Ko’Olau RangeThe grey sky at morning foretold the weather pattern for the day on this tiny island in the vastness of the Pacific. Jostling on steel springs, the Jeep carrying our crew of 4, (Andra, Dave, myself and the dog, Mia) bounced over the patched asphalt of H1 towards Honolulu, east towards the apparent epicenter of the rainshowers hovering over the knife-ridged Ko’Olau Range. The rain spattered in tiny splotches on the windshield about the time we reached Pearl City, and by the time we had passed the Pali Highway lookout, the rain drops were smashing into the windshield like metal bearings. None of us had any doubt about what kind of hike this would be, and I tried to enjoy my last few moments of dry-shirt. What the heck, I'd been wet for about 50% of the vacation so far, what's a few more hours? Off the highway and into the trailhead parking: I scouted the trail for 50 yards to make sure it wasn’t foolhardy to continue. The trail was muddy, running with water in places, cut by rushing streams racing downhill in other places. Deciding that it was foolhardy, but what the hell, I proposed we hike for 30 minutes and turn back at that point. Everyone agreed (the dog implicitly). We threw on some boots and took off down the sloppy, soupy trail through dense jungle greens. Vines hung down from the multi-layered canopy of trees, and in openings Uluhe ferns formed impenetrable barriers to off-trail exploration. A general feeling of claustrophobic closeness pervaded the trail, like a hallway through a museum exhibition on rainforests. Naturally, we enjoyed it thoroughly. The cut banks on the trailsides were covered in lilting ferns and dew-covered mosses of many colors. Every dry wash had become a waterfall in the rain, and the wet, algae-coated rocks were slick as butter. We were lucky to catch the trail on such an unusual day where the rain was steady enough to swell the steams, but not heavy enough to stop the humans. Actually, what do I know...maybe this wasn't an unusual day. I paused frequently to try to capture the event on film, undoubtedly boring my hiking mates who had no such documentary ambitions, Mia especially. The biggest challenge was keeping the lens free of raindrops long enough to focus and click, something I did not always succeed at, as my post-vacation photo inspection showed. The trail hacked out of the jungle followed a relatively flat grade, sidehilling along the curves of the Ko’Olau mountains, which are dominating sharp ridges running south to north forming the upthrust that causes so much rain on this side of Oahu. Thirty minutes came and went, and since we were pretty much completely soaked by that point, we decided to continue hiking up the trail. In places where the canopy was broken, we could see hundred-foot falls cascading off the massive mountain face above. Would've loved to have gotten closer to those falls, but I wasn't sure how, and off-trail bushwhacking was no casual suggestion. We crossed through 3 or 4 distinct drainages before deciding to turn back near Maunawilli Stream. Would have loved to move on and I’m not sure now why we didn’t. The farthest point we made it to was about 1 ¾ miles in, at a falls which I climbed 20 feet up into for photographs. Lovely, wild place. Back on the trail, I turned towards collecting plant cuttings for transport back to Wyoming and my misting bench at work. I filled a plastic bag with mysterious cuttings and then held the others in my hand. The rain wet us down more on the way back, and everyone was thoroughly soaked and chilled by the time we made the Jeep. A good hike and a good time for all. 

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More photos from the Maunawilli Trail are located in the Hawaii album at
Page Created Dec 2004