Kamiloiki Ridge

Kamiloiki Ridge

by Dayle Turner

I woke up to one of those near-cloudless mornings with a bit of a nip in the air--excellent conditions for heading into the mountains for a bit of exercise and exploration. After eating breakfast and posting my daily sports report, I packed up my gear, jumped in my vehicle and motored for Oahu's east end to put in some trail time.

My starting point on this day was a cul de sac in Hawaii Kai that sits at the base of a ridge that rises above Kamilonui Valley to the west and Kamiloiki Valley to the east. Also at the base of that ridge is an agricultural heiau called Pahua. According to a plaque at the entrance to the heiau grounds, Pahua was originally constructed in the 15th century and refurbished in 1984 by the members of the Hawaii Kai Outdoor Circle.

I found the trail by chance on a previous scouting sojourn. While driving down that steep section of Hawaii Kai Drive from Kalama Valley in the latter part of '95, I noticed the ridge and went cruising around the neighborhoods off of the mauka end of Lunalilo Home Road. It was then that I found Nahua.

The trail is indistinct at the start and begins at the back of the heiau. Skirting along the base of the ridge for 50 yards or so, the trail then switchbacks to the top of the spine through sparse sentinels of haole koa and patches of small cactus plants. The ridgetop now reached, I began the trek to the Koolau summit.

The route was a not-too-taxing one as Koolau ridge hikes go. After negotiating a several hundred yard section through lichen- covered haole koa trees, I broke out onto the open ridge where the sun--now high in the sky--beat down on the crown of my visor- covered head. Fortunately, comforting tradewinds wafted over the apex of the ridge in just the right frequency to keep my internal engine from overheating.

Below me to my right was a relatively new subdivision in Kamiloiki Valley. Sizable homes with non-existent yards seemed the norm there. A grassy neighborhood park lay idol at mid- morning. At the far side of Kamiloiki, Kamekame Ridge extended to the summit, its makai end dotted with expansive, million- dollar homes.

To my left, Kamilonui Valley stretched mauka to a grassy saddle at the Koolau summit. Homes cluttered the lower quarter of the valley and then yielded to a plant nursery at its center point. The upper half of the Kamilonui was undeveloped, with haole koa and an ocean of scratchy California grass dominating the valley- scape. Rising up on the the opposite wall of Kamilonui was Mariner's Ridge, another mauka domain of Hawaii's financially well-off.

Turning my attention dead ahead now, I tramped onward at a moderate pace over a series of nobs. The trail, though not clearly stamped down, was evident enough to follow. On occasion, I had to do some boulder-hopping; for the most part, though, the upward journey was over an open, arid ridge sparsely covered by cacti, haole koa, aalii, small koa trees, and low-lying, prickly ground cover.

As I approached the spine of the Koolaus, I could see signs that a fire had occurred in the area several years before, for charred tree trunks and soot remnants were readily apparent. The vegetation was recovering nicely, however. Near the top, young ironwood trees were sprouting up everywhere. Also near the top was an eerily quiet forest of tall trees, many of which had trunks blackened by the fire. I also passed by not-recently-used campsites strewn with ugly piles of trash.

Further along, I moved upward along what appeared to be an overgrown jeep road skirting along a spur ridge to the summit. While traversing mauka along this old road, I passed through thick patches of cotton-topped dandelions whose white seeds had fallen onto the trail creating a carpet of white fiber.

I sensed I was nearing the top when the smell and feel of the air changed. And then I was there. I brushed aside a clump of ironwood branches and the soft blue water of Waimanalo Bay stretched out below me. From my summit perch, I could see Waimanalo from the main beach park all the way to Wailea Point at the far end of Bellows Beach. Beyond that lay Mokapu Peninsula which from my vantage point appeared like a giant turtle playing tag with a fish (Moku Manu islet). Inland, the three peaks of Mount Olomana jutted skyward. Further away, Pu'u Konahuanui, the highest peak in the Koolau Range, stood tall and proud, framed by a baby-blue, scantily-clouded sky.

After admiring the beautiful milieu and taking a few minutes to chow down on a sandwich I had packed, I went about exploring along the ridge. First I set off in the direction of Makapuu, finally reaching an elevated pu'u at the edge of an ironwood clump where I could see the row of beachside homes that included the Shriner's site and the home that served as the Robins Masters estate for the Magnum P.I. television series. Also in view were Manana (Rabbit) Island and its smaller, nearer-shore sibling, Kaohikaipu.

While retracing my steps to the spot where I first reached the summit, I spotted profuse smatterings of small, pellet-like animal droppings. Goats? I couldn't be sure.

I followed the ridge and continued along it in the Kaneohe direction. I looked for the head of the Tom-Tom trail that descended to the base of the mountain in Waimanalo. Unfortunately, I couldn't find it. I descended to the saddle at the top of Kamilonui Valley. My plan was to make my return trip down the valley via an overgrown four-wheel drive road, but my exit plan was thwarted by tangles of dense grass. Not wanting to battle my way back, I retreated and headed back the way I had ascended.

On my return leg, I spotted some movement on the ridge ahead of me. What I saw were three ehu-colored goats. At first the trio-- effortlessly clambering down the rocky path--did not see me. When they did, they bolted away, disappearing over a rise to some distant rocky niche. I had heard that there was a small population of goats in the Koolaus, and this sighting confirmed this.

The trail up was the trail down, and weakened by the lingering effects of a cold and plagued by sore feet, I made my way down slowly. Fortunately, I had plenty of water and time for my home leg. The makai view of the east Oahu coastline and Koko Crater helped to ease my discomfort.

Five hours after I began, I made the final steps over the heiau grounds to my waiting vehicle. I drove home through Waimanalo via Kalanianaole Highway. As I did, I gazed mauka at the high ridgetop abode I had stood atop not long before.

Addendum: In March '97, Grant Tokumi and friends trekked up Kamiloiki Ridge, took some photos, and posted them to a web page. Check 'em out.

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