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Pounders is a well-known windward Oahu bodysurfing beach located between the peaceful communities of Hauula and Laie. Fewer people know of the hiking trails across Kamehameha Highway from Pounders. Fortunately, I had the chance to explore two ridges in in the area--Kaipapau and Koloa--thanks to Steve Brown and the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club.
About three dozen folks and I were blessed with a sunny Oahu day for our hike (well, it started out that way). We met initially at the city park just Laie-side of the Hauula Shopping Center (this area was formerly owned by the Catholic Church, and a youth camp once occupied the spot. Steve, the hike leader that day, asked us to carpool to the end of Kawaipuna Street (about a mile from the park) and park our vehicles there. Our trek would commence at that point.
While waiting to shove off into the mountains, I met Jarrod Kinoshita, who I'd hiked with on several previous occasions (Pu'u Kaua, Kaau Crater, Kawainui), and his uncle. Steve Brown also introduced me to a couple visiting from Texas--Steve and Cheryl Pervier--who had read some hiking stories and HTMC info I'd posted on the web.
Introductions and greetings completed, our journey for the day lay ahead. From the end of the Kawaipuna Street, we hiked up a dirt and gravel road and through a construction site for a Board of Water Supply reservoir. According to our hike leader, the construction work hadn't begun when he had done some trail clearing and marking a couple weeks prior. The bulldozed sections of the slope seemingly obliterated the trailhead, or so Steve thought.
Following a few minutes of ambling about after taking a turn up the wrong ridge, we descended and ventured further mauka along the base of the ridge until we found the ribboned point where we would begin our upward trudge. Save for some brief attempts at switchbacks, the path basically climbed through thickets of Christmas Berry straight up the ridge.
Tightly bunched together at the beginning, the group stretched out during the unrelenting ascent. I'd say the climb to the spine of Kaipapau Ridge took about 20 to 30 sweat-inducing minutes for most of us, longer for others. Turning oceanward from the ridgetop, tired hikers accepted a whisper of a breeze and a pleasing view of the Hauula-Laie coastline as prizes. Facing upridge, we could see the summit of the Koolau range about 2.5 miles distant.
We wouldn't venture that far that day; instead, we'd continue climbing steadily up the ridge for about a mile or so until Kaipapau ridge intersected with a connecting neck that eventually joined Koloa Ridge to the north. Along the uppermost part of the crossover section, the HTMC trail-clearing gang had hacked out a lunch spot with an awesome mauka view of the cloud-draped summit bulk of the Koolaus. The Kawailoa Trail, which begins in the foothills above Haleiwa, tops out along that stretch.
A couple of aspects I find interesting about club hikes are chatting with others (when not inflicted with slope-climbing breathlessness) and eaves-dropping on in-hike conversations. By listening to a mid-twentyish foursome, for example, I found out that three were just visiting Oahu, one was attending the University of Hawaii, another had graduated from the University of Washington, and yet another was from Washington D.C.
While I enjoy the company of others, my primary mindset while hiking is to move along steadily, being careful to avoid the desire to race and being attentive to the sights and sounds of the environment. I enjoy the HTMC's go-at-your-own-pace philosophy and because of my preference for not dilly-dallying while on the trail, I often spend large chunks of time traveling alone after starting with a couple dozen folks.
And so it went that day, the descent phase along Koloa Ridge passing quickly--an hour, I'd say. I lost the trail on two occasions. In the first instance, I found the correct line after a five minute reconnoiter; in the second, a wrong turn (I went left when I should have headed right) led me to Koloa Stream, a squeeze through a barbed-wire fence, and a traverse through a weed-strewn pasture.
I eventually found my way from the pasture to the turnaround area of a gravel road marked by a flag pole and a plaque dedicated to the memory of Laie-area Boy Scout who had met an untimely death. The gravel road continued several hundred yards to Kamehameha Highway just Hauula-side of Pounder's Beach. From there, it's a 5-minute walk down the highway to the beach park starting point.
If you're interested in completing the same route we did that day, I'd suggest hiking with a partner and leaving one car at the beach park and another at the end of Kawaipuna Street. If I hike the trail again, I'll probably try the route in reverse (for variety). Whatever way you choose, be prepared for a stiff but enjoyable outing in the windward Oahu hills.
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