Poamoho to Laie on the Koolau Summit Trail (1997)

Poamoho to Laie on the Koolau Summit Trail (1997)

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Patrick Rorie (prorie@hekili.k12.hi.us) and I collaborated to produce the following write-up. Pat composed the bulk of the piece and forwarded it to me. I made some additions and did some revising. Mahalo nui, Patrick.

Hope you enjoy reading about our odyssey.


On Monday May 26, 1997 (Memorial Day), Dayle Turner, Dr. Pete Caldwell, Patrick Rorie, and Patrick's buddy Laredo were driven to the Poamoho trailhead by Dayle's "little" brother Alika (much gratitude and thanks for his assistance).

They started up the trail at approximately 8:02 a.m. on a beautiful mostly sunny day. Patrick was first followed closely by his hiking sidekick Laredo. Pete and Dayle brought up the rear. Laredo had never been on this trail and Pat told him to enjoy it because things would get difficult later.

Much more difficult.

As is his custom, Pat blazed a fast pace for he wanted to get Poamoho over with--not that he didn't like Poamoho but it was only a prelude to the main event--the Ko'olau Summit Trail (KST). After just 28 minutes Pat and Laredo had reached the 1.5 mile marker. Pete and Dayle were behind but were still moving at a good pace themselves.

At around 9:11 a.m. Pat and Laredo were enjoying the incredible views at the summit of Poamoho just past the Cline memorial. Pete and Dayle joined them shortly thereafter. Visibility was good as the four men rested briefly and prepared themselves both physically and emotionally for their mammoth undertaking--a proposed six-mile leg on the wild and rugged KST to the top of the Laie Trail, which they'd descend to the windward side.

Pete took the ramrod at 9:24 as the group went left (north) and began to move along the KST. Almost immediately he discovered a dead wild boar lying directly in the path of the trail. The small black creature did not appear to have been the victim of a hunter's bullet or knife. Instead it must have passed away of disease or natural causes. The stench was horrid and the flies and maggots numerous as the three other hikers passed by the decaying carcass. If Wing Ng had been with the group he probably would have turned back, for he would have taken this as some sort of omen!

Initially, the trail was narrow and cut into the near vertical cliff as Pete and the others moved forward. Pat stopped a few times to look back and enjoy the view of the undeveloped windward valleys below and with particular affection at Pu'u Ohulehule.

After switching to the leeward side of the summit ridge things got really messy. Deep mud holes accompanied by clidemia and uluhe overgrowth created troublesome obstacles. Undaunted, the men continued their trek. Every once in a while the trail would become a wide contour around various pu'u.

Dayle, Pete, Laredo and Pat rotated in and out of the ramrod position as they made their way along the KST. About a mile from the top of Poamoho, the trail turned sharp right at a junction. Their conclusion was that the trail to the left was Pe'ahinai'a (lit. "beckon to the fish"). Since no fish were among them, the foursome headed right, continuing on the summit trail.

After crossing a windy grassy area, the group lost the trail. Pat and Laredo walked toward the crest of the ridge and discovered some landing mats Stuart "the guru" Ball mentioned in his backpacking book. Meanwhile Pete and Dayle remained on the other side of the grassy area. Pat took out a copy of Ball's book searching for a clue while Dayle busted out his notes on the trail. The men had a discussion; then Laredo prodded ahead and rediscovered the trail.

Pressing on, the four reached a windswept grassy area with the top of a waterfall notch on the right. Pete snapped off some photos while Pat descended for a closer look at the notch. The clouds remained high overhead but the men didn't have much time to enjoy the awesome windward views. Also by this time, the group came to the conclusion that trying to find lines around the numerous (deep) mudholes in the trail wasted valuable energy. For the most part thereafter, they plowed right through these pits with the result being a coat of brown mud from boottip to knee on all of them.

Laredo continued to lead as the men crossed another grassy spot on the windward side. It was at this time, in the area above Sacred Falls, that the group wandered way off the trail thinking it continued close to the windward pali. Pete pulled out his topo map of the region and after some discerning and discussion the men headed leeward through thick vegetation and rediscovered the KST. The four of them were amazed at how far leeward the trail took them away from the windward crest. Dayle was a bulldozer as he took the lead for a long stretch.

Pete and Patrick slowed down and stopped a few times when the group reached an open scenic section at the back of Kaluanui (lit. "the big pit") Stream, the stomping grounds of the Hawaiian demi-god Kamapua'a. Dayle and Laredo may have sensed Kamapua'a's presence and kept moving while Pete took pictures of the area below. Pat used Pete's picture taking as an excuse to stop and study the interesting mountainous formations. Perhaps he was looking for Kamapua'a, too.

Passing some metal landing mats on the right, the men went around a large bowl-shaped area where a small solar-powered weather station was situated. Pat recognized the area from a March '96 trip he had taken up the trail which the HTMC refers to as "Kamapua'a" or "The Nipple Trail." He told the others that Castle junction was not too far away and sure enough, a short time later, the group reached a rusty metal stake which marked the junction and lay across the trail. It was 12:24, the group having traversed the 2.6 miles from the summit of Poamoho in almost exactly three hours.

As the men took a short lunch break Dayle asked the tough question, "Do we go down Castle or try and reach Laie?" The group decided to do the latter since the conditions--a cloud-free summit spine, high overcast, and light breezes--were so ideal for the trip. The Laie summit was still 3.4 miles away. Could they do it? Well, they were confident they could.

After placing the Castle junction stake back in its proper vertical position Patrick took the ramrod. It was approx. 12:40 as the group moved methodically toward Laie on the KST. The views of Laie point and the islands off the coast were nice and indicated to the men how far they had to travel. Once again Pete took some pictures.

During a long leeward section in which the trail began to contour and was overgrown Pat stopped dead in his tracks and was frightened, for he had encountered another dead boar lying in the middle of the trail. He turned back to communicate his finding to Dayle who encouraged him to move past it as quickly as possible. Similar to the other dead pua'a they had seen earlier, the stench was horrible as thousands of maggots consumed the rotting flesh.

After working thru a landslide on a leeward-facing section, the group reached a huge rock in the middle of the trail and stopped for a brief rest. They looked toward the Waianae Range at Pu'u Kalena and Mt. Ka'ala which were free of clouds and also at the enjoyable views of the upper Kawainui valleys down below.

Further on, the trail widened and continued to contour having been cut into the steep cliff at the back of spectacular Kaipapa'u Gulch. It was a very enjoyable stretch. However, it didn't take long for the mud and overgrowth to return.

Just before entering a narrow defile, Patrick noticed the same disgusting scent he had detected a couple of times earlier in the day. He stopped immediately. "Where is the boar?" he thought to himself. Dayle told him to move forward but Pat didn't want to accidentally stumble or fall into it! As Pat inched slowly into the narrow defile, Dayle jokingly yelled out which startled Pat and sent him scurrying up the trail! As Laredo passed thru the defile he spotted the exact location of the dead pig just off to the side of the trail. Big buggah.

When Pat reached the stacked remains of the Kahuku Cabin he sat down for a rest. Dayle reached him soon after and Pete and Laredo walked down into the area to examine the debris which included pots and pans and a porta-potty. It was approximately 3pm by now and since the men knew that summit of Kawailoa was only a mile away, their energy and enthusiasm was boosted considerably.

After the short break, Pat led for a short time longer but then Dayle took over. Laredo was next followed by Pete and Pat who were once again slowing down or stopping to take photos of the back of Koloa Gulch and a beautiful waterfall off in the distance down Kawainui Stream.

While Patrick and Pete were passing several stands of loulu palm and lapalapa a black wild boar crossed in front of them at a high rate of speed. The men were startled but kept on going trying to catch up with their companions.

The trail contoured on the windward side below two hills and finally reached an open slope.

After working their way up thru a grove of Australian tea the four men realized that they were below the Kawailoa Ridge summit when they saw the collapsed wooden platform that marks that spot. Dayle could go no further without a rest but the other three continued to ascend until they passed a metal grating. Pat and Laredo collapsed as Pete took photos of them just below a flat topped mound, the same spot they had eaten lunch on the Kawailoa-Laie traverse (with Wing Ng and two of Pete's female colleagues) a few weeks earlier. It was approximately 3:55.

When Pat regained enough strength he sat up and looked around the area enjoying the views not available on the day of the Kawailoa-Laie trip. Next he got up and walked slowly to the area of the flat topped mound which faces the Waianae Range. He sat down just before a steep drop off into the forest below. The panoramic view from that spot was incredible! Laredo and Pete joined Pat and they could see the entire Waianae Range from Ka'ena Point to Makakilo. The north and south shores could both be seen and the forest below was lit up nicely by the afternoon sun. Pete took lots of photos and the three enjoyed the location as long as possible. Pete and Laredo tried to get Dayle to come up but were unsuccessful since he was half-dozing next to the trail below the mound. Pat, Pete and Laredo did not want to depart but Dayle urged them to terminate the rest-stop since 4:30 was fast approaching.

At approx. 4:45 Pete, Laredo and Pat made their way down the mound thru a grove of Australian tea shrubs in a marshy area. They rejoined Dayle and Laredo took the ramrod.

The final half-mile stretch of the KST was relatively uneventful except that Laredo and Pat missed the Laie junction (there is a sign there but it can be easily missed if one is coming from the Kawailoa direction). They continued a short distance toward Pupukea. At first Dayle thought they were exploring but once he realized they weren't about to stop he yelled for them to turn around. The views obscured during the Kawailoa-Laie trek were available this time. Pete who took lots of photos of the Laie coast below, especially enjoyed the beauty below.

Dayle led the way as the four men started the six-mile leg down the Laie trail at approximately 5:15. The upper section was overgrown and Pat wondered if they were still on the KST. He was also incredibly exhausted to the point of being delirious. Having only gotten 5.5 hours of sleep the night before certainly could have been a contributing factor.

Dayle surrendered the ramrod as the trail became relatively clear at a point where it switches to the right side of the ridge. After the group rested briefly, Pat and Laredo moved in front followed by Dayle and Pete. Laredo followed Pat closely as the two moved briskly down the graded path. A sizeable gap was created between Pat and Laredo and Dayle and Pete.

Once Pat and Laredo reached the Norfolk pine grove they lay down to rest. When they heard Dayle and Pete approaching a short time later they got up and continued down the trail, from here on mostly an eroded jeep road.

The sun set and darkness began to fall as Pat and Laredo reached the lower section of Laie Trail. At approx. 7:30 they passed the trailhead gate and turned right on a dirt road. As they walked from the dirt road onto a concrete one and into a neighborhood they saw Dayle's blue Cherokee, driven by his older brother, Kale, pass by. Since Kale didn't recognize Pat and Laredo, he continued mauka on the road until he encountered Dayle and Pete a half mile later. They jumped into the vehicle and drove back to where Po'ohaili Street intersected Kam Highway. Pat and Laredo where laying on the grass median strip there waiting for pickup.

Total approximate distance covered that day = 15 miles.
Total time on trail = 11.5 hours

As Stuart Ball would say, "a bear of a hike."


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