Manana Ridge is the long 6 mile (one way) roller coastering trail that reaches for the Ko'olau crest from the end of Komo Mai Dr. in Pacific Palisades. Waimano Trail is the super long 7 mile (also one way), but graded CCC trail that starts from the end of Waimano Home Rd by the guard shack. The summit connector is about 2 miles. All of that adds up to roughly 15 miles of trail. While not technical, it is very strenuous, although not as painful as the 18 miler Waimano to Aiea Ridge. Since we were to start on Manana, we were to eliminate the ups and downs early and cruise down Waimano Trail at the end of the day. I remembered to make Waimano the return leg as I learned the hard way going down Aiea Ridge!
We set off at around 6-7am under morning clouds with a drizzle here and there. The last time I did Manana Trail was about 3 years ago so memory was a bit vague on this one. We eventually passed by the junction of Waimano Pools/Falls, although the sign marking the junction was gone. We put up some ribbons to mark the junction. To head to the Falls, turn right and head down "Cardiac Hill". To continue to the Ko'olau summit, keep left and also head downward an eroded bank, picking up the trail at the bottom.
The vegetation petered out to mostly red dirt and a few sets of stairs and walkways that were installed by Na Ala Hele. Beyond is a grassy field that was probably a remnant of a forest fire. A short while later, we reached the picnic table. This is a good turn around point if you are limited on time. The views towards the Wai`anae Range is splendid. Continuing mauka beyond the table marks the start of roller coaster action on an overgrown trail.
Pu'u after pu'u, climb - descent after climb - descent did we inch our way closer to the summit. We developed a technique of resting at the top of each hill, which had flat grassy tops, making it all too convenient for a break. The clouds remained over the summit ridge, but were already beginning to break up under the heating of the morning sun. We reached the "helipad", indicating we were getting somewhat close to the summit ridge, about an hour away. One thing we noticed was a silvery thread running on the crest of the adjacent ridge to our right and heading down into the gulch. You got it, it's another set of that dreaded fence line they are installing on the Ko'olaus to keep out pigs from destroying native plants. But I think the fence is doing more damage by simply being installed.
Beyond the helipad, the ridge gets windswept and the views of all the various gulches all around make for a peaceful walk. We reached the the summit at around noon, just in time for lunch. The wind was howling, but the clouds remained high above us and would remain this way for pretty much the whole hike. While this was bad for photos, it provided much needed shade. The views from atop Manana Ridge is beautiful with a commanding view of the windward coast of He`eia Pier, Waikane, and Hakipu`u towards the north and Kaneohe further south. Pu'u Ohulehule and Chinaman's Hat was also visible.
After filling up our stomachs, we began plowing through the thick summit foliage towards the terminus of Waimano Ridge. The three of us all opted to wear shorts and we would pay the price dearly by the time we reached Waimano Trail. After two or three humps, we reached a bowl shaped grassy pu'u. This is Pu'u Eleao and it makes for an excellent camp spot. The bowl shape makes it even better, shielding you from the windward trades. We spent some time here enjoying it like little kids hopping up and down for joy. I even let gravity take me and plopped flat on my back onto the soft grass! Food for the soul and mind. On the other side of the grassy pu'u lies a grand view of Waihe`e Valley and the amphitheater shape of the Ko'olau pali surrounding it. Looking leeward were the countless ridges all running parallel to each other. I couldn't help but spending considerable time here taking photos.
Just past Eleao is a tricky part where one can easily get astray. Be careful here. There is an obscure junction with the "obvious" trail leading away from the crest along a smooth and level grassy ridge which heads down leeward somewhere between Manana and Waimano ridges. One can easily get disoriented here if hiking in the clouds! Actually, turn left off the "grassy ridge" and head downwards to pick up the summit crest.
More ups and downs were the factor for the last mile or so until we finally had the small grassy clearing with the brown "End of Trail" sign in our sights on the last hump. The final obstacle was a nasty washout with the ridge even overhanging a bit, ready to fall at any given moment. Use caution here and you'll cross it easily. The Waimano summit lies nudged between two humps. After a final descent past another small eroded section and we were there. Our legs were covered in red angry slashes.
Not wanting to waste time, we proceeded down the Waimano Trail, still overgrown with uluhe but graded. It was muddy and slippery and even took a nasty spill when I lost my footing when I tried so hard to avoid mud puddles. Into the mud puddle I go, the weight of my pack acting as a counterweight, thus propelling me into a roll over that ended up getting me muddy on my entire right side of my body! Other than that, it was a very long and uneventful trail. So long that we were still on it by the time the sun set. After crossing the stream beyond the switchbacks, we put on our headlamps and finished the remaining 2 or so miles in the dark. We reached the car by 6:45pm and headed to the nearest McDonald's for post hike refreshments.
I highly recommend doing this route with Waimano Trail as your return leg, or you will be exhausted going down Manana with all those ups and downs as I was going up Waimano and down Aiea Ridge!