OHE August 16, 1999 (Kuolani-Waianu)

Date: Mon, 16 Aug 1999 12:21:22 -1000
From: Nathan Yuen (nyuen@lava.net>
Subject: Kuolani-Waianu Hike in Waiahole Valley

Yesterday, 22 of us met by the Waiahole Poi Factory at the intersection of Kamehameha Hwy and Waiahole Valley Road to restore portions of the Waiahole Ditch Trail for the upcoming HTMC Kuolani-Waianu hike. Included were Mabel Kekina, Lynn Agena, Thomas Yoza, Dayle Turner, Patrick Rorie, Pete Caldwell, Don Fox, Mark Short, Ken Suzuki, Grant Oka, Georgina Oka, Ralph Valentino, Carole Moon, June Miyasato, Jim Pushaw, Steve Brown and Lynne, Bill Gorst, Greg Kingsley, Jason Sunada, Anonymous-Wahine-Hiker (AWH) and Volker Hildebrand.

After carpooling to the trailhead at the end of Waiahole Valley Road, we very quickly entered a charming bamboo forest. As we meandered through the maze of tall segmented dark-green stalks, the sunlight filtered through the canopy of leaves overhead and danced on the moss-carpeted forest floor below. Shortly thereafter, we encountered a section covered in light-green uluhe ferns where a handful of the more intrepid--Dayle Patrick, Don, Pete, Mark and Ken--veered-off to strike for the section of the Koolau summit near the terminus of the Kipapa Trail. The rest of us continued onwards to restore the old Waiahole ditch trail that was constructed decades ago to permit laborers to build and maintain a series of subterranean passages through the rock. These series of tunnels and flumes capture water from the wet windward valleys of Oahu and divert the flow to irrigate the much drier plains of leeward Oahu.

Pushing onwards, we crossed a small stream and traveled along a dirt road for a short distance before re-entering the forest. Much to our chagrin, we were confronted with heavy growths of clidemia, strawberry guava, and rosy apple saplings. Hacking away with machetes and sickles, we ducked under a series of huge fallen trees, sometimes on all fours, until... we stumbled upon a cute little frog! And it had the most beautiful mottled green and black pattern! No bigger than the size of a quarter, I recognized it as the same type of frog that populates Lyon Arboretum in the vary back of Manoa Valley, the Poison Arrow Frog, which secretes a poison from it's back that Indians in the Amazon apply on arrow heads. Anyway, after marveling at this beautiful little creature, we pushed on towards the back of the valley where the Waiahole Ditch trail contours in and out of the numerous crenellated folds in the Koolau mountains.

As we hacked our way through thick clidemia on the contour trail, sections of which were paved in a cobble stone-like manner, we soon came across a subterranean passage into the mountain-side from which water gushed-out and flowed over the trail in an impressive waterfall that fell some 30 feet to the valley floor below. Wading into the pool above the waterfall, we splashed around in the cool refreshing waters for a bit and swooned over Lynne's delicious chocolate fudge brownies before pushing onwards. Shortly thereafter, we stumbled upon a section of the trail with many huge beautiful light-green ekaha (bird nest ferns) growing as epiphytes on the branches of trees. One tree had 8 of them growing at different levels, with some ferns up to 6 feet across. What a stunning sight!

After rounding a large ridge that projected itself from the back of the wet valley, we stumbled upon a nice view of the windward coast with Mokoli'i (Chinaman's Hat) off-shore. So beautiful, dry and mosquito-free was this spot that we decided to clear it for a lunch spot. As a result, we cleared the immediate area and chopped large branches of iron wood, guava and he'e (octopus tree) to open the view. As we consumed our lunches, a loud sound interrupted us! First sounding like a single gunshot, additional were heard like a string of firecrackers, which progressed into a loud crashing sound! Landslide! So startling was the loud sound that several of us jumped up and prepared for the landslide to fall on us. But fortunately, the sound died down and nothing fell on us. Wondering whether our summit-bound compadres had either caused or were affected by this landslide, Thomas called them via walkie-talkie. Great concern erupted in the group when we first learned that Ken was "badly maimed" by falling rocks. But fortunately we learned the jokesters were only kidding and that while Ken narrowly escaped a falling rock (see Dayle Turner's post "Kipapa-Windward, last try" dated August 15, 1999), our compadres neither caused nor were affected by the loud landslide we heard.

So onwards we pushed along the old ditch trail. Jim and I eagerly hacked at the trunks of white maha whose wood is so soft that one can chop through a 6 inch diameter trunk in a single blow. As we proceeded onwards, we encountered several sections of the contoured trail that were wiped-out by landslides, many of them littered with loose shards of fractured dike rock that easily slid down the steep incline. Kudos to Ralph, Grant, Thomas, Thomas, Jason and Lynne for their pick and shovel work to restore these sections of the trail.

Shortly thereafter, we reached another subterranean tunnel and flume system. But alas... they were completely inaccessible behind a locked gate and covered grating so we could not refresh ourselves by dipping in the cool crystal clear waters. In order to pass the time (waiting for the others to catch-up), we played with the seed pods of impatiens which burst by turning themselves inside-out and disperse their seeds high into the air. We also poked at and split-opened several odd fig-like fruits that grow directly out of 12 inch trunks in strange-looking bunches. We later learned from the AWH that these strange trees are a variety of ficus.

After regrouping at the tunnel, we decided to continue towards Waikane Valley rather than heading back. As a result, we turned left (uphill) when we reached the fork in the road and continued along the contour trail. As we made our way towards Waikane Valley, we were alas... confronted by more fallen trees, landslides, and overgrown vegetation--which meant even more work for us. Toiling to open the trail to Waikane, we chopped at fallen trees, hacked at overgrown vegetation, and recontoured the trail over landslides to reopen the trail.

As we toiled onwards, we were pleased when we reached the object of our travail--the ridge that separates Waiahole from Waikane Valley! Deciding that we had done enough work for the day, we veered-off the contour trail to make our way down the ridge to the bottom. Making our way through stands of strawberry guava, we reached the bottom of the ridge and followed the dirt road for a short distance until we reached a stream-crossing. As we pushed our way through uluhe we finally reached the bamboo forest through which we had come and made our way back out to the trailhead.

When we finally reached our vehicles, we were just elated to rejoin our compadres, and... to eat Mabel's goodies. We were especially lucky that she made this fabulous strawberry cream cheese dessert. So delicious was this treat that some of us could not resist a second serving. And as is usual, it was nice talking-story with everyone, munching on chips and salsa, and planning the next hiking and backpacking adventures. What a great time we had!

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