Mo'ole/Makuku Stream Trail (Hillebrand Glen)

Mo'ole/Makuku Stream Trail (Hillebrand Glen)

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Meeting knowledgeable people and receiving helpful information from them are benefits of posting my hiking tales on the 'net. One of the dozens of folks I've "met" is Peter Caldwell, a Kaiser hospital M.D. and, among other things, a hiking enthusiast.

Among the things Dr. Pete has shared with me is a 1910 Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club map showing trails in the area between Ka'au Crater in Palolo and Kalihi Valley, a 1916 article titled "Lost on Lanihuli" from a publication called *The Mid-Pacific* (the article describes a couple of hairy hiking adventures to the peak on the ewa side of Nuuanu Valley), and Pete's own account of his ascent to Lanihuli and summit campout under a full moon.

Through Pete, I also found out about a trail I had never heard about before. On 11/23/96, I checked it out.

Pete had provided me with the general area where I might find the trailhead for this hike--the point along the ewa side Nuuanu Valley where the access road leading to the Pali Lookout meets Pali Highway. Just makai of that point, said Pete, is a ditch that, if followed, would eventually lead to a water tunnel, to a stream called Mo'ole, and to some waterfalls.

Because the shoulder of Pali Highway is not the safest place to leave a vehicle, I decided to park at the mauka-most point of Nuuanu Pali Drive where it rejoins Pali Highway. From there, I dashed across Pali Highway, pack and machete in hand.

Immediately after crossing the highway, I hopped across a shallow roadside drainage ditch, scaled a gentle slope, and beelined for the fenceline meant to keep folks out of the forest-area beyond it. My plan was to walk along the fence until I found a place to vault over or crawl under it.

By chance, almost immediately I found a gaping hole in the fence some hunter or hiker had cut there. I had studied a topo map of the area and knew that I'd have to head into the forest away from the highway until I reached the ditch system the map and Pete had told me existed there.

And so I headed off into woods, following a faint trail and looking for ribbons others might have left in the area. The path meandered through the forest, its direction dictated by the location of the many thick hau groves growing there. Hiking trails generally follow the line of least resistance, and if trailblazers can avoid a thicket of hau (the line of most of resistance--you'd know what I mean if you ever tried to work through a hau tangle), they will.

In 15 to 20 minutes, I had hiked to the point where the trail joined the ditch system. From what I can gather from reviewing a topo map of the area, the manmade canal was constructed (when I'm not sure) to serve as a feeder to the reservoir system in upper- Nuuanu Valley. While most people know of the large reservoir-- the one the Board of Water Supply opens to the public for fishing on occasion--not many know that four reservoirs exist in Nuuanu. The largest and mauka-most is No. 4; numbers 3 and 2 are located along Nuuanu Pali Drive, and No. 1 is situated further down the valley by the Board of Water Supply baseyard across from Queen Emma's Summer Palace.

The trail, almost without exception, followed the left bank of the ditch. Pesky hau tangles crowded the path at times, and I paused to hack openings with my machete, so I wouldn't have to stoop over or proceed on all fours through these jungle-gym-like obstructions. In a couple of spots, hau dominated to such an extent that I hopped into the muddy (but waterless) ditch to bypass these sections.

In another 15 minutes, I had reached a junction where a dry Makuku Stream reached a concrete and stone ditch intake barrier. The ditch system and trail along its bank continued makai along the base of a ridge that separated Nuuanu Valley proper from a little known narrow glen where Mo'ole Stream flows. This ridge rises up to a distinct 1,900-foot pu'u one can see on the left (opposite the mauka-most reservoir) while driving up Pali Highway. From there, one can even follow the spine all the way to the Koolau summit near Lanihuli (elevation 2,770 feet).

As I continued to hike along the ditch, I was amazed at the enchanting ravines and gullies I passed. Several huge banyan and palm trees and dozens of smaller trees with umbrella-like leaves had sprung up there. As idyllic as my Edenic surroundings were, the clamor of vehicles racing up and down nearby Pali Highway reminded me that civilization was close at hand.

After winding along with the ditch for another 15 minutes, I reached its end at an ominous-looking tunnel. About a foot of water also sat in the ditch in the final 100 yards before its terminal point. Pete had told me about the tunnel and how he and some hiking companions had sloshed their way through it, coming out at Mo'ole Stream on the other side of the ridge. I was prepared to negotiate the tunnel, sticking my flashlight in my pack, but seeing the 5-foot high tunnel and the mucky conditions I'd have to endure to get to the other side, and considering that I was alone and did not know how long the tunnel was, I decided against traversing it.

Instead, I opted to climb up the ridge to scout out the area. Up I went, seeking--a good trailblazer that I am--the path of least resistance. Although a bit steep, the slope was manageable. I paused every so often to hack down guava branches and uluhe ferns blocking my way and to wrap ribbon markers around branches so I'd know where to head on the return leg. A quarter mile of upward progress netted a ridgetop perch where I could see makai toward lower Nuuanu, east toward the far wall of Nuuanu Valley, west to the nearby wall of the valley, and down 700 feet to a narrow hidden ribbon of Oahu that few people on Oahu know exist. From my location, I could hear but not see Mo'ole Stream. Partway up that valley, a 100-foot cascade spilled water to an unseen pool at its base.

Although I couldn't see any other cascades to bear this out, I'm sure other waterfalls must exist further up the valley. In that 1916 article I mentioned earlier, the writer refers to a "Hillebrand Glen" and "Seven Falls" in upper Nuuanu. I'm thinking "Hillebrand Glen" is the valley I was looking down into and the "Seven Falls" are located further mauka in the upper part of Mo'ole Stream. Further research and future hiking expeditions may verify my theory.

After enjoying the view, I veered right and scrambled up a barely discernible trail along the spine of the ridge. My progress was slowed a bit by the overgrown nature of the route. Clearly, few people had hiked/climbed along this ridge recently.

While making my way upward, I also hesitated about hacking away with my machete because of the increased presence of native Hawaiian plants--ohi'a, koa, naupaka kuahiwi, among others. I stopped just short of the 2,000 foot level along the ridge and decided to retreat.

At some point, I will return to not only proceed further along the ridge--perhaps all the way to Lanihuli--but also to negotiate the tunnel to explore the beauty of the hidden valley and Mo'ole Stream. I look forward to sharing my findings with anyone interested in learning more about this beautiful, little-known area on bustling Oahu.

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