We’d hiked and backpacked together since she was 3. She’d always been the “adventury” type and loved to get off the trail and into the wild. But, when she asked if we could go to the summit of Waialeale together I thought it might be a bit more than she was ready for. She’d heard my stories of mud up to the thighs, being cold and soaked for days on end, and getting lost in the labyrinth of trees for years now and wanted to know what it was like. So, I told her we could work up to it and think about it in 6months. With a few trips in to Koaie Cabin and down into the canyon to Lonomea she was starting to show her true colors. After our Xmas break trip from Camp 10 to Waimea I was convinced she could handle just about any obstacle that would stand in her way. Plans for a spring break summit run were under way.
We got a bit of a late start that day as the third member of our party had a bit of alarm clock trouble. Thus, we departed Camp 10 around 9:30 enjoying the warming sun and the clear skies. All was uneventful from the trailhead up to “the arrow” (which no longer is there). Conditions were a bit muddy heading up out of Koaie and our tabbies (with out spikes) allowed for a bit less traction than I’d have liked but, were warm and comfortable and worked well on all but the steepest areas. Beyond the arrow was virgin territory for the youngin’ and she really enjoyed the climbing up and over and down and around all the fallen trees. As the tree canopy thinned and the blue sky came in to view we crossed the fence into Sincock’s Bog. She was amazed at how big the open areas were and how mushy the ground was everywhere.
After some photos and looking at some little carnivorous Sundew plants we headed through the bog and in to Bog Camp. It was around 3:00. We could, most, likely reach Ridge Camp before sunset if we pushed it a bit and didn’t have any problems, but our experience told us that problems were almost always arising. How about this idea? Why don’t we stay here and day hike to the lake and back tomorrow? We could just take little day packs and leave our tents up for our return making it a pretty easy day. After a brief discussion, we all three agreed to try the new plan.
Setting camp and cooking dinner under clear skies with plenty of time was a great luxury I’d seldom gotten to experience in the Alakai. We read and listened to music and had a nice relaxing evening. The kid and I even watched a couple episodes of South Park together on her Ipod! Barely even any mist through the night. Had oatmeal and coffee for breakfast to keep “consistent,” packed up or day packs with some food, water, gps, and emergency gear, and were off.
Happily conversing and making stupid jokes, we neglected to look for the pink flags as we left Bogette and did a nice little circle of it to start our day. It was a nice wake up call that was a good reminder to not get too complacent and watch where we were going. Our second departure from the bog was far more successful and we were soon trekking our way to the top of our little world. It was so great to finally be able to share my experiences with one of my loved ones. We climbed through and over anything in our way overcoming each obstacle in our path together just as we always had.
“Strange how people who suffer together have stronger commitments than people who are most content,” sang Bobby Dylan in one of his old songs. We’d seen some suffering together all right. But, just like the obstacles on the trail, we had always faced them together and persevered to face another battle. She was born in the “House of Pain.” I was still on crutches and recovering from a head injury from getting hit by a car when she came into the world. Mom had been sick the entire pregnancy and gave birth a month early because of the onset of her Crohn’s Disease, which was diagnosed a couple of days after giving birth. We were then just beginning to learn what life can throw at you back then. I’ll spare the list and details, but our little family has had far more than its share of challenges and brushes with death than most over the last 15 years. For us, hiking and overcoming obstacles is a way of trying to toughen up for the obstacles we will surely need to overcome in the future.
“Purgatory” was traversed with ease and without incident. Looking back west from Kapoki we discussed whether the trail was getting easier or if it was just experience? Its starting to feel like I recognize many of the trees we pass and puddles we plod through. BTW, conditions were pretty wet most of the way past the arrow with quite a bit of mud along the way. Rain coats and pants and the tabbies were perfect for making it a comfortable day. And, our day hike plan was working out great. Climbing over and under all the downed trees and scrambling up and down the muddy hill sides was far easier with little 10 pound day packs than big 35 pound back packs!
The cloud cover and the breeze picked up after Ridge Camp, so we tightened our hats, tucked our heads and pressed up the mountain. By the time we reached the start of the fence the winds were getting pretty strong. The clouds blowing around and partly clear skies made for some great views out to Wainiha and Olokele every once in a while. I remembered the first time “the Godfather” and I had made the summit years back and how exciting it was to feel the strong winds and feel the cool clouds splash across your face not wanting to let go of the fence because you feel like you’ll be blown away off the mountain at the next gust of wind. Now, watching my progeny struggle towards our goal with that mixed look of anticipation, wonder, and fear on her face was worth all the effort we had expended to get there. We plodded onward and upward. Then, almost out of nowhere the fence took a right angle turn to the north and we were standing at the edge of the abyss. We were at the top. The “Blue Hole” was a “White Cloud” when we first looked over the edge. Damn! We couldn’t see a thing, but had heard once that patience was a virtue and waited a few minutes. Then, lo and behold, an angle of the lord came… or, even better yet the clouds parted and we could see down into the green gullies over the edge. It got much better as views opened up all the way from Anahola to Poipu. The silver ribbon of the Wailua Stream and the dirt roads behind Loop Road were all clearly visible. We could even make out trucks on the road.
I almost forgot about the winds! They were incredible by then. Definitely the strongest I’d ever experienced in my life. Possible 70-80 mph. Trying to keep a hat on was a joke. Watching the my daughter struggle forward leaning at a 45 degree angle clinging to the fence for her dear life was an even better one. After taking our pics we headed North to our destination, the lake and rain gauge. I’d never realized how close to the fence the rain gauge was until that day. It got pretty clear right as we approached and was only a stone’s throw away. The obligatory photo op was pretty comical. The individual shots went well, but when we tried to use the timer the camera kept blowing over right before it would shoot. I finally was able to wedge it between a couple dirt clods (real rock is scarce up that high) and get a couple pictures of the kid and I to commemorate the occasion.
We then headed down to the lake and heiau. I showed her where the ancient ones had dug the ditch connecting Waialeale to the Wailua watershed and reminded her that we were in a very special place and to treat it with respect and care. We’ve always tried to treat the earth that way and be grateful for all it has to offer. Experiencing places like Waialeale teach us just how sacred life and the earth are. Not just on mountain tops and rainforests, but everywhere. At the Altar of Kane we bowed our heads and gave thanks for the experience we shared together, the experiences we will, hopefully, share in the future, and just for being alive and together. Watching the waves of Waialeale whip across the tiny lake and blow over the edge into the mist was incredible and almost “spiritual” even to a devout agnostic like me. Waialeale means “rippling waters” and they far surpassed their name that day. Before leaving the summit area we took advantage of the phone reception and called Mom, Gma, and Uncle Jack to say hey and let them know we were safe and had attained our goal.
We parted ways with our fellow sojourner for a while as he wanted to check out the area north of the lake. We were content with our accomplishments for that day and decided we would head back down to camp to enjoy a little daddy/daughter time alone. As usual with mountain climbs, conditions improved as we descended and we were out of the blustery mist in short order. We were back to camp by around 3:00 and had time to relax and hang our wet things out to dry out a bit. Having a warm, dry tent to return to was an incredible luxury that I could get used to. Warm coco and some pod casts to listen to make a great way to end a great day. Our party regrouped by dinner time, ate our hearty freeze dry grub and went down for the night. We’d had very little rain all day and the night followed in kind.
The area north of Waialeale Lake, beyond the "Great Divide" where Pohakupele Ridge reaches the summit plateau is an intriguing beta-wise "blank" spot on the map. Sojourner opened the door to exploring this area. More great photos at . I suspect it's just a hint of the possibilities in the northern plateau.
Pop tarts and coffee, pack up the gear, and on the trail by 8:00. The return was smooth and uneventful allowing us to make it to Camp 10 by early afternoon. The trip was a definite success! At 14, she’s the youngest person I’ve heard of making it to the summit of Waialeale (and only the second female I’m aware of). Cliché’, but my little girl was growing up. It was great to be a part of it. I am so grateful to have her in my life and grateful to share time together. We’ve overcome many obstacles together and faced down some pretty serious demons. There will be many more to come. We’ll be ready to face them all and do whatever needs to be done; together.