Thursday, August 6, 2009

Nuuanu to Monoa

Trails: Judd Memorial trail, Nuuanu trail, Puoua Flats Trail, Aihualama trail, Monoa Falls trail
Distance: 4.3 miles - see breakdown below. Another guide (link in a paragraph below) states its 5.39 miles away. Not sure why though. They say the Nuuanu trail part is 2.08 miles long and there are some additional distances for the parts on the beginning and ending road.
0.6 of the 0.75 mile loop of Judd (rough estimate, probably slightly underestimated)
1.5 miles of Nuuanu Trail (I believe it's the whole trail)
0.1 miles on Puoua Flats trail (extremely rough estimate)
1.3 miles of Aihualama trail (once again I believe I hike the whole trail)
0.8 miles of Monoa trail (whole trail)
Elevation gain: At least 1500 ft. It's hard to say. There were quite a few hikes and descents. Adding up the trails doesn't seem accurate.
Miles and distance courtesy of Hawaii's website, "Na Ala Hele - Hawaii Trail System,"
Time: Approximately 3 hours and 1/2, non-stop. Minor breaks. Quick pace for first half. Slower in the dark.
Trailhead: Nuuanu Pali Dr (Nuuanu Valley) . Clearly marked on right side of road (heading North). There is room for parking on the side. You can also start on the Manoa side at Paradise Park (entrance to Manoa Falls Trail).
Directions: Since I don't drive I'm not sure the quickest route. Find the Pali Highway. Go North. Veer off of Nuuanu Pali Dr and continue up the windy road til you see a trailhead on the right. You'll pass a gated community around a bend. It's not too far from there.
By bus (from Waikiki): Take the 4 bus that stops along Kuhio going towards Eva (westward). It will take you through town, go up the Pali, and veer off to Nuuanu Pali Dr. It will connect to Old Pali Dr. Get off before or after this intersection and walk up Nuuanu Pali Dr.

So this evening at around 6 p.m I set out an mini adventure, hiking from Nuuanu via the Judd Memorial Trail over to Moana valley. It would be a series of trails, starting with Judd Memorial Trail, passing Jackass Ginger Pool, a right onto Nuuanu trail, a 2 mile hike with switchbacks and a ridge over to the Tantalus area (i think), taking a left onto Puoua Flats Trail for less than a quarter mile, veering right to Aihualama Trail which leads directly into Monoa Falls Trail. Click here for a link to a pdf file showing the trail. It's on the 3rd page. The directions are in reverse. I forgot my hiking guide, so I supplemented it with this.

Took about 3 and 1/2 hours. Sorry no pics. My SD card was left in my laptop. Plus half the trail was in darkness. I'll go back during daylight to capture some of the views. I'd be interested to really see what I was hiking through.

So darting out of work at 4 p.m. I walked a bit and caught a bus to what I thought was the trail head. Well I fell asleep on the bus and was awoken by the bus drive saying "last stop." Fortunately, the last stop was in the vicinity of where I wanted to be, or so I thought. After consulting a friend, I backtracked a couple of blocks and started heading up Nuuanu Pali Dr, a twisty road climbing out of the valley. There were some spectacular houses, spread out, randomly placed along the sloped sides of the roads, surrounded by nature.
Soon enough I reached the trailhead. I started Judd Memorial loop which was nice enough, very casual stroll through a forest. Nearby, I witnessed to people swimming in the Jackass Ginger Pool. I didn't veer off to check it out. Maybe some other time. I had only so much daylight and though I wanted to hike in the dark, I'd like to minimize it to some degree. I figured the full moon would provide enough light.
Found myself going onto Nuuanu trail, a quick right off of the Judd Memorial Loop. This was the beginning of the tough part. I'd say it was like 20 switchbacks traversing the mountain side... jeez... had a steady quick pace for half of it but I guess I pushed myself a bit too much initially... rested a bit here and there for a minute. Great hike... no open views along the way up but I wasn't paying close attention to the scenary.
Closer towards the top was beautiful. At one point, you can see both valleys, Nuuanu and a minor one that is covered in greens. You can catch of glimpse of the Pearl City area and what I thought was Waikiki. This was the favorite part of the hike. The sun was practically set so it had a grey overcast type of light. Windy and cool (by Hawaii standards). Hiking along the ridge I saw the Pali Highway lit up. Just a long trail of parallel lights. It actually reminded me of a night ski slope. It winded and stretched in a similar manner.
So the adventure begins... curving around the ridge I saw ahead, an entrance to what looked like a cavern. The trail was just heading back into the mountain. The way the trees covered the trail... I couldn't see the trail... it just disappeared into darkness... there was little light anyway... as I entered, it wasn't so dramatic... glimmers of light peering through. Enough to still hike without a flashlight. Just more forest... crackling branches... roots devouring the ground... sounds of birds... and shortly after sounds of crickets.
Little by little, the day was gone. I cracked a light. At first, I paused, simply to look around. I was surrounded by darkness. My mini Mag light revealed a fragment of the forest. I shut off the light for a moment... slowly spinning around... trying to focus my eyes.. it was useless. My field of vision was gone. The moonlight? Good luck. Perhaps if I were on a hike along the coast or up on the ridge it would provide a path. Not here though. So I trekked through the darkness. Knowing the general path but not always knowing the terrain. I often found myself surprised with my footing, stepping on roots or in mud unexpectedly. I was still trying to hike as fast as I could. As intriguing and quite honestly... fun as it was hiking in the dark, I had no idea how much further it would be. I assumed another hour or so but thought the night would argue otherwise. So I continued... one of my major concerns was missing the next trail. I know I wasn't supposed to follow this one forever. It would just take me deeper into the mountains. I had moments of paranoia, considered turning back but knew i was more than half way through. So I marched on. Quite honestly, in situations like this, it wasn't so tough. I had a light, the path was relatively clear. The only thing you can do is to continue in one direction.
I finally came across the intersection, Puoua Flats trail. It sounded familiar. The ground was uneasy, covered in roots, creating minor ditches for my foot to knock against. It was uncomfortable dredging over them, my ankles twisting in all directions to keep my balance. It was a short trail luckily.
Veered off to Aihualama Trail. I know I had been there before. I recognized that intersection. Puoua Flats trail took me to the summit on my Tantalus hike (last hike 2 weekends ago). At that moment, I decided to take that trail and head back. I feared that the light would die and I'd be trapped. I wouldn't be able to move in the dark without stumbling down the side of the mountain. If my memory served me right, there would be a road nearby. Along the trail, I descended multiple switchbacks. At every turn, this looks familiar, i'm on the right track. Then it soon became, i don't remember this... there weren't as many rocks here... or there should have been some more brush coming up.... no, it looks familiar... i'm still on the right track. Before I knew it, I was lost. I knew I was descending down, so it would take me down somewhere. As it traversed the mountain and hugged the mountains curve, I hoped for a small stream with a minor crossing. It never came. I was simply reminded that I was in the middle of nowhere, the sounds of crickets, slight rustlings along the forest floor. In light of my recent revelation, paranoia bombarded me. I started gathering some dry bamboo leaves... it seemed that it would retain a flame if I needed. Wrapped in a bungee cord, I gathered a substantial amount. Yes paranoia makes you do silly things. Some may argue that it was a smart move just in case but I had no idea if it would even work. Once again, the best thing I could do was move forward.
So it had been over an hour in the darkness... it seemed much longer... before I knew it... i know these rocks... and I continued down. In the distance I heard water. I recalled a stream from my previous hike. I had to be nearby an entrance to one of the many hikes of Tantalus. I climb over some more rocks along the trail and look to the left. The sound of the waterfall was within my sight (well if I could see that far it would have been) and I saw the danger sign by the waterfall. I was at the top of Monoa Falls Trail. Victory!!!!
The rest was just a casual hike, the trail was easy and my mind was at ease. Irionically at one point, there was a strong breeze, trailed by a loud slow eerie creek of a tree. It really startled me and sent a chill down my spine. Soon enough I was in a residential area. Perfect timing too. The bus came by in the next 5 mintues. Had a steak.. heading to sleep... gotta be up in 6 hours. G'night!

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