Monday, November 30, 2009

Maakua Gulch Trail

Important Note: THIS TRAIL IS CLOSED (which i found out after the fact *wink*). SOME BOOKS MAY STILL HAVE IT LISTED AS AN OPEN TRAIL.
Trails: Maakua Gulch Trail
Distance: About 6 miles round trip (from the general entrance of the Maakua Trails to end of the gulch and back), this may be inaccurate since my GPS didn't really work towards the end of the gulch.
Elevation Gain:  once again unsure. At least 900 ft.

Hiking time: 3 1/2 hours
Area: Town of Hau'ula, Northern Windward side, South of Laie (Polynesian Cultural Center)

Trailhead: End of Maakua Rd
Trailhead Coordinates: N21 36.221 W157 55.113
Sights: Windward Shore, Papali Gulch
Directions via bus: From Ala Moana Center take the 55. It will go up the Pali, though Kaneohe, and up the windward coast along Kamehameha Highway. It's quite a long ride. You'll pass Koolau Ranch, Ka'awa, Kahana Valley, and Punaluu before getting in the area. Ask the driver to stop at Hau'ula Homestead Rd in Hau'ula. Follow Hau'ula Homestead Rd. Right before it curves to the left, follow Maakua Rd. After a short walk, you'll see a sign that says "Maakua Trails." Right up the road you'll see a gate to the left. This is your starting point.

Directions via car: From Waikiki, take H1 West. From here you have multiple options. You can take Likelike Highway, Pali Highway, or H2 through the mountains. Then make your way onto Kamehameha Highway going Northwest. Pass Koolau Ranch, Ka'awa, Kahana Valley, and Punaluu before getting in the area. Make a left onto Hau'ula Homestead Rd and before it curves to the left, follow onto Maakua Rd until you reach a gate on the left. I've seen cars park right around the gate but there isn't much parking available.

Recommendations for hike: I recommend shoes or hiking boots for traveling along the stream bed. Muddy at parts and rocks are slippery. Your feet will get wet. Bug repellant is recommended. Water and bathing suit/trunks.
Trail Conditions: This follows Maakua stream all the way to the end. It starts as a trail bu quickly alternates between trails and going up the stream bed. Eventually, you'll have to follow the stream along into the gulch. It gets narrow and you're surrounded by the mountains. Your cell phone and GPS will probably not work once you enter the gulch.

 Yellow is the Maakua Gulch Trail from the gated entrance. Look what my GPS did!! It got lost!

Since my GPS was on the fritz... this can't be accurate. I know the first 2.5 miles is accurate. There's a section in the middle where it is jumping around. 

This is a more interesting hike than I had anticipated! I've never done a gulch hike. It enters an ever winding gulch following a stream to the end.

So as I departed from the previous loop trail, I decided to do another hike. I just wasn't satisfied with the previous 3 mile loop. So I ventured back on to the utility road and followed it all the way down. Eventually I reach some sort of water station, made my way around, and found the trail head. At first, there were a series of pine trees but that soon stopped. After crossing a small stream and descending a little bit, the trail began to follow a dry stream bed.
The trail became unclear. It was unmaintained and as I followed it, I saw that many of the markers had fallen off. I ended up just walking along the dry stream bed.  The first half of this trail was quite muddy along the side trails though the bed was dry and the mosquitoes were getting on my nerves. What a pain? As soon as I stopped I was swarmed. A bit unsure if there would be any stream and a bit lost, I was reluctant to continue. I'm glad I did though.
The trail continued along the side of the stream bed, onto the bed, and back. There were some forks following the bed. Wasn't sure where to go. It didn't matter. Soon I found that the stream bed split and converged multiple times. And soon enough in the next 3/4 or so, my first sign of water. Just a small section of it but it was so clear. It's the clearest stream that I've seen on the island. Perhaps because there wasn't much soil around. Little by little, more and more water and it finally became a stream. Skipping from rock to rock, I avoided getting wet for quite a while. But as the gulch narrowed and the stream became more fluid, I had no choice.
Being in a gulch is interesting, eerie, and oddly refreshing. I was surrounded by walls covered in green at least 100 ft high. Huge rocks layered the gulch. I knew I had to be alert in case of a rock fall. A severe one would be deadly. My paranoia kicked in and thought what would happen if I injured myself that far in. No phone. No way that anyone could hear me. An unpopulated trail. Not good. But.. I had to reach the end. Another factor was the daylight and weather. It had been overcast in the mountains and valleys that day. If it started raining, well a flash flood could occur. Plus it would just increase my chances of me slipping. There were little places for shelter. Daylight seemed to be fading but it was only because it was narrowing. I had to reach the end and started picking up my pace.
I got impatient... the gulch didn't seem to end. Winding left and right and left and right into the valley, it got narrower. It started off relatively wide, maybe 30 ft across. By the end, where I could see the waterfall, it only spanned 10 ft. Right at the waterfall, it was only my arms span across.
The waterfall was amazing though. I've never seen one in such an environment. It was a small waterfall and swimming hole. Enough to wade around and cool off. I noticed something behind it. Where was the water coming from? I could go a bit further but had to leave my gear. As I climbed up, it bended to the left. A bit of climbing on some slippery rock and another larger swimming hole and slightly larger falls. Maybe a dozen feet or so high. I was just so impressed with the environment. Miles away from a civilization (I know it's not that much)... it was peaceful and secluded. Walls towering above me. Light shining through the narrow opening above. Quite spectacular.
Enjoy the pics!

Uhhh... area closed? So after some quick research... the trail is closed. Explains why it was not maintained.

Entrance to the trail.


First immediate stream crossing... not Maakua Stream though.


Not too promising...


Where's the water?


Yes first sign of water!




 Looking up.


I thought this was the waterfall and maybe it was dry. I was wrong.


Deeper into the gulch.


Looking up again towards the end the gulch.


It never seemed to end.


Though there were some nice tiny (maybe a foot) along the way.


Finally a falls. Still not too impressive. At that part, it was only like 5 ft across. Wasn't too deep.

Wait! I can go further!

Okay so these aren't the best pics. The final falls was at least 6 ft and pool was nice. Still relatively narrow though but just so peaceful. It was such a pain to get these last 3 pics. I had to swim with camera above water. I'd just hate to lose a camera and all the pics. But hey... it worked out. :)

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