Kīpahulu Hike: This Way To the Waterfall

Bamboo is not native to Hawai‘i; Polynesian settlers introduced the plant to these islands long ago. Still, bamboo is undeniably beautiful, and traversing the path through this “forest” can be a soothing meditation.

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Pipiwai Trail
Mosses clothe a stalk of ti in the rain-soaked back of the valley.

I lay on the ground, letting the orientation of earth and sky flip, sensing the movement of water in the air, water in the earth, water in the track of clouds, happily falling under the spell of the place. A sign nearby warns hikers not to proceed because of the danger of rockfall. I have been here during a rockfall, and know the sign is more than hyperbole; earlier this year a visitor wandered off the trail and was killed this way. But even as I acknowledged the risk—and kept my distance—I reveled in the rich, wild, wet air that smelled of green plants and black stone and warmth.

When I finally pulled my attention away from the falls, the gleam of sunlight seemed to switch off, and the gently drifting sparkle was rain again. We turned back, chattering for the two miles back to the parking lot. There, the sun made one last heroic effort and set a new rainbow above us, land and sea, tying the day up nicely with a ribbon of light.

Note: As of this writing, the park has closed the pools and the streambed behind them while the sides of the gulch are stabilized. “With current historic rainfall, any cliff-side area could be dangerous,” says park superintendent Natalie Gates. “Remain on designated trails at all times.”

For more information, call 572-4400, or check the park website (NPS.gov/hale) or Facebook page.

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