We woke up at the Kipahulu campground and set about making breakfast burritos with some quinoa salad we had picked up at Costco, zucchinis, and cheese. The meal was delicious and a cinch to cook with our kitchen setup. Then we brewed some tea and set out on a spiritual journey for the day.

Kipahulu sits at the base of the Pipiwai Trail, a two-mile hike through the jungle-covered mountainsides that leaves you wondering where the dinosaurs are hiding.

Molly, Matt, Fletch, and myself, started off single file through the tall grass, giddy with excitement and already feeling connected with Mother Nature. I left my cell phone behind. I do apologize for the lack of my own photographic evidence. That was very irresponsible of the blogger in me. But the hippie in me needed the next few hours to completely disconnect from the world that is increasingly ruled by technology, and to reconnect with nature. I’m sure you understand, and if not, then I encourage you to put down whatever device you are currently reading this on, take off your shoes, and go plant your toes in the grass somewhere. Close your eyes and breathe for a moment. You’re welcome.

We made quick time to an elevated lookout, with an epic view of the valley we had just ascended, a massive waterfall cascading down the rock in the distance, and of course the ocean, glittering blue down below at the open end of the valley. We stopped to marvel, and to let our eyes get lost in the sea of lush greenery covering the mountainsides.

Makahiku Falls, Maui
(Photo by laserdad on Pixabay)

Farther along the trail we came upon a massive banyan tree. If there is any tree more wondrous than the rainbow eucalyptus tree, then perhaps it is the banyan. The banyan starts out as a humble fig tree, but then all of its branches begin to grow roots and those roots become new trunks. This process continues until you have what you would think was an entire forest of trees. Magically though, it is only one massive tree. The largest banyan tree in the world is located in India and covers over 4 acres of land.

Naturally, I had to stop and climb the banyan tree. It was beckoning to be climbed, and my inner child would not let me refuse. I stopped and relaxed on a branch for awhile that was perfectly parallel to the ground and as wide as a recliner. The others stopped to talk to fellow hikers, and I wondered at how many continued past, out of breath, and looking straight past such a marvelous tree. 

Maui banyan tree on Pipiwai Trail
(Photo by Brandon Green on Unsplash)

I finally decided that it was time to continue onwards, and set about the task of choosing from an abundant assortment of footholds which would bring me back down to earth. I imagined myself to be quite high off the ground, only then Matt came and plucked me out of the tree as if it was nothing.

Onwards we trekked, in no hurry to be anywhere specific. Right when we would imagine ourselves to be completely immersed in nature, there would be an abrupt Danger sign, pointing to a fatal drop. We found these humorous on several accounts. For one, why did our nature hike need to be interrupted with warning labels? And for two, I can’t help but wonder how many people they’ve lured over the edge by saying, “Hey, come here and look at this drop! It’s fatal!” And now I’m probably making you question my own sanity with climbing trees and hiking next to fatal drops. Don’t worry, this was a well-worn path that parents had their little kids running up and down. The warning labels were just to keep us from finding the dinosaurs. There were a few, random chain-link fences to keep the dinosaurs at bay too. I mentioned as much, and Matt burst my bubble by pointing out that the Hawaiian islands were formed long after the dinosaurs went extinct.

At one point the lush, tropical rainforest became an enchanting forest of dense bamboo. A clear, winding pathway was built throughout, and good thing too, because the towering green stalks were so thick that you could imagine being lost after wandering off the path for just a minute. 

Boardwalk winding through the bamboo forest on the Pipiwai Trial, Maui.
(Photo by aeforia on Pixabay)

The light penetrating the leafy green tops, far up above was exactly the serene, otherworldly experience I had missed out on in Japan. You may recall that we visited Japan’s famous bamboo forest, and there were more people there than forest. Here there were other hikers along the trail, sure, but it curved around enough that you never really had to see them except when passing in opposite directions. If a bamboo forest is the experience you are craving, skip Japan (probably the only time you’ll ever hear me say that) and head to Maui’s Pipiwai Trail. 

Light shining through the bamboo forest.
(Photo by mdrosenkrans on Pixabay)

We passed numerous hikers who were heading back down the mountain, and they all cheered us on with words of encouragement and to keep going, the end would be worth it. I wondered if we were meant to be huffing and puffing to the end of a race. The idea of not making it to the end had never even crossed my mind, but there was also no hurry to get there. I was exactly where I needed to be right here, right now, with some amazing scenery and even better friends. Thanks for the encouragement anyway. 

Several bridges led across the valley as you can see off in the distance here.
(Photo by Nathan Ziemanski on Unsplash)

Two miles later we emerged at the base of a 400-foot cliff with a waterfall cascading down the entire drop. You know that epic waterfall you envisioned in your head as a kid, and drew pictures of, maybe with the Pacific Blue colored Crayola, and then none of the ones you visited ever quite lived up to it, because they were only a few feet tall, or only had a small trickle of water? This was not the disappointing-but-still-pretty, real-life waterfall. This was the epic, cascade-down-hundreds-of-feet-of-steep-cliff waterfall you pictured as a kid. It was glorious. 

I did manage to capture a photo of Waimoku Falls on Fletch's phone, but it just doesn't do it justice. 

It was also odd to emerge two miles into the jungle and realize that 100 of our closest friends were already there. “Hey guys, you read about the epic waterfall in Maui to hike to as well? Guess they sent a memo out…”

Oh hey, people... 

Curse Instagram and technology for making magical places so easy to find. Blessings and curses. I guess without those same resources, we might not have been there either. And here I am using those resources to tell the world to check out this waterfall. Talk about a double edged sword…

We sat in awe for the better part of an hour. It kind of felt like that waterfall scene in Black Panther, where everyone is gathered on the sides of the cliff, mid waterfall, only instead of watching the crown get challenged in ritual combat, we got to watch several dudes' masculinity get challenged by Mother Nature. A few brave souls attempted to stand under the downpour of 400 feet worth of water for that Instagram shot. Even the toughest looking men could only stand for a handful of seconds, and not even under the full stream, before being crippled by the power of so much water slamming down on them.

I discovered that Fletch had brought his phone, and so did manage to snap a couple photos before confining it to the backpack again. I almost wish I hadn’t snagged those photos. No picture could ever do justice to 400 feet of water cascading down the side of a cliff. 

Top portion of Waimoku Falls. 

We made the hike back down, encouraging those headed upwards the same way we had been encouraged. Apparently it was the thing to do. Then we turned off the path just before camp and headed to the Seven Sacred Pools. 

Hiking back down the boardwalk through the bamboo forest...
(Photo by Madison Olling on Unsplash)

I wish I had a nice story about what made the seven pools sacred, but apparently it was just a marketing scheme back in the day to bring an epic but remote location to the attention of tourists. That plan obviously worked, because we got to share the beautiful, natural rock pools with 200 of our closest friends. Families were sunbathing on the rocks, children were jumping off the cliffs, grandmas were being escorted across the slippery parts; it looked like a beautiful Sunday afternoon at the park. You never would have known we were on an island in the middle of the Pacific, and a two-and-a-half-hour drive along a curvy mountain road from town. 

View of Seven Sacred Pools looking back towards the ocean.
(Photo by Zetong Li on Unsplash)

Back at camp we grilled cheese-stuffed mushrooms for dinner. Molly had brought ingredients to make s’mores, which made us all squee like excited children. She found us the perfect marshmallow roasting sticks, and we spent a satisfying half hour, huddled around the non-existent campfire, whittling our sticks down to sufficient points. I hadn’t had s’mores in ages, and now that I think about it, I don’t think I had ever enjoyed s’mores in the idyllic setting of a campsite. What a treat!

It was Saturday night, and the campsite filled up like it was the place to be on Maui that night. A mom and daughter were late to the party, and tried to wedge their tent in between Matt’s tent and the grill. It was a little too close for comfort, but what could we say? The campsite was packed. Luckily she realized before too long that people were still using the grill, and dragged her tent away in defeat, the same sort of defeat you see on shows when the character drags their chair out of the room.

As dusk turned to dark, several different groups seemed to be competing to have the most happening music. The group of girls in the middle of the campsite was winning with their rave beats and glow sticks. Winning that was, until it was interrupted with some weird hypnosis-type tracks that were speech tracks only - no music. Then the whole scene suddenly felt like the beginning of a horror movie where we were all about to get brainwashed and turn into zombies.

Remarkably, the whole crowd was very respectful and all noise came to a halt at 10:00 prompt, as if we were all observing an unspoken curfew. And so ended our day of beautiful nature, spiritual journeys, and lots of people. All in all, it was a magical experience. I always complain about there being too many people, but that’s never what I remember in retrospect. In retrospect, I’ll always think of a journey along one of the world’s most beautiful trails, complete with banyan trees, bamboo forests, and a waterfall that was nothing short of epic in the midst of it all. And best of all, sharing such a perfect day with the man I love and two amazing friends.