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356. Hi'ilawe Falls (11/18/03)

Hikers (7): Cal, David, Peter, Russ, Sue, Taylor, Tim
Distance: 5 miles
Rating: 3 difficulty, 10 beauty
Park info: Waipi'o Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii

Write-up by Peter -- Pictures by Russ

The plan for the second INCH hike on the Hawaii trip was to go through a beautiful rainforest in the Waipi'o Valley on the north side of the island, ending up at the foot of the Hi'ilawe Falls. The pictures in the books looked great, and we were pumped up and ready to go.

We arrived at the trailhead in the midst of a torrential downpour, but our intrepid group of hikers was undaunted. At least most of our group was smart enough to have brought rain gear. Taylor and I had left our jackets back at the condo. No matter -- the temperature was warm, so it would be fine.

1, 2, 3, ... INCH!

The hike began down a steep one-mile descent, with people slipping and sliding all over the place. After some difficulty in finding the trail to the falls, we asked one of the locals who pointed us towards the river and told us we'd have to find our own trail along it or through it.

We began thrashing about in the dense woods, following a faint trail that zig-zagged back and forth along a water pipe. Figuring that the pipe was coming from the falls, it would be a safe bet to just follow it as best we could. After crossing over a couple of low rock walls, the trail began to get thicker and thicker, and pretty soon we could not go any further. We backtracked a little, and then started walking along the bank of the river and made some progress further upstream before once again hitting a dead end as the river bank became steeper and steepr, and finally unpassable.

We stood there in the drizzle debating what to do. Most of the crew had had enough and were looking to turn back, but Cal would have none of it. He was looking across the river. Uh-oh! Before we knew it, Captain Cal had climbed over a couple of rocks and was up to his shorts in the river. After some momentary hesitation, the rest of us figured we were soaking wet anyway, so what the heck? We plunged in after Cal.

The trail continued along the other side of the river for a short distance before coming to another dead end at a spot where a rock dam had been created. Cal and I went back into the water to check it out. We knew we were only about a half a mile from the falls, so we did not want to turn back at this point. However, after looking around for a good amount of time, we could not find any other way to proceed, so reluctantly we had to turn back.

As we made our way down the trail and through the forest, I told Cal that I had thought about ditching my backpack and swimming to the falls. It turns out Cal had had the exact same thought. Great minds think alike! We paused to consider going back, but the group talked us out of it, saying that we could take a side trail to the falls once we got out of the forest.

The trip back was much shorter. I had taken us more than an hour to make it as far as we did, but less than half an hour to get out. I guess it's easy when you know the trail. After getting back out of the forest, we headed up a muddy back road. The road was flooded in many spots, so we had to cross a bunch of streams as we made our way along.

David leads the way across a stream

About a mile up the road, it dead-ended in some private property, so we could not proceed any further. Looking across the fields, we did get a nice view of the side of the falls. These people get to see this in their own back yard every day! Cal still hadn't given up and was looking for ways to make it to the foot of the falls, but the women talked some sense into him, and so we finally started back down the muddy road.

Wet, but happy, INCHers cross another stream en route to the falls

The last section was a killer -- 900 feet elevation in less than a mile. It was not easy doing it in 99% humidity and the sweat was pouring off us in buckets. I was having flashbacks to Mt. Sizer. It stopped raining by the time we made it back to the car (naturally!), and we stopped to take a couple of photos and enjoy the beautiful views from the overlook.

Pretty as a postcard -- Aloha from Hawaii!

On the way back to the condo, we stopped for a dip in the beautiful blue waters of the Hawaiian Pacific and enjoyed a gorgeous sunset over the ocean. A great ending to a great day!

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