Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hiking on the Big Island-Waimanu Valley Hike (Pt 1)

Waimanu Valley was one of the most strenuous hikes I've ever encountered but it was truly a memory I hope to retain for years to come.

My husband heard of this hike from a friend, researched it and decided that it was something he wanted to do. I felt that he was being overzealous of our hiking skills but, I guess it's better to do something and find out, rather than not and regret it.

We realized this trip was best experienced as a hiking/camping combination. So within a week's time we found some great hiking bags (craigslist) and some very important items (will post later for those here for research) and headed that way.

This post is for those that want to hear about our trip but also for those who are researching on the trip itself. We found some pretty awesome websites, but, after we went on our trip there were still a  LOT of unknowns. When it comes to being adventurous, I love the thrill of being spontaneous but there are some things that would had made our trip easier if we would have known a head of time, SO... my adventurous thrill seekers, this blog is for you as well. I hope it is noteworthy as well as enjoyable for the recreational readers :)

I had to work the morning my husband wanted to leave, so we left from Hilo as soon as I clocked out, around 10am. We learned from another person's website that it's best to park your car at the local art gallery. They charge a small fee ($30, $15 a night) but unless you know someone that can take you, or lives in the area, it's the only place you can leave your car for more than 24 hours. The drive from Hilo is about 1 hour and 45 minutes, so, If you plan on doing this hike, leave as soon as you can from the east side of the island. If driving in from the west, I would suggest renting a little B & B close to Waipio valley and then leave first thing the next morning.

 The hike to Waimanu can be reached by the Muliwani trail . On the very right hand side of the map, you will see the Waipio valley lookout. If you look all the way to the left, you see the marker for the Waimanu camp grounds. It is a very hilly hike, with 9-10 "rivers" depending on the weather. It's not a trek for the beginning hiker, if you think you can do it please, by all means, go for it :)

I have heard the hike can be accomplished within 6-10 hours with many deciding factors. 
1. Do you hike down the scary Waipio road, or get a ride
2. Weight of your pack, heavy-longer time, light-not as much strain
3. Weather
4. Fatigue. Stopping a lot lengthens the time of your arrival.

Our goal was to make it to our campsite just by sunset. It only gave us 6 hours with 25-50lbs of weight on our back, so we came prepared with flashlights and a backup plan (ALWAYS have one). On the map you can see there are Pink boxes marked Helipad. (Pics later) There are 4 along the way. Helipad 3 has a pretty decent covered shelter, makes you feel like you're at a park. This is a VERY good spot to stop for lunch or over night in case of bad weather, fatigue or lack of time. We were going to stop here if we were there around 6pm.

My husband, on top of Waipio. We got a lot of crazy "Are you seriously doing this" looks/comments from those huffing to the top just from the lookout to the parking lot. We knew we were a little crazy but, wanted to see what was in the valley.

Being so stretched for time, we decided to hike down the scary Waipio trail. It's been written that if this road was maintained by the government, it would be THE steepest road in the USA, the pictures just don't do it justice. 4 wheel drive vehicles are the only ones that can do this drive, you don't HAVE to have a 4 wheel drive, but if you don't the picture below shows what can happen to your car. With a 25% grade and 1,000+ foot change in elevation in such a short amount of distance, if you trip you're going to just keep rolling down the hill.

 This car remains in the woods as a reminder to those who think their cars can make the drive.
 Here is what the road looks like from the other side of the valley

30 minutes later we made it to the black sand beach at the bottom of Waipio valley. Little did we know the roughest part (and the scariest ) was yet to come.

There is a crossing you must pass in order to get to the other side of the beach. From above it didn't look very bad at all. We didn't realize how rough it is until Josh took the first plunge. The tide was very high and the current...well.. lets just say it took my feet out from underneath me. The bottom of this crossing is not black sand, but lines of big boulders that are very slippery. My bag weighed 20-25lbs and so Josh came back for my bag and two men had to form a chain to help me across. As I got halfway across the path a strong wave came and took my feet from underneath me, luckily I was still holding on to one mans hand and he pushed me towards the other man. It took us about 15 minutes to get across and lost about 100 calories in adrenaline..... Malama (respect) the ocean for her forces are stronger than yours LOL

After we FINALLY crossed, and my nerves calmed down, we treked down the beach (that never ends) and found a path that led us to what is called "the Z trail"
If you look closely the trail makes a faint Z that is visible even from the top of the Waipio lookout (hence the name). Only when we were coming back did we discover the marker for the beginning of this trail had a big white pole and and orange ribbon(pic below) ( I owe that to being still in shock from the river crossing)

Once you find this, it will lead you toward the mountain and you will come upon a sign
go right onto the Waimanu trail (....duh)
This begins the actual hike into the Muliwai trail (Waimanu hike). This trail is VERY,VERY well marked. Whoever comes through their and keeps up with the maintenance is amazing.
The next part of the trail is pretty strenuous. We spent the next hour climbing over boulders in direct sunlight (we felt as if we were in Arizona). The hike is somewhat a pain but the view of Waipio is amazing. You are able to see deeper into the valley than you can from the lookout. We took an nice  water break at the top.

 It was pretty amazing. Hiker's tip- this is THE LAST area for any cellphone signal (we actually skyped with my parents up here) what you need to and go ahead and put your phones into airplane mode...because you won't be getting any service soon.

This hike was a great representation of just how diverse the big island is. At the beginning we were in lush forest, then hot, dry, Arizona like, then as well climbed in elevation we were in a wooden pine tree forest.

Being from the mainland, we have discussed how we really missed fall, however there were SO many orange and brown leaves it made us feel like we were in eastern TN around the Gatlinburg/Pigeon forge area.

As stated before there are 9-10 "rivers" that you have to cross on this hike, most of them being in the wedge of the valleys. Depending on the type of weather the mountains have recently encountered these can be from little trickles to rapids. Luckily most were boulder hoppers, one being particularly beautiful

Ta-da what a beautiful waterfall, a perfect place to rest and enjoy a snack.

Along the way (as previously stated) there are 4 Helipads. I don't know if helicoptors used to land here because there wasn't much room or a platform for one to land? BUT they did have mile markers on them so, it was easy to see how far we had come, and how much farther we had left.

By the time we reached the 2nd helipad, we estimated we were going about 2.3-4 miles an hour, not bad considering how much weight we were carrying (Hikers Tip-Packing tips later in the blog) and we would just make it by sunset if we continued the pace.

By the time we got to this marker we got So excited and knew we were close, unfortunately it would take us another hour and 15 minutes to get past the .9 miles. We had to hike the Z trail down into Waimanu valley.

First view of Waimanu valley!

 This was the 2nd scariest part of the hike. I felt a little bit better because at least at this river crossing I had something to hold on to! The current was pretty strong and again lined with big bolders. I went very slow. Right after this picture was taken, there was a big dip and the water was up to the bottom of my pack, above my thighs. On the return trip I actually slipped and my feet we behind me with the current. I held on to the rope, using all my upper body strength, and just tried to get across safely....eek!

The trip (and the last river crossing) took us about 6 hours and 10  minutes! We were very happy with our time. We extremely heavy packs, we still managed to make really good time.

The camp sites are numbered and when we signed up for our permit (hikers, yes you have to have a permit) we signed up for campsite 7. There was only one other guy in the valley, SO we just ended up picking the one with the best view and figured if someone came later we would move

Our site, #2


The sites are pretty spread out. #1 and 2 are closest to the entrance of the camp, while 5-6-7 are a pretty far walk, but closest to water.

The camp does come with 3? (or 4) elevated outhouses
 The first night we arrived we could not start a fire because it had rained all day. Thankfully we brought a little camp, oil burner and made a fantastic dinner of ramen and hot chocolate.

Good morning!

We counted about 13-18 waterfalls (you can see a lot of them in this pic, but it was beautiful!)

We spent the morning taking pictures and playing on the beach

 Afterwards we knew we needed to replenish our water supply. We had heard of a natural spring with a PVC pipe. The other camper in the valley pointed us in the right direction.
(Hikers- Hike all the way to the other side of the valley, there is a sign that says *Do not enter*, ignore it and hike into the trees. You hike for about 10-15 minutes and when you come to the first little spring, hike up the mountain and you will see a waterfall with a PVC pipe attached to it).

We brought iodine tablets that clean the drinking water. The packet said to allow for 4 hours before drinking.. so we used 5 bottles for drinking and 1 for cooking. Boiling it would clean it as well. On our way back we gathered palm trees prawns and dry wood for later to start our fire. After a breakfast of poptarts, hot chocolate, and oatmeal we packed up our water and decided to hike to the closest waterfall.

(Hikers- you keep going like you're going to this natural spring but don't go up to the water.)....The trail was really well marked...funny enough we didn't realize it until we were headed back from the water fall.

Scary side of the mountain

 The trek to the waterfall is about an hour and half long. We didn't swim in it because it was SUPER windy and cold. If we would have made the trip to the island just for this hike, I would have tho.

So in the picture above are the markers I was talking about. From the fresh water stream area to the waterfall are pink/blue/ and orange markers on the bottom side of the mountain. We zigzagged the entire way to the waterfall but once we started walking back I noticed these things made a straight path. I made a fun game out of it, calling out the colors every time I saw one off in the distance. Sigh, the joy of doing everything the hard way first .

After we came back from the waterfall excursion the sun finally came out and we relaxed on the beach .

Little did we know what was waiting for us at the beach


Josh trying to crack open a coconut

I wanted to yell "WE HAVE FIRE"....from Castaway :)

As we were making our fire, we heard a noise near the ocean. A couple,our age, had also made camping reservations. They were very sweet people from Kansas. We showed them where to get water and later shared our fire, and hot chocolate, after the sun set. 
There are coconuts all over the place and guava trees on the trail down to Waimanu, it was an amazing feast provided by mother nature :)

 The first night in the valley was calm with a little bit of a shower. Our rainfly on our tent only covered horizontally (poor design) so..halfway through the night our heads and feet were getting sprinkled. We ended up just shrinking into the feetle position to avoid getting wet. Halfway through our 1st full day we noticed a tarp that was left by old campers. 30 minutes before we went to bed we draped the tarp over our tent and put rocks on the corners to keep it from flying away...BOY am I glad we did!... We had a CRAZY rain storm come through, our tent was rocking back in forth, we would have been soaked for sure! However we were very dry in the morning!

After refilling our water bottles, and eating breakfast, we packed up and started hiking out... again.....Crazy river-2, Lori-0. As stated earlier, my legs got swept out from benethe me. I was kicking...and swimming, holding on to the rope relying entirely on my upper body to hold on to the rope. I finally made it and we continued on UP the crazy Z trail. 

The climb out was pretty steep and wet which made it difficult. After the 9-10 switch backs we finally made it to the top and continued our journey.

The time went fast as we spent most of our hike talking and before we knew it we were back at the Waipio Z trail.

We took one last look and continued our descent. 

Upon reaching the black sand beach Josh couldn't help but play with a friend he found on the beach

Again, we were met with a raging river that we had to cross. This time I picked up a very long stick and used it to hold my balance. It still took me about 15 minutes to cross, because I was going so slow, but my feet stayed on the ground and I didn't float out to the ocean.

While hiking up the Z trail in Waimanu we ran into a guy that asked us about the waterfall. Supposedly he ran the entire way back and met us at the river crossing. After he crossed he GRACIOUSLY offered us a ride back up the Waipio valley road. He saved us a ton of leg work and probably and hour and 1/2 of our time.

The guy let us ride in the bed of his truck. His tailgate was open and because of the steepness of the road is I had to prop my foot up on a bar to keep from sliding out..

This was our last view into Waipio as we road out.

It was an amazing hike/camp. I'm so glad we did it :)

This page is already very long winded, SO i'm going to post a Part 2 for hikers tip's, a packing guide, and things we discovered in Pt 2.

Thanks for reading!