Waimano Ridge
Location: Southern Oahu
Maps: USGS 1:24K: Kaneohe, Waipahu
Access: From H-1, take the Pearl City-Waimalu exit (10) and head north on Moanalua Rd to Wamano Home Rd, and take a right. Park just before the gate of the Waimano Training School and Hospital. Trail begins to the left of the gated entrance. 
Trail: It's 15 miles to the ridge of the Ko'olau Range, but I certainly didn't make it that far. The 2-3 miles I did manage were over very flat terrain, following the gentle grade of the irrigation canal. Nice jungle, some good views of Waimano Valley. Very pleasant. For good, detailed route descriptions, see 'The Hiker's Guide to O'ahu' by Stuart Ball (2000).
Fees: None
Dogs: No posted restrictions, but I understand it's a pig-hunting area, so best to keep Fido in sight or on leash

October 2, 2007
I pulled up to the entrance of the entrance to the Waimano Training School and Hospital and stopped my rental car off the road. I reread the directions because I've never been on a hiking trail that starts at a  hospital. Still confused, I pulled up to the guard shack where a nice woman walked out, and after a few questions, directed me to the inconspicuous trailhead just to the left of the gated road.  I pulled the car back down the road about 50 yards and parked off the road on a dirt patch under an enormous tree. Shouldering my pack with enough equipment for one night, I started hiking off around 6PM. 

It was raining very lightly, almost misting, so I wore my rainjacket and pulled the rainfly over my pack. I hiked at a good clip along the trail, which followed the cyclone fence boundary of the hospital grounds for about 1/8 mile before plunging north into the jungle. The trail was wet, and consequently very slick in places. The red mud turned to gumbo, and I paid special attention not to fall. There was an especially slick spot going up a steep but short hill. At the top, the view to the west might have been nice had low, vaporous clouds not completely blocked the view. The trail bent to the east, and I followed along the level path that was made along a running mound of earth apparently scooped out from the steep hillside when the irrigation canal was dug. The canal itself was only a couple of feet deep and wide, and earthen, nothing fancy. In places it disappeared into the hillside through tunnels, only to reappear 50 or 100 feet later. The tunnels were a little unsettling: dark holes in the earth wherein lived who knew what. In front of one tunnel there was a fire ring. We weren't all that far from the city. I knew there were no large mammals or snakes to worry about out here, but moreso than any other trip, I thought of humans as the only threat. The path was generally wide, but had a few narrow spots. Most of the time it was a tunnel through thick forest, but sometimes a view opened up into the lush Waimano Valley below. On the opposing ridgetop across the valley, I spotted three or four mansions. 

The rain was still steady, and it was hard to judge when the sun was going to go down. The sky wasn't bright but it was certainly bright enough to hike by. I left the car at 6:00, hoping to get settled into a camp by dark. This was my first experience backpacking in Hawaii, or any tropical climate, for that matter. Rightly anticipating difficulties in finding suitable tent sites in a tropical rainforest, I had with me a camping hammock. The hammock is an ingenious design which I give full kudos to the people or person behind Hennessey Hammock company. This is not a hammock like the kind you lay around in the dog days of summer. This hammock has a lower panel of tent-like nylon, an upper of mosquito netting, and a rainfly that perches over the whole operation. Side tieouts pull the lower panel out so it feels roomy and doesn't close up around you. You enter through a velcro slit in the bottom. It's grand, and perfect for areas with too many trees to find flat ground. But you do need trees. The problem I became aware of as I hiked the trail was that although the jungle was thick, full-grown trees were few and far between. The inch-thick trunks of strawberry guava would not hold my weight, and the few larger trees with thick, white trunks and ropelike roots that coiled along the ground that I came upon were either too far apart from each other to be of use, or so crowded by shrubs and small trees that I couldn't string a hammock between them. The other issue that concerned me, not much really, but a little, was that I walking sideways along a very steep slope. I'm inclined to say it was about 50 degrees, but in reality it was probably a mere 45. The upshot is that I couldn't get off the trail. Not a step. It was far too steep to even think about getting to trees only 15 feet off the trail.

I reached an exposed rock face that stuck out over this especially steep slope. A rope and a couple of decrepit cables had been installed, and I cautiously and oh-so-slowly inched my way over the rock face. In dry weather this would be no problem, but when it's wet, the rocks are slick as snot and are pretty sketchy. Being a rainforest, this is probably always sketchy. I actually lost my hold on the rope at one point, and by luck, maintained my balance instead of dropping down the hillside. Lucky me. 

Lau'ae ferns by the millions lined the trail, glowing green in the fading light. It was getting quite dark, so much so that I began to really worry about finding a spot to spend the night. The only open space large enough to string a hammock was across the wide trail. I determined that if it came to it, I'd do just that. What other option was there, sleep on the ground? So, half an hour later it was dark. I had my headlamp on trying to scope out possibilities through the fine rain that fell. Loud, unseen birds yammered overhead. Disturbing that I could never actually see one. I spotted a couple of trees down the hillside. I took two steps down the hill and began to slide in the gravel. I grabbed out for anything and my hand hit upon a thick vine. I held on and swung around on one foot to a guava tree, which I latched on to and used to haul myself back up to the trail. Seeing as how it was dark, and raining, I felt pretty sure nobody would be coming along this trail tonight. So, I took off my pack and fished out the hammock, quickly set it up and threw my gear inside, consisting only of a water bottle and a sleeping bag. I pulled the rainfly firmly over my pack and set it down directly below the hammock, right next to my boots, which came off just before I pulled my legs into the hammock and velcroed the seam shut. 

The hammock, I'm telling you, is outstanding. Very comfortable. I laid there with the rain lightly pelting the rainfly above, snuggled up comfortably on my sleeping bag, reading all about Harry Potter and his improbable escapades with the Order of the Phoenix, smelling the fresh earthy aromas of the jungle and enjoying the dryness. Something about rain outside makes you feel really happy in a tent, or a hammock with a rainfly. Within 30 minutes of stringing the hammock, the rain really came, and I was extremely thankful I had a thick layer of nylon over my head. This was not the misty rain, but fat, soaking drops that came in bucketloads. After some amount of time reading, I flipped off my headlamp and fell asleep. By the gray half-light, I could see the jungle around me through the crack of mosquito netting not covered by the rainfly on either side. 

Sometime in the night I woke up feeling a little, pressed, you might say. I flipped on my headlamp and saw only the brown nylon of the rainfly in front of me. I pushed at it, and felt the distinct give of water. Groggy in the darkness, it took me a few minutes to figure out what the heck was going on, and then I realized that the rainfly had filled up with water, and was pressing down on me. I pushed up on the rainfly and heard water spill off onto the ground beside me. I pushed again and heard more water. I couldn't get rid of all of it, but most of it. I fell asleep again.

I slept very nicely all night. It's amazing how nice you can sleep in high humidity. 

The next morning at first light, I woke up to discover the hammock rainfly once again filled with gallons of water. This was my fault for tying the side guyouts too high for the rainfly to shed water efficiently. Rookie mistake. I put both my hands against the rainfly and heaved swiftly. It sounded like two 5 gallon buckets being thrown on the ground beside me. With a mightly splash, the rainfly lifted up. I was probably sleeping with an extra 80 pounds of water. Good thing the hammock is strong. 

I got up, put on my dry boots and packed up camp in a matter of minutes. The hammock was soaked, naturally, but everything within was completely dry. Seems I had great timing because about two minutes after I hit the trail, it began to rain lightly once again. The constant rain resulted in very few pictures of the trail since the camera stayed wrapped up in my backpack most of the time. The entire trip back was through a light rain, and I hiked quickly, not really enjoying the morning wetness. The snails were out in force: big, fat snails like none I've ever seen outside of a pet shop. After about an hour of brisk hiking, I was back at the car. My friends believe, perhaps with some justification, that I exhibited full-on foolishness for choosing to sleep in a hammock in the jungle over a nice hotel bed. But for me, the experience lived up to my expectation. Fabulous. I'd do it again. 

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