Waimea Valley

Waimea Valley

A tried and true hiker through and through, I've nevertheless begun delving into another form of backcountry trekking--mountain biking. On a Saturday morning in mid-May 1996, I travelled along a path that few folks have ventured upon--the stretch of the Palaa Uka Pupukea military road between the Pupukea Boy Scout camp and the back of Waimea Valley.

The journey began at the gate just past the Scout camp at the end of Pupukea Road. Accompanying me on my journey were Bill Melemai (like me a Kamehameha grad) and his 11-year-old son Willie. After carrying our bikes over the gate and signing in at the hunter/hiker station (optional), we rolled down the crushed-coral road.

After a short ride of several minutes, we reached a junction with a gated road on the right. Posted on the barrier was a menacing sign posted by "Pupukea Ranch", chock full of spelling and punctuation errors (e.g. "No bicycle's allowed," "Violator's Will Be Proscuted"). We had seen this sign on previous treks along the road, and coupled with rumors we had heard about a nasty, weapon-toting land owner who had stopped trespassers at gun- point, Bill and I had strong doubts about scaling the fence and biking down into the valley of the damned. Our curiosity and sense of adventure, however, were stronger than our fears and we ventured onward with a two-pronged strategy if confronted: play "Joe Aloha" or "Joe-Lolo" (i.e. we'd try to win over anyone who stopped by using local boy charm or by playing dumb).

After negotiating the gate, we hopped on our bikes and rumbled cautiously down the steep, curvy road. In minutes, we had descended to the bottom of the valley and crossed the Elehaka Stream. Along the way, we passed several side trails/roads, one which we later were told led to the back of Waimea Falls Park. We had already decided that we'd stick to the main road only, for we didn't want to linger longer in the valley than we had to.

The valley itself was exquisitely lush with koa, guava, mango, avacado, coconut, kukui, and macadamia nut trees spread throughout it. The road, save for some rutty sections caused by rain run-off, was fairly easy to negotiate. We rode when we could and unsaddled and walked when the way became steep.

After the initial descent and ascent, we reached the top of ridge in the valley where a clear road came in on the right and veered makai. At that junction, a sign warned passers-by that the road was closed to military traffic. The main road continued mauka (east) through an unlocked chain-link gate (we later found out that this gate was meant to keep cattle from wondering up the valley). We followed the road on the right for a quarter-mile thinking that it would lead us out of the valley. When it appeared that the road would lead to a dead-end (we later found out it did), we retreated to the sign-marked junction and headed mauka up the valley.

As we continued along, we could see the road cut along the side of the ridge about a half mile up the valley. After contouring mauka (east) for a while, the road descended and swung south toward the side of the valley opposite of Pupukea. We crossed a low-lying concrete bridge over Kamananui Stream, ascended steeply to the top of another ridge and descended to another valley. Among the things we saw were an old cattle corral on the right, a side-road leading to a verdant coconut grove on the left, and a beautiful pool next to another bridge that crossed the Kaiwikoele Stream (we would have swum there if we weren't so spooked about being confronted in the valley). We even heard barking dogs in the distance (hunters?) and saw cow pies splattered along the roadside.

We began our final ascent out of the last valley--walking our bikes much of the way--and two and half hours after we began, we reached a gate at the end of the road on the southern side of Waimea Valley. We met a couple of hunters and a truckload of their dogs at the gate. At first we thought they might be the aforementioned gun-toting landowners; however, they turned out to be friendly local boys who congratulated us on our strenuous journey and filled us in about many of the sights and sideroads we had just seen. We talked story with the hunters for 20 minutes or so, listening intently to their stories about hauling out pigs from the wilderness and tracking down wild cattle in remote valleys.

On the other side of the gate we had reached a junction where the military road intersected with Ashley Road, a dirt by-way that headed west (makai). Palaa Uka Pupukea continued south/southeast into the mountains past the trailheads to Kawailoa, Kawainui, and Kawai Iki trails and eventually ends at Helemano Military Reservation. We decided to head makai down Ashley and in less than half an hour of coasting down a mostly smooth dirt road, we had reached Kamehameha Highway near Chun's Reef, a popular surfing spot between Haleiwa and Waimea Bay.

I had planted my truck at that point along the highway and after loading our red-dust-covered bikes into it, we drove back up to the top of Pupukea to retrieve Bill's truck, all the while recounting the happenings of our eventful day.

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