Over a month without a single hike sucked!!!
So of course I was really looking forward to today.
Not wanting to take on a strenuous or dangerous trail Beimes and I decided on Maakua Gulch. Originally we were shooting for Piliwale but with the lack of hiking this past month I knew that would have to wait. In fact, the more I contemplate attempting one of the most treacherous trails on the island, the more I realize it’s probably just not for me. Is the experience of summiting Konahuanui from the windward side worth the risk, especially when it can be reached from a much safer path? Do I really want to take the chance of falling to my death or having to call search and rescue for a HIKE? I know, I know, you only live once BUT there is much more than just my life at stake...
Supposedly an easy 6 mile round trip hike, Maakua Gulch is located off Hauula Homestead Road (near the Hauula town sign). Ryan, Kiele and their son Kamuela also joined us for today's adventure, and met us around noon for what we assumed would be a quick and effortless hike. We parked our cars along the road fronting the yellow gate which leads to the trail head and not at Hauula Beach Park like most sites and books suggests. We continued along that road past the Hauula Loop trail and Maakua Ridge hike to the road's end which contains a water pumping station. Some pretty cool Uncles were at work and let us walk through the usually fenced area.
*On any normal day one would just have to walk past the station to the right where there are signs warning about the dangers that lurk ahead. Maakua Gulch is actually closed indefinitely. The tragic Sacred Falls incident, and potential rock falls and flash floods make the trail too risky. In all honesty, it probably wasn’t best that we attempted Maakua Gulch considering yesterday’s rainy weather, last night’s rain, and this morning’s showers, but with submerging blue skies and Kiele’s forecast of dissipating clouds in Punaluu we decided to still go.
As we walked along the distinct trail exiting the station, we passed a pretty nice size boulder and then through a viva (strawberry guava) grove. However, our smooth sailing quickly came to an end as the trail vanished. We were forced to determine our own path and opted to follow the riverbed but soon found ourselves ducking beneath hau trees. Back and forth across the dried up stream we trekked trying to find a prominent trail but with no success. On a few occasions we did have the luxury of walking on dirt but majority of the time was spent carefully maneuvering the bed's rocks.
About thirty minutes later we reached the highly anticipated mountain apple grove. To our delight the trees were still in full bloom. Loads of apples laid splat on the ground and more glistened on the branches waiting to be picked. The fresh, juicy fruit was such a treat especially since the last time I can recall eating it was in elementary. We continued along as we munched away and longed to hear the sound of water. The valley started to get narrower and the walls began to creep up around us. It was a sight to behold but an even greater feeling to be sandwiched between such steep and lush walls.
Finally we heard trickling and figured we were almost there! Or so we thought! We couldn't have been more wrong as the trail snaked deeper and deeper and deeper into the valley. Maneuvering the now mossy, wet, and slippery rocks made the hike much longer than usual and was quite frankly, damn irritating. As each bend neared I prayed it was the last one.
After what seemed like forever, two and a half hours, we reached the swim hole. We swam across the first area and up to the second...jackpot! A stunning waterfall awaited us including a rope to ascend it. We climbed up and jumped into the fresh water. Ryan even did a couple of swan dives. And while cold, it was extremely rejuvenating but best of all it was secluded! It was more beautiful and fun than I imagined and made every step of the hike worth it! Talk about lucky we live Hawaii!!!
Our return hike was much faster, about a half hour shorter, because we noticed more maintained paths, many of which are located on the right side of the riverbed when heading in. A key trail that we missed would have saved us a lot of time. It is located at the widest part of the bed where a huge mango tree stands. Rather than walk up along the rocks, head straight across it. The path is not marked with a ribbon but if you take a minute to look for it, it is easy to find.
We eventually reached our cars at 5:00 pm. The 6 mile, easy rated Maakua Gulch took a total of five hours! Rather long in my opinion but...today was awesome. I don’t know if I really liked Maakua Gulch or if I was just super stoked to hike. It was probably a combination of both. The cumbersome trek is definitely outweighed by the abundance of guava and mountain apples, fun swim hole, beautiful waterfall, and gorgeous sights. We'll definitely be back on a sunnier day with more time to play away and maybe even a camelbak or two of Red Bull-vodka.