing around Thomas's photos of Haleakala while discussing hikes to come. Much thanks to Mabel for the cold drinks and watermelon slices. And with that, we parted ways at about 2:30 PM.

Lulumahu Falls is an HTMC intermediate-level "member's-only" hike scheduled for 8 AM, Saturday, July 17. A post-hike barbecue is scheduled for 3 PM at the clubhouse.

Happy Hiking!


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