Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Change of plans, volunteering, and meeting new people

I was pretty bummed because I was planning a camping trip in the mountains for a few weeks.  Unfortunately weather had a different plan.  Luckily we have NOAA to predict weather patterns and can make a judgment call on weather to stay indoors or have our camping trips go on.  NOAA predicted 80% chance of thunderstorms on Thursday through the weekend.  It dropped down to 60% on Friday but it was too high of a chance to be miserable and wet on the mountains in a tent.  We decided to call it off and spend the weekend volunteering and chasing waterfalls. 

On Saturday Katie and I made plans on to spend the day volunteering with Ko'olau Mountains Watershed Partnership.  They are an organization that helps properly maintain the watersheds in the Ko'olau mountains.  They do it by removing invasive species, out planting native plants, and educating people about why it is important to have a healthy watershed.  We met them and other volunteers at the Manana trail head.  They did a little safety briefing and what we were going to do today speech.  We were planning to remove invasive paperbark trees and strawberry guava.  We worked for two hours or so and took a break for lunch.  After lunch we found a patch of big 'iliahi (sandalwood) being choked by some strawberry guava.  I took the initiative and said, "let's free this 'iliahi".  Malia our crew manager agreed it'd be a cool thing to do so we started clearing.  After working for an hour or maybe longer the big 'iliahi got some breathing room.  I felt good and I'm sure the tree felt better.  For the rest of the trip we hiked back down to the cars and enjoyed some ice cold beverages.  Thank you Malia and Seana for letting us tag along.

KMWP volunteer group.

Right after volunteering the rains started.  We did a little errands and went home to relax for the next day.  I was excited on what the rains were going to bring, tubing, waterfalls maybe?  Sunday morning we were still figuring out what to do because it wasn't raining when we woke up.  At first I told the group let's do a waterfall near PCC.  We all met in the Temple Valley shopping center.

Along for the ride was Chris.  We picked him up from his hostel in Waikiki, I didn't know him at all but, this is his story.  Chris is from New York.  This was his first time to Hawaii and he planned to visit Maui, Big Island, and Oahu.  He was having a rough time back home and he needed a break from it all and just get away.  What better place than Hawaii right?  Unfortunately on the Big Island while surfing a break he came in and got confronted by drug dealers.  The dealers asked him if he wanted to buy some dope, he didn't have his wallet so he tried to get them to go away.  They got in his car and made him drive to his place where he was staying to get money for them.  Luckily that's all they wanted and left him physically unharmed.  The next day he went back to the place where he had rented his board, he was returning it early and the rental company knew something was up so they asked him.  He told his story and just so happened that Katie's mom Carol, and her boyfriend Jim heard it too.  Carol was kind enough to invite Chris to stay at their house the remainder of the time he was there on the Big Island.  Chris took the opportunity and stayed because who would want to stay at a place where they were just robbed?  I know I wouldn't.  His last stop was Oahu and Katie heard from her mom that he was coming here.  We took the opportunity to take him on a hike.  Chris, I hope you come back to these islands and don't leave here thinking Hawaii is a crappy place!

Chris in Hawaii

On to the hike, we all piled in our car, Chris, Katie, Matt, Cat, and I drove up the windward coast.  Passing by Ka'a'awa we saw that the hidden valley waterfall was flowing.  The sun was out and it was a nice bright ribbon against the mountain wall.  We had to go!  We made our way upstream and hit the waterfall in less than an hour.  There was another group of hikers there and I knew one of them.  Keli'i was there, it was good running into him.  We stayed at the falls for about an hour and made our way back to the car.  Just in the nick of time because thunder started to roll and the rain picked up immediately after. 

The next day I was hoping for more waterfalls but it didn't rain as hard as I thought it did.  Cat and her friend Matt met up with us again to go look for waterfalls in Manoa valley.  There are over a handful of waterfalls found in Manoa.  This day we went to three waterfalls.  These waterfalls rounded out our weekend.  Now that it's the work week it's sunny and trades are blowing.  Hopefully next weekend will be better weather for us!

Talking about native plants.

Katie cutting some paperbark trees down.

Malia using some herbicide on the stumps.

Cut and stump

'Iliahi (Sandalwood)
Group pic at the waterfall.

Monday exploring Manoa valley. 

Change of plans, volunteering, and meeting new people from Ryan Chang on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Learning a little about native plants

These past two weeks Katie and I have been learning about our native plants.  Our good friend Joshua just graduated from UH Manoa and knows a lot about the plants we encounter on the trails.  We were fortunate enough to have him tag along and teach us. 

After my day with the army we decided to hike an East Honolulu ridge.  We learned the names of all kinds of different plants.  Here are some of them. 

This is the flower of a holei plant.  It's similar to plumeria.

This one is halapepe.

A vine that we pass by a lot on the trail is called hoi kuahiwi.  It has heart shaped leaves. 

We learned plant after plant.  Joshua quizzed us along the way if we ran into the same plant.  The plant names were slowly getting etched into my brain. 

Here is Joshua leading the way followed by Lynne, Katie, and Cory.  That day the summits were socked in and we got the occasional drenching of the passing showers.

When the showers cleared we saw some yellow ohia blossoms. 

We also got to try some ohia ha berries.  They taste similar to ohia ai, mountain apple. 

A real treat was seeing a budding haha or cyanea.  These are the flowers that the honeycreeper birds feed on. 

A week went by and I was itching to get back on the trail again and learn more!  This past week again Joshua came out with Nate, Emma, and Jay.  I also invited a few friends and some new ones as well to come out and learn.  Darren, Bernice and Sarah also came along and hopefully learned a little. 
The first plant we bumped into was ohe naupaka.  Here's Katie and I goofing off. 

Half way up the ridge we were tired so we stopped for a quick break.  The summit was our destination. 

This was our view at the top looking back towards town. 

This beautiful yellow flower is called kamakahala.  Josh found some near the summit. 

Next to the kamakahala were a bunch of pilokea. 
Here is Nate shooting some ohia blossoms. 

Aside from the plants the views were breathtaking. 

Sarah, Darren, and Bernice learned about the plants that day as well. 

Last picture is my favorite plant, lapalapa flapping in the wind with this view. 

I hope to broaden my view of hiking and take notice of plants and learn their names.  A lot of the plants we pass by on the trail every time we hike can be found no where else on the planet.  We just have to keep and eye out for them.  I hope this inspires you to go out and learn.  There is also a group on facebook that is dedicated to the flora and fauna of Hawaii which can be found here if you are so interested.

Spine to the KST from Ryan Chang on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Volunteering with Oahu Army Natural Resource Program

OANRP volunteers stand among Ti leaves and Koa trees on Mauna Kapu.

A few months ago at the DLNR Christmas party I met a person that works with Oahu Army Natural Resource Program.  Kahale talked about his job and how I should volunteer with them.  I wasn't very adamant right away because I was "busy".  That's what everyone says right?  "I am busy."  or "I am too busy."  Fast forward almost half a year and I am still pretty "busy" but, I found the time and the heart in me to commit one day out of the week to volunteer with them. 

I emailed Kahale and told him I was ready to volunteer.  He put me in touch with Celeste, one of the outreach coordinator.  We emailed back and forth some paper work and liability forms and I was finally on the list, cleared to volunteer with them. 

Saturday was the first time I volunteered with them and I absolutely loved it!  This is how my day went. 

We met at the base yard around 8 am and packed and loaded the trucks.  Our project for the day was to weed.  We had a team of 12.  I talked with the other volunteers while we loaded the trucks and waited around and got to know the others a little more.  We talked about how hard it was to sign up because spots fill up really fast.  When I logged on it was five minutes past noon.  Noon was the time the website opened for volunteering.  Within a matter of fifteen minutes all of the spots were taken, for all of the volunteer days of the months May and June.  Katie unfortunately couldn't go with me this time around, maybe next time. 

We drove in two trucks with all of our weeding tools and herbicide.  We hiked in which took us about an hour.  Along the way we got to see a bunch of native plants.  Ohia, Koa, and Uluhe Launui were just a few that Kim pointed out to the group.  We were lucky enough to see Elepaio on the way to the site as well.  When we got to the site we ready to weed with Garlon (Herbicide), clippers, hand saws, and hedgers.  We cleared a really big area of clidemia, strawberry guava, and thimble berry.  Among these weeds were native plants such as manono, uluhe, and a bunch of different ferns that I have yet to learn the names of.  After 3-4 hours of weeding we had a break for lunch.  Clouds rolled in and out while we ate.  After lunch Kim asked us if we could weed for another thirty minutes and then we will go exploring. 

On the exploratory hike she pointed out rare native plants.  We also searched for the elusive happy face spider and some native snails.  We were in luck! The happy face spider we saw was relaxing with her babies underneath a Manono leaf, and a snail was snoozing under some ohia leaves.  We hiked and took pictures until we reached our turn around point. 

I was so happy and stoked I got to volunteer with OANRP.  I can't wait to go again, I've learned and saw so many new things just on this one trip.

Kim leads a safety briefing before we start our hike.  

Volunteer forms are passed around to initial. 
Elaine and Brian talking story on Mauna Kapu.

Brian carries an extra large pack, he's one of the team leaders carrying our herbicide supplies for weeding. 
We pass by huge boulders along the trail. 
Kim shows us the Manono plant. 
   The view of above Nanakuli.

The group skirts along a cliff side. 

Kim and Brian distribute the herbicide. 

Here is one of the volunteers "cut and stump" a strawberry guava. 

Cat and Matt work on some clidemia either pulling out the roots or cutting near the base and applying herbicide. 

A little higher on the hillside Elaine battled another type of invasive weed.  Thimbleberry has thorns so you had to be extra careful.

Two volunteer work in a sea of thimbleberry, clidemia and strawberry guava. 

As we were working a Philonesia snail said thanks for clearing his habitat of invasive weeds. 

After weeding for four hours the group got to hike and see what else the trail had to offer.  Kim and Brian showed us a few rare natives that were out planted by the army.

Achatinella snoozed on the underside of leaves. 

Another critter that was hiding under leaves was this Happy Face Spider with her clutch of babies. 

When we got back to the cars we washed all of the equipment down. 

After washing up we had time for one group picture. 

Thank you again for giving me this opportunity to volunteer with you guys.  If any of you are interested in giving back to the trails you hike on please refer to this site.

Volunteering with OANRP from Ryan Chang on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The heart of Kauai island

I was still stuck in bed paralyzed the next morning as Katie and Jenny were getting ready.  I don't know what gave me the will to wake up but guarantee if they didn't wake me up I wouldn't have experienced such a great day on a hike.  The plan was to meet everyone at the trail head by 7:30ish.  So in that time we prepared lunch, ate some breakfast and caught some of the morning news.

We were out the door by 7 and met everyone at the parking lot before the offroad section.  I was quite surprised that everyone was on time, I might have been the only one hurting.  At the parking lot we met two people from Kauai, Dylan and Bear.  They both live their and adventure on Kauai frequently.  I suggest you checkout their instagram because their photos are really good!  

On the trail we started near a diversion.  They use some of the water to power Kauai's electric grid.  I'm guessing a hydro power plant kind of thing.  We were ducking in and out of a trail on both sides of the stream.  It made for a confusing way back but just as long as you follow the stream you'll be ok.  We made our way along the crystal clear stream until we hit our first landmark.  It was dubbed guardian falls and this was our halfway point.  The waterfall was flowing really well into a deep blue pool.  We knew that if we stayed long here we might not make it to our destination, so we pushed on.  We contoured on the left side of the falls and continued upstream. 

Upstream we encountered series of pools and small waterfalls.  The stream was still flowing really well and we saw a few fishes swimming around.  From here we stayed mostly on the stream rock hopping and climbing a few waterfalls.  At no point did anyone have to get in deeper than their ankles but climbing waterfalls is so much fun.  At one point we stopped for a lunch break at one of the deep pools.  I decided to jump in and see what was upstream.  At this point the stream banks became steep and we would have to contour around this part.  After lunch we backtracked a little and found the trail.  From the trail you could see the stream and a few waterfalls doing some twists and turns. 

The trail pushes left and we followed it as we hugged the right side of the valley wall.  We finally came to another 40 ft waterfall with a small pool and we contoured on the right and found a fence built.  I'm guessing to keep ungulates out.  At this point you could see our end point, the weeping wall and the towering 4,000 ft face of the valley.  The valley is enormous and it feels like you are really insignificant.  There was a few ribbons of waterfalls in the bowl of the valley as well.  We continued over a series of hills.  As we got closer the valley wall seemed to get bigger. 

We reached the weeping wall around 11:30 and spent quite a while there.  The last time Cory's group was here it took them way longer and they spent way less time there.  I was happy to get their early to fully experience such a sacred place.  I got to touch some of the oldest rock in the state.  I got to drink some of the most pure water that Hawaii has to offer straight from the rock.  We spent at least an hour there taking pictures and trying not to get water spots on our lenses.  What a great place. 

On our way back near guardian falls we found a little niche where we tubed and cliff jumped.  Cory took some amazing photos there as well.  By the time we reached our cars it was about 4.  We finished a lot earlier than yesterday which made for some group dinner time. 

This was our view through most of the hike.  Stream bed with low strung clouds hugging the mountains.
Stream hopping was the norm. 
We hit our first landmark.  From here on it only gets better!
Waterfalls become apparent on the side of the valley walls.
Deep large pools dot the stream.

Climbing up the sides of small waterfalls were necessary. 
Look how tiny we are in this picture. 

The end is in sight. 
Almost there! 
Picture provided by Cory.  The wall seemed small getting there but when we were up close it was really big!

Surely this is a sacred place.
On our way back we took a little dip.  The water was really cold! Picture provided by Cory

The Heart of Kauai Island from Ryan Chang on Vimeo.