Island Crawler Union
Pirate4x4.com Rockcrawling, Maui Style
Story and Photos by Nolen Grogan
For most, a trip to Maui involves a quick cab ride from the airport to the hotel, followed by copious quantities of sun, food, beach and booze. Often they glance behind them at the 10,000 foot Mt. Haleakala, but for the most part they are facing outward to the emerald Pacific. Flying in, all I could think about was the list of activities I had planned with my new friend, Keha Quinabo, a Maui native and avid off-roader. Just 3 weeks ago, Keha and his brother in law, Keoni started building the most hardcore trail in Maui in Keoni's backyard with a series of slots and waterfalls that would be well at home on the hardest trails on the mainland. After Keha posted his trail on Pirate4x4.com, I just had to go take a look-see.
After following Keha's lead and watching the sunrise on Mt. Haleakala, Julie and I slipped down the mountain and stopped in to visit Keha and his wife Momi to plan the next day's events. Keha lives just outside Ulupalakua on the SW corner of the island overlooking the ocean. His beautiful property is a mere 2 miles from my hotel as the crow flies but 1.5 hours by road overlooking the island of Kahoolawe.
The next morning I headed up the mountain to the small village of Kula where the trail is located. Driving in, the sheer beauty of this island paradise is staggering. The Kula Highway is lined with centuries old lava stone walls and ancient Jacaranda trees.
Keoni's House is situated on the base of Mt Haleakala overlooking Maallaea Bay with a wicked creek running along the western boundary of his property. After the first hour, no one has shown up yet. See, this is island time at its best. Finally after an hour and a half, these guys start filtering in from around the island. Keha is first in line and ready to go. Anthony and Todd arrived later in their nicely built TJ's and Joe rolls in about two hours late looking like hell and settles in to change his torn 38.5" TSL. Coming up just as we begin are Paul and Tiffany in their solid axle 4runner.
We pass the first section of trail under the watchful eye of the live lawnmower named "Ninja" and start in on the first hard section of trail.
Things get tricky fast for Anthony as he decides to run the trail with his windshield on and bikini top in place. The first section is super tight and off camber and we just could not keep him from crashing his frame into the canyon wall.
Keha's buggy is no small rig. It takes some skill to get it through the tight spots. Here, Keha and co-driver Kanoheaponoalii make the tight squeeze in style.
Todd puts on the first of many shows with this awesome wheelstand on the lower section.
The Toyota's in the group made all the climbs look easy. With the proper gearing and two great drivers, Joe and Paul walked up the trail with great finesse. Both took a few nice hits on the body but these rigs were built to wheel and had the scars to prove it.
Paul is taking up the rear of the trail in his 4Runner with the smallest tires of the group. Sporting a combo of 35" MTRs and BFG's, Paul walked the waterfalls with ease. Here, Pro Wakeboarder Tiffany Ward gets the shot of her boyfriend Paul taking a little bit of body damage. Aloi approves of the trail and has part of the canyon wall in his afro to prove it.
We get through the narrow sections and this brings us to a series of 4 big waterfalls. The ground at the base is sandy volcanic rock and it must be stacked or the tires just dig to oblivion. As you can see, Keha and crew have put in some serous time moving rocks to make this trail possible. Here, Nick shows the scale of the waterfall.
The TJ's gave us some nice scares on this trail. The sub-100" wheelbases really killed them both but the drivers each saved themselves from near rollovers with some quick clutch work.
What goes up must come down so with time growing short, the TJ's and Paul decided to start making their way out. Unfortunately, the end of the trail ends with a 70' vertical cliff, so there is no other choice than to turn around and come out the same way you go in. Paul was the first to head down and gives Tiffany a bit of a scare on the first drop.
While they were getting turned around, Keha and Joe do the last bonus waterfall. This is the biggest fall on the trail and it takes a certain level of commitment. Keha and Joe both made clean runs up. Joe gave us all a great show on the way down!
The waterfalls are not only steep going down, but the vehicles all leaned in different directions with gravity and weight putting the bodies into the walls more than on the way up. Anthony got into the other side of the windshield frame on the way down. Luckily the glass was not broken but I bet he finds a way to get that thing off before the next run!
Testament to how well these rigs are built, the only broken part on the entire 1 mile loop of 5 rated hardcore was one brake line on Paul's 4Runner. Everyone made it out in good spirits as well. This group is as good natured as any I have wheeled with in all my travels. Truly they have the rock crawling spirit and it is catching! Keha's brother Kekoa and his friends Nick, Dwayne, Nohea and Max are all making crawler plans so they can join in on the fun. This trail also has lots more potential. About three quarters of the way up, another branch of the river bed breaks off and makes its may up the mountain even further. The Island Crawler Union has a jewel on their hands and they are making the most of it. Look these guys up next time you are in the islands if you want a break from the beach and be prepared to meet some of the greatest guys and girls on the planet.
Check out the full gallery of photos here:
See you on the trail...Rock Midget