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Hiking Waimano Valley
By Rasa Fournier
The thrilling thing about short, 2-mile Waimano Trail is how ordinary it at first appears. But unweary forest strollers are in for a surprise. The path begins to the left of a fence, veering downward at signed Lower Waimano Trail. At the valley floor, the senses are accosted by the expected beauty Hawaii offers. The path runs between a boulder-strewn, semi-wet riverbed on the left and acreage thick with ginger shrubs on the right, before entering a tunnel of tangly jungle-gym hau bushes. After meandering along the shady valley floor for a short while, the trail veers right and heads back up a slope to Upper Waimano.
This is where the surroundings get interesting. While picking strawberry guavas and admiring the expansive view of a distant mountain range across the valley, a couple passes by. Following them, I happen to turn back looking for more ripe guavas and am spellbound by a large, dark entranceway tucked into the side of the hill, gaping back at me. Handy smart phones have a flashlight app. On it goes, and in I go.
The cave opens up into a tunnel and as I walk in, I see a speck of light ? the light at the end of the tunnel! The crawl through to the other side is just long enough to be fascinating without being frightening. Perhaps there’s a spider in a cranny here or there, or a jutting rock just waiting for a forehead to hit it, but in general, the space is easy to navigate and has a solid floor with the damp texture of cool clay.
The tunnel and the old irrigation ditch that it is part of, run parallel to Waimano trail. Walking along the trail path again, I encounter two more equally tantalizing, equally explorable earthen shafts. The entrances, strung with roots, at the space where light and dark embrace, are each uniquely attractive. There’s something in my genes that brings me to my knees for some more cave trudging. In the center of one cave, I sit down to take in my other-worldly atmosphere – the calmness, the marbled tones of the rock, the mysterious feel of the hidden space.
I emerge reborn into a landscape that feels just a bit more magical, where my path is dappled with sunlight, where a natural umbrella of guava saplings hangs thickly over me, and Native Hawaiian Lauae Ferns, their fronds spread hither and thither ecstatically, dance about my feet.
The trail may be short, but it’s certainly not short on adventure.
TRAIL: Waimano Valley Trail
LENGTH: 2-mile loop
HOW TO GET THERE: From Waikiki, get on H-1 heading west. Merge onto 78 West for a stretch before rejoining H-1 West. Take exit 10, turning right onto Moanalua Road, then turn right onto Waimano Home Road. Follow the road until it ends at a guard shack. Park in the dirt area on the left, just before the shack.
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