A new avocation I'm thinking of delving more into is mountain biking. Goaded on by a good friend, Bill Melemai, I went on my first mountain biking adventure along the Waikakalaua Trail, located in the central Oahu near Wahiawa.

My adventure began just north of Mililani at Bill's Waipio home. Bill, his 11-year-old son Willie, and I mounted our two-wheeled vehicles and shoved off around 11 a.m. Bill took me on a bike tour of the Waipio backroads, past the new Oceanic Cable headquarters in the Mililani High Tech Park, and onto Kamehameha Highway adjacent to Wheeler Air Force Base. Opposite of the Wheeler main gate, we turned east on Santos Dumont Boulevard, a paved road that leads to the Army's NCO Academy, military training areas, and hiking trails.

The road remains paved for about two miles before it eventually turns to a dirt. As we pedaled along, we passed army training sites, including camouflage tents and sandbag entrenchments. Spent ammo casings littered the ground around these sites, and Willie even found a dummy grenade (at least we hoped it was a dummy).

For the most part, the "trail" is along a dirt road and I was thankful for being aboard a bike on this day, for one of aspects of hiking I dislike is traversing boring dirt roads. Give me a mountain path any day.

The highlight of Waikakalaua is its tunnel system. Bored through a small mountain is an underground series of tunnels used by the military folks in World War II for assembling aircraft. About a quarter mile long, the main tunnel stretches from one side of the hillside to the other. A short cross-tunnel bisects the main artery about mid-way through. Before biking through the tunnel, we fetched flashlights from our packs to help us negotiate the pitch black underground roadway. Having been through the tunnels before, Bill led the way while offering tidbits about what he had observed on previous treks.

We stopped about halfway through. Using our flashlights, we scanned the graffiti on the tunnel walls (I'm always amazed at the locales where graffiti appears). Bill led us through a short side tunnel the eventually swung back to the main one. Pausing again to look back at where we began, the sunlight at the beginning of the tunnel was just a distant splotch. So dark was it that I remarked to Bill that I hoped some idiot hadn't placed a rock or piece of debris on the road because if someone had, we wouldn't have seen it until we went crashing to the ground.

Before long, the glow of sunlight appeared ahead, and after 10 minutes in the darkness, we had completed our underground jaunt. We dismounted after emerging from the tunnels to snap a few photos and to grab a sip of water. Our next goal was to find the swimming hole along Waikakalaua Stream.

The dirt road swings back in the direction of trail's beginning point but along the outer perimeter of the where the tunnel system is. A hundred yards before the tunnel's main entrance, a trail stretches down a grassy hillside to the stream below. Another 100 yards from the road is a swimming hole--stagnant and uninviting on the day we were there. A couple days after a good rainstorm flushed it out, the spot would be a good one to take a cool dip in.

No one wanting to jump into the murky water, we pushed our bikes back up the trail to the road. Instead of returning via Santos Dumont, we took an alternate route down an overgrown road/trail that generally followed Waikakalaua Stream. Early on along this route, we had to dismount often to negotiate our way over rocks and roots. After 20 minutes of traveling like this, we were able to power our way through the vegetation that choked the ancient road. Bill said that the route we were travelling was a popular one for motorcyclists in years past but fell out of favor when more expansive trails near Mililani became more to their liking.

Eventually the road opened up as we neared civilization. Suddenly, we found ourselves biking through a still-not-complete housing project that had stretched north up the river valley from H2. Bill said that eventually, homes would stretch further up the valley until the natural setting we had just traversed would be swallowed up--gone forever.

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