For several years now, I have been hiking to the foot of Lanihuli at the end of Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden to photograph how the rays of the sun strike Lanihuli at first light.
Lanihuli is the peak on the Koolau Mountains that towers over Kaneohe on the Koolaupoko Coast of windward Oahu. Lanihuli means “swirling heavens” in Hawaiian and is celebrated in a number of Hawaiian songs like “Lei Halia” that describe how the summit of Lanihuli is often shrouded in a mysterious mist that envelopes the peak.
Lei Halia – Words & Music by Puakea Nogelmeier
He ahu a`o Lanihuli
Hui: He ohu i ka leu hali`a
Luhiehu ka lau o ka palai
`Auamo `o Konahuanui
Lanihuli is laden like an altar
Chorus: Adorned with a lei of fond recollection
The fronds of palai are luxuriant
Konahuanui shoulders the burden
When the clouds are just right, I hike from the entrance of Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden to the end of the garden to position myself at the foot of Lanihuli to capture a most dramatic spectacle at sunrise. At first light when the sun is low on the horizon, the sunlight hits each ridge and casts shadows into every fold exagerating the rugged features along the summit of the Koolau Mountains.
When the mists envelope and swirl around Lanihuli, they create a veil around the summit the sunlight cannot penetrate. As a result, the sun facing portions of the cloud glow in the sunlight while the clouds behind are shrouded in darkness. In the photo above, the hanging valleys perched at the top of the Koolau Mountains are home to rare native species such as loulu hiwa (Pritchardia martii) and lehua papa (Metrosideros rugosa).
When rain falls over the summit of Lanihuli an whole new dimension is added to the drama. Rain that falls on the peak and creates waterfalls that carve hanging valleys along the summit of the Koolau Mountains.
Lanihuli is a special place that brings me back time and time again — whether to its foot or summit. I never tire at seeing the first rays of the sun strike the Koolau Mounains from the foot of Lanihuli or the blossoms of lehua at the summit of Lanihuli.
A Journey to Lanihuli, by Dayle Turner, Oahu Hiking Enthusiasts
Origins of Nuuanu Valley as told in the story of Keaomelemele by Moses Manu in 1884 in the Hawaiian language newspaper Ka Nupepa Ku‘oko‘a
Words to Lei Alia, Words and Music by Puakea Nogelmeier
Words to Pua Ahihi, Words by Mary Kawena Puku’i and Music by Maddy Lam