OHE April 26, 1999 (Wahiawa Hills Ramble)

Date: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 20:47:48 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Wahiawa Hills Ramble

I enjoyed Nathan's write-up and thank him for submitting it. As he mentioned, HTMC trail clearing yesterday was Wahiawa Hills, and during the outing a bunch of us took a wrong turn, ended up somewhere unexpected, and didn't get to experience the pool and swimming Nathan mentioned.

As he pointed out, the day was generally a pleasant one with mostly sunny skies and only a slight drizzle in the early afternoon. We met at the end of California Avenue by the water tower, and were trailbound not long after 8 a.m. after a briefing by trail boss Mabel Kekina. I have to give Mabel credit. She's still nursing a foot injury and can't hike, but she still turns out to give us instructions prior to trail clearing outings. In between, she passes the time by going home to bake snacks for the post-hike gatherings or she heads to the beach, or she visits friends. She could very well stay at home and sleep instead of driving to a distant trailhead to meet us in the morning, but that's not Mabel's way. I salute her for her dedication.

Not far from the start is a steep descent down a spur I've dubbed Hangman's Hill (my friend Bill Melemai, a fireman, told me about having to haul up the body of a guy who hung himself from a tree on the slope). Hangman's Hill bottoms out at a small stream and the trail then climbs another pu'u and descends steeply to cross the north fork of Kaukonahua Stream. About midway down this steep descent, a contour trail crosses the slope. At that point, one can head left briefly to eventually reach another trail that descends to the stream and crosses it.

On the other hand, it is also possible to follow the spur just about all the way down to the stream and then veer right down a slope to cross a bit further upstream. This latter crossing is a new route the club has used in recent years; the downstream crossing is the traditional route and the one Stuart Ball describes in his book.

We all proceeded to the new route crossing. When we got there, Grant (Oka) told us Mabel wanted us to use the traditional crossing downstream. Grant also mentioned his desire to build a rock bridge at that crossing. Most of us headed to the downstream crossing site, some bashing about through the brush on the bank of the stream and some backtracking up the spur to the contour trail I mentioned earlier. Meanwhile, a handful of folks continued clearing on the new route.

When we arrived at the traditional crossing, sure enough, Grant began piling stones and moving logs to form a bridge. Greg Kingsley lent a hand as did Georgina (Grant's daughter), Larry Oswald (he supplied a long rope that is now strung from bank-to-bank, and Larry's daughter Ginger. The rest of us pushed on to continue trail clearing or formed a peanut gallery on the far bank to poke fun at the efforts of the bridge builders (to their credit, the bridge builders continued working while ignoring our chiding). Hopefully, there'll be no significant rain to obliterate the bridge between now and the club hike a couple weeks from now.

After the crossing, there is a steep uluhe slope to climb. Ken Suzuki, Thomas Yoza, June Miyasato, Naomi Nasu, Lynn Agena, and Carole K. Moon did nice machete work to open up this section. Ken mentioned that a large sandalwood tree is situated along the slope and that in years past, when turnouts for trail clearing were much smaller, they had to bust tail to clear uluhe hill.

At a shaded spot where the ridge leveled off, Ken and Naomi fished out cookies from their packs and shared the snacks with us. After the short break, we continued to ascend, reaching a ribboned junction with a trail that came in on the right. For some reason, the handful of us who reached the junction together continued straight on what appeared to be an old jeep road instead of turning right. This turned out to be a mistake, but, of course, at the time we didn't realize it.

A minute later, we met Lynn, who had also taken the wrong turn and decided something was amiss when she started to run into spider webs across the trail (a good indicator). She was relieved to see us and joined our wrong-way group, who also included Thomas, Greg, and Kim & Judy Roy.

In a few minutes, the old road intersected a more distinct jeep road that ran east to west. As we would figure out later, if we had turned east (right) on the road, we would have reached a junction with the Wahiawa Hills loop. For some reason, however, Thomas and I felt that heading west (left) was the way to go. I should mention that we had no map with us, and we were proceeding with bearings provided by Thomas' compass and landmarks we could discern. I mentioned to Thomas that I had given thought to bringing a map along but decided against it since I didn't anticipate deviating from the usual loop route.

A later map review indicated that on a west tack, the better jeep road emerged at the mauka side of Whitmore Village but before we got close to Whitmore, we encountered another old jeep road that veered north toward Poamoho Ridge. Following a hunch, we took the older road, which featured a steep descent, a short climb, and a steeper descent. At a level spot at the bottom of the steeper hill, we stopped to assess our situation. The road continued to descend but it shortly became quite overgrown.

Not encouraged by the deteriorating state of the road, the others showed signs of hesitation but I urged them to continue on. And they did, with thoughts of mutiny on their minds, I'm sure. The old road narrowed to a trail and then disappeared altogether as it neared the bank of a sluggish Poamoho Stream (we didn't know what stream it was at the time). We slithered down a muddy bank, crossed the stream, and then grunted and groaned our way up a non-trail on a steep slope covered with small dead (or dying) trees. I overheard some rumblings from the peanut gallery during the tough scramble, but oxygen debt brought on by steep ascending has a way of stifling non-complimentary comments. About two-thirds of the way up the slope, we found a trail that ascended a spur up the hillside, and we followed this path upslope until encountering a metal pipe pounded into the ground.

At the pipe, a spur descended steeply to the right (we'd descend this spur later after lunch) while the more obvious trail continued upslope along the ridgecrest. Upslope we went. Not far after the pipe, the trail became much more distinct, with a well-worn tread of red dirt and frequent chainsaw cuttings indicating that someone, probably dirt bikers, had been using this path fairly regularly. In the distance to the north, we could hear dirt bikers zipping around, leading to this assumption.

After following the tread for maybe ten minutes, we ascended a small hill and emerged on a broad ridge covered by paperbark trees. Hanging from some trees were plastic bottles and pieces of lumber used as targets by gun enthusiasts. As I scanned the area, I had a feeling I'd been there before. Further visual examination told me I had, specifically during a overnight campout with my friend Bill Melemai earlier this year.

The broad ridge is accessible via a pine field road that begins off of Kamehameha Highway by the Dole pineapple pavilion. This is the same vehicular access point used when heading for the Poamoho trailhead, except that at the two-mile mark in the pine fields, one would veer right at a junction instead of bearing left to continue to Poamoho. Eventually, this pine road turns rough, requiring a 4WD vehicle, and if one continues mauka far enough, the place where we hiked will be reached. Eventually, the 4WD road terminates, and a trail continues mauka toward the ridge where the Poamoho trail sits.

All this meant that yesterday we were far off course in our quest to acquire a point along the Wahiawa Hills loop route, but the others mentioned they were glad to have the opportunity to do some exploring and to hike to a locale they'd never visited before.

It was noon when we arrived at the broad ridge, so we found a clearing under a paperbark tree to sit down and eat lunch. As we ate, a couple of dune buggies rumbled mauka past us, their rugged-looking, mud-spattered occupants waving a friendly greeting to us.

Among the lunch time conversation topics were possible post-lunch return routes, a future backpack trip involving a big loop that would begin and end at California Avenue, or a HTMC super hike using the same loop (the loop, btw, would use the same general route we had taken yesterday to get to the broad ridge, continue to the road leading to Poamoho, ascend the Poamoho Trail to the summit, head south on the KST, and then finish with a descent of the Schofield Trail).

After a half-hour break, Thomas roused us to saddle up so we could begin the task of finding our way to the Wahiawa Hills loop. The plan was to backtrack until we reached the pipe we'd passed earlier and then descend the spur to see where that would lead us.

After the pipe, we scrambled through the branches of a fallen tree, then descended steeply on the narrowing spur. As we neared the bottom, we encountered several new ribbons, and we followed these to the bank of Poamoho Stream. We descended the bank, crossed 10-foot wide section of the stream, and then scrambled up a muddy embankment on the far side. We pounded upslope, following pig trails when available and ramming forward when not. After maybe twenty minutes, we emerged at the base of the steep segment of the old jeep road where we'd stopped to get our bearings earlier.

We were surprised to emerge where we did, but at least we knew where we were. Hills we had descended before lunch now had to be climbed, and my attempt to jog up the steepest one ended about halfway when my lungs reached near-bursting point.

When we reached the well-worn east-to-west jeep road, we followed it east until we arrived at a recognizable junction with the Wahiawa Hills trail (map point F [page 98] in Stuart's book). Since it was after two when we arrived there, we decided to head south (the short way back to California Ave) instead of continuing all the way around the loop. The former took us less than an hour while the latter would have taken us perhaps double the time.

When our lost-sheep group reached the trailhead, most of the others had already come out and departed for Wahiawa District Park where Mabel was waiting with refreshments for us.

There was a minor incident on the way back when Greg took a left turn after ascending Hangman's Hill (turning right would have returned him to California Ave. in a couple of minutes). Thomas, noting Greg's delayed arrival at the trailhead, backtracked, went down steep Hangman's Hill (this says much for Thomas' character), looked around for Greg, and climbed back up after finding no trace of him. Greg eventually made his way out after finding himself on the wrong side of the fence that separates the Army's East Range from the residential area along California Avenue.

Kudos go out to Bill Gorst, Jay Feldman, Charlotte Yamane, Volker Hildebrandt, and Nathan, among others, who occupied the ramrod positions around the loop and did fine work clearing the trail of uluhe on the latter half. The lost sheep can't claim to have done much in the way of trail clearing, but we had an adventure-filled day nonetheless.

I also would like to mention that yesterday was a special day for my grandmother, Martha Kealohapuni Dudoit. I think of her often and even moreso yesterday, her 79th birthday. Hauoli la hanau, e Tutu.

Next Sunday, to prepare for an upcoming super hike (May 8, co-led by Pat and I), the HTMC gang will be working on the Waikane Trail, which climbs in a spectacular fashion to a junction with the Koolau Summit Trail below Pu'u Ka`aumakua, a panoramic lookout point Pat has written much about. For those interested in joining us, we'll meet at 8 a.m. on the makai side of Kamehameha Highway across from Waikane Valley Road.

Safe hiking to all,


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