(links back to Part 1 ... and Part 2)
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Day 4 - Tuesday, Feb 14 (cont'd)
Rejuvenated by an overpriced and greasy lunch, we pressed further southward from Hana to Hale'akala National Park at Kipahulu, our ultimate destination for the day.
The CD guide we'd picked up was chock full of really intriguing information about the landmarks and cultural background along the entire route, but tragically goofed with respect to our next stop, Wailua Falls. We were told by our eager-sounding narrator that these falls are among the most photographed in Hawai'i, and were featured prevalently in the opening sequence of Fantasy Island:
Of course, as any self-respecting devotee of the iconic 70's TV series will tell you, this ain't them.
So, we at Blue Dog Enterprises will put a stop to the spread of this misinformation right now. The "Wailua Falls" featured in Fantasy Island is NOT the landmark in the expertly photographed image above, but is actually the waterfall of the same name located on the neighboring island of Kuaui, which looks more like this.
OK. Now that we've have cleared that up, here's a pic of my sweetie at the base of Wailua Falls, in Maui:
We had to climb around a couple barriers and down a slick incline to get to this spot, which might not have been such a good idea in retrospect, because a bunch of senior citizens seemed ready to follow our lead as we made our way back to Turq.
After the falls, the road became quite a bit more rough, curvy, and narrow, which we didn't think possible, and Turq barely made it to the parking lot at Hale'akala National Park at Kipahulu.
From the Visitors Center, we first took the easy 1/2-mile hike down to the ocean at Kuloa Point, and took these pictures looking inland, into the 'Ohe'o Gulch, toward a few of the "Seven Sacred Pools":
It was a pretty windy afternoon, as demonstrated by The Hang (and the sideways-blown leaves behind her):
The deal with the name "Seven Sacred Pools"--or so we were informed by our now-suspect CD narrator--is that the term was given to the pools in the 'Ohe'o Gulch by an employee at the Hana Hotel back in the 40s, in an attempt to lend some cultural mystique to the landmark. Evidently the story fabricated by the hotel employee was that, according to local legend, each pool held a virtue that one would gain upon a soak in the waters, and since the higher pools held more noble virtues, it was considered quite a heroic task to swim in all seven of the "sacred" pools in ascending order.
True or not, I guess the season wasn't fit to allow swimming in any of the pools (of which there were a few more than seven) when we visited, so all we have are a bunch of gorgeous pictures. :)
This is looking back toward the ocean after hiking upstream a bit:
Figuring there was probably a longer trail to hike further upstream, we searched around for some signs and found, almost completely by luck, what has been hailed by many as "the most beautiful hike in Maui."
The sign said "PIPIWAI TRAIL TO WAIMOKU FALLS: 2 MI." Sweet.
The first part stayed close to the Gulch ...
... then veered away in order to meander around and climb a few dozen feet of elevation in chunks.
The weather was pretty crazy, alternating between muggy and warm, and rainy and cool ... which actually turned out to be just about perfect, since the hike was a moderately strenuous one.
In the first half-mile, we passed the remains of a sugar mill dam, irrigation systems, and flumes. At the Makahiku Overlook, we stopped to take a couple shots, and were rewarded by the view:
We couldn't actually see the water at the base of these falls. I had to take these shots leaning out from the overlook, holding the camera way up in the air, aimed down.
I love this shot:
I'd guess this waterfall is probably 150-180' tall.
We passed several hikers, in both directions, as the trail led through a forest. We found this huge banyan tree a little further in ... the trail led right through the little "doorway" formed by a branch and two huge descender roots, to the left of the main trunk:
Crossed some footbridges over these pools and small falls (10-15') in the Palikea Stream at about the 1-mile mark.
On the other side of the stream was a wall of solid bamboo, which marked the outer boundary of a forest we hiked through, the most mysterious and memorable part of the hike.
For one thing, it was just so cool in there, the way the trail wove through the dense vertical stalks, letting in just enough sunlight to illuminate the pathway:
For another, it was so silent, in comparison to being in the open air. Outside, there was the constant accompaniment of noises mainly from the wind in the leaves and the rushing of the water, with the occasional bird calls thrown in. In here, the air was close and still, not enough to be claustrophobic, but definitely a stark contrast!
Besides our own voices (I was entertaining The Hang with some goofy hiking songs I made up), about the only sound was the odd, hollow, knocking noise of the bamboo stalks bumping against each other as breezes moved the canopy above.
I looked up and caught this shot, but in truth each of the treetops were in constant motion, no two ever in the same direction. It probably would have made me dizzy if I'd stared for a minute:
OK ... you know what? These pictures SUCK. But, I was able to find a panoramic shot (from VirtualGuidebooks) that really captures the spirit of being in there ... the link requires Quicktime, and will maximize your browser window:
(Here is a non-fullscreen version.)
The bamboo forest floor was pretty soggy, to the point that walkways had been built a few feet over the ground, which ran for several hundred feet. The density of the vegetation increased, and it got kind of dark on the forest floor. My little camera wouldn't really give me good pictures without a flash, so I quit trying.
At this point, despite all of the natural beauty, we were getting tired, having been hiking steadily uphill (the elevation gain was about 650' over two miles) for nearly a couple of hours at this point. I was nervously checking my watch and trying to estimate how much daylight we had left, not only to make our way back to the Visitors Center, but also because I didn't particularly relish negotiating the Hana Road back to civilization in the dark. Also, the mosquitos in these parts, it turns out, are very friendly.
We passed several hikers coming the other way, and we began searching their faces for some indication both that our destination was approaching quickly, and was possessed of sufficiently astonishing beauty that our efforts would somehow seem completely worthwhile upon gazing at it.
Welp, we turned a corner, slipped down a narrow slope, scrambled over a stream, and there it was, in all of its neck-craning majesty: the 400' Waimoku Falls, the largest waterfall on Maui:
Another attempt at a panoramic view, but the scale really makes my (non-SLR) camera's limitations evident:
Here's another panoramic shot from VirtualGuidebooks:
(Non-fullscreen shot here.)
There was a little sign cautioning against swimming, but considering we were tired, sweaty, and dirty, the thought of jumping in was pretty tempting. Of course, being so remote from any kind of emergency care facility, thoughts of dislodged chunks of lava landing on our heads quelled the idea of a refreshing waterfall shower. So, after a few minutes' rest, we turned around to begin the journey back.
I was wiped out, but pretty energetic at being outside in such an incredible place, and exhilarated from the hike in. I suggested that we jog the trail back, but The Hang gave me a look. However, she did set the pace back, which was pretty fast: the ascent had taken us two hours; the descent took us 45 minutes. I think we were both worrying about what time the sun would set.
After a record-setting restroom stop at the Visitors Center, we jumped into Turq and hit the road back! I worried about our timing because the parking lot was about empty; I figured we'd be stuck in traffic the entire length of the return trip ... but the gods of Hana smiled down upon us and cleared the road. Which was beautiful, because I drove like a man possessed the entire way back. Seriously, I was taking those curves like I was playing a video game, and The Hang's assurances that she was successfully fending off motion sickness were slightly betrayed by her death-grip on the passenger handle.
I wish we'd been keeping better track of the drive time, because I'm convinced it took us a quarter of the time to return than it did to get up there in the first place.
We breezed through Pauwela just as it was getting really dark outside, which was perfect, because that's when the road straightened out and I let up on the gas pedal. We were tired, dirty, and a little tense from the frantic drive down from Hana, so we decided to scrap our Valentine's Day dinner reservations at Mama's Fish House in Paia, because keeping them would have meant driving past Paia and back to Kihei to shower and change, back to Paia for dinner, then back to Kihei afterwards, and more driving was precisely what we didn't want to do.
Instead, back at the condo, we took a couple of looooooong showers and called a few places looking to get a table. The Hang correctly predicted that The Outback in Kihei, of all places, would be booked solid (until 10:30pm!). However, we were able to get a quick table at Stella Blues Cafe, which we probably should have taken as a sign that our meal wouldn't be very good.
It wasn't. But then again, it was Valentine's Day and we were in Maui.
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Coming up next in Part 4: a big phallic rock, a fish with a silly name, and sunrise from 10,000 feet!
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