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Hawaiian Adventures — Waterfalls, Part I

May 3, 2012

For such a tiny state, Hawaii has an amazing ability to demonstrate what happens when geography and weather set a collision course.

On the day I decided to hike to Manoa Falls, this point was made incredibly clear to me.

When I left Waikiki after hiking to the top of Diamond Head, the skies were clear and the sun was already beating down on the roof of my car. But by the time I traveled 10 miles into the foothills surrounding the city, the clouds that seemed to perpetually cling to the mountain range opened up.

Of course, I thought I was prepared because I was wearing a rain jacket.

Yeah … not so much.

Before I was even a third of the way through the one-mile hike to the falls, my jacket was soaked through and water was dripping down my back (thankfully, my Merrell hiking boots kept my feet dry and mud-free the entire trip). It probably shouldn’t have been all that surprising. At the end of April, Oahu was still in the dying throes of its rainy season, and Manoa Falls is located in the midst of what is essentially a rainforest.

The rain wasn’t the only thing I was unprepared for. After the steep climb to the top of Diamond Head, I expected the trip to Manoa Falls to be an easy walk because the book I brought with me said the hike was “such a gentle slope that nearly anyone can do it.”

Um … again … not so much.

The first half of the trail was fairly easy, although slick with Hawaii’s famous red mud. Along the second half, the trail grew steeper and consisted of “stairs” that were — at some points — at least three feet tall, as well as sections that required climbing over boulders. I can only assume that the book’s assessment was completed in the summer months, when it was easier to pass the section that required hikers to either scramble up a 5-foot muddy drop-off or find hand- and foot-holds through a rocky pass.

In the end, the hike (as well as the mud that I had smeared up to my knees) was well worth it. Manoa Falls, which drops 160 feet from the mountains above, was spectacular to see up close.

Manoa Falls rainforest

Manoa Falls rainforest

Manoa Falls rainforest

As you can see, this must be one of the “gentle slope” sections. The first step came up to my waist, and while I’m short, that’s still one heck of a staircase.

I love this picture. The mud, the roots, the staircase. The clash of nature and modern trailblazing is beautiful.

Manoa Falls

You aren’t supposed to get too close to Manoa Falls for fear of rock slides. In January 2002, three rock slides sent about 30 tons of boulders, mud and vegetation 600 feet down the valley floor. Thankfully, no one was killed in the rock slides, but the death of eight people at Sacred Falls on Mother’s Day 1999 left the state shell-shocked and forced government officials to take a far more conservative stance when it comes to protecting tourists and residents.

From → Random Beauty

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