OHE November 30, 1997 (b)

Date: Sun, 30 Nov 1997 16:42:43 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Waimano Trail Hike [in the land of many waters]

Am posting this for Norman Roberts, who submitted this to the newsgroup soc.culture.hawaii. He's not a subscriber to OHE-L so if you have any questions/comments for him, send them to his email address.

A bear in Waimano Valley? Wow! Read on, gang.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: 1 Dec 1997 00:20:03 GMT
From: Norman Roberts 
Newsgroups: soc.culture.hawaii
Subject: Waimano Trail Hike [in the land of many waters]

Yesterday (Saturday, November 29, 1997) Nathen Yuen and I hiked into Waimano Valley. We met at 8:30 a.m., and after waiting for fifteen minutes or so to see if any other intrepid hikers would show up, we hit the trail at just before 9:00 a.m. Nathan had hiked solo to the summit a couple weeks previously, and his posted account of the trek stimulated some interest in his leading a CyberOhana hike. Originally there were five of us who had expressed an interest. Given the weather, it was not surprising that only Nathen and I showed up.

Waimano Valley is practically in my backyard, and I have been hiking in it ever since I moved to Palisades in 1965. In those days you could still hike in from Komo Mai Drive, following a jeep trail. This trail is pretty well grown up today, the entrance buried in an inpenetrable matting of California grass and other growth.

Waimano means "many waters." At least five streams flow from the Koolaus, each in its own narrow valley, coming together in various places. The main stream flows into Waiawa Stream near where Manana Stream joins Waiwa . According to the Bishop Museum's list of historical/archeological sites, there was a heiau near the junction of the streams, but I've never been able to find any sign of it. According to Uncle Mike, a Hawaiian gentleman who practically adopted me when I first arrived in Hawaii, Waiawa Valley was quite heavily settled in his youth. By 1965 the only house in Waiwa was a ditch patrolman's house way back in the valley where the Waiahole ditch comes out of the hillside. It had recently been shut up, and by now I suppose it has fallen into decay.

Along the Jeep trail into Waimano Valley in 1965 there was a decaying, falling down house, which had probably been the residence of the ditch patrolman. The main ditch ran from a dam about three miles up the valley on the main stream. This ditch supplied water for the sugar cane which grew in what is now Momilani. Another ditch, somewhat lower and supplied by water from the main ditch, carried water to the sugar cane growing in what is now Manana. A third ditch on the opposite side of the valley carried water on towards Manana and Waiawa valleys. This ditch is pretty well silted up by run off from the development of Pacific Palisades from the early 1960s through the early 1970s.

During the Late seventies there was some attempt by the State to develop Waimano Valley as a recreation area with a parking lot, rest facillities, and a new, graded trail to the popular Waimano Falls swimming hole. The project got as far as to bring in concrete pilings to block off the jeep trail. Then the money dried up, the clearing grew up, and today there is no visible sign of yet another attempt at progress.

The Waimano trail begins at the security guardhouse at the Waimano Home Grounds. The Lower Trail follows a jeep trail and descends to the floor of the valley where it follows along the south side of Waimano Stream for a bit. Then it rises somewhat steeply to join the Upper Trail which follows along the old irrigation ditch. The Upper Trail follows along the security fence for a bit, and then it turns left and ascends a ridge at the top of which is a great view of Lower Waimano Valley and the neighboring ridges. Pacific Palisades crowns Manana Ridge, but over the years trees have grown up which all but mask this neighborhood of 10,000 or more residents.

We took the Upper Trail because it is shorter and easier than the Lower Trail. Personally, I don't like hiking any trail that starts out by going down hill. It means that on the way out, when I'm tired, I have to climb uphill, and that's just more work than I want to do if I don't have to. A maintenance crew had recently worked on the trail. The growth had been cut back and the blowdowns removed. We walked briskly along the trail which is almost level where it follows the ditch except for one or two places where you either have to walk in the ditch or along a narrow masonary lip for a few yards.

In addition to the options of the Lower and the Upper Trail, hikers also have the option of going through several tunnels or following the trail which sometimes gets pretty narrow, and if you're bothered by hieghts, a little scary. In one place the ledge which the trail follows, hangs out over the valley two hundred feet below. There is a cable to help the hiker climb back down to the ditch trail. On the way in we took the trail because the tunnel had water in it; on the way back we sloshed through the tunnel.

Now it wasn't supposed to be raining on Saturday. At sunrise when the Waimano Parrots fly squawkingly above Palisades on their way to work, I noted that the clouds were rather light which augered good weather for our hike. Even at eight thirty when I reached the trail head, the clouds looked good. When we started out, the weather was quite pleasant although from time there was a brief spray of rain drops. However, as we walked deeper and into the valley, the rain increased in frequency and intensity, turning portions of the trail into yet another of Waimano's many waters.

We weren't much bothered by the rain on the way in. In most places where the trail follows the ditch, the overhead tree cover is sufficient to keep off a light rain. When we occasionally turned from the lee side of the hill into the wind, we realized what we were in for, but by then we were well on our way, and convinced that by ten thirty or so it would clear up; we pressed on.

There are a several points of interest along the trail. At a point just past the former Waimano Home sewage outfall, James Malcolm, who was hiking with the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club in November, 1970, made the last reported sighting of Butch, the Koolau Bear. According to Malcolm, Butch was about 30 yards down the trail from him. Malcolm and Butch stared at each other for several minutes, whereupon Butch headed up the mountainside toward Waimano Home and Malcolm headed on down the trail to catch up with the rest of the hikers.

Just past the halfway point to the damsite, the trail crosses a small stream. At one time there was a small dam here where water was diverted into the irrigation ditch. At various times there have been rickety bridges built across this stream. Members of my scout troop built one of these structures in the summer of 1974. If we had used larger stringers and had peeled the bark from the wood, the bridge might have been serviceable for a long time. Today there is no sign of it. Its decaying members must have washed out in the big rains of 1988 if not before.

Here the trail goes over the ridge and down the other side to meet up with the ditch. Here also the ditch goes through a long tunnel, between 1000 and 2000 feet, to the other side of the ridge. Usually this tunnel has water ankle deep or higher at the entrance which discourages hikers from going through it. It's dry only during times of drought. On the other side of the ridge there is another long tunnel. The last time I went this route, the ditch was filled with debris. and it took quite a while to negotiate the passage. There were no signs that anyone had recently been though the tunnels. Most hikers don't come prepared with flashlights so the tunnels don't get a lot of traffic these days.

Just past the point at which a side trail connects Manana Ridge Trail with Waimano Trail, a hiker fell into the stream and was killed in the mid-seventies . For a long time there was a large blaze orange paint splotch marking the spot, but today there is no trace of it. The hikers in this case were amusing themselves by throwing rocks into the stream fifty feet below when the victim got too close to the edge and followed his rock to his everlasting reward. Under normal conditions, the trail is safe enough, and even on a day like Saturday it is safe enough if you're careful. However, no trail is very safe if a group of hikers begin fooling around.

As we approached this point, we heard two loud, loud noises, which sounded like thunder, loud enough at least , but a little too high pitched to be thunder. Looking down at the stream, I noticed that the waters were muddied, which made me think we had heard two rocks fall from high on the bank into the water. If so, they must have been big rocks to make a sound that loud, even allowing for the megaphone effect of the valley at this point.

Until the big rains of 1988, there was a sizeable pond behind the dam where the irrigation ditch started out. On the opposite bank there was a fine campsite with several rock fireplaces and space available for a good sized scout troop. Troops from Hickam used to camp there quite often. Today only half of the dam is still standing and the swimming hole, where my sons and I used to refresh ourselves before starting back home, is just a memory. There are, however, two good swimming holes a few hundred yards below the dam. These are accessed by a side trail which is easily missed unless you know where it is. It appeared that no one had recently been there. I suppose the recent announcement of leptospirosis parasites in island streams has discouraged hikers from using these swimming holes. Formerly, the swimming holes and the long tunnels were the chief appeals of the Waimano Trail.

Our hike plan called for us to rest briefly at the damsite and then return. By this time the rain was coming down at a pretty good clip, and we could hear but not feel the wind blowing down the valley. If there had been any dry rocks, we might have sat down, split a jabon, and then started back. There being nothing dry to sit on, we stood on ceremony for perhaps ten or fifteen minutes, while I recalled that we were in the area where in 1970 my sons and I had found Butch's pawprint and a tree that he had clawed.

And then we started the three mile trek back to the trailhead amid pretty steady rain, driven by stiff gusts of wind, beating on our backs. I found myself moving slowly because of a growing pain in my knee joints, and stepping up on those sections of the trail that went around the tunnels became something of an operation. In places the trail was simply another of Waimano's many waters, and by now there were mini-cascades coming down the hillsides. Some of Waimano's many waters trickle out of cracks in the ledge even during dry weather. On Saturday one or two of these springs were spurting water onto the trail.

By now I had given up any idea that the weather would improve. I could only console myself with the thought that in Hawaii even when the weather is bad, it's good compared to other places. It might be wet, but it wasn't cold. And the wind was at our backs which helped us along the way.

Before we knew it, we had reached the lee side of the ridge through which passed the long tunnel. There were even some convenient logs to lean upon while we rested. I've always liked this spot because it reminds me of a place in the woods back in the frozen north where I grew up. Here there are big eucalyptus, three feet dbh [diameter breast high] in woodsman's terms. Not a limb for sixty or seventy feet or more. Beautiful logs. I suppose a Green looks at trees from a different point of view. These trees were planted during the 1930's by the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps], one of the many alphabet soup agencies created by President Roosevelt to combat the depression. It is way past time they were harvested; however since no one seems to know what to do with good logs, these trees will continue to blow down as they have been doing for the past thirty years. Sometimes there are as many as seven or eight across the trail which hikers must go over, under or around . The sawed sections from the last clearing operation, perhaps a couple years ago, showed that the trees are becoming hollow hearted which means that they will just blow down in greater numbers.

From time to time the rain let up and when the sun came out for a bit we were treated with rainbows so close we could almost touch them. On these occasions, seeing the clean green of the treetops, the gray ledge on both sides of the valley, with the rainbow running up the middle, hearing the running waters and the gusting trades, smelling the good clean outdoors, we could forget that we were getting tired, were already soaked to the skin, and hungry to boot.. As we pressed on, I noted the various landmarks: five large mango trees at what appeared to have been the end of the wagon trail. Here, I imagined, the workmen, who dug the ditch, assembled for lunch and a brief respite from their pick and shovel work. I noted the big mango trees in the valley, just about a mango seed's throw from the ditch.

Whenever we came to a tunnel, we went through it, grateful for a bit of dry in a world of wet. By this time we were no longer walking around the puddles that filled the low spots of the trail. We're tired, wet, hungry, and getting cold, I thought, but we're having fun. I was beginning to have some difficulty climbing down into the ditch to go through the tunnels and climbing back up after passing through them. I'm afraid I caused Nathan to wait for me on several occasions. I have to admit that I'm not fifty anymore. But maybe he can use the rest, too, I mused.

And then we passed through the last tunnel, topped the last ridge, and rested briefly as we looked west to the junction of Waimano, Manana, and Waiawa streams, the Pearl City Industrial Area, and points beyond. Then on down the trail, through the woods, along side the security fence, and back to the trail head. We were out at ten to one. We had made good time in spite of the rain and the condition of the trail. "We must do this again," said Nathan. "Yes," I agreed, neglecting to add 'in better weather.'

But in spite of the weather, the pain in my joints, being soaked, and all tired out, it had been a good hike, and as I sat in my truck eating my sandwich and chasing mouthfuls of my special recipe whole wheat bread with water from my canteen, the aches and pains began to fade.

Today is another day. The aches and pains are gone; there's hardly a twinge in a leg muscle. I feel completely refreshed. Yes, Nathan, we must do this again. And the weather doesn't really matter, does it?

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