Sand Hills
Puu Hona
Puu Moe

Wed, Dec 7, 2016
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile
Puu Hona later climbed Sat, Dec 17, 2016

I'd just arrived in Maui for the start of a month-long vacation in Hawaii. The first 10 days I'd be by myself on Maui, after which I would join my family in Oahu for the remainder of the trip. I had done something like this a few years ago and had had a great time. This time I was doing things a little differently, choosing to dirtbag the 10 days on Maui instead of getting places to stay like I did the last time. I rented a van from Maui Vans (cheap, but a little beat up) and planned to sleep in it much as I do back home with my own van. There would be some tricky parts that I wasn't really sure how would work out. For one, the State of Hawaii is not very friendly for such arrangements I've been led to believe and there are very few campgrounds on the island. Secondly, I couldn't travel with fuel and once on the island I couldn't find a place to purchase isobutane gas for the small campstove I'd brought. This was a minor point - there are far more food options around Maui than there are in the Mojave Desert. Lastly, sleeping outside in Hawaii isn't as easy as one might think - the high humidity and high nighttime temps (in the high 60s, typically) could prove troublesome. Nevertheless, I was willing to give it my best shot and see how it goes.

Sand Hills

After I landed around noon in Kahului, I went about collecting my rental van and then some basic supplies - sleeping bag and a few cheap blankets at Walmart, groceries at Safeway and gasoline. I tried three places for the isobutane gas before giving up - it really wasn't that important. While I was in Kahului, I visited Sand Hills in nearby Wailuku. This may have been a small collection of windblown dunes at one point, but now it is completely paved over and developed with homes and apartments. There are two closely-spaced points vying for the highpoint, the northern one in someone's driveway, the southern one on the roadway. I checked out both to be silly before moving on.

Puu Hona / Puu Moe

"Puu" is similar to "Mount" in Hawaiian, so it shows up on a lot of summit names in the state. Most of these are just small volcanic cones on the sides of the much larger West Maui and Haleakala, but such is the nature of peakbagging on Maui. These are two such bumps on the SE side of West Maui but they make for a good workout hike even if the scenery isn't quite up to expectations for Hawaii. The highest, Puu Moe, rises some 2,300ft above the starting point in only 2.5mi. The start is shared with the trailhead for the east end of the Lahaina-Pali Trail which traverses across the dry southern flank of West Maui. There's no sign off Hwy30 so you have to know where you're going - it's 1/3mi south of the junction with Hwy310. There is a gate sometimes closed with a chain that you can drive through to reach the TH parking another 1/3mi up a dirt road. There is a second gate, locked, at a fork in the road before the TH that you can see climbing steeply up to Puu Hona. I didn't realize the first gate was open to vehicles so I parked at the highway, but it doesn't make much difference. A sign at the second gate restricts motor vehicles but not hikers. It was more popular than I would have guessed, running into two parties in the few hours I used it. Puu Hona is half a mile from the second gate and rises to over 900ft in a hurry. The road bypasses the summit to the south, but easy cross-country gets one to the rocky summit. The low vegetation here is dry and a bit parched, making for unrestricted views but not very pretty scenery. Along with a benchmark, there is a small memorial to someone's dad who appears to have passed in 2015. The road continues up from Puu Hona and soon pine trees begin to appear. It seems a fire swept across parts of the slopes about 2-4yrs ago, leaving swaths dead, others injured, others untouched. This combines to make a bit of a treewhack to reach Puu Moe which is also just off the road. The live trees are thick in places but easy to wade through with bendy branches, but the downfall from the dead ones makes for an obstacle course with the added bonus of leaving one's clothes streaked with black soot marks. My first day on the island and I already look like crap. The summit has no views thanks to the trees, but there are 3-4 interesting piles of rocks among the trees, looking like some sort of memorial, old and littered with decaying pine needles. One can continue up the road another 3/4mi to Puu Anu at 2,972ft where there is a close-up view of the giant windmills found on the SE Ridge of West Maui. There is a fork in the road just below Puu Anu that can be taken down to intersect the Lahaina-Pali Trail to make a loop of things. Having already been to Puu Anu on that previous trip, I headed back down once I reached Puu Moe (I couldn't find a corresponding Puu Larry or Puu Curly, in case you're wondering like me). Despite the overcast skies which let no sun through, I sweated up a storm on the way up and my shirt was still wet when I got back down to the van. This humidity thing will take some getting used to...

David A comments on 12/08/16:
I'm expecting a Puu Kukui trip report from you on this trip!
Anonymous comments on 12/08/16:
The Days Inn in Kihei is nice for if you get sick of hot, humid dirtbagging.
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