Friday, March 5, 2010

Kaau Crater

...Today is one of those days...

What can I say about Kaau Crater? 
Words cannot truly describe its beauty and the surreal experience...
The weather forecast looked grim. It had rained all night and was extremely gloomy. The heavy clouds hovering over the Koolau didn’t look promising but the pockets of blue peaking over Kailua gave me all the hope I needed. I wasn’t sure the rest of the crew felt the same so I texted, What’s the verdict?
Justin working in Waimanlo replied, It looks good. 
Beimes tucked in Kahaluu, not as confident, asked, So Kaau? 
And Shasta...well she didn’t even answer my three phone calls let alone a text because she was still sound asleep from last night’s outing. (Shots of crown and patron are highly not recommended on nights before hikes!)
YES was the decision, so we packed our bags and met deep in Palolo Valley at 8:45. Of course everyone was ready to go except for one person. As we waited I noticed the gray clouds were actually high. There was, after all, a good chance that the view from the summit would be unobstructed. 
At 9:15 we began our hike past the “No Trespassing” sign and down a pretty steep and  muddy slope to the stream. We walked along the riverbed, found the Board of Water Supply pipe, and followed it all the way in. The trail was easy but monotonous. Many portions were densely covered in brush forcing us to duck frequently which was rather irritating. Several points were also eroded so we had to carefully watch our footing. Shasta actually fell off the path because she mistakenly stepped on a “tree” that gave way. (Once again I don’t recommend shots the night before a hike!!) However, the cloud coverage made the hike cooler than expected and being submerged in lush greenary with the constant sound of running water is never a bad thing.
About an hour later we made it to the first waterfall. It was beautiful indeed. After taking many pictures we continued to the second waterfall which was even more aesthetically pleasing than the first, and then proceeded to the third and final waterfall. The anticipation of ascending the waterfall in order to reach the crater’s rim both worried and excited me. I had seen the waterfall many times from Lanipo and never imagined it could be climbed or that I’d actually be climbing it. What an unreal experience! Luckily it was not nearly as steep as the first and second falls but it was definitely much longer. We carefully used the ropes and cautiously climbed the slippery rocks. One wrong move and we’d be headed down a not so fun and potentially deadly slide. At the top of the final waterfall we veered right and there peeking through the trees is where I got my first glimpse of Ka`au Crater! I couldn’t wait to get to the rim and hiked faster wanting to get a better view. This is where I probably should’ve waited for Shasta because even though I yelled “right” three times she veered left. As we began our ascent I got a phone call.

Phone Call 1
Shasta: At the pole do I go right or left?
Me: What pole are you talking about? Guys did you see a pole? 
Justing and Beimes: No
Me: Just go up. Go straight towards the summit. Can you see us? Can you see the trail?
Shasta: No. Okay I’m just gonna go straight.
Phone Call 2
Shasta: Are you folks going down towards the ocean?
Me: What are you talking about? No. Can’t you see the trail up to the summit? Did you go right at the top of the waterfall?
Shasta: Where was the top of the waterfall?
Lori: Where the waterfall ended, did you go right or left?
Shasta: I went right. Beep, I have to walk all the way back. I’m pretty deep in. I’m gonna turn around and go back the way I came. Don’t wait for me.
Me: Okay.
Of course we waited.
Phone Call 3
Shasta: I see you folks. Look across.
Me: What are you doing on that side? I told you to go right. 
Shasta: I heard you and Justin on the left so I went left and then right. (Once again don’t take shots the night before a hike!!!)
Me: Okay so are you coming back this way?
Shasta: Yah, don’t wait for me. I’ll be there.
Of course we waited...and waited.
With Shasta in view and headed in the right direction we slowly began the rest of the ascent along the crater’s rim which was muddy and steep. More nerve racking was the strong gusts that could have just about blown us away. On several occasions I had to actually sit and wait for the winds to past. We continued our trek to the summit which required the use of a few more ropes. Near the top, we decided to take a break on a nice grassy area, and what a spectacle it was to have Ka`au Crater in the foreground with the entire south side of Oahu for a panoramic background. I couldn’t wait any longer so Beimes and I headed to the peak. Unbelievably the summit wasn’t in the clouds. We could see from Chinaman’s Hat to Waimanalo to Koko Head to Pearl Harbor. I don't think the hike could've gotten any better!

The blustering wind made it extremely cold so we stayed only a short while before we began the descent. Going down the muddy rim was slippery but surprisingly I didn’t fall. We did, however, purposely slide down several parts which was so much fun. Descending the waterfall was a bit tricky and twice we took the wrong path. Some time later we were back at the first waterfall, and all took a quick dip. It was obviously freezing but definitely refreshing and well worth the shivers. There is no better way to end a hike.

We decided to exit on a side trail which weaved through the forest and onto the Board of Water Supply road. From there we walked to the "No Trespassing" gate (which can easily be walked around), and onto the street leading back to our car. It is probably a better entrance route since it is flat, and not slippery nor muddy.

I am still in awe of the Kaau Crater Hike and fear that the ones to follow will be rather disappointing. It is truly the funnest hike I have ever been on. Three waterfalls, an extinct volcano, astounding views and great friends...
This is the HI Life.

Waterfall 1

Top View

Waterfall 2

Top View

Waterfall 3

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