Cheryl and I were just out to do a clean up at one of the drops and make sure it was stocked for the Friday/Saturday training sessions. It didn’t take us long to clean things up, and restock and we were ready to go back to the cars. Standing there on the trail, it was hard to just not do anything, so to speak, the magnet of the trail was pulling at us and despite the need to get on with the rest of the day, we just stood there looking down the trail.
“Have you ever seen the graves,” Cheryl finally asked?
“Yeah, a lot of them, and some high rock walls, and another waterfall.”
“Yeah, its not too far up really, PJ and I went back there once and it was just amazing.
You want to go take a look?”
I’m standing there in my street/work running shoes and ‘I’m a painter’ work clothes and I look up the trail and figure, well it doesn’t look too muddy. Anyway what am I supposed to say to Cheryl, ‘No my mommy expects me home at Three.” “Not far ehh?” I hem.
“Oh no. Just around that bend up there on the trail and off on a side trail. Not far at all” lied Cheryl.
I knew she was stretching the truth. I knew she didn’t have any real idea of how far we would have to go. But the assurance that it was not far, and that I wouldn’t get my shoes muddy was just enough encouragement for me to say OK, let’s go. And since it was ‘Not Far’ we just went. No water bottles, no nothing—breaking every trail runner’s rule, we just headed off down the path on a ‘Not too far’ venture to some mystical place that Cheryl had likely only run toward in one of those feverish and fitful ‘after a long race’ sleeps we all find ourselves tossing through from time to time.
The trail was wide and seemed well traveled, yet it was immediately unfamiliar and strange. Having made the decision to start it seemed as if we walked through the looking glass, or had fallen down through a hole in a tree. Everything seemed as it should be but everything was entirely different and unfamiliar. Mauka was still mauka, but the place I was used to refer to had disappeared and there was a new land at our feet, a new place before us. We walked the strange trail silently wondering where it would take us.
We climbed soft Ridges and meandered through shallow valleys along side the stream we thought we were so familiar with, coming to places that were a wonder. In the middle of a grove of bamboo we came upon a clearing from which rose four tall Norfolk pines. Equally spaced the square they formed marked something only the imagination could explain. Who would have planted these pines on this seemingly deserted hillside and what would the view have looked like one hundred or more years ago? What was this place once that people would have walked up this ridge and made a marker that could last for so long that no one anymore knew its purpose? We passed on, wondering aloud. Down the ridge, through another wide valley, along the stream again, and through the bamboo that seemed to grow everywhere.
We passed by terraced lo’i, still flowing and maintained the grasses cut short between the rocky steps, the giant ears of the talo green and twisting in the light breezes as soft trickles of water worked there way down the terraces of the high hillside toward the stream. It would not have been surprising to see someone bent over weeding and working the terraced gardens. Rock walls appeared along the path, formed with precision by craftsmen who had taken their time and worked with care. Each stone shaped or selected to fit into the planes formed by those around it. Unmortored or reinforced, the walls stood straight and firm, though now lost in the forest and bamboo; survivors of unnumbered years. Again we had to ask “Who built this?” Was it some special Hawaiian place in history, the relics of normal life when this was fertile Hawaiian garden land, or the work of Filipino or Japanese yardmen who had fled the oppression of plantation life in the depression of the 1930’s. What did a finely crafted four foot wall that stretched over hundred yards signify? For all we knew it could be the work of the Menehue who are said to have once been very active in this valley in their day. We wandered on shaking our heads once again.
The trail meandered off the stream, up onto the hillside and back into the bamboo groves. Here it’s direction became unclear, the many angles of fallen bamboo stalks hindering our progress along the path and finally guiding us into a labyrinth of green stalks. Lost and disoriented, we were guided more by a network of spider webs than by any direction we sought, and only the occasional shadow cast by the sun shining through the high bamboo gave us any bearing. Up ahead almost lost in the dense growth what looked like the path lay shadowed by the high leaves. I threaded the way through the vertical and angled stalks and the cobwebs that hung heavy everywhere until I stood at the goal, but found it was not the path. A water ditch? The long wall of an old fortification? It went on in both direction until hidden in the underbrush. Another question that could only go unanswered.
We pushed on, suddenly finding ourselves looking down a well traveled but once again unfamiliar path. We followed it, coming upon a large well built rock cairn. One of Cheryl’s mythical graves? Perhaps. As we walked through the trees we discovered more, each well built, and marking something whose meaning was once again lost to the past days of the valley. The trail, now lined with rocks, led inland up toward the high ridges, yet we were reluctant to leave the sound of the stream behind as it was a major reference and pushed back through the undergrowth and toward the sound of the water. And once again we came upon a surprise. A finely built cobblestone path crossed the pig trail we had been wandering. We followed it, twisting and jumping the ever present bamboo that lay angled across the path. The stream began to growl, then to roar, and as we made our way down the cobbled rock path we saw white water and mists through the trees. The hillside pushed in suddenly and we faced the long curve of a high cliff. Huge white and yellow ginger pushed out the bamboo and mud grew thick around us. The walkway ended and we were forced to climb through the ginger and mud up the slippery slope as we tried to get a better look at the source of the loud roaring that filled our ears. It was a large waterfall perhaps fifty feet high, and heavy with rushing water that tumbled down the shear cliff.
“It’s bigger than Manoa falls,” exclaimed Cheryl! “Not as tall but a lot fatter!”
It was indeed. A beautiful place, that seemed enchanted. We stood there looking out through the ginger over the large pool and the well manicured grasses that formed and apron around the pool. It would not have been surprising to see a group of women washing clothes, or a family taking a bath in the cool clear waters of the pond below the stream. We had entered a timeless place where the past and the present seemed to intertwine.
We stood high above the pool not wanting to leave, but finally driven on by the growing presence of mosquitoes—something the Hawaiians of the past did not have to suffer. Working our way back along the cliff we came upon a disordered avenue through the thickening bamboo and pushed on crunching the rotten stalks that lay in our way. As we approached a higher point we came out onto a wide clear trail which led up the cliff in long looping well dug switchbacks. The heights of the ridge called us, but we stood there without water, and soaked in perspiration. It was stupid to go on—against every rule a trail runner learns early—but sometimes you got to bend the rules.
Up we went along the path which lay before us paved in yellow bamboo leaves and promising new wonders. It was easy travel as only a few stalks were crossing the path. We reached the top and found a fork in the path. We walked down the lower one a few dozen yards and heard the roar of the waterfall, then we headed back up the other. It led back along the ridge for a half mile or more and forked again. We took the ridge trail to the right and a few hundred yards higher came to a look-out over a pristine valley of fair size. It was a wonder to look down up a place so unknown yet so close to where we travel almost every week. As we headed back we passed by the wide path that led further mauka. The urge was to take a look, but we were getting thirsty, and the sun was moving fast through the sky. It was time to head back, time to thread our way through this place of unreality and return to the cars.
One Saturday we will make this realm a part of our training run. Who knows we may find more to wonder about as we head down the wide mauka path and into the deep recesses of this ancient and mystical place.