Date: Fri, 10 Sep 1999 10:28:25 -1000 From: Patrick Rorie (email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: The Waterfalls of Waimanu Valley
The Waimanu Valley backpack trip "traverses an isolated section of the rugged Kohala coast. Sheer sea cliffs alternate with deep, lush windward valleys. Along the way are black sand beaches, myriad streams and gulches, cool swimming holes and roaring waterfalls."*
After staying overnight with friends in Hilo, I picked up Mark Short and his friend Mike Young early Saturday morning, Sept. 4, at the Hilo Airport and we drove northeast along the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island. Upon arriving in Waipio, I dropped the two gentlemen and our packs off at the lookout then backtracked to Waipio Artworks. A few minutes past 8 a.m. a woman opened the store and I paid her $5 ($2.50 per night) to allow the rental car to be parked in the lot across from the store (Waipio lookout is not a safe place to park a car overnight).
Morning showers gave way to mostly sunny skies and following final preparations at the lookout pavilion, Mark, Mike and I commenced the 9 mile opening leg of our Waimanu Valley sojourn at 8:35 a.m. The hike begins with a steep descent over a paved road to the floor of Waipio Valley. Having read about Mike's knee troubles on the recent HTM Konahuanui trailclearing, I kept an eye on him. Both he and Mark were equipped with hiking poles which they employed to absorb some of the pounding. Once on the valley floor, the three of us headed makai until we reached a broad black sand beach. Paralleling the shore, our party strolled through an ironwood grove and gained pleasure from the sights and sounds of keiki playing in the sand and boogie boarding on the nice waves breaking off the coast.
Further ahead came the first obstacle of the day, Wailoa Stream. Mark took the lead and forded the waterway at a waist deep location. (The other option is to cross near the mouth of the river. The water level is shallow there, but the strong current and slippery rocks can cause one to topple, esp. if burdened with a heavy backpack.) Mike went next and I brought up the rear, the bottom of my pack dipping into the stream at the deepest spot of the crossing. Nothing critical inside got wet, however.
Having forded Wailoa Stream without mishap, Mark, Mike and I continued our trek through more ironwoods in route to the start of the Muliwai Trail, 7.65 miles from Waimanu. We endured the steep steamy tough ascent of the valley wall via seven long switchbacks (aka The Zigzag Trail) halting frequently to catch our breath. At the fourth switchback, the three of us delighted in superb sweeping views of Waipio Bay and Valley - "The beach and ocean are directly below. You can see well into Waipi'o Valley. The waterfall along the coast is Kaluahine (the old lady)"*. We also recognized Hiilawe Falls, a lovely vertical cascade, and its twin Hakalaoo on the other side of the valley inside a natural amphitheater. Beyond switchback number four, shade brought much needed relief from the direct sunlight.
At the crest of the ridge inside a forest of evergreens, albezia, eucalyptus and paperbark, Mark, Mike and I removed our packs and sat down to rest. A few mosquitoes came around but did not pose much of a nuisance.
From the ridge top the trip became a woodsy ramble inside a dense forest along a graded contour footpath descending gradually into and climbing steadily out of numerous gullies, a canopy providing plentiful shade. Unfortunately, the trees obscured most of the oceanward view. On a couple of occasions the three of us stopped to cool off inside pleasant swimming holes fed by small gently flowing streams. Startled by large prons munching on his feet, Mark quickly exited one of the pools. "Man-eating prons!!!" I called out in jest.
Although dominated by introduced flora including disturbing amounts of clidemia on each side of the footpath, ohia lehua and kukui nut trees laid claim to portions of the landscape. 2.25 miles outside of Waimanu, we paused again at a rundown shelter.
After the .9 mile sign, Mark, Mike and I began the descent into Waimanu Valley. It wasn't long until we could see the unobstructed deep blue ocean and hear the surf. On our way down, the three of us enjoyed outstanding vistas of spectacular two tiered Waiilikahi Falls across the valley and the incredible massive vertical wall (the Big Island's version of the wall of tears), the valley's southern boundary, on the far left. The beautiful black sand beach of Waimanu backed by ironwoods and the marsh behind the ironwoods also got our attention. Mike's knee acted up slowing his progress during the steep descent, however.
Once we arrived at the valley floor, we each took turns fording Waimanu Stream. This time at the mouth of the river where the stream and ocean meet (take a look at the front cover of Ball's "Backpacker's Guide" for a visual reference). During my attempt to cross, Mark extended one of his hiking poles which I grabbed and he pulled me out of the waterway. I will never call someone using poles wimpy or old!
Our party reached campsite number 3 at 3:40 p.m. where I confronted two men loitering near the fire pit. I explained to them in a friendly manner that I possessed the permit for the area, and they responded that people were occupying their campsite. As a result, I invited the men to camp with us if they couldn't find anyplace else available. They departed in peace.
Next, we started setting up our tents. While in the process of erecting our humble abodes, all of us detected a horrible odor emanating from the rocky beach. "What the hell is that smell?!" I asked no one in particular. Upon closer inspection, we discovered crabs feasting on a rotting pig carcass which had washed up on the shore. Using a long black fiberglass tube and a bamboo pole, Mark and I pushed the cadaver back into the ocean and the waves took it to a spot further down the coast. The two of us returned to the campsite and relaxed by sitting on large rocks as Mike made an effort to start a fire. Relatively free of mosquitoes thanks to the trade winds, the spacious campsite afforded a nice view of the sheer wall in the back of the valley and of Waiilikahi Falls. It also had access to a calm stretch of Waimanu Stream and a metal row boat lay on the bank. Mike got a fire going in the pit and he and Mark ate an early dinner.
As darkness fell, the first of a dozen backpackers led by Kyle ? (a friend of Charlotte Yamane) passed by our campsite and we exchanged greetings. Later, the last of the group including the famous Mexican hiker (FMH) Evilia Torrez descended into Waimanu Valley using headlamps/flashlights to illuminate the footpath.
Overcast skies did not allow star gazing to occur and as I turned out the light in my tent at 9:45 p.m., I could perceive the soothing sound of waves crashing onto the beach.
Notes: A handwritten message in the Waipio lookout men's room describes the water there as not fit for drinking. Furthermore, it is unnecessary to carry all of your water to Waimanu Valley from Waipio lookout. You can obtain refills at Wailoa Stream, from any of the small streams on the Muliwai Trail and from Waimanu Stream. Also, Ball writes "the mosquitoes are fierce along the middle section of the route"*. Perhaps during the rainy season, but we had no trouble with the flying blood-thirsy insects.
Next: Day 2 - Day Hike to Waiilikahi Falls and a boat ride up Waimanu Stream
* Ball, Jr., Stuart M. THE BACKPACKERS GUIDE TO HAWAI'I. Honolulu: University Of Hawaii Press, 1996.