OHE August 2, 1999 (KST Trip--Day 1)

Date: Mon, 2 Aug 1999 19:57:15 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: KST Backpack trip--Prologue and Day 1

== Prologue ==

I first began hiking with the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club in the summer of 1994, and after my first outing (Hauula-Papali), I recall going home and looking over the schedule of hikes conducted by the club in the coming months. One outing, a backpack trip on this mysterious thing called the Ko'olau Summit Trail, caught my interest, particularly its "masochists-only" designation.

"What is this Ko'olau Summit Trail and what kind of people subject themselves to the kind of torment the hike blurb implied?" I asked myself. With only a vague clue what the summit trail was like or where it was, I concluded that only friggin nut cases tried such a thing. A wet-behind-the-ears neophyte who thought Hauula-Papali was at the upper echelon of hike routes, I made some strides in the years that followed and continued to head to the mountains with the club, with friends, and on my own to gain experience, conditioning, and confidence.

Flash forward to the present. I've become a member of the HTMC and have led a few club outings. Moreover, in a circumstance I no way would have predicted back in '94, I have volunteered, along with Patrick Rorie, to coordinate the 1999 KST backpack trip. Joining us will be ten other club members (friggin nut cases) who have agreed to subject themselves to a three-day, two-night, mud-slogging adventure along the spine of the Ko'olau Range, starting at Pupukea and ending at California Avenue in Wahiawa.

As a sidenote, I must let everyone know Pat deserves credit for making the trip happen. By tradition, the club has conducted the KST backpack every five years. Since the last trip was in '94, to maintain tradition, a outing needed to be scheduled this year. However, no one stepped forward to make sure the trek was on the club schedule except Pat. And since we've been working together to conduct other hikes for the club, when he asked if I'd like to co-lead the trip, I readily agreed.

We had no problem reaching the stated max of ten hikers; in fact, Pat and I agreed to up the limit to 15. Those five extra spots were snagged quickly, with a couple folks on the wait list. With some last-minute bow-outs because of work commitments and the like, the final roster numbered twelve: Kay Lynch, Brandon Stone, Ken Suzuki, Carole K. Moon, June Miyasato, Thomas Yoza, Dusty Klein, Rob Geer, Mark Short, Steve Poor, Pat, and I. This was a group of strong, experienced hikers (in the pic, I'm in the red shirt on the far right).

== Day 1, Friday, July 30==

The pre- and post-hike transport arrangements took some doing, but everything fell into place nicely with the help of my brother, Alika; my friend, Bill Melemai and his wife Donna; Kost Pankiwskyj; Mark Short's son, Ryan; and Steve Poor's wife, Esther. Much appreciation to all these folks.

After staging vehicles in Wahiawa/Mililani, the soon-to-be dirty dozen assembled at the end of Pupukea Road by Camp Pupukea, a boy scout camp. Meeting time was 7:30 a.m. under partly-cloudy but clearing skies. Before we shoved off, Pat gave an interesting pre-trip briefing, explaining the tradition of the club's KST backpack and the rigors of the trek we'd be embarking on. Quoting Stuart Ball's backpacking book, Pat reminded us that this would be a challenge we'd long remember.

Preliminaries done, we headed off into the mountains, beginning with an initial three-mile trudge along a dirt road to the northern terminus of the KST, where Kay and Brandon posed for a picture at a trail sign. In my pack, I was lugging 5 liters of water (in a 100 oz. camelback and a 2.5 liter platypus bottle), a glo-orange zephr wind jacket, a Eureka Gossamer bivy tent (2.5 lbs), a ground sheet for my tent, a Z-rest sleeping pad, an esbit stove and half a dozen fuel tabs, a small pot for boiling water, a SafeWater filter bottle, a small first-aid kit, one set of clothes for sleeping (polypropylene long johns and socks), and a mummy bag liner.

For food, I had two Alpine Air add-boiling-water meals (Mountain Chili and Forever Young Mac&Veggies). These would be my Friday and Saturday night dinners. For breakfast and lunch I'd dine on Power Harvest bars, Clif bars, a Boulder bar, and a tube of "glop," a homemade concoction of peanut butter and refried beans. Without the water, my pack and its content weighed under 20 lbs, a circumstance I'd planned for and was happy with. Mark and Brandon were also hiking with the lightweight philosophy in mind and later in the narrative I'll make reference to some of things they used.

In my waistpack, I had a cell phone, a Talk-About walkie-talkie (to keep in contact with Pat; these belonged to Pat), a topo map, a lighter, a small notepad and a pencil, a non-shatter signal mirror, a 20-foot coil of parachute cord, half a roll of marking ribbon, and a bottle of iodine tabs. Around my neck affixed to a lanyard were a compass, a Photon Microlight, and a whistle.

As for my hiking togs, I wore a pair of nylon mesh basketball shorts, North Face hiking pants, a red CoolMax t-shirt, a camo boonie hat, orange/mesh diving gloves, Thorlo hiking socks, gaiters, and Nike Sharks football shoes. As muddy, wet, and smelly as these all became, I wore the same stuff all three days. Granted, the transition from sleep clothes to mud-caked hiking clothes on Saturday and Sunday mornings were tough, but after a few minutes on the trail, things reached equilibrium when I became one-with-the-mud once again.

And the summit trail is all about mud. When we reached the start of the KST on the Pupukea end, our melding with the ooze began. But we knew to expect as much and we plodded forward, commenting about the dedicated effort of Larry Oswald and his wife Kris, who made multiple trips into the mountains to open up the summit trail to the Malaekahana terminus, about four to five miles all told. The HTMC trail maintenance crew and an assortment of other volunteers chipped in, but it was Larry and Kris who never let the project die and committed themselves to seeing it to its resolution.

Significant landmarks on day one were the pu'u that marks the terminus of the Kahuku trail, a ribboned lunchspot pu'u used by the HTMC trail maintenance crew during an outing, the junction with the Malaekahana trail, and the signed junction with the Laie trail. Views were open and panoramic much of the time. To leeward we looked across a jumbled mishmash of pu'us, small ridges, and ravines that composed the upper Waimea-Uka complex (my term). At a couple points we could hear small streams gurgling, good signs since we'd need to access a similar streamlet for water later. Beyond Waimea Uka, we could see Oahu's central plateau and beyond to the mostly cloudfree Waianae Range. To windward, we viewed the Kahuku/Laie/Hauula coast and a small collection of offshore islets.

By agreement, Pat manned the sweep position and I stayed near the front. As things developed, Mark, Rob, Steve, Dusty, and I assumed the front-runner positions of our group while the others moved along at a more relaxed pace to make note of flora (the pic is of a native lobelia) along the trail or to stave off exhaustion from the effort needed to lug heavy packs over a rough, muddy trail. At the top of each hour, Pat and I radioed one another to note progress and disposition of the group. Dusty also had a walkie-talkie and he, too, joined the radio info exchange.

A typical exchange proceeded as follows:

  Me:  Pat and Dusty, radio test.

  Dusty: What!?!?

  Pat: Yes, we have passed the Kahuku trail terminus and I'm in classic
       sweep mode.  The group is moving along very methodically.  Energy
       level of some folks is low.

By mid-afternoon, the first of us reached our first night's campspot at the Kawailoa trail terminus, easily recognizable by a substantial flat-topped pu'u with the collapsed remnants of a wooden platform on its windward edge. Getting to the pu'u and the continuation of the KST involved crossing a marshy ravine. It was in this same ravine that we'd draw water from a boggy stream to replenish our supply. All of us, that is, except Rob, who carried all the water he'd need (9 liters) for all three days. Young and strong, Rob handled the load well.

One of my first priorities was to find a level, solid piece of ground to pitch my bivy before a rainshower swept by. None did, but I could never be sure and I hustled to put up my shelter to insure a dry, comfortable night. The spot I chose was on the lee edge of the helipad plateau about five feet from a cliff with a steep dropoff. And after fifteen minutes of careful manipulation, the Gossamer was up and secure. Several of us helped Dusty carry lumber from the collapsed platform to a spot a couple feet from mine. Dusty pitched his tent on the planks and offered a spot in it to Steve, who had a tent of his own but couldn't find an agreeable spot to place it.

Meanwhile, about 20 feet from us, Mark put up his tent, a Nomad Light (1.5 lbs.), the shelter of choice for ultralight backpackers. Ditto for Rob, who I think was using a Sierra Design Clip Flashlight (4 lbs). Others opting to set up on the wind-exposed helipad were Brandon and Thomas, who used tarps to construct shelters. Brandon, who shared his shelter with Kay, fashioned his from a lightweight siltarp (13 oz.), a single guava pole, a few stakes, and some cord. Thomas, using an 8x10 blue tarp ($3.99), one of his hiking poles, some bungee cord, stakes, and cord, ended up with a solid structure. Watching everyone set up camp was interesting and educational.

While ample room existed on the helipad, Ken, June, Carole, and Pat chose to pitch their tents at a more sheltered spot 70-80 meters away at the base of a small pu'u on the windward side of the marshy ravine. Ken (sharing with June) used a Sierra Designs Meteor Light (6 lbs.); Carole bedded down in a North Face Slickrock (4.5 lbs); and Pat set up a Slumberjack Bivy (2.5 lbs).

One surprise was the arrival of a hiker named Roger Breton. Hauling a pack estimated to be 80 lbs, Roger had started at Pupukea about half an hour after us with plans to backpack all the way to Kipapa over the course of the next several days. Among the gear/supplies he lugged were 2.5 gallons of water (20 lbs!), food for five days, two stoves, and an array of other stuff he felt he needed to complete the traverse successfully. Since his pack was the size of a typical daypack, he had to strap plenty of gear outside of it, a no-no for the KST, whose vegetation has a way of snatching externally lashed items from tired hikers. To his credit, Roger was mule-like strong, genial, and open to suggestions. One recommendation from Pat was NOT to try to proceed to Kipapa because of the badly overgrown nature of the KST beyond Waikane and the Kipapa trail itself. Pat suggested Waikane as an exit route, and Roger agreed to that plan.

Shelter construction pau, next on the agenda was water resupply. Of the 5 liters I'd started the day with, I had consumed three. Taking into account what I'd need for dinner, for continuing hydration that night, and for the tough leg to Poamoho the next day, I figured I'd need about four liters from the boggy stream in the ravine. So from the helipad plateau, I descended a trail on its windward side to the ravine and slogged around until I found a decent drip in the muck. While I'm skeptical about drinking water from a fountain at a city park, when in survival mode, I do what needs doing, so out came my SafeWater filter to begin H20 acquisition.

In fifteen minutes, I had filtered the needed amount and added some iodine tabs to the mix for purification. After a 30-minute wait for the iodine to do its thing, I added some Crystal Light powder to a couple liters for some good-tasting juice. Granted, it wasn't a 7-11 Super Big Gulp (my favorite), but in this remote spot in the Koolaus, it was a close second.

We later found out that Pat, Ken, and company found a better water source further up the ravine. This spot featured a tiny waterfall and a small, clear pool. Pat said an HTMC oldtimer had told Stuart Ball about this spot, and Stuart passed word to Pat. A good piece of info for future campers at Kawailoa.

With water secured, we shifted into dinner prep and consumption mode. Using my Esbit stove, my pack to block the wind, and a makeshift aluminum foil windscreen, I boiled 2.5 cups of water, needing about 12 minutes to get that done. I used the water for the Mac&Veggies meal, which proved to be palatable. For desert, I had a Power Harvest bar with some "glop" dabbed on for good measure. In addition, Dusty offered a bag of Doritos and some chocolate chip cookies, which several of us gobbled down without hesitation.

I ate on a wooden plank laid next to my bivy, the plank serving as a kind of front porch. Mark joined me in dinner prep on the porch, and as the afternoon transitioned to evening, we enjoyed a nice view of the distant Wahiawa plain, the Waianae Range beyond it, Haleiwa town, and further off to Mokuleia and Kaena Point. As night fell, we watched the lights of Haleiwa, Helemano, and Ka'ala flicker in the darkness. Looking the other way, we could see the twinkle of Laie town, including a curious florescent light that changed color periodically.

By 9:00, we all were in our tents, hoping to sleep as best as we could in preparation for the tough haul to Poamoho the next day. What would the weather and trail be like? We'd find out soon enough.


Day 2
View a webpage with pics of the trip.
See a map of the approximate route.

Return to OHE top | Return to Oahu Hike Tales | Email Dayle