Poamoho Ridge Trail


by Mike Uslan

Hi my name is Mike Uslan, and growing up with the ridges of Aiea as my backyard, I am no stranger to the Koolau Mountains. As time passes, the crowds grow and the back trails of Aiea are much more visited than they used to be. I had always seen the mountains as a place of solitude and escape, and I needed to get away again.

A broke surfer behind on his rent was kind enough to sell me his Toyota 4X4 for a very good price, and suddenly I was spending my weekends on every possible cane field road from Pearl City to Kahuku looking for a good hideout. Well along came Poamoho ridge, and on a tip, I followed a particular cane road about 7 miles off of Kam Hmy, to the trailhead of Poamoho Ridge trail. The drive up is a bumpy, muddy adventure in itself. Most cars could actually get into the end of the cane fields, where they can start the hike from, and the hike is 11 miles round trip.

Now the real treat about Poamoho trail is that with a 4X4 you can turn the 11 mile hike into a 4 or 5 mile round trip, about the same distance as the Aiea Loop trail. If you have to park before the road ends, or try to do it from the bus stop on Kam Hwy, good luck and start early.

Well one Saturday in January '96, I knew we were on. It hadn't rained in 5 days, and looked like a clear day. I phoned my buddy Russel Poepoe and e-mailed Dayle Turner. Dayle had Stuart Ball's book, and I got my Quads (maps) and after studying both, we decided that my wife and 9 year old daughter should fare well on the trail. So I woke up my wife, and fed the dogs. Meanwhile, Russel and Dayle were on their way, and we left my house at about 8:30 am. We were on the trail by 9:15. We were making good time.

I have two dogs, Issac and Kona. Issac is a white Japanese Spitz, and he is a great trail dog. He is almost perfect for the trails, his only disadvantage is his all white fur, similar to a Samoyed. He gets filthy but he loves it. He is extremely agile and very alert. He will pause to enjoy views and can negotiate the trickiest of all terrain with the footing of a goat. He loves the trail. Then we have Kona, a 6 month old German Sheperd (GSD) that is slowly but surely becoming very agile herself. To this day I have not taken her on any trails because she can't even negotiate the kitchen yet. Well in the last few weeks she has been showing her true genes and is not so clumsy anymore. All the experts like my Vet and breeders say not to let her on the trails until she's a year and a half because GSD's can injure their hips if they jump and run too much as puppies. I can't wait to take Kona on the trails, but this time I decided to leave Issac home with Kona. We knew there was much Pua'a up in Poamoho, and even though Issac is a small Spitz dog, he is very confident and might get into a fight with a pig and get gored. We decided to leave the dogs home this time.

Poamoho ridge trail starts with a good wooden fence, built to keep mountain bikes and MX'rs out. You can park your 4X4 here, and the two times I parked there we suffered no problems with theft, common at many Island locations. The first landmark is a nice bannana patch, but don't pick any bannana, bad luck. Nah just kidding, just save some for me ok?

So then the trail is pleasanty graded, not like Aiea Ridge which goes over all the humps and hills. Poamoho trail winds around the hills. The elevation gain is real easy going, not like the Na Pali Coast where you gain 1000's of feet every mile. As we made our way up the first third of the trail, we noticed beautiful swimming holes in the valley below us to our right, and a sudden side trail to the valley floor was no suprise. Maybe one day I'll take that side trail. It would be a good place to look for Pua'a.

The way this trail snakes around the hills is decieving in the way that you don't know how far you have gone. When my wife asked me, "How much more do we have to go?" I answered, "Almost half way I figure." And within five minutes we rounded the last hill and the ridgeline came into larger than life, clear view, right there on top of us! I was blown away at how quickly we did the trail. We had not been hiking for an hour and a half yet. This was too easy!

Before the great view I had heard so much about, we entered a hidden valley with a small stream at the bottom. After looking at my Quad again, I saw that this is one of the creeks that becomes Helemano Stream. The valley was so tucked away and out of sight I knew I had found my sought after "hideout."

We crossed the stream and headed back downstream and up over the valley. At this point came into sight a memorial to someone that had the plaque burned off. I was dissapointed to not be able to read the memorial, like I missed part of the hike. Dayle Turner recognized the location from Stuart Ball's book and we knew the ridge was within a few yards. A grass clearing at the top would make an ideal tent site, and a night at the top is in the planning. The next clear weekend we get I plan to get up there once again to watch the sunrise.

Before anyone got to the view, I got out the video camera in order to get everyone's excitement on film, and did I!! Everyone was in awe as the valley floor of Kahana, all the way to Makapuu Point suddenly demanded our full gaze. It was awesome and better than the view from Aiea Ridge. A short walk up to our left and we could also see Pearl Harbor entrance and all the way to Kaena Point also. What a view! Very possibly the best view on Oahu. Dayle and I noticed a peak some 200 feet higher and half a mile to our left that might qualify as "The Best". If my figuring is correct, atop that peak we will not only see from Makapuu to Kaena, but also Sunset Beach and possibly some of Honolulu also.

After a long lunch and a good rest hanging our feet over the edge, we decided to trek to a cabin some half mile to our right. The half mile trek took a half hour. It was thick and muddy, and as my old friend Kevin Schall would have described it, "Just Like Vietnam." We made it to the cabin and also captured a view of a crater-turned bog. That looked like Pua'a Heaven, and again a side trail looked like it led there, and again it would have to wait for another day.

From the end of the Poamoho Trail, you not only have the view, but according to the USGS topographical Quads, you can also hike South towards the Schofield- Waikane and Wintera trails, and North to the Castle, Kawailoa, a trail that comes off the end of Twin Bridge Road in Haleiwa, the Laie trail, and others. These trails are accessible via the Koolau Summit Trail, a visible seemingly well cut trail, but less traveled and not for the weak at heart or stamina. We did probe into the Summit trail a ways on both sides, and it is obvious that not many, if anybody hikes this trail on a routine basis. We're talking bring a machete and lots of water.

In summary, the trail is a bit harder than Aiea Loop, but not much, that is if you can get through the road with a 4X4. Otherwise the walk would make it much, much longer. The views are spectacular, the whole time it's easy to forget you're on Oahu. The hardest part is getting in past the dirt road. The rest of the trail is a cakewalk. If you really want to go there, you're supposed to get permission. You do pass through Dole Pineapple Private property to get there. If you want to talk about this trail or any others in Hawaii, you can e- mail me Mike Uslan.

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