Haleakala: Kipahulu Campground

I intentionally separated the National Park Service part out of the Road to Hana trip, because I wanted to cover that separately. The Kipahulu section of Haleakala is drastically different from the volcanic crater at the summit.

Kipahulu is in the middle of the rainforest and can see as much as 400 inches of rain per year. We camped at the only NPS campground site and were immediately confronted with the most disorganized, confusing and perplexing set up that we have seen at any National Park. There was a roundabout road with grass, grills and picnic tables. No site numbers, no space to designate where or how many cars should park in specific places. It was a complete free-for-all.

One of my pet peeves, while camping, is being surrounded by dozens of loud people. I got out of the car and went in the opposite direction of the hordes of people and the randomly arrayed cars. After about 50-yards hiking down a mowed path we found some palm trees that had some space under their branches. There were numerous tents set up under similar tree copses, so I assumed it was an opening camping spot and we set up our stuff to claim it as our own.

My general rule of thumb is that if it is above 40-degrees and there are two trees from which I can hang my hammock, then I will sleep in it. This presented that opportunity so I slept in my hammock. I let Kathleen borrow my sleeping back and slept in my Tipsy Elves Ski Suit. I was initially skeptical, but a ski suit is essentially like a personalized sleeping bag without foot or hand coverings. I slept like a king and woke up early to run up to Waimoku Falls.

Waimoku Falls Trail is a short hike from the Kipahulu Visitor’s Center. I left camp at sunrise and the beginning of my run was more of a stutter step than a run, as I stopped every 25-50 yards to take pictures of, or watch the sun as it rose and provided a hue of colors and shadows on the tropical plants. 

As I began the trail up to the falls I quickly descended into the forest and lost site of the sun. Shortly after heading into the forest you come across this massive Banyan Tree. He/she is covered with graffiti. Names, hearts with initials, everything. It was devastating. This massive tree was beautiful and marred with ‘AB + CD’. No one cares that you were here. We care that this tree is here. I hugged one of its branches and continued onto the trail.

The entire hike up to Waimoku Falls is about 2-miles. After about half a mile you come to your first bridge that takes you into a bamboo forest. If you have seen the TV show LOST it feels kind of like Jack at the beginning. You look up and see this waving bamboo all around you. There is something magical about being inside a bamboo forest. I don’t know if it is the color, the shape, the shadow, and the light that is let in. It brings me a feeling of peace and solitude that is incredibly comforting. 

Leaving the bamboo forest was not enjoyable, but I knew that I would get to run back through on my way down. Shortly after leaving the forest you come to Waimoku Falls. There hadn’t been a lot of rain recently, so the falls were not full of water and looked like a mere trickle. Even so, the falls were inspiring. They were so tall that it was painful to crane my neck to the degree necessary to see the top. It was almost dizzying and I nearly had to sit down because I was looking almost straight up.

Most of the hike was uphill so my running limited to none treacherous sections that weren’t too steep. One the way down, though, I let it rip. I cruised through the bamboo forest with arms widespread in silence. The only sound was my clopping feet and the wind moving the bamboo back and forth. Get up early to do this hike; it’s worth it to experience these things without the pollution of other’s voices.  I passed Trevor and Kathleen on my way down and ran back to our campground where I played ukulele for several minutes before realizing that a nap would be far more ideal.