It was an accident. I wanted to take a companion up Hawaii Loa ridge. We were there a bit after 9, and the attendant at the gate announced that the parking is full. So we moved on to St. Louis Heights. Companion says she is afraid of heights and thought St. Louis Heights trail is "steep". So we got back in the car, and I thought I would go (flat) Aiea Loop. On the way it occurred to me that Old Pali Highway is actually paved and should be a good one for her, and so we parked at the Pali Lookout and went down.
She enjoyed it very much. At the end of the paved road, there is an overgrown mess. I went in to explore and told her to wait, but courageously she went along. Thirty feet inside, there is a sign for the Maunawili Trail, and the trail widens and goes downhill. She thinks she can handle it, and so we kept going.
By 12, we came to a scenic point and had lunch. I was suggesting turning back, but she became enthusiastic and said keep going on this very nice trail. Soon we came to the sharp corner of the Pali Highway, where the Maunawili trail begins in earnest. There is a big sign with pictures of bees (not my favorite insect, I was stung and almost passed out on Ohulehule-Kahana on Oct. 1, 1995) and another sign that says 9.3 miles. Amazingly, she says it's all right, and we kept going.
Soon we found old friend Ralph working on the trail; we talked. Another 10 minutes, we found hiking guru Dick Schmidt working on the trail. We exchanged pleasantries on cutting native plants. It was 1:30. I said to Dick, see you in a little bit, we'll turn around pretty soon. Dick said, I quit at 2:30. I thought, 2:30, we will surely turn around by then.
We kept going on this extremely nice, easy trail, almost all level at 980 feet on my altimeter. Some half hour later, we met a Haole guy from Virginia. He said he did the whole trail and turned around 1.5 hours ago. It was maybe 2:00 then, and I figured, even if we took twice as long, we'll get to the end by 5:00, and can hail a taxi on the Waimanalo side to return to the Lookout. She was interested and said let's go all the way.
Lesson: never believe people who said that they turned around from the end 1.5 hours ago.
We kept going and going. For me, the trail is still amazingly nice and easy, but for her, the contour trail dug into the steep hillside resembles a walk on the edge of a cliff, and needed lots of help. We gossiped and joked and I saw a radio tower in the distance that seems to be near the end. About 4:30, we got to that radio tower and took a rest.
Then I saw a trail sign, the _first_ trail sign since the Pali sharp corner, and it says: 5.0 miles covered, 4.3 miles to go!
We already hiked 3h 30m since mile 0.0, and we only covered 5.0 miles. In 3 more hours, at 7:30 pm, it gets dark. I was getting worried, and she completely panicked, complaining about ankle pains and dizziness. I am worried about getting stuck in the mountains overnight (we were only wearing shorts), and she even suggested that I walk out myself and then summon help. Which is even worse, for it will be completely dark, and no fireman will attempt a rescue and she'll be stuck overnight all by herself. Moreover, I don't think she, being afraid of heights, would take well to riding in a basket under a helicopter anyway.
So I, as the experienced hiking companion, kept encouraging her to proceed. She keeps saying that this is a survivial test trip, and yet amazingly kept going. Even though the radio tower looks to be near the end, the valleys in this section are enormous and the trail keeps going in and out those valleys. There were at least 12 of those ins and outs. I said that once we get to the jeep road, it will be hikeable even in complete darkness. I was really whistling in the dark: I have not done the jeep road since 1991 and have no idea what's it's like these days.
About 7:10, we finally got to the intersection with the jeep road, and the sun is going down. Fortunately, the jeep road is just like in 1991, namely wide open. We trudged down and finally saw street lamps! We straggled out to the road, and it is already 7:45. In 15 minutes more minutes, it became completely dark.
No taxi stand at the end either. We went into a house and asked them to phone a taxi for us. They were not very friendly. The parents-in-law were visiting, and they confided in us that hikers have stolen plants from the house and that's why the occupants were not friendly.
The taxi came eventually, after 20 minutes wait, and got up to the Lookout 8:25, by which time, the gates to the Lookout were locked. I asked the taxi to take us home, all the time praying that the car thieves were on vacation that night.
Luckily, they were. We returned the next morning, and my car was still there in one piece at the Lookout.
Appreciate the write-up, Wing. Glad you and your companion made it to trail's end before darkness swallowed you up. But, hey, there's something to be said for hiking by flashlight. :-)
I did the Maunawili Demo about a month ago and I encountered four surly-looking, gun-toting hunters and their dogs. My first thought when I saw them was "Deliverance" (remember that flick?). This was about 2 hours in from Pali Highway with me Waimanalo-bound and the hunters heading back toward the Pali. No problem at all, though.
I turned around not long after and maybe 45 minutes from the trailhead, I passed two jogging-clothes-attired, attractive haole wahines heading toward Waimanalo. This struck me as odd since it was about 5:15 at the time. Where were these two headed so late in the day? Come to think of it, they looked a touch frightened when they saw me. Hey, maybe "Deliverance" came to their mind, too. Heh.
Good to hear Wing's car wasn't messed with during the night at the lookout. Reminds me that when I go hiking I'm usually more concerned about the safety of my vehicle than my own well-being. Talk about messed up priorities, huh?
Aloha and happy hiking to all,