Maunawili Falls • February 25, 2018
Life in Hawaii isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. And contrary to what some may believe, a rainy day in Hawaii doesn’t beat a pleasant day elsewhere. In an effort to be transparent, it’s only fair that I expose some of those negative experiences we may have. We like to think that we’re the easy-going, go-with-the-flow type that can embrace every situation, but this day proved otherwise.
We were up relatively early one morning and actually made it out the door to go for a hike — something that comes as a challenge these days. Why isn’t getting up and out the door by 6 as easy as it was when we lived in Arizona? Curtis wonders if we’re getting lazier, but I like to blame it on all the different factors: We’re older. Instead of going to school 2 days a week with just 12 credit hours, Curtis goes to work for 13+ hours, 5 days a week. Our planned hikes here have been under 5 miles lately, while we were hiking 10+ consistently every weekend back then. We are less motivated because we’ll be living here longer. We own a home and have other things to occupy our time. The list goes on…and the more I name my reasons, the more I miss those good old days. We think about Arizona and the Southwest a lot, but sometimes it’s hard to know what we miss more: the beauty of the deserts and mountains, or the easier, simpler life we enjoyed?
Anyway, I digress. We had planned a simple hike to a waterfall in Kane’ohe, but when we arrived, we found one of those complicated parking situations where it was technically illegal to be parked there at that time. Not wanting our car to be towed or to cause problems, we decided to do a different, more popular hike: Maunawili Falls in Kailua. We arrived around 9, found parking along the neighborhood street, and began our hike on the paved path.
As I mentioned in the last post, it has been raining a lot lately, so we were concerned about muddiness and higher river crossings. The paved path was comforting, but we should have known it wouldn’t be that easy. Soon, a sign clearly marked “Waterfall” pointed us off the road and onto a very muddy path. The road continues on to private property. On the plus side, the trail is very easy to follow — of course, that’s because it’s so popular. Under the right circumstances, this would be a very easy trail, but today it was a total mud bath. We thought Kaena Point was muddy after the island-wide storms and flash flooding, but Maunawili made that seem like a cake walk. Part of the issue is that it is completely forested, which also means an abundance of mosquitos.
Still, we didn’t let the mud discourage us, and so we trudged on. We were doing alright with avoiding the bigger mud puddles and minimizing the mess, but one wrong step and I accidentally baptized my foot. The longer the trail wore on, the less careful I became, and now it’s doubtful that these 5-month-old boots will ever stand a chance to last as long as my first pair (4 years).
Things were going along alright, as long as we kept moving the mosquitos couldn’t keep up. However, I knew the stream crossings were coming, and I was dreading them. I honestly think that they are what scare me the most. Sure, I’m not all that comfortable with descending steep muddy slopes with questionable ropes, but river crossings with just a couple of boulders surrounded by a rushing river and I become paranoid. However, after all we had just hiked through, I didn’t want to give up here. After much pacing along the riverside, we finally found the “optimal spot” and Curtis led me across. Yes, it was embarrassing watching children cross just fine. I’m sure it’s all just irrational fears in my head, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
After the river crossing, the trail goes up a ways, up some steps, and levels out with some decent views of the mountains surrounding us. On a clear day, this would make a great vista — but this was not that clear day. We continued going up, until we came to a fork in the trail. To reach the falls, we turned left and descended the steps, back to the flowing stream, and another crossing. While we had been on our own for the entire beginning of the trail up to the first crossing, we were running into people left and right here, and we knew we were almost at the end, where they were all congregated. We crossed the river, followed the trail on the other side, which soon emptied out at the stream again. Some chose to simply walk through the water, but we crossed and continued on the trail until we came into view with the falls.
We have each heard many other people rave about this trail and these falls, many naming it their favorite hike on Oahu. The expectations were set high…far too high, unfortunately. And perhaps under different circumstances, we would have enjoyed it more, but as we crossed the river one last time and trudged our way to the end of the trail surrounded by other hikers, I knew we weren’t going to stay long, and that we wouldn’t be returning. What could have been a peaceful, serene oasis with a waterfall tucked away behind some cliffs with a large pool is instead a popular spot for local hikers and tourists alike to go swimming and diving into the pool. I have to admit, the whole idea of jumping in that water is completely unappealing to me knowing that leptospirosis can be found in these pools.
To top it all off…it started pouring right as we reached the falls. Perfect. We took one look at each other and knew we were done. I don’t even have a picture because I didn’t want to get my camera wet, and it wouldn’t matter anyway because there’s no way I could have captured the falls without getting 20 half-naked bodies in the shot. We turned around and walked away. On the plus side, since I was now already wet, river crossings went quicker and easier.
The highlight of the hike came after that though: we wandered off to find a letterbox, and found the serenity we desired alone under the Cook pine trees. We found the letterbox, which is great on two accounts: one, we actually found it (our finds-to-attempts ratio isn’t great here) and two, now we really don’t have to come back if we don’t want to. And after venting about the situation, comparing it to other places we’ve lived, and naming the reasons why we miss Arizona, we both felt better and energized to make the muddy walk back. By the end of the hike, it wasn’t even noon, so we still had half a day to be together at home. At the end of the day, our problems are small and we know we need to count them all joy, but that doesn’t mean we won’t let ourselves sit back and reminisce our time in AZ…and look forward to the day we can return.
If you’re interested in this hike, it’s 3 miles round trip with around 1000 ft elevation gain, but honestly easy if not for the mud. Be prepared for the elements if it’s been raining, and go as early as possible if you want to beat the crowds (better yet, try on weekdays, not weekends or holidays). Be respectful when parking and walking through the neighborhood. Swim at your own risk!