Date: Tue, 20 Apr 1999 10:49:04 -1000 From: Patrick Rorie (email@example.com> Subject: Castle-KST-Pauao Ridge Masochism
As is my weekly custom, I phoned my hiking buddy Laredo Murray on Friday night to suggest a jaunt we could do the next day (Saturday, April 17th). Sundays are usually reserved for HTM trail clearing. I bounced some possibilities off "Rainbowman" including a combo of the Castle Trail and Ko'olau Summit Trail (KST). Curious as to how long Castle would take and desiring to experience both the lower and upper sections in one day (something I had never done before), I talked Laredo into joining me for the trek. Where we would end the loop was still up in the air (Waikane? Pauao Ridge?). Kent Bien made it a threesome.
Due to my normal Saturday morning committment, the three of us didn't meet until 9:30 a.m. that morning (a beautiful, sunny day with clear summits). >From Laredo's home in Haiku Valley we took two vehicles (Kent followed me in his truck) and headed for Kahana Valley. I parked the pat-mobile in the grassy area just outside the Hawaiian Homelands community in Kahana then Laredo and I jumped into the back of Kent's truck for the ferry to Punalu'u Valley. Kent drove as far into "Green Valley" as possible (a locked gate blocks further progress), parked on the side of the road and our group continued on foot past the gate marked with typical "Do not enter", "No Trespassing", "Keep Out", "Enter at your own risk" signs.
We walked gingerly yet briskly along the dirt/gravel road hoping to reach the Castle trailhead without confrontation. Unfortunately, while tramping along a straight, somewhat open stretch, a small rust colored Samurai truck approached in the opposite direction. I knew exactly who it was and told myself "busted!". Kent, Laredo and I moved to the side of the road as the vehicle slowly pulled up beside us. "What are you guys doing in here?", the Portugese/local dude began. I put on my best puppy dog face/humble pie attitude and communicated that we simply desired to hike the Castle Trail. After the man in the truck asked for a permit, I explained that upon attempting to get one last year, I got turned down because the owner of the company didn't know me despite a strong recommendation from Maryanne Long of Councilmember Steve Holmes' office. Reluctantly, the dude allowed us to proceed but told us that we never saw him.
Pressing on and greatly relieved, Kent, Laredo and I arrived at the trailhead at 10:56 a.m. and immediately began hiking Castle in a canopy of eucalyptus trees. Further ahead, we ascended gradually toward the steep west wall of Punalu'u Valley through a long stand of strawberry guava, uluhe and hala. Took a brief water break at a clearing (elev. 442 ft) then reentered the forest. The trail became a graded contour and worked in and out of three gullies in the makai direction along the base of the steep west wall. Gained elevation via five switchbacks, uluhe sometimes clogging the footpath.
After the fifth switchback, our group veered left onto a ridge which bypasses all but the final switchback. With Kent leading the way, we climbed steeply along the ridge to the final switchback and went left. Enjoyed spectacular views of pristine Punalu'u Valley below as well as Pu'u Piei across the valley, Turnover, Pu'u Manamana, Ohulehule, Kaneohe Bay above the low point between Manamana and Ohulehule, Pu'u Koiele, Pu'u Ka'aumakua and the Ko'olau Range in the distance as the three of us traveled along the uppermost contour section. Passed through a narrow defile and proceeded to a flat grassy area above a waterfall notch (approximate elev. 2,000 ft and a possible campsite).
Leaving the windy overlook behind, Kent, Laredo and I rejoined the Castle Trail at 12:31 p.m. and transitioned into Kaluanui Valley, the relaxing sounds of birds singing and the flowing stream welcoming us. While approaching Kaluanui Stream, Kent bid farewell (he had to be at work in Waikiki by 4 p.m.), turned around and headed back toward Punalu'u Valley. Prior to fording the waterway, Laredo and I studied the remains of Al Miller's bivouac and the campsite nearby. Although modest in size, it did not appear to be an overly damp or boggy tract.
Once across Kaluanui Stream, the two of us contoured above and away from the stream via two switchbacks, then out of the valley reaching the junction with the Kamapua'a Trail (Waiahilahila Ridge) at 1:17 p.m. marked with three pink ribbons. Before accomplishing the last segment to the junction, I pointed out the convoluted topography behind the stream crossing in the back of the valley (the location of the Kaluanui headwaters), a region I would love to explore someday.
Following a short water/snack break, Laredo and I continued on the Castle Trail pushing through overgrowth bound for the junction with the KST. Excellent views of the Laie coast including Laie Point and Mokuauia (Goat) Island were ours and we noticed a stream bed in the gully below. Recognized a plethora of native flora during the approach to the summit.
At 2:09 p.m. I nearly collided with a rusty metal stake which had fallen over (the Castle/KST junction marker). Together, Laredo and I shoved it back into the ground in its proper place next to a grey PVC pipe.
Now on the KST, the two of us headed south intent on making Poamoho in 2.5 hours. Visibility was good and we discovered the remains of a wooden structure, studied a large bowl-shaped area to windward featuring a solar-powered weather station and traversed "an open scenic section at the back of Kaluanui Stream. The low hills there are the highest point on the trip at just over 2,800 feet."*
A short distance later, I halted in disbelief, a look of horror on my face. I had spotted a wire fence similar to the one located on Ohikilolo Ridge and Makua Rim with a large coil beside it. "Not another fence!!!" I exclaimed in anger to Laredo. We departed the Summit Trail for a closer look. The fence encloses a ten acre parcel of low grass and native (rare?) vegetation. The large coil means that more territory will be fenced in the future.
With no time to linger, Laredo and I resumed the hike and took pleasure when the clouds opened up to leeward revealing the Waianae Range and Wahiawa Plain. However, by the time we reached the grassy area above a waterfall notch (a prominent landmark along the KST), clouds encompassed the summit ridge. As we got closer to Poamoho we lost altitude and dropped below cloud level. Punalu'u Valley came into view with the low ridges in the back of the valley connecting to the Ko'olau Range like spokes of a wheel and a green, circular, grassy region at the beginning of the ridges forming the hub.
Finally, at 3:57 p.m., Laredo and I came to the Poamoho overlook and sat down facing leeward slightly below the top of a small grassy hump (elev. 2,520 ft). The place is protected from the wind and would make a decent locale for a one man tent in a pinch.
The two of us relaxed, hydrated and consumed food until 4:10 p.m., then descended the hump to the Cline Memorial and got back on the KST in the direction of Schofield-Waikane. Gusty trade winds pummeled the socked in summit crest and rain showers drenched Laredo and I. Although overgrown, leeward sections of the KST were more desireable to hike because the strong gusts combined with wet clothes made for a chilly experience while on the windward side. We stopped briefly to inspect the new Poamoho Cabin equipped with four bunks. The front door, a porch and window face windward and the aroma of new wood permeates the interior air. Because of time constraints, Laredo and I kept moving enjoying the magnificent windward shelf segment and passing through another narrow defile.
At 4:47 p.m. we reached the junction with Pauao Ridge marked with a single red ribbon (the ridge separates Kahana and Punalu'u Valleys and is named after the massive peak it connects to). Without delay and still in the fog, Laredo and I commenced the downward leg looking for other ribbons and a swath in the uluhe (on September 7th of last year, Dayle Turner, Steve Poor and I climbed the ridge from the Kahana water tank). I assumed the ram-rod position and we lost the swath a few times but made steady, albeit slow, progress. Laredo's ham strings began to act up and the skin on and above my knees sustained deep abrasions!
We descended steeply dropping below the clouds, partakers of excellent vistas into Punalu'u and Kahana Valleys both Ohulehule and Pu'u Piei socked in with clouds. Eventually, the ridge leveled off at a saddle but new uluhe choked the "trail". Gained a pu'u but found out that it was only the start of roller coaster action. Caught a break when, at long last, we made it to the section of the ridge used by pig hunters. As Pu'u Piei got closer and closer and at the pinnacle of each hump, Laredo and I looked on the Kahana side of the ridge for the water tank. "We'll see it from the next one!" Laredo predicted. Meanwhile, the threat of darkness motivated us to move as fast as possible.
At 6:51 p.m. at the top of a pu'u we spotted the water tank and immediately descended a side ridge following what looked like a trail. Unfortunately, we took the wrong side ridge and the water tank got further and further away the more we descended. I made a decision and we bailed downslope to the floor of Kahana Valley as darkness set in. Fortunately, it didn't take long to reach the valley floor and the two of us ended up on a trail. We took out our flashlights and headed makai.
At 7:23 p.m. Laredo and I emerged from the woods at the water tank fence and tramped along the concrete road soon after. While passing through the Kahana Hawaiian Homelands community another shower drenched us, one final humiliating kick in the crotch!
Approached the pat-mobile at 7:51 p.m. bringing to an end one of the most painful and bizarre day hikes I've ever been a part of.
Notes: I counted atleast fifteen lobeliads between the Castle/KST junction and the KST/Pauao Ridge junction. There are many lapalapa trees along the KST in route to Poamoho and groves of Loulu palms dominate the surrounding landscape.
* Ball, Jr., Stuart M. THE BACKPACKER'S GUIDE TO HAWAI'I. Honolulu: University Of Hawaii Press, 1996.