A Wild Land (Weeping Wall Magic), The Weeping Wall, Mt. Waialeale, Kauai
The hike to the Weeping Wall is hard. It just is. I think all discussions should begin with this understanding. Yes, it is beautiful. Yes, it is an amazing adventure full of Weeping Wall magic, but it's a difficult hike through a wild land. You have to suffer for the magic. The "trail" is through thick jungle. It leads one over, around, and under trees and mud and quagmire. You also stroll through bamboo grove and walk alongside an idyllic stream. Until you boulder hop across its rushing waters and wade into it, navigating your way to the next section of boulders or slippery footpath.
The Way to the Blue Hole Leads Through Here (Inquire Within), Waikokos Valley, Kauai
I think the above picture gives a good indication of what the hike is like-- stream, waterfalls, boulders and jungle, with Mt. Waialeale in the distance. You are going there-- towards the box canyon of Waikokos Valley where the walls of Waialeale form the Blue Hole of sky and mountain. That's what the Blue Hole is-- the sky as you look up from the base of what was once the wettest place on earth. Now, Waialeale is the 8th wettest place on the planet so the streams that you encounter on the hike can flash flood at any time. This is another reason why I say the Weeping Wall hike is so difficult. The logistics and planning necessary make it all rather involved. You must have 4WD to access the trailhead, which is at the weir at the end of loop road. If you don't have 4WD you could possibly make it to the Jurassic Gate and then walk 2 miles to the trailhead. But it's such a long hike (duration) that you would be pushing it to get out in daylight. And this is one hike that I would not want to do with headlamp. But of course, take one with you. Just in case.
Guardian Falls and Rainbow, along the hike to the Weeping Wall of Mt. Waialeale, Kauai
I made it to Guardian Falls about 4 years ago, but that time I was too tired to worried about the rain to continue on. On that occasion I broke a carbon fiber hiking stick when I slipped and fell in the jungle mud. And when I arrived at Guardian Falls grey clouds covered the mountain. I wrote about that excursion in an earlier blog entry. I think I called that one "A Slogfest to Guardian Falls."
One of my goals for the year was to safely hike to the Weeping Wall and back. I tried to go on a couple of different occasions late last year, but got rained out. And in early February we tried again, but a Flash Flood Watch stopped us again. For this hike (and probably all hikes, really) it is best to err on the side of caution. If you are above Guardian Falls when the waters rise, you ain't getting back until the waters subside. There is no place to pitch a tent. And really, very few areas of accessible higher elevation. You could easily find yourself in trouble. I have friends who had to lock arms and form a human chain to cross the rapidly rising stream-- and that was in the easier first section. We brought along a rope just in case we needed it, but luckily we had blue skies in the valley and benign clouds at the Wall.
A Long Line, nearing the Weeping Wall of Mt. Waialeale, Kauai
Once above Guardian Falls the stream becomes the trail for much of the way until you climb out onto a muddy bank. Then you are back in the jungle until you climb even further still via pre established ropes. This is where I totally lost all semblance of form and just kinda "managed my way" up and down the muddy cliff walls. The ropes made it easy, but my bag and tripod made the going rough. I never complain about the gear-- especially while I am out there-- because you can only take the pictures that your gear will allow. On this trip, I took 2 cameras and 2 lenses-- Canon 5DSR with 21mm Zeiss and a Canon 1DX II with a Canon 24-70. I also had my normal supply of Lee Filters, lens cleaner, extra batteries and Really Right Stuff Tripod. Now, if I were to do it again I would only take one camera, one lens, a much smaller tripod and a much smaller bag. Live and learn. But I can be stubborn. Oh, I almost forgot. I started the day in hiking boots, but changed into felt soled neoprene booties called tabis after about 20 minutes of hiking. The tabis provide excellent traction on the slipper rocks and are a MUST for this hike. I even tried to change out of them after descending from the Weeping Wall, but slipped in the first 10 feet and slipped and fell within the first 100 feet. While tabis provide little to no support, they do provide excellent traction. Next time, I won't even take the boots. I'll take an extra pair of tabis instead. They are that good. You can buy them at Wal Mart in Lihue or any of the fishing shops on island. Your feet will suffer (and back, too) but at least they'll give you the grip you need. (A side note-- try to scrape the mud off the felt soled bottoms each time you enter the stream in order to wash away the mud. This will help provide better traction as you boulder hop and dance your way to the next bank or exit).
Ohia Lehua Flower and Waialeale Wall, approaching the Weeping Wall of Mt. Waialeale, Kauai
The closer you get to the Weeping Wall the more the vegetation changes and the temperature drops. You begin to see Ohia trees, Lehua flowers, ferns and rarer plants endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. This is sacred land and should be respected. Hawaiian myth says that the highest Hawaiian god, Kane, was born on top of Waialeale. Kane is the creator and I felt a pulse or life source when I placed my hand on the wall of Waialeale. How much truth is contained in a myth? All? None? Likely, somewhere in-between.
First View of the Weeping Wall, Mt. Waialeale, Kauai
The above photo shows the fist glimpse of the Weeping Wall. It was taken from a highpoint on the hike, and from here it's about 45 minutes till the end. I find the landscape of the hike interesting in that the destination remains hidden until near the very end. What you think you are walking towards shifts and hides from view until you have exerted enough effort to see. I think Joseph Campbell wrote something about this in The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Those epic journeys really do make us feel like heroes.
Life Source, the Weeping Wall, Mt. Waialeale, Kauai
I placed my hands on the Weeping Wall and felt vibrations. Of course the water was flowing off the mountain, but the mana or power of the place was literally tangible. I could feel it. Waialeale is said to be the piko or navel of Kauai, but for me the mountain became the heart, pulsing with life force.
The Lightness of Being, the Weeping Wall, Waialeale, Kauai
I left the house at 6:30 AM. Arrived at the Arboretum at 7 and the trailhead at 8. We got back to the FJ at 5:30. And while it was a hard hike, it was an awesome experience. If you would like to do this hike I recommend you go with a guide. The trail is unmaintained, prone to flash flood and difficult to navigate. A guide will also be able to share the cultural significance of the place with you as you enter into the Blue Hole.
Here's a few more...
You can imagine on a day with heavy rains this football-field-long rocky slope would become a torrent of rushing water.
The various curves and undulations of the Weeping Wall and final approach.
The amphitheater of the Weeping Wall. Incidentally the Blue Hole is actually the sky as you look up and out of this natural amphitheater. When I arrived here the sky was overcast so it was more like a Gray Hole than a blue one.
One last look before I put the camera away and begin the hike back.