OHE August 16, 1998 (b)

Date: Sun, 16 Aug 1998 20:58:31 -1000
From: Wing C Ng (wing@lava.net>
Subject: True Super Hike-Papali-Castle

Brandon, Kipper, Bill and I started shortly after 8, going up Papali, join the Nipple Trail, go to Castle junction, and then down Castle.

The Papali portion is a "bear of a hike". It is steep, sustained steep in many places, and looooong. Took 4 hours to get to Nipple junction, which is longer than going up via Nipple. Reason is mainly that the route is not cleared too much.

I was totally exhausted at the Nipple junction, and people looking at me would think I am done for. Fortunately, as John Hall and Paka found out, that is only an illusion, that look of utter exhaustion. The cleared trail takes over at that point, and I actually led (since none of them has been to that portion) and got to Castle junction in good time (1h 50m), arriving at 2:00 pm

There we had lunch and then proceeded down Castle. The fuel gave me even more energy, and I actually went down fast, arriving at the trailhead at 6:10.

Finally, all my fuel is used up, and I was pooped walking out to the highway, arriving at 6:45.

After getting some soft drinks, Paka drove by and offered congratulations. He said he will join in some future backpacking trip to the Stream. I opined that the easiest way might be to go up Poamoho, KST, and _then_ down Castle. He finished Kaau at 3 and then did a doubleheader of Sacred Falls, and arrived at Punaluu just in time to meet us.

This hike is much more exhausting than the Konahuanui-Olympus hike, which now rates a "normal hike". This is truly a Super Hike, and I instantly lost 7 pounds after the hike!, which no doubt I shall gain back from a post-hike sumptuous dinner :-)


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

I'll add a little bit to what Wing has already said about our Sunday outing. Kipper (aka Chris Walker), Wing, Bill (aka the Stuntman--you'll see why), and I started from the Hau'ula Papali Loop trailhead at 8:25 Sunday, August 17.

[We later found out that two others who were planning to meet us somehow took a wrong turn coming from Honolulu, somehow got lost on H3, and didn't make it to the trailhead until 8:40 (8:00 had been the agreed upon starting time). They then went looking for us up the other Hau'ula Loop, on the Kahuku side of Ma'akua Gulch and continued above that loop along the ridge for a long way, until they finally realized that we were on the other side of the gulch. I look forward to hearing in detail what they found up there; I think I remember a writeup by Dayle about that ridge.]

I've written before about the Papali route. We went up the twelve switchbacks and to the top of the freeway-like loop trail. Then we continued along the ridge, moving in a very leisurely fashion. In two hours we'd made it to a nice little snack spot and in 90 minutes more, at noon, we connected with the Kamapua'a Trail. The weather was perfect all day, by the way, generally sunny or partly cloudy, with a little misty rain just before we got to the junction.The Papali Ridge Trail (as I'll call it) is now very obvious and reasonably clear. If any of you wish to check it out by doing a loop, I'd suggest going up Papali and down the Nipple the first time rather than the reverse. The reason for that recommendation is that spotting the Papali Ridge turnoff as you are going up or down Kamapua'a might be tricky. We put two pink ribbons at the junction, but didn't make it very obvious because we didn't want to lure anyone down the 'wrong' way. For map readers, the trail joins Kamapua'a right at the head of Puaniki Gulch, immediately before a significant 2000' hill (or 'local maximum' as Bill, the engineer, called it).

One surprise for me was that the next portion of the trip, from the Kamapua'a/ Papali junction to the Kamapua'a/Castle junction, took much longer than I had expected: we arrived two hours later at 2 pm. True, we were moving pretty slowly, taking in the views and enjoying ourselves, but still... There were at least two major, sustained steep stretches that probably helped account for the length of that leg. Up until very near the end, Ma'akua Gulch lies on the right and a long side valley off of Kaluanui (Sacred Falls) Valley lies on the left. Finally you break free of the smaller valley and the genuine Kaluanui, vast by comparison, stretches before you. The Castle junction lies ahead at the bottom of a saddle in the trail, marked with about eight ribbons, as I recall.

We took a 30-min lunch break before descending to the stream, arriving 45 min later at 3:15 pm. One of the most dramatic and beautiful sights of the day was our first glimpse of the stream from high above. To my knowledge this must be the highest large stream on the island. The Castle junction lies at about 2400' and it crosses the stream at about 1960', and at that point the streambed is very wide and open and meandering. There was a lot of water in the stream Sunday, but even so, the large, smooth boulders in the streambed were mostly dry and above the flow. The view from above, in terms of size and shape and flow, reminded me of Waimano Stream from the ridge trail just beyond the saddle and well before the broken dam, but at that point Waimano is less than 600' in altitude. I look forward to exploring up and downstream on a future trip. There were no deep pools right near the crossing, but I think there have to be some nearby.

On up the other side we went, passing the flat area beside the stream presumed to be the site of Jim Castle's original cabin and, just behind it, the little lean-to made of sticks. The trail contoured very gradually up to the ridge that separates Kaluanui Valley from Punalu'u. After about an hour of gradual contouring the trail passes through a slot or gateway and you are suddenly treated to an expansive view of Punalu'u and much more, including Ohulehule looming to the right. As far as I'm concerned, the whole point of the trip is enjoying the elevated stream and the views from the ridges on either side.

From here on down, the Castle Trail turns into the Castle Trial (sic). The first loooong switchback contours ever-so-gradually along the cliff and it's in pretty good shape, which is comforting considering that you are hanging on the side of a significant cliff. It is on this stretch that Stuntman Bill earned his nickname. Kipper was in the lead, Bill was next, then Wing and I. I saw Bill walking along in front of me and then all of a sudden he just dove off the trail. He was soon snared by vegetation even though the slope was nearly vertical, and his head wound up a couple of feet below trail level. My brain must have been dulled by that time because I don't recall experiencing any surprise or fear or anything. Stuntman, who probably does this all the time, knew just what to say: Grab my elbow! Kipper hauled him back up and we went on our way. Bill didn't seem shaken or upset even though he couldn't have chosen a more dramatic spot to pitch himself over the side. It turned out that the trail had slumped about a foot, the hole was covered by vegetation, and Stuntman stepped right into it. What can I say? Be careful boys and girls! Don't try this at home. No, wait until you're on a thin ribbon of trail clinging to a 2200' cliff!

We then came to a very steep spur leading down into Punalu'u which now bears a trail that cuts off some of the Castle Trail switchbacks. Apparently, landslides have made those switchbacks unusable. We butt-slid for about 400' until we got to an operative part of Castle, though we soon had to do another, shorter buttslide. That cutoff trail isn't good coming down, but I don't think it would be good coming up, either. Luckily, there's quite a bit of vegetation on either side of this bobsled run to disguise the sheer dropoffs on either side. When we weren't intentionally on our butts, we were falling on them unintentionally during this stretch.

Finally we got back on Castle and, while there are some clear stretches, there are many more that are overrun by clidemia, thimbleberry, and other pests. The trail worked back into a couple of large dank gullies where the footing was made difficult by fist-sized loose rocks under our feet and by several water-cut gaps in the trail that forced us into various manhole maneuvers. Did I mention the many small landslides that we had to traverse? Eventually we came to the more-or-less straight run down a ridge to the valley floor that we had long been watching for. A one word description: endless. The strawberry guava alley went on forever, occasionally relieved by uluhe. Many thanks to whoever marked this so well with orange ribbons. Somewhere toward the end of this stretch, we crossed a larger trail, maybe even a dirt road. Caution is required, because it would seem very logical to simply follow the road, but in fact the trail resumes on the other side, plunging on through more guava. Everything must end, though, and quite suddenly we emerged onto a genuine dirt road, right by a white sign that read, "Castle Trail--Everyone Welcome," or words not quite to that effect. The time was about 6:10 pm.

By 6:45 or so we were in the little store beside the highway, guzzling some cool drinks and getting ready to go. As Kipper and I were getting into Wing's car for the ferry back to Hau'ula, who should pull up but Pat Rorie! We chatted briefly and then took off into the dusk, noticing that it took us ten minutes or so just to drive back to our starting point and realizing that we had come a very long way since that morning.

We had originally reopened the Papali ridge to upper Kaluanui Valley because we wanted a better backpacking route than the Nipple option. I still think that the Nipple route is unsuitable for backpacking for most mortal. I now know that Castle is not a good option, access problems aside. The steep cutoff stretch, the overgrown conditions that push you off the trail, and other problems make it unsuitable and, in my opinion, unsafe. I think that the Papali route is the best choice among the three, but it's no piece of cake. It took us almost seven hours to get to the stream from the trailhead! Granted, we could have moved quicker, but then again, we didn't have heavy loads. I don't know the KST in that area, but as Wing said, it may be quite reasonable to approach the upper Kaluanui area from Poamoho and the KST.

Many thanks to Wing for guiding us up Kamapua'a and down Castle. We would never have had time to make it to the stream and return the way we came. And I wouldn't have wanted to find my way down Castle without his help because there are a few not-so-obvious twists and turns that could have taken us valuable time to figure out.

Kipper says he'll show the Papali part of this route on 'Let's Go Hiking' in September (delayed from this month) and the Castle portion in October. Even though I've been on the show several times as a bit player, I've never seen the show because I don't have cable, but I think I'll get someone to tape these two for me.

In closing, here's a quote from "The Mid-Pacific" magazine, 1916, p. 461. I think the speaker is Loren Thurston (a name in the news lately). "Another place which I think is the most beautiful tramp on this island, and there are only six ridges which I have not climbed over, is the Hauula Trail. You can zigzag up there on a graded trail to an elevation of 2000 feet. It is such easy walking that we went up there once, my wife and the children, who were 6 or 7 years old, had lunch and came back to the hotel by 3 o'clock in the afternoon. You can go through a cleft in the side of the valley and come to a big stream of water, the only one at that elevation on this island. It makes a good camping ground. There is so much water around that you find yourself right in the midst of the most tropical vegetation. Jim Castle had the trail cut up there in connection with the water survey. He had a building with a roof put up there which would accommodate a dozen people. Whether it is there now or not I do not know. Some years ago we made an appropriation of $100 and spent $60 clearing out two places where the falls came over the path. I recommend to you most heartily that you have somebody look into that trail and make that one of your expeditions. If you want to camp, you won't find any more delightful place on the island."

Clearly, the Hau'ula Trail he refers to is the Castle Trail. It is hard to imagine the trail being in such good condition that you could have taken little kids up there and been back by 3:00 pm! The cleft is surely the gateway I described and the elevation is somewhat greater than he stated. And what hotel is he talking about? The cabin is long gone, of course. He speaks as if the trail were already old in 1916 because they (HTM I think) were needing to repair it 'some years ago,' before he made this speech. Sixty bucks went a long way in those days. There could be someone still alive, an octo- or nonagenarian, who went up Castle when they were young and perhaps stayed in the cabin. It's odd that I never see hiking reminiscences in the newspapers because I do see stories about urban or plantation life in the old days.

That quote is what first drew my attention to the area and I'm very happy finally to have been there.


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