Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hawaii Day 2: A Hydrologist's Dream Vacation

Maui was under a flash flood watch when we arrived.  The forecast was for thunderstorms and it had been raining on and off all day.  As soon as we got back to the condo that first night it started to rain harder.  We fell asleep to the sound of the wind rustling the palm fronds and a nice steady rain. We woke throughout the night to thunder and lightning, and a roar that in my grogginess I thought was one helluva rain storm.  It wasn’t until 5:30 AM when I got up and went out on the lanai that I realized it was a flash flood in the previously dry creek bed 30 feet off the back of the building!  It was still too dark to see the water, but we could hear boulders rumbling down the channel.  At first light, the creek had calmed considerably but was still raging and about 4 feet deep.  By 9 AM when we left the condo, it was down to 1 or 2 feet.  I wonder how high it had been?  As we ventured out, the damage became apparent.  Streets were filled with debris, and the main road paralleling the ocean was completely closed.  In fact, it didn’t open until four days later so crews could haul silt out by the dump truck load. 

I thought it would be cool to walk along the beach and view the destruction first hand, but when we tried, we got reprimanded and honked at by a crabby woman with a nasal voice over a loud speaker, “The beach is closed due to high runoff conditions. Mahalo.”  Not even 24 hours on the island and we’re already breaking the law.  We caught a glimpse of a gouged stream channel emitting brownish water into the ocean before we scuttled away.

Since it was obvious the beaches were a no go today, we figured we’d drive the road around what people refer to as the north side of the island, but which technically is sort of the west third.

A check of road conditions indicated that the road was closed due to mudslides, so we headed back toward the airport side to a place called ‘Iao Valley.  When we arrived, the road and park were closed there too.  We broke the law again and walked up the road anyway.  The river that carved ‘Iao Valley was angrily carving deeper into its channel and a sign that said “swim at your own risk” was pointing out the obvious.  The rains had created many tall waterfalls, which graced the slopes of the valley.

You know those one signs you always see…

Sometimes they are very appropriate. 

The road led to a trail which led to an overlook for the ‘Iao Needle

which is actually the end view of a ridge created when weaker lava flows eroded away from the denser, more resistant rock of a volcanic dike (magma that intrudes into a vertical crack).   Very cool.

It was still early, so what to do now?  We tried to hike a nearby trail called Waihe’e Valley, which promised swinging bridges and river crossings, but a confusing sign on an open gate at the edge of the plantation property said it was closed, so instead we hiked Waihe’e Ridge.  After a nice picnic, we hit the trail. 

We gained lots of elevation 

over slippery roots on volcanic rocks and soil and experienced the gamut from tropical grass and shrubs 

to Cook Island Pine trees 

to full on cloud forest type vegetation.  

The ridge provided vantage points for nice views looking back down the valley

and up the valley.

The end point is in the West Maui Mountains caldera (~volcanic crater), and though all the ground was covered by vegetation, the topography seemed to be expressing extinct vents and cinder cones.  Even though Drew doesn’t look like it here, he was fascinated by the geology.

We turned around and came down the same way we went up.  After yesterday’s plane ride, it was good to get out and get dirty.

It was a good hike!

After such a work out we deserved a refreshing smoothie and a leisurely drive to Hookipa Lookout, still on the windward side of Maui, to watch the surfers catch some waves on a beautiful cove.

We watched from the lookout for a long time and then poked our way down to the water’s edge to feel the waves crashing on the rocks. 

As sunset approached, we made our way home to the leeward side of the island.  Dinner at the condo consisted of our Costco pineapple bacon chicken sausages (when in Hawaii, eat pineapple!) grilled on the community gas BBQ at the pool.

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