I'm putting my time turner to use again to tell you about one more of our adventures in Hawaii.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014, ended up being one of our favorite days on Maui, and that's saying a lot since I haven't told you about snorkeling at the Dumps, kayaking in rough water, SCUBA diving on a wrecked fishing vessel....
Even though it wasn't our favorite road, we drove the Hana Highway again, this time in its entirety because I wanted to go hiking. Specifically, I wanted to hike the Pipiwai Trail in the south-eastern part of Maui. Our guide, author of Maui Revealed, declared this the best hike in southeast Maui, and tantalized us with descriptions and photos of the Infinity Pool at the top of a waterfall. As much as anything, I just like saying the name: Pipiwai (pee-pee-vie).
This time we buzzed (as much as you can buzz with 15 mph speed limits) past Hana and continued wiggling around to the south. The Haleakala National Park lots at the start of the Pipiwai Trail were quite full, but we managed to find a spot by a picnic table under a tree. With ham sandwiches in our bellies, swim suits under our clothes, and a backpack full of towels and water, we set out to explore this two-mile trail along Pipiwai Stream.
According to our bible, Makahiku Falls ("this massive falls drops 200 feet") was 2/3 mile into the hike, and the park-unapproved trail to the Infinity Pool was just past it. I wasn't convinced we were at the right spot since the Makahiku Falls overlook revealed a mere trickle down a cliff face unimpressive enough that I didn't even take a photo. Just past it, however, was a little trail off to the right, a little trail thoroughly blocked by brush and a big wire fence. Apparently the park service had moved beyond merely discouraging people from swimming in the pool. I imagine it could be quite dangerous at high water flow, but still.
Not too much farther along we found another side trail to the right, and decided to explore it. Our best idea ever! It led to a small man-made dam on the stream with a little waterfall running over it. Behind it was a big pond.
Rowan immediately stripped down to her bikini and joined the three teens already in the water. I scrambled up to and over the dam to see what was on the other side, while Thane chatted with the teens' parents. Another couple was just getting out of the water upstream of the dam, and they told the teens and I about swimming up the river to a natural amphitheater and more waterfalls - simply amazing, they said. Rowan and the two boys swam off while I got Thane's attention to come join me. When the kids came back they were enthused and wanted everyone to swim up again. The boys convinced their sister to go, but had no luck with their parents. Their mom finally yelled, "I am too old for this kind of thing!" Crazy - they weren't any older than Thane or me.
Holy crap, that was the coldest water I've been in since I swam in glacial Eagle River as a kid. Pipiwai Stream is spring fed, and therefore has little opportunity to warm up, although there has to be a runoff component when it's stormy. Regardless, it took a concerted effort not to gasp and drown myself when I dove under. I wouldn't say I ever got used to the water temperature, but as we swam upriver, I became numb enough to it to not mind too much. What I really missed was salt. I'd gotten so used to the buoyancy of salt water that it was almost hard to swim in this fresh water.
We swam about a quarter mile up to a rocky natural dam of cobbles and sharp columnar basalt that we had to scramble over to get to the upriver pool. There was another waterfall about 20' high at the other side, but we decided not to swim over to it. I was convinced we could climb the cliff next to the waterfall and continue upstream, but Thane wisely suggested that probably wasn't the safest option, especially in bare feet.
As we went with the slow current back downriver, we were really able to take in our surroundings. The stream ran like an olive green ribbon between cliff faces 20-30 feet high. Trees overhung it so densely in some spots that the sky was nearly obscured, and if we were stronger, we probably could have climbed the tree roots dangling down. The occasional yellow globe of a lilikoi (passionfruit) fruit plopped onto the water, insect-ravaged before it fell. I commented that if we had been in a similar location anywhere else in the world, we would have expected large snakes to fall out of the trees on us or caymans to nibble our toes.
Needless to say, my expensive Nikon DSLR camera did not go up the river with me, and Thane was bumming that he'd left his GoPro with its waterproof case in the Jeep, but I did get a few decent shots from above to give you an idea of what it was like.
Once we were out of the water and dried off, we continued up the trail, marveling all the while on how out of the hundreds of people hiking that day only eight of us had found the treasure of that river. There were more treasures in store for us, too.
First was a set of small waterfalls by a bridge. Nearby was a large banyan tree.
Next was a bamboo forest. The bamboo grew so thickly that you'd have to channel your inner Zen and become the wind to leave the trail. It was so tall over the trail that it seemed like night was falling even earlier than normal. While it's too bad that it's an invasive species in Hawaii, it was a mysterious and wonderful place. Thane and I wondered what type of bamboo might survive Valdez to allow us to plant a small (contained) grove.
The whole point of the trail is at the end: Waimoku Falls. It cascades 400 feet down a sheer wall of lava. If you hike out there, ignore the signs that tell you not to go any farther; clearly everyone does, and barring a flash flood, there's no danger in doing so. The photo below was taken from just before that point. You actually get too close to the falls to get a good photo of their entirety after that, but it's still way cool to wander on to the end. It's like a giant lava room sheathed in green.
Speaking of safety issues, we saw a plethora of signs that made us shake our heads in both amusement and disgust: Do Not Enter, Fatalities Have Occurred.
According to a local Rowan spoke with, a young girl did die when a rock fell down a waterfall and on her head, but there quickly becomes a point when such warning signs lose their effectiveness due to oversaturation. It would have been much more effective to make each sign appropriate to its location: watch for falling rocks; undercut bank may collapse; don't fall off the cliff.... All of these hazards existed, but to imply a fatality occurred at each and every site is ridiculous. Okay, okay, I'll get off my soapbox now.
Thanks for putting up with my rambling about Hawaii. I may have to go back and reread all my posts just so I can pretend I'm still there and not here in frigid Valdez.