By Léo Azambuja
I’ve been hiking and camping my whole life, but I had never done these two things together. Until this summer. And now I’m hooked.
I don’t know exactly how it all started, but I remember thinking it could be something I might be interested in doing. After all, we live on an island that is a chief destination for hikers from all over the world, so why not take advantage of this beauty right here in our backyards?
In a matter of days, I bought almost all the gear necessary to go on a serious backpacking trip. You can say it was impulse. Hey, I even questioned myself, but it really was a now-or-never attitude that has led me to many significant changes in my life.
I bought a top-notch technical backpack, an ultralight stove and cookware, hiking shoes and clothing, dehydrated food, and the list goes on. In other words, I was truly and officially a poser with all that expensive and specialized gear and no experience at all in backpacking. But it wouldn’t be for long.
In June, my friends invited me to a backpacking trip to Lonomea, a good five-hour hike starting at the ridge of Waimea Canyon, complete with a beast of a red dirt hill and three river crossings, all the way to a pristine riverside campsite.
There were four of us, and we spent three days and two nights in the canyon. My friends had experience backpacking, and they made sure we respected Mother Nature’s unpredictable nature. To get to Lonomea, you need to descend into Wiliwili Camp and then proceed further into the canyon, crossing the river three times. With the water levels higher than our waists, river crossings were dangerous, and there was a good chance the levels could increase the next day, leaving all of us stranded.
So we set up at Wiliwili Camp. At night, we hung out with a few hunters who go down there regularly on horseback. You can imagine the Portuguese jokes they had, but being Brazilian, I had my arsenal of Portuguese jokes too.
The following day, the stream levels subsided, and we headed for Lonomea. Some two-and-a-half hours later, we arrived at this gorgeous campsite. The stream comes down the valley, trickling down through the rocks, forming pools, slides and diving areas. The place is so beautiful that it is unfair to try to describe it. The hike is equally amazing; it follows the stream and passes through several stonewall structures appearing to be ancient Hawaiian archaeological sites.
We spent only one night in Lonomea before heading back to civilization the next day. I wish we stayed another night, but we had to work on Monday. We broke down the return trip in two stages. We stopped for a few hours at Wiliwili Camp, and headed out when the sun wasn’t so hot anymore. Climbing Red Hill on our way back had been on my mind all weekend.
I made out of the trail when it was dark, close to 8 p.m., right when a rare and gorgeous strawberry moon topped the weekend trip.
We met a lot of people on the trail; tourists, hunters and locals of all ages. Everyone was nice and eager to share stories and experiences. We made new friends and got to know each other a little better. We also got a heck of an exercise. The fried saimin and the pair of beers afterwards were 100 percent justified and guilty-free.
I can’t wait for my next adventure. I got permits with the DLNR several months ago for a three-night kayak trip to Na Pali Coast this month. In case a summer swell makes it too dangerous to paddle, I’ll just hike with all my gear. I’m glad to work my way out of being a poser, one step at a time, literally.