#Kauai: A Walk To the Pineapple Dump

Lots of people were still at Kealia Beach when we started out
Lots of people were still enjoying themselves at Kealia Beach when we started out on our walk

The walk from Kealia Beach out to the Pineapple Dump is my all-time favorite short hike on Kaua’i. It’s close to our home, just a mile each way on the eastside beach path, and the entire walk is packed full with gorgeous views.

The view as we left the beach area. The tide was in, and the surf was quite rough
The view as we left the beach area. The tide was in, and the surf was quite rough

Brett and I headed out for a walk late in the afternoon on Father’s Day. The sun was still out down at the beach, but there were storm clouds looming over the mountains to the east, and approaching from the south as well. The tide was up, the wind was strong, and the surf was rough – just the way we like it when we take this walk!

One of the BIG houses sprouting up above the beach walk
One of the BIG houses sprouting up above the beach walk

The area on the mauka (mountain) side of the trail used to be covered with sugar cane and pineapple fields, but these days there’s just the new crop of multi-million dollar homes with killer views.

Tidepools run through the rocks on the shore
There are loads of tidepools in the rocks along the shore
Looking north to the Pineapple Dump. The concrete jetty can be seen in the center of the picture.
Looking north to the Pineapple Dump. The concrete jetty can be seen near the center of the picture.

Back in the day, when there were pineapple canneries on Kaua’i, a train would back a car full of pineapple debris out onto the narrow jetty, then tip the car and dump the debris into the ocean. The pineapple was usually quickly swept out to sea and eaten by fish and other sea creatures, but sometimes the tide would be running in the wrong direction and would take the debris south to Kapa’a or Lihue and dump it on the beaches there. The smell of rotting pineapple was said to be ghastly.

The Pineapple Dump jetty
The Pineapple Dump jetty
Looking north from the Pineapple Dump
Looking north from the Pineapple Dump
The surf is alway churning under the jetty . . . beautiful, but deadly
The surf is alway churning under the jetty . . . beautiful, but deadly
The view from the Pineapple Dump - perfect for whale watching in the winter
The view from the Pineapple Dump – ideal for whale watching in the winter

The concrete jetty is all that remains of the dump these days. There is a viewing platform at the top of the jetty, and a small gazebo with a picnic table nearby. The area is an ideal place for whale watching in the winter, when the Hawaiian humpbacks head to the north side of the island after giving birth. You can also sometimes see sea turtles, monk seals and occasionally nene, the Hawaiian goose (an endangered species), along the walk.

Storm clouds heading in on our walk back to the car
Storm clouds heading in on our walk back to the car
Kealia Beach was complete clouded over the we arrived, although there were a few die-hards still there
Kealia Beach was complete clouded over when we arrived back, although there were a few die-hards still there
Nou'nou, The Sleeping Giant. Ancient Hawaiians lit fires behind the mountain to frighten off intruders coming to Kaua'i
Nou’nou, The Sleeping Giant. Legend says that ancient Hawaiians lit fires behind the mountain to frighten off intruders coming to Kaua’i

The walk back to Kealia provides sweeping views of the coast and mountains to the south, including Hau’upa and Nou’nou, the Sleeping Giant. By the time we got back the clouds had rolled in, and the humidity was so thick you could slice it with a knife. The rain arrived shortly after we got home, so we had timed our walk perfectly!

#Kauai: Ho’opi’i Falls, New Pathway

Ominous clouds appeared over the Makaleha Mountains as I started down the old road to Kapa’a Stream, just above the Upper Ho’opi’i Falls. Since I had walked from the house, I wondered if I would get to see the falls and home again before the rain arrived. However, the wind was calm, and the rain appeared to be on a southerly track, so I hurried down to the falls, just in case.

Green Pasture, and Rain in the Makaleha Mountains
Makaleha Mountains from the Road Down to Upper Ho’opi’i Falls

Romantic though it may sound, ho’opi’i either means “to breed or impregnate,” or “to litigate” concerning land title. My most recent experience there seems to indicate the latter meaning is most likely because someone had posted hand made “Private Property” and “No Trespassing” signs just beyond the upper falls.

upper waterfall on Kapa'a Stream
Upper Falls

In addition to posting signs, someone had felled trees across the trail, and left some trees almost cut through like booby traps. A newly gouged, but also blocked, long, steep side trail appeared to the left of the first sign. So, knowing no other way to the lower falls, I went beyond the first obstruction and continued down the old trail, encountering even more vandalism as it were, and more half-sprung traps.

After meandering through the recently created obstacle course, I saw that the old trail was completely clear by the point that it returned to the stream—no more hand made signs nor further vandalism as proof of ownership the rest of the way to the lower falls.

lower Ho'opi'i Falls
Lower Falls

Refreshed after listening to the familiar roar, I headed back upstream, to see what I could see. One of my first encounters was one of the ‘ancestors’ I hadn’t noticed before, an outcropping that seemed to express contempt for my presence.

Frowning Boulder
Wary Ancestor

 Then, struggling in the understory, beneath the aggressive buffalo grass, beautiful lavender stars.

lavender wildflowers under Buffalo Grass
Wildflowers under Buffalo Grass

 When I got back to the point where the trail led away from the stream, the first No Trespassing sign was accompanied by a letter in a document protector nailed to a tree, about 15 feet above the trail: “Private Property, Go Back And Return to the Road by the Path beside the [Kapa’a] stream.” Having never seen or heard of a path along Kapa’a Stream, I went down by the water, and sure enough there was a narrow path.

At times, I thought I might be better off rock hopping, but although the trail was seldom used, it was passable. Once the trail crossed the head of a diversion trench that it generally followed back to the upper falls, it was quite scenic.

Returning to Upper Falls
Returning to Upper Falls

Looking back, I realized that I had passed this way heading downstream just to get a shot of the Upper Falls and simply didn’t recognize it as a trail.

Stream Trail from the Upper Fallls
Stream Trail from the Upper Fallls

After arriving at the upper falls, I could not believe how simple, and how beautiful this “new” pathway was. I would have gone this way from the beginning, if only I had known.

Home Again
Home Again

So, thank you disgruntled landowner for making the undisputed trail apparent!

Biting Off More Than One Can Chew

Sometimes the eyes deceive, as when one sees food and believes they could eat it, all of it. So too, when one sees a task and believes they can do it, with the simplest hand tools, in a day, by themselves. Such was the case when I volunteered to mow along a disused and neglected portion of one the my favorite trails, Kuilau Trail from Keahua Arboretum to the bridge where it joins Moalepe Trail.

Rather than use a gas-powered weed eater offered by the Division of Forestry and Wildlife (I cannot be the only person who detests that noise), I opted for a scythe, only to discover that no one seems to know what a scythe is anymore. What I ended up with was a nifty pruning hook and a grass hook.

20151018_130643
Pruning Hook

The pruning hook only has a two-foot handle, but that is at least better than squatting  down with a sickle. Although the grass hook has a three-foot handle, it dulls quickly and easily, and is difficult to sharpen by hand.

grass hook
Grass Hook

Nevertheless, I set out to try them on the Sleeping Giant (Kuamo’o Trail). While the pruning hook performed well when removing overhanging branches and low-lying brush and pithy weeds, the grass hook was cumbersome and dulled quickly—especially when striking upturned rocks and snagging in the ubiquitous Albizia roots that are the foundation of the pathway. Consequently, I finished mowing the last few yards of that 200-yard stretch using only the pruning hook.

My next challenge would be mowing the last three fourths of a mile on the Kuilau Trail, so after returning home, I sharpened my tools as well as possible with a 2-1/2 inch whetstone, and put them away.

Over one month later, I packed a lunch, an extra liter of water, my tools, mosquito repellent, and finally got around to the task that I initially volunteered to do. Hiking in the first mile and a quarter there were no surprises such as fallen trees or landslides, and just beyond the picnic shelter area, I started capturing the “BEFORE” shots of places to be mowed. Arriving at trail’s end, I recorded a short video of the Little Falls before beginning to mow my way back to the trailhead.

Starting from the bridge, I cleaned up the first 100 yards and used up all of the ‘sharp’ that that grass hook had. In the process I also disturbed a big Black Witch Moth that fluttered around wildly, then returned to hide and slumber, upside down, in the upper thicket alongside an Albizia tree.

Black Witch Moth 'hiding' alongside an Albizia tree.
Black Witch Moth
BEFORE
BEFORE
Last quarter mile from trail's end - AFTER mowing
AFTER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling as though I’d accomplished something, I set out to clean up the 50-yard stretch back to the 1.75 Mile marker. Below is an older photo of the view toward trail’s end from the marker, followed by the “BEFORE” and “AFTER” shots, looking back from trail’s end to the marker.

From 1.75 Mile Marker, about a month ago...
From 1.75 Mile Marker, about a month ago…
...and a week ago, BEFORE mowing.
…and a week ago, BEFORE mowing.
AFTER mowing
AFTER mowing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although it looks quite a mess afterward, the first rainfall should clean it up quite nicely and leave the thatch to hold the thicket at bay for a while. At this point, I’d been mowing for nearly five hours, which made it obvious that I would not finish mowing my way back to the trailhead that day.

Here are two more BEFORE shots, and much work lies between them and the 1.75 Mile marker.

Labor of Love #1
Lucky to live Hawaii #1
Labor of Love #2
Lucky to Live Hawaii #2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With just over one half mile to go, I’ll need a few more weeks to chew the remainder of this bite.

Trail Encounters

As the frequency and duration of my hikes increases, I meet a variety of interesting people whose paths were not otherwise likely to cross mine. Whether tourists or local people, our conversations are always enjoyable, and some of these acquaintances are “almost” friends now.

Initially, all of my encounters were with tourists, perhaps because I was only hiking on weekends, and some, such as a honeymooning couple on a five-island tour, simply wanted to confirm that they were still on the right trail. We hiked together from where we met, and talked about some of the plants and vistas along the trail until we reached our mutual destination.

Still other hikers were genuinely lost, and often heading in the opposite direction (opposite from my direction, as well as the direction they wanted to go). Although I only offered directions at first, eventually I hiked back with them past all of the incorrect alternatives to ensure that they could easily reach their destination without further delay or missteps.

More recently, people have asked if this trail or that was the way to some destination that was quite out of reach, either because no trail existed or because it was kapu (prohibited).

Volunteer T-Shirt, Forestry & Wildlife, Hawaii

After I volunteered for trail maintenance in the Nounou Forest Reserve, and expanded that to the Kealia Forest Reserve, the people and conversations were altogether different from my initial encounters. People were interested in longer conversations, and in their words, we “talked story”—something I thought would not come about for another 15 to 20 years.

First I met a spiritual woman who encouraged me by saying that I was answering the call of my mother (no, not Mom), Mother Nature that is. We had met before, on the trail and in town, but our exchanges were more like nodding to strangers in an elevator. Now, she was sharing a bit of her faith with me, and thanking me for sawing up some trees that had fallen across the trail.

On a hot muggy day, I stopped on a bridge and on greeting a couple, realized that the man was someone I had met last year on another trail. This time he was with the friend he had mentioned when we last met, and they asked why I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt and trousers on such a hot day. So I explained that I volunteered with the Division of Forestry and Wildlife to maintain safe access to the trails, and had just come from clearing some heavy branches and fallen trees, for which shorts and “slippahs” simply would not do.

Most recently, Forestry and Wildlife brought over some grass cutting tools because people were beginning to ask when “we” were going to mow. Later, while laying waste to some bull grass and invasive ground cover, I met several local people, as well as their dogs. All thanked me for the work I was doing, and one woman stopped and asked, “Didn’t the county used to do this?” That’s when I explained that I was a volunteer for the county. Afterwards, she told me a little about her experiences working the kibbutzes in Israel in the 70s while I finished mowing.

Regrettably, I haven’t been back out on the trails for about a week now due to the intense heat and humidity trapped overhead by a series of tropical storms that bear down on us relentlessly. Longing for better days ahead, both to get back on my fitness regimen and to see old friends as well as making new friends while looking after the forests.

Ho’opi’i Falls Trail

A nice short hike, about 2 miles, on an excellent trail most of which is ideal for running as well as enjoying the scenery. Furthermore, getting there is a piece of cake, even though the trailhead is neither clearly marked nor easy to see from the road. From Kapa’a via Olohena Rd and Ka’apuna Rd, turn right at the stop sign by Kapahi Park, then almost immediately left onto Kapahi Rd. Coming down Kuhio Highway from the north, turn right just past Kealia Beach onto Ma’ilihuna Rd, then at the stop sign beyond Kapa’a High School, turn right onto Kawaihau Rd. Follow Kawaihau road past the Meneheune Store, and turn a sharp right where the road veers sharply to the left, just before Kapahi Park. Kapahi Rd is a short, narrow road so please respect the neighborhood and drive slowly. The trailhead is below the roadbed on the left, at a dip in the road about halfway down to the end, and parking for the trail is ONLY permitted on the left side, past the trailhead.

gate at end of old dirt road
Ho’opi’i Falls Trailhead

Initially, the trail is down a steep, old dirt road to Kapa’a Stream. Along the way you will see the beautiful Makaleha Mountains to your left, and the ubiquitous Monstera (monstera deliciosa) all around.

oldRoad
Dirt Road to Kapa’a Stream
makalehaMountains
Pohaku Pili (2,592 feet) and Makaleha Mountains
monstera
Monstera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just before the end of the road, the trail hooks to the left around some fallen trees, and then turns right at the intersection with Kapa’a Stream where someone has constructed a low stone dam.

low stone dam
Not a Waterfall

Continuing downstream, the trail runs parallel, within 10 feet of the stream, most of the way. You will see trails shunting off here and there, but again, please respect the neighborhood and know that these trails are on private property rather than state lands. Hau Trees (hibiscus tilliaceus) can be a curse (i.e., impenetrable) or a blessing as revealed below. These twisty intruders were originally planted to serve as a windbreaks, consequently impenetrable by hikers as they have spread wildly beyond their intended location.

Hau trees bending over the trail
Tunnel of Hau Trees

At breaks in the understory, you will glimpse a narrow stony gorge above and between the waterfalls. Placid and serene as it appears, you can hear the roaring upper falls a short distance away.

stony gorge above the first waterfall
Stony Gorge Above the Upper Falls

Moments later, you find yourself looking down on a steep path to a waterfall that cuts deeply into a stone shelf downstream.

steep descent to the upper Ho'opi'i Falls
Steep, Narrow Access to the Upper Ho’opi’i Falls

…and do not be surprised to find the rocks, as well as the splash pool beneath teeming with young swimmers, especially on a hot day after school. Note that swimmers jump in from both sides of the stream, while some only ponder. There ARE sharp rocks in the stream bed, so I DO NOT GO THERE. It is far safer to enter the water downstream and hike/swim as desired.

upper ho'opi'i falls
Upper Ho’opi’i Falls

Not long after I returned to the main trail, I found myself at the edge of the stream, again facing a spectacular stony gorge that could only be captured in panoramic mode.

stony gorge on Kapa'a Stream
Lower Gorge on Kapa’a Stream

A little further along, I saw what a Toyota Tundra might look like after the “Smoke Monster” was through with it…

decaying pickup frame with wheels and 4-cylinder engine
Abandoned Chassis with Wheels and 4-Cylinder Engine

…and finally the lower falls, lacey and elegant. No place for jumping, although someone strung a mooring line in a tree on the opposite bank downstream. Mahalo!

broad waterfall
Lower Ho’opi’i Falls

Pressed for time and because I left my water in the car, I ran most of the way back to the trailhead, excluding the steep dirt road which exceeds the rated hauling capacity of my 65-year old chassis.

Okolehao Hike

First of all, I must apologize for the lack of photos from this hike because it was simply too steep and/or muddy to stand up and snap a photo. Still there’s no denying that what I saw was worth the mud and sweat, and I’m looking forward to plying the “fishnet” pathway again.

fishnet over pathway
Fishing Net Was Pinned to the Pathway for Traction

To get there, head north on Kuhio Highway (56), past Princeville and down the hill to the one-lane bridge over the Hanalei River. Turn left after crossing the bridge onto Ohiki Road, which lies between the river and the taro patches. Continue down Ohiki Road looking for a dirt parking lot on your left and a dilapidated footbridge on your right (less than a mile, but since my odometer only displays whole miles, I cannot say how much less).

Park and cross the road, and enter the trail by crossing the marked footbridge and following the muddy path a 100 yards or so until you come to a break on the left leading up the hill. At the very bottom, it was simply too wet to stand still, so this is the only decent photo I was able to get at lower elevations.

indian head ginger
Indian Head Ginger

Carry a little more water than you think you’ll need. I carried 2 liters in a camel pack, and a half liter bottle and was mighty thirsty when I got back to the car three-and-a-half hours later. Again, carry more water than you think you’ll need.

The most significant feature of this trail is up; and the next most significant feature appears on your return, down. You will gain or lose more than 1200 feet in altitude over the 1.75 mile trek, and you’ll hike in and out of sun and shade, through tall grasses and deep ruts with few breaks to get a good look around on the ascent. These shots were taken at a bend just below the power line.

up
Up
down
Down

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The view “up” reminded me of Pacific Northwest trails I have hiked and loved. “Down” did not invoke fond memories of anywhere. Next up came this stunning view from Makana to Princeville where the powerline descends into Hanalei Valley and the trail continues to the left. Delicious cool breeze was also available here.

Makana to Princeville from the powerline.
Hanalei Bay

Dappled patches of meandering trail such as this reminded me of my youth, and scenes on the Appalachian Trail…

Reminiscent of the Appalachian Trail
Reminiscent of the Appalachian Trail

…still other stretches looked as much as anything like portions of the Pacific Crest Trail in the Cascades. One other thing I found remarkable here was how wet it is even at 1200+ feet, and that’s because all of these root lattices catch and hold considerable quantities of water.

broad trail with roots spreading back and forth
Reminiscent of the Pacific Crest Trail

Looking southwest from Kauka’oopua (1,273 feet) at trail’s end the summit of Maamaloha pierces the clouds against the north rim of Lumaha’i Valley.

napali
Maamaloha (3,745 feet) Against North Rim of Lumaha’i Valley

With east winds at 6 mph, gusting to 30 mph, it was difficult to photograph the view to the south from the plateau at trail’s end. Nevertheless, the nearer peak behind the trees is Kaliko and to its left the higher peak of Naamolokama Mountain.

Namolokama Mountain, trees blown by 30 MPH wind gusts
Naamolokama Mountain (4,421 feet) and Kaliko (4,200 feet)

To the southeast I saw the Anahola Mountains, and what I believe is Pu’u Ehu.

Mountains
Pu’u Ehu (1,946 feet) and the Anahola Mountains

The little plateau at the ‘official’ trail’s end is heavily overgrown with a several taller trees, so vistas aren’t what they used to be. Additionally, the Ti plants that were cultivated here during the Prohibition Era are being crowded out by other species. Incidentally, ‘O.kole.hao means “iron bottom” and derives from the iron try-pot stills that bootleggers (who planted the Ki on this ridge for such purpose) used to brew a liquor known by the same name.

Rural Mailboxes and Meter Houses

Along the routes between our house and two of the three trailheads on Sleeping Giant are several interesting structures such as I’ve never seen anywhere else we’ve lived. Creative mailbox installations are not new to me, but the unique shelters created so that utility meters can be read from the road are something else altogether. This was the first to grab my attention.

Shelter for utility meters, "Meter House" with Terracotta roof.
Terracotta Meter House

Unfortunately, the residence to which this meter house belongs was getting a new green composition roof on the day I photographed the matching meter house.

Spanish style home
Spanish Tiled Residence

Shaked roofs, although more common on out buildings than on houses because of rapid decay in our hot, wet, tropical climate, often mimic the residence in the background.

House and mailbox with shaked roof.
Shaked Roof

Some meter houses have only a simple roof. As you can see, this is not the most durable shelter, but fortunately, the populated side is in fairly good shape.

meter house with plywood roof
Noble Shelter

While some mailboxes are quite elaborate, many are merely painted by their artist owners. This one reminds me of the Pacific Northwest with its fish head and tail.

mailbox decorated with tin fish head and tail
Salmon Mailbox

…and here is a lovely passion fruit bouquet on a mailbox.

lilikoi blossoms painted on mailbox
Lilikoi Mailbox

Some meter houses are quite spartan, a basic design that is fully functional, as shown below.

Basic Design. Painted Lumber and Asphalt Shingles
Purely Functional Meter House

Still others are clearly identified with the house number (and at one time, I imagine would have had a roof that matched the house as well).

Utility Meters with house number on shelter
Meter House with House Number

I love this particular mailbox, for a local bed & breakfast, because it is actually a model of the house!

model of house as mailbox
B&B Mailbox

Meter houses borrow various architectural treatments from the residences, such as this T111 sided box.

Meter box constructed with T111 siding
Meter House Constructed with T111 Siding

Stone veneer forms the base of this mailbox, just like the house.

Mailbox mounted in stone.
Stone Mailbox

…and sometimes the mailbox matches the fence.

Mailbox mounted in bamboo pillar
Bamboo Mail Box

Meter houses are sometimes quite massive, more likely to endure a major storm than any of the houses.

Block house for utility meters
Meter in a Block House

So much of the beauty of the hike occurs before you get into the woods (jungle), and makes the journey to the trailhead at least as exciting as discoveries along the trail. And this is just tiny sample because all of these are less than two miles from home.

 

Paying My Dues: Preserving the Trail for Future Hikers

boy crawling out of a dirt tunnel

As alluded to in a previous post, I got an early start in the woods, more specifically in earthworks—working with cinder blocks, logs, rocks, and sod—building dams, forts, and trails. My sister shared this photo with me the other day, to remind me of my roots, after I shared a photo of the days work, and that inspired this post.

Twenty years ago, I volunteered at Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, Oregon, as a weekend tour guide, as well as helping with trail restoration and invasive species control. Wishing to do contribute locally, I contacted the Division of Forestry and Wildlife, and was thrilled accept an invitation to volunteer on Nounou (Sleeping Giant), and work with interns from KUPU Hawai`i Youth Conservation Corps. It’s the least I could do since I used these trails as if the mountain was my own front yard.

The project was nearly finished by the time I joined the team, and they had done some really awesome work, including cuts and fills, abutments, diversion trenches, retaining walls, and especially blocking “shortcuts” using fallen trees and brush which the crew removed from the trail. Some of these “shortcuts” had been used so heavily that it was often difficult to tell whether erosion brought about the shortcut or if overuse had actually caused the severe erosion observed in several places.

In some cases, only minor intervention was necessary to preserve the trail. Elsewhere, a little structure had to be added to stabilize the grade and/or simplify the ascent or descent for hikers. In the area shown below, what had been the trail was simply peeling off the slope, so the crew added poles, anchored with steel rebar, to retain what soil remained and channel some of the runoff so that the fill was less likely to wash away with the next rain.

downhill trail
Stabilizing Rail

Occasionally, erosion was so extreme that alternate diversion trenches as well as extensive structure and back-fill were required to restore the trail in cases of total washout. The last time I hiked the East Trail, this was an area I had to vault across or scramble through clinging to the red dirt wall at right with my bare hands because my chin was at about the same level as the restored trail. As you can see, diversion trenches were dug well above the former pit.

backfilled trail
Diversion Trench, Abutment, and Back-fill

Being the steepest approach to the summit, this trail frequently winds around or runs along solid vertical faces that do not lend themselves to alteration. The retaining wall shown below was cut from the stone face above it. I recall this switchback from earlier treks as a smooth blend that was slippery in all weather and reminded me of trying to climb up a spoon. At the left corner, it’s still a little slick, but thanks to the Division of Forestry and Wildlife and the Hawai’i Youth Conservation Corps, that “spoon” is much shorter and narrower.

a cut-and-fill retaining wall
Cut-And-Fill Retaining Wall

A few of the interns did some really nice work in stone just up the trail from where I was working with the everyone else on a series of back-filled abutments, retaining walls. Regrettably, I forgot to photograph the stonework, but wanted to share the photo of the area where I made a contribution. Shown below are two levels of log abutment (a third level lies below left), and a rock retaining wall through the center of this photo to the white rock above center.

abutment and rock wall
Split-Level Abutments, Back-fill, and Stone Retaining Wall

Before I could get there the next day, the crew finished another abutment and back-fill further down the trail, and afterward, a few interns who had never completed the hike were taken on a guided tour to the summit. Meanwhile, I look forward to working on Nounou again in September.

Hiking to Makaleha Falls

artistAndHisMom
With my mom at Great Grandpa’s in Bamboo, NC.

Born in northeastern Maryland, the eldest son of emigrants from western North Carolina, trekking came naturally to me. Before I started school, many days were spent in the woods and on farms surrounding our house, as well as playing in and hiking along the nearby creeks. By the time I started first grade, I knew the names of every living thing in those woods and creeks. Since we often visited my parents birthplaces, I learned a great deal from short hikes over portions of the Appalachian Trail, and at 14 years of age, ran up the U.S. Forest Service Road to the lookout tower on Fisher’s Peak (3,580 feet/1,091 meters).

Years later, I also hiked the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, half of the Wildwood Trail in Portland, Oregon, and a short stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail near Mount Hood. As a volunteer at the Hoyt Arboretum, southern terminus of the Wildwood Trail, I learned the flora and fauna while conducting tours on weekends, and by helping with trail maintenance and eradication of invasive species.

Since retiring to the Garden Isle, I have enjoyed many hikes, and look forward to many, many more. To date, the hike along (and in) the stream to Makaleha Falls is the most spectacular I’ve experienced, and the name of the mountains, the falls and stream,  maka·leha – to gaze in wonder, ranks it among the most aptly named features on the island. The stream itself derives from three springs, two atop a western ridge and one to the north near Poohaku Pili (2,592 feet/790 meters).

Lantana hedge and triple waterfalls
Falls viewed over the hedge in the western ridge

Hiking to the lower tier of these two- and three-tiered waterfalls is difficult because the trail, such as it is, is user maintained—as you get nearer to the falls the trail becomes vague or as Andrew Doughty says in The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook, “wretched.” Prepare yourself to rock hop and at least get your feet wet—I hike in running shoes, some hike in water shoes, and still others wear some seriously expensive boots. This hike begins in the ruts of the perimeter road around two private water tanks at the end of Kahuna Road. Follow the road around two sides where it breaks to the right. Less than a quarter mile in, the road ends and the fun begins where the bunny path dumps you in the stream, just below the remnants of a washed out concrete dam. Cross the stream here into a lush bamboo grove.

rocks in a stream
First crossing below a washed-out dam
bamboo grove
Entering the bamboo groves

The inviting trail immediately to the right also dumps you in the stream and you could rock hop your way up and back onto the embankment, but that’s a bit dicey as well as being a little more treacherous on the trek out. It’s better to take the scenic route dead ahead, which turns right and up a steep embankment away from the stream and deeper into the groves. Although the trail is narrow it offers some spectacular views and eventually brings you back down to the stream. This way also tends to be a little drier than the “shortcut” (more than once, I recalled that the easy way out usually leads back in).

Orchids, fern, bamboo
Orchids nestled among the bamboo
steep path through bamboo groves
Returning to the path by the stream.

The path along the left stream bank is undulating, but more open than the bunny trail through the bamboo groves. Eventually, this too dumped me in the stream, across from a little island in the stream. I rock hopped my way to the island, but couldn’t tell which way to go the first time—the trail leads off both ways—and the crossing to the right looked easier. Now I know to ignore that because it too leads both upstream and downstream and is an absolutely horrid route, which forced me to cross the stream in deeper water, only to discover the nice trail that I should have taken to the left of the island.

Imagine my surprise when even the good trail ended in the stream. So, after crossing, I entered an enduring maze of Hau Trees (hibiscus tillaceus), some of which I went over and some were easier to go under. This is a common experience on the best trails here because these invasive, viny trees are everywhere. Ultimately, this mossy path eased into, wait for it, bamboo groves! Shortly afterward, it dumped me in the stream, where I easily hopped into the bamboo groves on the other side, and that was the last of the distinguishable trail.

three forks of Makaleha Stream
Convergence of streams and end of trail

First, I rock hopped my way upstream to the right in search of the two-tiered waterfall. Because the trail is nondescript from the convergence of the streams, I simply did my best to read which side of the stream yielded the longest passage, followed by an easy way to crossover to the other side, and discovered a few more recently etched trails around otherwise impassable portions of the stream. The longest of paths was the last one on the right which again, started in a bamboo grove, then passed through a small banana grove before returning to the stream below the falls.

sunlit gorge
Narrow gorge to the north falls
two-tiered waterfall
Spectacular! Well worth the wait.

After thoroughly taking in this rushing miracle, I hurried down stream over the rocks and paths to find the falls from the south and middle fork. While hopping upstream didn’t require many crossings, there was yet another island to traverse, yet there were no paths skirting obstacles. The further upstream I went, the more difficult the course until I eventually had to duck down an unlikely side stream which proved to be the way to go.

impassible boulders upstream
Here, I ducked down a stream on my left.
tall waterfall
Rushing Splendor