Kokokahi Ridge

Kokokahi Ridge

I found this short gem one Saturday afternoon when I had some free time to cruise around. I had never laid a boot on this Kaneohe ridgeline despite living just a couple miles from it for most of my 37 years. I also have to make clear that Kokokahi Ridge is a name I have come up with, for maps I've perused had no label for this geological upswelling.

The trail begins amongst a quiet hillside clutch of homes mauka of the Kokokahi YWCA along Kaneohe Bay Drive. While heading Kailua-bound on the Bay Drive, I turned right (mauka) onto Kokokahi Place located just past the pedestrian overpass leading to the Y and ascended the twisting road to the top. Just before the point where Kokokahi Place turns right and down, a stone staircase on the mauka side disappears into a place called the "Friendship Garden." There is a pull-off right at the base of the stairs. I parked there.

The stairs eventually led to a trail that switchbacked up a lush, tree-covered ravine. Along the way, a couple of huge Banyan trees hovered above, their tentacle-like roots stretching earthward from points up high. A sign warned visitors to resist the temptation to climb these ancient arboreal warriors. "Several people have fallen and injured themselves," it says. With thoughts of a childhood fall from a backyard guava tree flashing in my mind, I continued my ascent up the winding trail, bidding the Banyans farewell as I went.

As the trail neared the upper section of the ridge, the trees overhead gave way to blue skies, and I was treated to excellent views of Kaneohe Bay from Mokapu to Kualoa. The path now swung southwest toward the Koolau Range and in sections devoid of foliage, I could gaze left at the Kawainui Swamp and Landfill and right at Kaneohe Bay and Kaneohe town proper.

In several minutes, I had traversed a fairly steep, rutted trail to an eroded hill. Continuing on, I could see that the trail was not heavily used, for although the path was still distinct, strawberry guava, guava, and an assortment of weeds choked the way. Fortunately, I had a sickle to help me speed my progress.

From the eroded hill, the trail hip-hops a series of short ups and downs. At one point, I tiptoed gingerly past a powerline that draped menacingly above my line of progress. Not far after that, I reached a fenced radio receiving/transmitting area with a sign cautioning interlopers of the danger of high frequency radio emission signals. Adjacent to the fenced section was a neatly manicured flat spot, undoubtedly maintained by the folks who own the radio site.

Striding a handful of yards more, I was standing directly above a spot that is a familiar reference point to most Kaneohe residents--the large "C" (for Castle High School) painted onto a rockface high above the Pikoiloa subdivision. Unmistakably distinct in the 70s and early 80s, the "C" has been the victim of neglect and from the neighborhoods below now appears more like a chalky blotch on the hillside instead of proud symbol of the windward area high school.

I tried to continue on from there, but the trail along the ridge beyond the "C" quickly became a non-trail. Feeling adventurous, I pressed forward, but my attempts to hack through the green wall were terminated when the handle of my sickle snapped in two. Disappointed, I retreated to the "C" rock where I nestled my okole down for a brief break.

The view from that vantage point was marvelous. In addition to the hypnotizing cobalt-colored bay, almost all of the windward Koolaus from the Pali to Kahana were visible on that nearly cloudless morning. As I always do, I began reciting the names of the all the significant peaks in my left-to-right field of view-- Konahuanui, Lanihuli, Kahuauli, Keahi a Kahoe, Ohulehule, Ma'eli'eli. Proudly, almost chanting, I uttered their names one by one.

I also began a mental exercise of picking out landmarks of significance in my beloved home town. There were Kaneohe and Puohala Schools, sites of long-ago Little League baseball victories and defeats; the Castle High School football field, where I had watched many a gridiron battle (a Kamehameha grad and football player, I never did play a game on the field although I did most of my pre-season conditioning work there); and the Bay View Golf Course, where I had played dozens of rounds when I was bitten by the links bug in the early 80s. The area is currently being razed to make way for a expanded championship-level 18-hole course; and Hawaiian Memorial Park, where my paternal grandparents were laid to rest over 30 years ago. I even tried to find my home in Keapuka, but the distance was too great and my eyes too weak.

While reminiscing, thoughts swirled in my head. I wondered if future generations of Castle students would make the climb to this peak to keep their landmark visible. Perhaps such an undertaking will be shoved aside into a category of tasks labeled, "What's the point?" I pondered the possibility that human homesteads would someday encroach upon the verdant upper- foothills of the Koolaus. I considered that instead of a locale for idle ruminations, the spot where I sat would someday be some rich doctor's lanai. What a shame all this would be.

With all these things in mind, I retraced my steps down the mountain filled with a deeper appreciation for the place I call home.

Read about the Ghost Dog of Kokokahi Ridge
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