OHE August 3, 1998

Date: Mon, 3 Aug 1998 07:08:08 -1000
From: "STONE, J. BRANDON" (802005%cchpd@co.honolulu.hi.us>
Subject: little waimalu/ohe-l

Last Saturday, Aug 1, three of us decided to explore Little Waimalu Valley. That's the valley of the small sidestream that you cross after about twenty or thirty minutes on the Waimalu Ditch Trail. There is no name on the topo, but at least two groups of hunters have told me that they call the sidestream and valley Little Waimalu.

The Little Waimalu Trail veers to the right, away from the main trail, just before the descent to the sidestream. You've probably noticed it if you've ever done Waimalu Ditch. It contours along the 'right,' or Diamond Head side of the valley well above the streambed, following the ditch itself. A little map study afterwards revealed that Waimalu Ditch starts up Little Waimalu and then cuts 'left,' or Ewa, crosses Little Waimalu Stream, burrows under what I'll call Waimalu Ridge (the foot of which originates just after the sidestream crossing on the Waimalu Ditch Trail), and then emerges into Waimalu Valley proper before continuing alongside the Ditch Trail down to Waimalu Stream.

The trail is in good condition, and probably used by hunters, but we cleared away much dry Christmas berry and had to climb over or crawl under many fallen trees. Several ditch/tunnel openings are visible along the way. After maybe twenty minutes we found a splendid mountain apple grove and continued on only after pigging out. Not long after that, the trail becomes less distinct. We had to get down into the streambed and crisscross it several times, always looking for trail traces such as cut branches. There were no flags, so any you find now will be ours. After about forty minutes (though this is a rough estimate because of our clearing and mountain apple gorging), we came to a 60' waterfall, dry but attractive. I suspect that this waterfall is at about the 600' level, where the topo shows a very steep gradient for a short way.

We worked up to the 'right,' or Diamond Head side, following a barely visible 'trail' marked only by more cut branches. Up and up we went, stopping often to try and find the best route. The climb was not difficult, and should be straighforward now that we've flagged it. We managed to stay with our branch-cutting predecessor all the way to the top, popping out in a strawberry guava grove about 600' above the waterfall, probably at or near the hill marked 1260' on the topo. We ate lunch there in a prominent clearing slightly makai along the ridge trail; there's a slight, lone silk oak in the middle of the clearing, looking like a small Maypole. I like to think that the clearing is used for pagan ceremonies (indistinct bare footprints circled the silk oak and there were a few empty mead flasks strewn about).

After our break, we headed mauka on the ridge trail, which is very distinct, but overgrown. We soon left the guava and broke out into the native koa/'ohia/uluhe zone. We saw some very large sandalwood trees. After an hour of wading through the reinforced molasses of the uluhe, we got to the point marked 1574' or possibly farther. From that spot we had excellent views on all sides. Kalauao Stream and Aiea Ridge were on our Diamond Head side, and the head of Little Waimalu Valley, Waimalu Ridge, and Waiau Ridge were on our Ewa side. The Ko'olau summit was mostly clear, if distant, ahead of us. Had we continued we would have joined Waimalu Ridge, coming in from the left, in about twenty minutes. I know from a prior trip that there is a similar, if less-used, 'trail' along Waimalu Ridge, so one create a loop out of Waimalu and Little Waimalu Ridges. The access to Waimalu Ridge is right at the point on the Waimalu Ditch Trail where the trail turns sharply right, out of Little Waimalu after the sidestream crossing and back into the main valley. The trail goes up steeply at first and then levels out to a steady climb.

Having run out of time and energy, we did not do that loop, but backtracked along Little Waimalu ridge instead. At the pagan ceremony clearing (still no pagans in attendance) we continued makai along the ridge, passing under two pairs of transmission towers. The trail turns into a dirt road, finally passing a BWS tank and emerging in the gated community at the top of Onikiniki St. We walked through without incident (there was actually no evidence of sentient beings as we strode along the main street like a Star Trek away team), returned to our car, and departed about six hours after we began.

I have been loathe to continue mauka along Waimalu Ridge because of the prominent 'forehead' at the 1810' level. This feature is a sharp 200' dropoff on the mauka side of that point, easily visible from Aiea Ridge, Waiau Ridge, Waimalu Middle Ridge, etc. Have any of you tried to get past that point? Is it doable? Worth doing?

I have one more Waimalu-related question, but it concerns the Middle Ridge. Has anyone gone down the prominent sidetrail from Waimalu Middle Ridge into the valley on its Diamond Head side? This sidetrail branches off near the top of the second steep section, right where a large sprawling octopus-like koa tree straddles the Middle Ridge Trail.

We went up the Middle Ridge a couple of weeks ago (thanks for breaking through the uluhe just before we went, Wing!) and made it almost to the top. We got to the final steep push to the summit, where the trail ascends above the little stream that paralled it for a ways near the summit. The mist blinded us, the wind was significant, and when we hit a crawl section that seemed a little too thrilling considering the conditions, we reluctantly turned around. One image in particular stays with me from that hike: There's a waterfall very near the top, close to the trail on the left, and the small, narrow valley above it is guarded by several tall loulu palm sentinels. Beautiful.


Reply From: Wing C Ng (wing@lava.net>

I don't have detailed topo map at my present location, and so can't comprehend completely what you did re Little Waimalu. The 1820' forehead does present an obstacle, but some people claim that it _was_ bypassable. In any case, another way was to go Aiea Ridge, and descend the stream and then go up the ridge beyond the "forehead".

The trail that goes down Diamond Head side of Waimalu Middle is so conspicuous and has been intriguing me for a long time. My theory is that the valley D.H. of Waimalu Middle was heavily inhabited several hundred years ago, and W.M. was heavily used as trading route to the Windward Side (See Kalahaku Freeway Project, by Dayle Turner and Gene Robinson, back in Feb. '98). I saw several ridges with actual trails on them veering off D.H. side of W.M. The one you mentioned was probably the "natural" way to climb W.M., rather the one from the tip. As you noticed, the tip trail is impossible to keep open, it overgrows totally within 6 months, and the reason is that it is not "natural", and that's why ancient Hawaiians used that ridge we are talking about here.

Finally, I think you got _very_ near to the top of W.M. The _only_ dicey spot on the whole trail occurs about 2 minutes from the top, in the form of a narrow ridge section that is steep but has native vegetation to grab onto. If you had been able to see beyond 100 feet, you would have continued and gained the top.


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


Thanks for your comments on Waimalu Middle Ridge and the ridge that separates Kalauao Valley from Waimalu Valley, which I am referring to as Waimalu Ridge.

The side trail(s) off Waimalu Middle Ridge will have to be explored, then! One strategy would be to ascend to the koa tree, descend the prominent side trail, and then come out along the valley. If Hawaiians did live back there in large numbers, I think that one would expect to see remnant taro, bananas, etc. We looked farther down, along the stream on the way to Middle Ridge and didn't see any, but who knows what's farther up.

Also, I wonder what impact the ditch trail workers might have had on the portion of the valley near the head of the ditch. Presumably they lived down there for some length of time roughly a hundred years ago, right in the area that the trail crosses seven or eight times on its way to Waimalu Middle Ridge. Is that their mango tree at the second crossing?

Thanks for explaining the tip-topography of the Middle Ridge. Next time we'll go all the way.

I have long had my eye on a way down into Kalauao from Aiea Ridge, as you suggest, but haven't tried it yet. There are a couple of spurs that look doable just mauka of the 1925' spot on the topo. They go down to Kalauao Stream at a point where it swings close to Waimalu Ridge, which is low (in a couple of spots less than 100' above stream level) but very steep. If you proceed up the little side valley beside Waimalu Ridge (the stream forks at about 1400'; go up the left fork, which doesn't even have a stream shown on the topo), you soon hit a climbable spur that takes you about 200' up to Waimalu Ridge (it's directly above the 1600' contour label on the topo).

So many plans, so few weekends...


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