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Kailua, Hawaii, United States

Sunday, March 9, 2008

"Hike to Sacred Falls" or "How I Eluded Capture on the Forbidden Trail"

Thought I'd tell you about my little hike today. There is an old state park, no longer open, called Sacred Falls. The reason it isn't open is that in 1999, on Mother's Day, there was a rock slide that killed or injured several people. The park was closed due to "hazardous conditions" soon after. I had heard that it was a great hike and a really good waterfall to see, but had never done it since it is illegal to trespass on the land and you can be arrested. I decided a few days ago that I wanted to take the hike and would take the consequences if I got caught. Of course I wasn't going to try to get caught, I was going to try to break the law without getting caught!

I found out everything I could online, but directions and details are scarce since its been closed so long. There were a few pictures, and I did finally figure out exactly where the trailhead was. The day after that I decided to drive up there (just north of Punaluu on Kam Hwy) and "case" the place. I set my gps and it took me right to it. I parked a little ways down the street and then made my way casually by the old broken down entrance to the park. It looks like anything but a state park since it hasn't been open nor taken care of at all since the closure. There was a high fence across the front of the park, with a large sign telling about the 1999 tragedy and that the park is permanently closed.
I walked down the road a little further and saw a path heading into the woods, I had a good idea where I thought it would go. It went down the side of the state park and then entered the park just past where the fence ended; it would be easy to get into the park, without climbing over a fence. There are several houses nearby and I had heard that the locals would call the police on you if they saw you going in, so I decided I'd want to do the hike early in the morning to minimize the chances of being arrested or paying a $250 fine. I found out about the ticket part AFTER the hike today, the girl who cuts my hair said she knew people who had been caught and had to pay the fine.

I got up at 6 this morning and was at the trailhead by 7:15, after parking the jeep discreetly several blocks away. No problem getting by the fence and onto the first road that takes you back to the trailhead. A problem soon arose though. A "Y" in the road! Turn to the left or the right? I had no idea. The road to the right seemed to be used more, so I decided to take it. Not too much later in the morning I would remember the quote "the road less traveled..." and have cause to wish I'd thought of it earlier. I walked down that road for a half mile or so, passed a couple of water pumping stations and then the road abruptly ended in a big circle of dirt surrounded by woods. I looked all over for a path and finally found one by spotting a blue and white piece of tape hanging from a tree. Someone had tried to hide the entrance to the trail by piling a bunch of dead branches in front of it, so I though "Ha, didn't fool me!" I took the path after scrambling through the brush and for a while it was pretty easy to follow. But then it started to get hard to find any trail and the ribbons had long since disappeared. The last one I found was at the base of a large hill and what trail there was seemed to be heading up the hill. I started the climb up...and up...and up. I finally found myself on a 45 degree hill in a forest of strawberry guava trees that was so thick you could hardly get through. At that point I was drenched in sweat and huffing and puffing. I also started thinking things through...the main thought was "If this was a state park and trail, would they really have sent people up this freaking mountain?" I decided the answer was probably no, which meant that I was on the wrong trail. I kept thinking about the fork in the road, knowing I'd have to go back to check it out, and by now it is WAY back.

I turned around and went back the way I came, with only a couple of small "almost lost" mistakes, and was greatly helped by having had my gps set to track me as I went. I finally got back to the road I'd come in on and then went back down it to the "Y" and took the other direction. It curved all around and just sort of meandered for a while, but continued to be a nice wide path. I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to find the right trail when I came across an old concrete bench. I was so happy! An old park bench just had to mean I was in the right place. I continued along the way and soon came to a sign telling me I was trespassing and that the park was permanently closed, so I was on the trail! It wound through the woods and along the stream and was never all that hard of a trek. The ups were gentle, no huffing and puffing needed on this trail.
I stopped and had a water break on a rock in the stream and then continued up the trail. It is a beautiful canyon, lush and green, with a good flowing clear stream. There was more and more water, little rapids and small waterfalls combining with the sounds of the forest birds. Ah...paradise...lol.
All of a sudden I came around a bend and saw this huge half pipe carved into the hundred foot high cliff. Not enough rain lately for it to be flowing, but you could tell it must be an awesome waterfall at the right times. I continued on and then went around another bend and there it was...Sacred Falls! It looked just like some Hollywood set designer had placed it and its perfect pool there for me to find. Really, its that pretty! I took a few pics as I walked closer (and they do NOT do it justice, its much taller than it looks in the pictures) and then finally went up and stood by the pool looking into it. It is a blue/green color, really clear, and oh so inviting looking. I was thinking about how hot I was...and how cool that water looked...and there's no one around...then I saw something move out of the corner of my eye and 'PLOP" a big rock landed in the middle of the pool. I nearly jumped out of my skin!

A couple more small rocks came tumbling down the cliff side and I decided that I wouldn't press my luck by hanging out too long in the "watch for falling rocks" area! I went down a little way, took my picture with the waterfall behind me and started down the hill again.
About half way down I saw a couple of people coming my direction, but they hadn't seen me yet. I could see that they were just hikers so I continued towards them. They were looking down at where they were walking, so they didn't see me until I was maybe 25 feet away. They both froze...looking like deer caught in headlights for a couple of seconds...and then realized that I wasn't a ranger and relaxed, but their faces were priceless in that moment they froze...looked very guilty and chagrined for a moment. I'm sure I'd have looked the same way if I'd have met up with anyone!
I stopped and had another quick break and then finished up the last half of the hike. The whole thing took me a little over 4 hours, and it was just over an hour from the falls to car on the way back...so I guess the wrong direction at the "Y" cost me about 2 hours. It didn't bother me though, I wanted a good hike and I got one!
Oh, and by the way... if anyone is interested...lol... my quit date for smoking was March 1. I haven't smoked a cigarette since. And though I'd really, really like to have one sometimes, I won't be starting again...ever. So yes, I have finally quit smoking.


Tpaddler said...

wow! thanks for putting up this post. you have some guts! are there any guards or rangers there? (ask your friends) what month did you go?

Anonymous said...

Found this blog via a Google search for "Sacred Falls trespassing"; I too am willing to accept a little risk for the chance to see something magnificent, and will be following in your footsteps soon. This review was extremely helpful to me - thanks for writing!