Thursday, February 7, 2013

How Not to Hike on Maui & in the Iao Valley

Every week on Maui, 911 dispatch operators get a phone call from a lost, stranded or injured hiker. On a tropical island that seems so small and innocuous, hundreds of tourists every year are tempted to hike off-trail, maybe to reach that hidden waterfall, to see that next beach or recently, to find a back door into the Iao Valley.

In central Maui, Iao Valley State Monument is where you'll find that iconic postcard shot of the Iao Needle, a jungley spire covered in thick vegetation that shoots up skyward. The paved walking trails that lead around the park, past an ethnobotanical garden and a freshwater stream, are so tame that I wondered if I could even classify them as hikes in my book Top Trails Maui.

So it's not surprising that some hikers - typically young men between the ages of 18 and 35 years old - would try pioneering another way to explore the valley on foot. Usually I see tourists start hiking beyond the "No Trespassing" signs to ascend the needle itself, an attempt that's foolhardy given the chance of flash floods, crumbling mountainsides and no maintained trails.

Over on Maui Now, Vanessa Wolf has written a hilarious guide about what not to do while hiking on Maui, including how trying to hike from Olowalu to Iao Valley can kill you. Her tongue-in-cheek advice ("Water is for cowards" and "By all means, wear inappropriate footwear") is a fantastic anti-checklist that you can use to prepare yourself for your first hike in Hawaii's wetland forests and lush stream-fed valleys.

As Wolf points out, Maui EMS will "thank you in advance for not getting airlifted." Besides, isn't calling search-and-rescue embarrassing when the situation is pretty much your own fault?

Related links:
Dear Would-Be Olowalu to Iao Hiker
Men Attempting Olowalu to Iao Hike Rescued
Our National Parks: So Wild That You Should Sue?

Photo credit: Iao Valley State Monument (Sara J. Benson)

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