OHE April 4, 1999 (Waimalu Ditch)

Date: Sun, 4 Apr 1999 21:46:42 -1000 (HST)
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Waimalu TM

Today's HTMC trail maintenance outing was Waimalu Ditch, and a sizable gathering of volunteers was on hand, including Mabel Kekina, Grant & Georgina Oka, Lita Komura, Carole K. Moon, June Miyasato, Jim Pushaw, Bill Gorst, Jason Sunada, Nathan Yuen, Ralph Valentino, Judy & Kim Roy, John Hall, Ken Suzuki, Gerald Leao, Stuart Ball, Lynne Masuyama, Carmen Craig, and Lester Ohara.

At 8 a.m., we met just before the gated community at the end of Onikiniki Street, which stems off of Kaonohi Street. As she always does, Mabel, our trail maintenance honcho, briefed us and then sent us on our way.

The route was in decent condition and appears to be used frequently by hunters and hikers. We did touch-up work while marching along, with no blockages, blowdowns, or landslides of any significance to report.

About 15 minutes into the outing, rain poured down with no let up. While crossing Little Waimalu (stream), flowing with more force than I've ever witnessed before, Bill Gorst asked if anyone had a rope. Although crossing it at the time wasn't a problem, the water level could rise as the day progressed, a potential dilemma when we came back this way. Accordingly, a rope would be a good thing to have just in case.

After Little Waimalu, the trail heads makai for a spell to contour around the front of a subsidiary ridge that separates Little Waimalu from Big Waimalu. After about five minutes, the route returns to its mauka contour progression, and during this mauka march, we passed an array of small waterfalls pouring down small gullies and notches above and below the trail. These cascades were a treat to see on an otherwise rain-soaked day.

Before 10 a.m., we arrived at the first crossing of Big Waimalu. Because a high level of chocolate-brown water rushed by at the crossing (and there were several more stream crossings forthcoming), the decision was made not to go on further. But what to do? It was so early and if we headed back then, we'd have been back at our cars by 11.

So we went into exploration mode. Right before the first crossing point of Big Waimalu is a grassy hillside that we often use as a break spot. Normally a view of the Waimalu Middle Ridge and the Ko`olau summit can be had from the hillside, but since it was raining, gray clouds obscured mauka views.

While facing the summit from the hillside spot, we did spot a faint trail that contoured off to the right (the main trail that crosses Big Waimalu descends off to the left), and we followed the faint trail to see where it led. After five minutes, it led to a wall of uluhe. No dice. Time to head back. Or was it?

Stuart, it seems, was in an adventurous mood and convinced us to press on to see what we could find. So we plowed forth, taking the route of least resistance along slippery slopes populated with uluhe, scattered ohia, ti, and the ultimate trailblazing stopper, hau. We found signs--an old ribbon, a large mango tree, several banana trees--that we were on or near the old ditch trail.

But after bashing about for twenty minutes, we arrived at an impossible blockage of hau. Although hardy trail clearers, we're not fools, and we knew pushing forward made no sense, so back we headed.

When we returned to the grassy hillside to regroup, I decided to explore the spur that ascended to the crest of the subsidiary ridge that separates Little and Big Waimalu. I had always thought trail existed on this spur, and sure enough one does. As I climbed higher and higher, calling down to my colleagues to follow, only a couple of times did I need to use my machete to clear the way.

Perhaps because it seemed I was headed off to oblivion or perhaps because of the adverse weather, only Bill Gorst followed. About halfway up, he turned back, though, so I was alone to find what I could find. From the grassy clearing, I needed about 20 minutes to reach the crest of the ridge, atop which is an obvious, albeit slightly overgrown, trail.

I followed the ridgetop trail mauka for ten minutes, stopping at a pu'u where I could see the ridge's rollercoaster progression to where it joins the ridge that comes up from Onikiniki. By my reckoning, I'd need about 20 to 30 minutes to reach the intersecting point of the ridges, unless the trail became completely overgrown and progress was reduced to bash-and-crash.

I decided not to continue mauka and instead turned back to follow the ridge makai to see what I could find. The trail swath continued and I did some minor clearing as I hiked. Occasionally, I whooped out to determine where my colleagues were. Once or twice, yells were returned but after a while my whoops echoed off the surrounding hills without reply. Of note was the weather, which had made an amazing turn for the better. In fact, the Ko`olau summit was miraculously cloud-free.

At noon, I found myself at a high hilltop with a panoramic view. I stopped there to eat lunch, admiring the sight of Waimalu Middle ridge as it rose up to embrace the Ko`olau crest between Waiau and Aiea ridges. For lunch I had a gardenburger, some jalapeno pretzel bits, and a couple of aspirins [g], and by 12:30, I was on the move again, continuing makai down the ridge.

Not far beyond my lunch spot, I spotted a new pink ribbon tied to the branch of a koa tree. Soon thereafter, I passed a powerline tower and then spotted fresh cuttings and more ribbons along the trail. Earlier, John Hall, Gerald Leao, Nathan Yuen, and Jason Sunada had broken away from the main group to explore a route in the side valley where Little Waimalu flows. It became apparent to me that the ribbons and cuttings were likely theirs and that I'd run into them at some point.

But I never did catch up. Instead, I continued to follow the ribbons, which eventually veered off the ridge crest to descend, sometimes steeply, to Little Waimalu Valley. About halfway down the side of the ridge, I stopped to gaze at a broad, roaring waterfall feeding Little Waimalu. Eventually, the ribbons led me to Little Waimalu itself. Before crossing it, I cut a branch from a guava tree for a balance aid and forded strongly-flowing Little Waimalu without problem.

Along the bank of Little Waimalu is an old ditch trail. At several points on the left were openings where the ditch tunnel was exposed. About ten minutes from the crossing, I reached the junction with the regular trail that leads down to the crossing of Little Waimalu.

I reached Onikiniki just before 2 p.m. and found out I was the last one out. The main group had arrived back at 12:30 and had eaten lunch at the trailhead. Some had already gone home.

Before we left, hiking out was a group of five backpackers, including HTMC members Janice Nako-Piburn and her husband, Don. With them was Chris Walker, who produces the local cable show, "Let's Go Hiking." They'd been camping beyond where we'd turned back and had to negotiate several high-water stream crossings on the way out.

After today's outing, potential exists for spicing up the club's Waimalu Ditch hike. Hopefully, a ridge element can be added at some point so that it will be more than a straightforward out-and-back trip.

Perhaps Gene Robinson can offer some insights since Waimalu Valley is his backyard.

Safe hiking,


REply from: "STONE, J. BRANDON" (802005%cchpd@co.honolulu.hi.us>


The spur you ascended from the grassy clearing on the main Waimalu Trail is called "Burned Ridge" according to one friendly hunter I talked to back there one time. You might remember that the area used to look a lot more "burned" than it does now. That hunter said that there was a trail up "Burned Ridge," and you have now demonstrated it.

A little over a year ago, Steve Becker showed a few of us a route he'd found or made along the larger ridge that you got to via "Burned Ridge." Let's call that larger ridge Little Waimalu Ridge. You came off Little Waimalu Ridge a slightly different way than we did, hitting Little Waimalu Stream mauka of the main trail. We came straight down the nose of the ridge, popping out just where the main trail switches back from a makai to mauka direction after the Little Waimalu crossing point.

You can also consider using the main Waimalu Ridge that continues behind Onikiniki St. It connects with the Little Waimalu branch of the ditch trail. Or if you want a genuine valley-hopping marathon, start from the Waiau Trail, descend into Waimalu from just before the Big Dip, enjoy the pools, ascend Burned Ridge, head mauka on Little Waimalu Ridge to the connection with Waimalu Ridge proper, head makai on Waimalu Ridge, descend into the back of Little Waimalu Valley, and then exit via the ditch trail to Onikiniki St.

This Saturday we were in the general vicinity, up the Aiea Ridge Trail, then heading down into Kalauao Valley. On the topo you can see a little knob above the stream, just above the "O" in the large word "KALAUAO." That's as far down as we got. Next time, we'll get to the fork in the stream beside the "O"; there's no fork on the map because they forgot to ink in the left branch of the stream. (The only mistake I've found on those quad maps!)


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