OHE March 9, 1998 (b)

Date: Mon, 9 Mar 1998 20:32:54 -1000
From: Nathan Yuen (nyuen@lava.net>
Subject: The Clouds of Konahuanui

(a copy of this has also been posted to the newsgroup "soc.culture.hawaii")

Finding myself in an especially adventurous mood yesterday, I decided to hike to the top of Konahuanui, the highest point on the Koolau Mountains. Towering over the east side of Nuuanu Valley and the very back of Manoa Valley, I had often admired from the very bottom of Manoa how the clouds swirl about and caress the twin peaks of Konahuanui. As a result, I had no choice yesterday but to see with my very own eyes the birthplace of the clouds.

When I began my adventure from the Manoa Falls Trail, only the faintest wisp of clouds were visible at the summit. Encouraged that I might actually see a spectacular cloudless panoramic view of Oahu, I quickened my pace to reach Manoa Falls. Much to my disappointment, the falls were barely a trickle--a victim of the drought conditions caused by El Nino. Continuing on my trek, I veered-off onto the Aihualama Trail and made my way up the switchbacks on the side of Manoa Valley. After passing through a charming bamboo forest, I reached the Pauoa Flats Trail and made my way to the breathtaking look-out point overlooking Nuuanu Reservoir. From there, I began the climb to the top of Konahuanui.

As I began the initial ascent, few clouds were overhead to obscure the sun. As a result, the sun was hot and the droplets of dew remaining on the uluhe ferns, naupaka kuahiwi, and kupiko from the night before felt refreshing cool as my legs brushed past the vegetation.

As I climbed about three-quarters of the way up the mountain, I suddenly noticed clouds piling up behind the summit. Created when moisture laden air is forced high into the atmosphere by the tradewinds blowing up against the Koolau Mountains, a large bank of clouds began to condense on the windward-side of the mountains. In a matter of no more than fifteen minutes, the thick dark clouds began to drift over the summit and shielded me from the full brunt of the sun.

As I began to reach the final climb to the top, the clouds began spreading-out on the Honolulu-side of the Koolaus like a low dark ceiling. From my vantage point near the summit, Waikiki, Downtown Honolulu, and the entire southern coastline were completely bathed in sunlight--only the mountainous interior sections were covered in clouds. As I climbed ever higher up the steep slope, the clouds descended ever lower down the mountain, until... it started to rain. Since I was so close to the summit I refused to turn back and decided to wait for the rain to end. In order to bide my time, I ate a sandwich and admired the views while watching the ceiling of clouds roll overhead. In the short time it took to complete lunch, the rain stopped and the clouds dissipated! The way to the summit was clear!

Seizing the opportunity, I quickly scampered up the final steep incline and reached the first peak of Konahuanui! Perched some 3100 feet above sea level, I was pleased to have conquered the first peak! As I made my way along the windward edge of the first peak to reach the second peak of Konahuanui, the neatest sight began to unfold! A large bank of clouds began to rapidly condense from nothing right before my very eyes! Not wanting to get drenched from the still-forming rain cloud and conceding that the view from the second peak would undoubtedly be obscured, I abandoned my plan to reach the second peak and turned back.

As I began the initial descent from Konahuanui, the rapidly forming cloud overtook me and enveloped me in a eerie white mist. Descending to just below the cloud line, rain began to fall briefly from the cloud until suddenly the cloud dissipated as quickly as it had formed! As I descended further down the mountain, I noted the cycle repeat itself once again--clouds would condense on the windward-side of the mountain, pile-up behind the mountain until they were blown over the summit to the Honolulu-side, rain, and then dissipate! Whadda neat sight!

Anyway... as I descended down the mountain to well beneath the cloud line, I admired fantastic views of Nuuanu Valley. Particularly stunning was Lanihuli, the peak that towers over the western side of Nuuanu Valley over Nuuanu Reservoir. As I made my way back down the Pauoa Flats Trail, the Aihualama Trail, and then the Manoa Falls Trail, I was pleased to have scaled Konahuanui and to have witnessed the dynamic weather at the summit--the place where the clouds are born. Whadda neat place!

I just posted a few pictures I took during my hike to Konahuanui. They're not the best photos since lighting conditions were less than ideal but some of them are still quite interesting. You may view them by pointing your web browser to:

http://www.lava.net/~nyuen/hiking/konahuanui


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