Maui Diary 9 – Bamboo Forest

I hadn’t read up on the hike to Waimoku Falls, so until we entered the middle stretch of the trail I was unaware that a bamboo forest was even in my future. Just after we passed the giant banyan tree we started to notice the bamboo; at first the growth was not too imposing, and sunlight shined through.

The green walls became thicker and higher as we walked on, and the individual stalks larger in diameter, blocking out the light.

Depending on the soil and climate, the species of bamboo and the age of the rhizome clump, the stems of this grass can be narrow or wide, but they always emerge from the ground at their full thickness.

The growing season is only three or four months long, at the end of which the the stalks have reached their full height, and begin to harden. In five to eight years they decay from fungal and mold growth and die.

The darkest and dankest part of the trail was also the smelliest. Being more of a monoculture than the rain forest of the Pacific Northwest, it had nothing like the delicious aroma I drank in when visiting there. I tried hard to make a place in the olfactory regions of my brain where I could enjoy the aroma of rotting bamboo in deep layers, but I finally gave up. Because I didn’t like that odor, I also didn’t care about finding descriptors.

Signs along the trail told me it wasn’t a true monoculture. Not even counting the small and microscopic plants that were probably growing somewhere, an occasional red-orange flower on the ground revealed that an African Tulip Tree was blooming prodigiously up closer to the sky where I couldn’t see.

When I saw a knobby tree trunk beside the trail, the contrast was such a relief I spent quite a while trying to capture it.

And as we neared the falls, the canopy opened up enough again to reveal a wealth of other tropical plants.

The trail we hiked was in the southern area of Haleakala National Park, a large territory that also includes the summit of Haleakala Volcano, where we had visited at sunrise just a few days previous. Two fingers of parkland extend to the ocean on the south of Maui, and we were climbing within one of those fingers.

When we arrived at the 400′ high Waimoku Falls my powers of concentration were challenged. I think that it’s because waterfalls are constantly moving that they are impossible to focus on in the manner that my slow mind prefers. I get restless.

So I looked around and found an African tulip blossom that had worked itself into a streamside niche and a picture reminiscent of Andy Goldsworthy. It held its position long enough for me to think about it and become attached to it. So glad to have a camera.

Then we walked back through the bamboo, feeling as though we were on another planet. We wouldn’t have been surprised if a giant panda had dropped down on the path ahead. But soon we’d come to the end of our strange tunnel and within an hour I was at the wheel of the car guiding it along the loop that would wind back to our home base.

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