Kamanaiki Trail

Kamanaiki Trail

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Rising up in the middle of Kalihi Valley is a prominent ridge called Kamanaiki. I hiked the trail atop Kamanaiki for the first time with the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club in the latter part of 1996.

The trail begins off of Kalihi Street at the top of steeply sloping Manaiki Place. About 30 hikers gathered at the foot of a concrete stairwell at the apex of the road awaiting the go-ahead from hike leader Joe Bussen. Then we were off, a friendly resident greeting us as we climbed the stairs past his home. I began counting the steps as we ascended but my mind drifted from that task as the more vital chore of summoning enough oxygen to my lungs took precedence. If I recall correctly, in all, about 150 steps needed to negotiated before we hit the actual trail.

The trail passes through a pleasant stand of ironwoods and to the right of a large water tank. Cool wisps of wind sighed through the trees and seemingly dozens of roosters trumpeted their calls to one another from the backyards of homes in the valley below us. To the left as we climbed was Kalihi Valley proper and Likelike Highway which I traverse daily to travel to and from my home in Kaneohe and Pearl City where I work. To our right was Kamanaiki Valley, home to a hundred or so homes, some of them quite sizable and new-looking.

Be prepared for some stiff climbing in the first 30 minutes of the hike as the trail moves from about 250 in elevation to 1,300 feet. The fairly steep ascent slowed many members of our hiking party, and I used the opportunity to move from the rear of the pack where I started the hike to a place near the front.

I reached the designated lunch spot/turnaround point in about 75 minutes, second to a tanktop-clad haole dude, a HTMC hike regular. The spot, by the way, is at a plateau marked by a semi-fallen koa tree. The elevation there is 1,575 feet and is at a point just slightly mauka of Burmeister Overpass across the valley.

I used the opportunity to explore an overgrown yet marked trail that continued up the ridge. I pushed my way through uluhe ferns, past a smattering of koa trees and thick stands of guava for about 20 minutes before I decided to retreat. From past conversations with fellow hikers, I knew that the ridge eventually connected with the one that begins atop Alewa Heights, and that ridge continues to the Koolau Summit to Pu'u Lanihuli. I hope to hike the entire route at some point.

Such a venture wasn't in the stars for me that day, and I returned to the turnaround clearing where a goodly number of the group, including hike leader Joe and the famed Stuart Ball, had settled down for lunch. Joe talked about trying to clear a trail down to Kamanaiki Stream to add a valley component to the trek but time and heavy vegetation squelched that idea.

Because the HTMC allows hikers to move forth at their own pace, I decided to take advantage of that policy and head back on my own. On the return leg, I passed a dozen or so folks still bound for the lunch spot, greeting them and answering questions about how much further they had to travel. Moving down the trail, I also took the opportunity to enjoy some sweet solitude (which I love), and to scan Kalihi Valley's magnificent scenery (which I also love). The ridgelines and forest-scape of the upper valley have a beauty only one who loves the mountains can really appreciate.

In about an hour, I had made it back to my car (I parked it on the ewa shoulder of Kalihi Street just mauka of Manaiki Place). Although Kalihi Valley isn't the optimal place to leave one's car unattended, nothing was amiss (or missing) from my vehicle when I returned. At the trailhead, I met the tanktop dude, who said that from the turnaround point he had ascended a ridge makai to Kamanaiki Stream and followed a rough, sometimes non-discernible trail that came out on Nihi Street in lower Kamanaiki Valley. Following him on that route would have added a nice touch to my adventure but I wasn't displeased with the way my day turned out--a pleasant several hours spent on Kamanaiki.

Give it a try. You'll enjoy a solid workout hiking to the turnaround point and be treated to some superb views.

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