Friday, July 18, 2014

All the small things

My reason to hike is far different than when I first started to hike in 2009.  My friend Keahi always used to ask if our group of coworkers would like to go hiking together.  Keahi knew of many places that I wish I knew of when I was a little kid.  I always used to ask, "Where are the waterfalls?  I want to see a waterfall."  Keahi would do the research and I would go along for the ride.  I was always fascinated with flowing water and never really got to see a nice one in Hawaii.  We used to explore different valleys and find nooks and crannies that people haven't written of yet.  Search for waterways and waterfalls, tunnels and just plain cool stuff. 

As we grew into hiking we started to network with people.  We were both a huge fan of Kaleo and were always watching for his new blog entries.  Keahi thought if Kaleo could write about his adventures so should we.  We started a blog and wrote in it for about 2 years.  After about 2 years the blog fell into an abandonment.  Unfortunately we parted ways in our hiking careers.  I started to hike regularly with Kaleo.  Even though Keahi and I didn't hike together he was always there listening to my crazy hiking stories. 

For roughly 2 years I hiked with Kaleo and his crew.  I made some strong ties with the hiking community through his group.  I learned how to hike responsibly and learned more and more about what Hawaii had to offer.  We went on a trip together to Big Island to do my first backpacking trip to Waimanu.  There I met Dave and the lost trailblazers group.  I also met Cory who introduced me to my girlfriend Katie.  Also through Kaleo's group I met other hikers such as Nate and Josh who were/are interested in the native flora and fauna of Hawaii. 

Now that Kaleo is a family man, he has been taking more responsibilities at home than coming out and hiking with us.  So I've been hiking a lot with new people and making new ties in the conservation world.  The people I hike with now have a different mind set when hiking.  Hiking isn't just about reaching a peak or seeing a waterfall.  It's more about looking at the small details around you, in the plants and animals.  Noticing that there is much more to Hawaii than just views.  Hawaii is the extinction capital of the world.  There are many endangered species here too.  When I hike now it's more like looking for needles in a hay stack.  Looking for endangered rare plants with Josh, looking for native land snails with Nate and Cory, or waiting and watching for the native honey creeper birds.  Like waterfalls when I first started to hike, finding endangered flora and fauna is such a treat to see.   These things were right under my nose my whole life living here in Hawaii.  I wish I had started sooner. 

Here are some of the things I've seen this past weekend hiking on Oahu. 

During the summer months ohia lehua are in full bloom. 
A juvenile 'apapane spreads it's wings and starts to take off. 

I don't know what I was looking for. 

This plant is the cyanea koolauensis

The flower is shaped like the native honey creeper birds. 

This spiky ball is also a rare native plant. 

When that spiky ball plant matures it flowers and dies.  The capsules below the flowers hold the seeds.  Lobelia koolauensis

Small native snails such as this one dot the leaves.  You just have to look carefully. 
'Apapane feeding on some ohia lehua.

Popolo 'Aiakeakua (Solanum sandwicense) is an endangered plant native to Oahu and Kauai.

With the help of conservation agencies the cyanea grimesiana have a chance to survive. 

Cyanea superba

Interesting native snails are found deep in the Waianae mountains. 

Although the happy face spider is not on the endangered list they are quite uncommon to see.  I remember seeing my first one on Maui. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hanging out in the hanging valley

The crew ready for adventure.

The usual fourth of July entails fireworks, BBQ, and beach time.  This Fourth of July instead of all that Katie and I decided to spend it camping in the mountins.  Our last planned camping trip got rained out so we would push it back to the next three day weekend.  Fourth of July looked promising with only a sprinkle of showers and nice sunny weather.  A few other decided to tag along.  Nate, Cat and Kiko.  One special thank you to Daniel who let us park at his place to keep our cars safe. 

We all met at 7:15 to get an early start.  The sun was up already since it was summer but luckily our walk was mostly in the shade.  With a 30 lb pack it made things slow going but since all of us hike regularly we were feeling up to the challenge.  Out of all of us I think Nate had the heaviest pack.  We made our way up the ridge line naming native plants.  Some of them were the ko'oko'olau flowers, akia, manono, and lehua ahihi.  During the summer most of the native plants are blossoming which made for a very scenic hike.  We also saw a few birds and snails on the way that were native too!  As we were getting higher the valley we were going to drop down into came into view.  No words can describe how pretty it was.  It looked like Kaukonahua stream snaking in a high valley.  The stream twisted and turned in this hanging valley. 

We started our descent into the valley around 2.  The drop down was stunning, a plethora of different native plants like ho'awa, ha'iwale, and large moss covered ohia trees.  We passed a few dry waterfall chutes and got closer to the stream bed.  You could hear the stream running and see the clear water now.  When we finally dropped down to the stream bed I asked, "Is this Oahu?" in amazement on how crazy beautiful it was.  One of the plants that lined the stream bed was hibiscus punaluuensis,  A hibiscus that is endemic to Oahu.  We took a five minute walk upstream and set up our tents in a strawberry guava clidemia grove.  Camp was so close to the stream that it made cleaning up and filling up water extremely convenient.  By 5 we were all cooking dinner and talking story in dry clothes.  Tired from the hike up the mountain we turned in really early.  I remember waking up a few times to rain but nothing major that night. 

In the morning I opened my tent to misty rain and clouds both around our camp site and on the stream.  A totally different mood than yesterday.  We decided to cook a little breakfast and explore downstream.  I bundled up in a wet suit just in case I had to take a dip in the stream while the others opted for a rain jacket.  In the stream we didn't see too much life but I spotted some opae swimming around which was cool to see because not too many streams on Oahu have that.  We hit the first of the waterfalls, this one was roughly a little over a hundred feet tall.  We found our way bushwhacking down a hill and a little past the base of this waterfall.  We hit the bottom and there were a series of boiling pots or pools that were small that small waterfalls flowed into.  It was pretty cool to see that.  We made our way to the base of the hundred foot waterfall and stood in awe of it.  After pictures we decided to head down stream a little more.  There were a number of small twenty foot waterfalls and lots of big akia trees along the stream.  We hit our turn around point which was where the stream flowed into a narrow canyon.  Nate told me that it would be difficult to get to the base of a giant pool and wasn't worth the effort if we were going to look for native plants later.  I agreed to turn around and have lunch. 

After lunch we headed back upstream to check out side gullies that feed the main stream.  We wanted to look for some rare endangered plants, usually they are in a small gully or remote place on the side of a mountain.  We hiked in this side gully for a good thirty minutes.  Aside from the moss covered ohias that made it difficult to navigate we found some snails, and other common native plants.  We didn't find too many really rare plants.  We decided to come back out and head back to camp since it was starting to get late in the afternoon. 

We got back to camp and I decided to go into the gully where we fill water to photograph the cyrtandra.  It was so nice to see so many, some had flowers and fruits while other were really small.  They must really like the wet environment in the gully.  After photographing those we headed up stream a little and tried to find more cool plants but it started to rain.  We headed back and that's when stuff started to go wrong.  We needed to change into dry clean clothes but we didn't want to get the inside of our tent muddy; with the constant rain it was hard to change out.  When I did finally get into the tent I found that the floor was damp, the rain water collected and pooled under our tent so there was some leakage on the floor.  I quickly wiped it up with a towel and we flipped the tarp that was under the tent pooling the rain water.  Right outside of the tent was a huge mud pit too!  After getting all the stuff out of the rain we got into dry clothes and hopped into our tent.  I had given up on eating dinner since cooking dinner in the rain was not going to happen.  Lucky for us Kiko was boiling water and he was kind enough to cook Cat's and our dinner that night.  After dinner I decided to sleep since it didn't stop raining.  Throughout the night I would wake up and check the tent for leaks and water coming in.  Under our sleeping pads I found out that the water was starting to pool again.  Our beds were turning into waterbeds.  Water was starting to condensate in the tent and I had some major anxiety thinking that the sleeping bags were going to get wet and we'd be miserable for most of the early morning.  On top of all that the rain didn't stop, the stream seemed to get louder and the wind was howling.  Talk about a sleepless night! 

In the morning around 5:30 I had about enough and wanted to leave already.  Katie calmed me down and I slept a little more and woke around 6:15 and everything calmed down.  Light was in our tent and the rain subsided.  I took a peak outside and the sky was clear!  I was amazed since yesterday morning we woke up in misty clouds.  I told everyone that it was clear and we should start to pack.  It was also more warm than yesterday.  I proceeded to the stream to rinse off a little and start the packing process.  There were absolutely no clouds and it looked like it was going to be a clear day.  We packed up and left camp around 8:30.  We made good time back up to the ridge and down it.  We reached our cars around 1:30.  I thought to myself that it was unfortunate that we had to leave this place on such a clear beautiful day.  But we all had work on Monday so we had to get home.  I definitely would want to come back to this magical place and explore more.  There is no other place like it on Oahu! 

My deuter pack only saw one use, Kalalau.  Katie's Osprey pack was still virgin.

We saw ho'awa on the way up the ridge. 

A tiny snail on some bidens. 

I learned that this ohia plant is endemic to O'ahu.  Lehua ahihi.

Haha wasn't ready to bloom just yet. 

Was this on O'ahu?

Second day we explored down stream. 

Our group pic at the waterfall. 

Boiling pots.

Where the stream ends up going over a cliff.  Going down was possible but coming back up would prove to be extremely difficult. 

Several waterfalls downstream.

Big pools. 

This snail was moving about in the wet weather. 

Seeing a hibiscus in the wild was cool.  Hibiscus Punaluuensis endemic to O'ahu.

Cyrtandra or ha'iwale were going off in a side gully. 

The cyrtandra make a beautiful bell flower. 

This ama'u fern seemed to be on fire in a blanket of green. 

Check out how muddy it was in front of our tent.

This was a different species of ha'iwale.  Notice the leaves are a bit different than the other one. 

Some of the hibiscus trees were going off!

The group in good spirits. 

Views galore!

Coming back out.

Koa butterfly sipping nectar from pukiawe.