'Eleao

Tue, Dec 20, 2016
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The Manana Trail is a typical ridge hike on the leeward side of the Koolau Range, which generally means wet conditions, mud, and poor views. The trails are pretty cool though, following along precipitous edges between two drainages. The Trade Winds drive clouds over the crest of the range fairly constantly - I think I've had views from the crest once out of half a dozen visits to various points along it. That's part of the charm of hiking in the Koolau Range and the Manana Trail was no exception. The trail is said to be six miles in length but I found it closer to five miles. The trail starts at the end of Komo Mai Drive in one of the neighborhoods above Pearl City. I parked fairly close to the TH (the cul-de-sac is signed for No Parking, though not respected by two cars on my way back - tickets will keep them from doing it a second time) and didn't feel the car was in any danger of vandalization. The trail is open to hunters, mountain biking and hikers. The first half of the trail is nicely maintained, or at least to Hawaiian standards which tend to be a little lax. The trail then begins to grow increasingly rough and wet. The wettest parts are closest to the crest, creating some bogs and slippery conditions. Ropes can be found in 5-6 places along the route where the trail grows steep and a handline is not unwelcome due to the ease with which one can slip. I landed on my butt several times and thought I was pretty good to limit it to that, considering the terrain. I had some views during the first half of the hike, but for most of it I was in the clouds with very limited sight distance. It took me three hours to reach the end of the trail where it meets the crest at 2,660ft. There were two summits I was interested in visiting, Peak 2,820ft to the north and Eleao to the south, both about a quarter mile from the trail's end. Signs warn against going further, but if one looks you can find an overgrown trail continuing along the crest, the Koolau Summit Trail. There are brave folks who have hiked the entire stretch of the Summit Trail, but that is far beyond my comfort level in such conditions. The wind was blowing strongly and the drops on one or both sides of the ridge can be precipitous. I followed the Summit Trail south to Eleao, finding little in the way of a summit other than a semi-open, grass-topped hump with really poor views. After returning to the Manana Trail I started to head north towards the second summit but gave up after only a few minutes' effort - the "trail" there was less defined and with my feet completely soaked and starting to blister, I just didn't have the damn-the-torpedoes (or toes) determination to keep at it. One out of two would have to suffice. I didn't see another soul coming or going until I was within three miles of the trailhead. One couple I caught up with on the way out had turned around at the 3.5mi mark and after looking at the muddy conditions of my clothing, were glad that they had. There were quite a few more folks in the last mile, most of these looking for the waterfalls and pools down the Waimano Valley fork in the trail. In all I spent a little over six hours covering about 10mi for the one summit. I'll call that good - this one took a lot to earn.

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