Iao Valley State Park

It was raining one winter afternoon when we got to the Iao Valley State Park.

I hear it's raining there still.

We were driving down via the Kahekili Highway (or State Highway 340) which skirts the north-west side of Maui. Somewhere near Wailuku, we followed the road up to the Iao Valley State Park. It's a narrow road that passes through dense vegetation. And rain. As you approach the Iao Valley, you become aware of the ever-present moisture in the air, the clouds, the fog, the incessant rain drip-drip-dripping all around. You are approaching the heart of West Maui mountains, which gets around 400 inches of rainfall a year. To put that number in perspective, Dubai gets 4 inches of rain a year, Seattle 40, Miami 60, the very tropical city of Singapore gets about 89 inches; the highest average rainfall happens in Mawsynram, India, measuring about 467.4 inches a year.

There is one more thing that struck me about Iao Valley, apart from the rain. Green. Iao is green all around. There is vegetation creeping out of every piece of Mother Earth there is. If there is a place where you could be blinded by green, this is one such.

The most important landmark in the state park is the "Iao Needle" (I kept calling it "Iao Noodle" for some reason). Its a lava-remnant rising some 1200 ft from the valley floor (2250 ft from sea level). It does make a statement, albeit not a very impressive one. What is impressive is the collection of tall peaks of the West Maui mountain all around it. The clouds passing through the peaks make a pretty picture.

The trails (if you can call them so) in Iao Valley State Park were a disappointment of sorts. They merely go a few hundred paved feet. You are left to appreciate the beauty of the West Maui mountains from a small viewing platform pretty close to the parking lot. There are no real hiking trails that take you into the wilderness. Thats a real pity!

Iao Valley has an interesting past. The bloody battle of Kepaniwai in 1790 was fought here between the then Hawaii king Kamehameha and Kalanikūpule, the then Maui king. It was Kamehameha's attempt to unify the Hawaii island. They say that the battle was so bloody that the dead bodies of the soldiers blocked the Iao stream, and so the site is called Kepaniwai ("the damming of the waters").

Thankfully, none of that blood remains today. Kings of men have come and gone over years. We represent, after all, just a grain of sand in the hourglass of time. Its perhaps best that way. The mountains remain for far longer. Mute. Observing the passage of humans.

And soaking in all that rain.