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I hiked Kaukonahua with the Sierra Club on November 3, 1996. Not knowing where the starting point for this trail was, I met hike leader Randy Ching and assistant Scott Sabado at the Church of the Crossroads (off University Avenue), the SC's usual pre-hike meeting place.
Randy briefed the 15-20 of us there about the hike and gave us directions to our next meeting place--a spot he referred to as "the hole in the fence" near the end of California Avenue in Wahiawa.
The drive from lower Manoa to Wahiawa took 30 to 40 minutes and sure enough, just as Randy had described, I reached the "hole"-- actually a driveway through a chainlink fence--just short of the terminal point of California Avenue. The plan was to re-group there with those who had driven over from the Church of the Crossroads and others who had driven directly to that spot.
From there, Randy asked those folks who had trucks or 4WD vehicles to transport others over a semi-rutty, semi-muddy dirt road for the 15-minute drive to the actual trailhead. Since I drive a Cherokee, I volunteered my vehicle and four other thankful hikers hopped in.
As it ended up, four other folks offered their vehicles as transport. That settled, our 32-member group rumbled off down the road, stopping briefly at a military outpost so Randy could present our hiking permit (one is required to get into the section of the East Range where we would hike).
As I mentioned, the road was somewhat rutty and muddy but our five-vehicle convoy made it to the launch point for the hike without trouble.
The place where we began that day's hike is actually the starting point for the Schofield/Waikane trail. Stuart Ball describes this route in his informative book (page 92). Ball, by the way, offers another approach route to the trailhead (via the military road across from Kamehameha Highway entrance to Wheeler Air Force Base).
The actual hike, according to Randy, would be much shorter than the 5-mile distance stated in the blurb about the trek in the Sierra Club newsletter. In all, I'd say the total out-and-back distance we hiked that day was 2 to 2.5 miles.
We began our trek at the top of a pu'u where a distinct bend in the road is situated (if you have it, see Map point B--page 94 in Ball's book). From that point, a trail contours around the right side of the pu'u and descends a gentle but semi-slick hillside. Uluhe ferns abounded in the area as did impressively-sized ohia and koa trees. For the most part, the pathway we took contoured to the sides of a ridge at an elevation of about 1,700 feet. It was clear to me that much work had been put into cutting the contour route. Unfortunately, Scott and Randy were unaware of the trail's construction history.
After a half-mile of hiking, we reached a junction where the trail forked. We headed left at that point, descending on a trail that would take us to Kaukonahua Stream. The trail leading to the right was the continuation of Schofield-Waikane which proceeds for another four miles to the Koolau summit overlook into Waikane Valley on the windward side.
The descent to the stream (which is actually the North Fork of Kaukonahua) was in the vicinity of half a mile. Enchanting views of a spectacularly green, undeveloped valley lay to our left as we made our downward slip-and-slide. Along the way, Randy pointed out a good-sized Loulu palm he had planted on an adjacent ridge. A mile and a half due north of where we were was the ridge the Poamoho Trail sits atop.
The river reached, Randy directed us to spots along it where we could de-pack and rest, swim, eat lunch, or just hang out. Most of the group headed left downstream to a large huddle of boulders. A non-conformist [g], I grounded my pack near where the trail reached the river, took off my shirt, and back-flopped into the 5-foot deep river (a tenderfoot, I kept my shoes on).
Since Randy announced we'd be hanging out in the area for an hour, I waded and dog-paddled for a few minutes before deciding to do some exploring upstream. A half-dozen of the group had already ventured up the river, several stripping down to swim togs and plopping into the water. I ventured about a quarter- mile, spotting a couple decent sized pools and stopping to observe a member of the group try his luck with fly-fishing (he had no luck, I found out later).
Our hour completed, the members of the group re-assembled at the point where we first reached the river and hiked up the trail we had descended. I'll undoubtedly return to the area at some point, for ample opportunities to explore both upstream and downstream still exist.
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