OHE June 3, 1998

Date: Wed, 3 Jun 1998 15:17:01 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Aihualama ramble

I had to run an errand in town today and since I had some time afterward I headed to Manoa Valley to log some hiking time. It's been a while since I went up the Aihualama switchbacks, and I like the workout they provide without the need for intense concentration and effort.

Ordinarily, when hiking Aihualama I follow the route described in Stuart's book--that is, the one that heads past Manoa Falls and then contours over toward the base of Tantalus before zigzagging up to Pauoa Flats.

I had heard about a shortcut route thru the bamboo--from Jason Sunada and more recently Mike Uslan--and I had an idea where this route began and where it emerged on Aihualama, so I figured I'd give this alternative a shot.

As it turns out, the shortcut begins a minute or two from the Manoa Falls trailhead. Right where the gravel road ends and the trail begins, someone has placed two hand-painted signs imploring hikers to "Stay on the Trail" and "Keep Manoa Falls Clean." Nice sentiment.

A little bit further on, just beyond the concrete bridge is a Na Ala Hele sign that demarcates the start of the Manoa Falls Trail. Just past that sign and before the stream crossing is a rooty trail on a gentle slope on the left. That's the shortcut trail, which when followed is obvious and unflagged (no need for ribbons, really). I think I needed about 15 minutes to reach Aihualama, which if memory serves would be about 10 minutes faster than the route that goes past Manoa Falls. There's an interesting landmark on the shortcut route--a manmade wall and a bathtub (an old house site?).

The shortcut emerges on Aihualama at the tail end of the bamboo section a few minutes before the trail begins its switchback ascent to the top of the ridge and Pauoa Flats. At the base of the switchbacks (14 in all), I exchanged greetings with two Korean guys heading down. The humidity was high and wind almost non-existent, creating a sauna-like effect. But the sweat was welcome and soon enough I had completed the zigzag climb and emerged in the bamboo forest at the apex of the ridge.

In a few minutes I was at the Nuuanu Lookout where I sat down to rest and take in the view of the reservoir, upper Nuuanu, and cloud-cloaked Lanihuli. I had forgotten that a part of the windward side is viewable through a gap in the crest above the Pali Tunnels, and I enjoyed that sight, too. To my right was the big pu'u that one must climb to proceed to Konahuanui but I had no desire to head for the Big K today. And of course right next to me was the metal stake inscribed with the appropriate descriptor--"God's Country." Mike mentioned that this lookout is one of his favorites, and I can understand why. It's beautiful and serene.

I returned via the identical route, stopping on one of the lower switchbacks to watch a helicopter hover in the area above Manoa Falls. Sheesh, had someone run into trouble and needed plucking out? Apparently not, for the chopper wasn't the yellow HFD one, more likely one taking folks sightseeing.

A small rainshower hit just as I arrived at my vehicle but just as quickly as it came was it gone. And equally quickly was I gone, headed home after a nice couple hours in the mountains.


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