OHE August 4, 1999 (KST Backpack--Day 3)

Date: Wed, 4 Aug 1999 07:28:56 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: KST Backpack trip--Day 3

== Day 3, Sunday, August 1==

The crinkling rustle of Steve Poor's space blanket-tarp was the alarm that woke me on the final morning in the mountains. Seven of us had slept in the cabin, the door and front window of the structure wide open with nary a mosquito to bother us during the night. Outside, clouds swirled about in the ohia and uluhe, and on occasion the sun tried to muscle its way through the smokey white.

Like the morning before, breakfast for me was a couple of Clif Bars (cookies 'n cream) with some glop spread atop them. I had an ample reserve of juice from the batch I'd made at the stream yesterday afternoon, so I chugged down plenty of fluids to prep for today's hike out.

I felt energetic, having had a good night's rest. The evening before, Mark suggested I double up my full-length z-rest to provide extra cushioning for shoulder and hip, and his tip proved helpful. And since I didn't have to pitch my tent, I used it as a pillow and the added comfort also was welcome.

At 7:00, I phoned HTMC trail clearing honcho Mabel Kekina to let her know we all had reached Poamoho safely and to relay that message to our HTMC friends, who probably were wondering about us. Mabel gave me the weather forecast for the day, which called for clear skies, decreasing winds, and increasing humidity. And since my friend Bill Melemai would be assisting with posthike ground transport, I phoned him with our ETA at California Avenue in the afternoon.

Between 7 and 8, the cabin campers began departing on the final leg of the day--a 2-mile hike south on the summit trail and an 8-mile westbound rollercoaster finish on the Schofield Trail to California Avenue in Wahiawa. At 8:00, Brandon and Kay were the last to leave the cabin, saying they'd be moving along at a botanical/exploratory pace.

I held off on shoving off until the tent campers arrived and while I waited, I prepared most of my gear then lay down on one of the bunks to take a short nap. What I purposely delayed was putting on my trail clothes, mucked with two day's worth of grime.

Around 8:30, I heard familiar whoops from approaching hikers and that stirred me to action. On went my red t-shirt, then my mud-caked cordura pants, then socks, shoes, gaiters, and gloves. I reeked, an expected circumstance.

The tent camping group (Ken, Carole, Thomas, June) spent a couple minutes inspecting the cabin before continuing on. Pat, just as he did the day before, manned the sweep spot, and we agreed to continue our hourly radio checks.

At 8:45, I hiked away from the cabin, determined to get to California Avenue as quickly as possible to secure something I'd dreamed about the past two days: a massive plate lunch. :-)

In a few minutes, I hiked past Ken, Carole, Thomas, and June, bidding them a good hike and mentioning my date with an L&L drive-in in Wahiawa. And not long afterward, I ambled past Brandon and Kay, who had stopped to examine a native plant on a slope on the lee side of the trail. I tripped and flopped while going past them, a foreshadowing of a more dramatic happening to come.

There is about 10 to 15 minutes of lee hiking on the KST past the cabin before the route transitions to windward. Though muddy, the trail was in nice shape compared to what we encountered between Kawailoa and Poamoho.

About 20 minutes from the cabin, I paused momentarily to inspect the trail heading down to Kahana below Pu'u Pauao. I hoped Roger hadn't descended this trail, thinking it was Waikane, and it appeared he hadn't when a few minutes further down the KST I saw a flattened section of grass where he might have spent the night.

While I'm a very careful hiker by nature, my haste on this day caused me to so something I know I shouldn't do: fall off the trail. About five to ten minutes past the Pauao junction, the trail bends around a corner of the mountain. In this segment, landslides have narrowed the path and careful foot placement is needed as a result. Well, I wasn't as careful as I should have been and a ill-placed step with my left foot sent me careening feet-first, face-down, ten feet down the mountain. By good fortune, my feet slid into a solid clump of vegetation that held my weight, stopping further slippage.

In a tiff, my first impulse was to curse myself for being in this predicament. However, the self-directed verbal barrage stopped quickly when I rotated my head, looked over my left shoulder, and saw what a dangerous position I was in. Specifically, if I were to slide down five more feet, the drop would be near vertical for several hundred feet with few if any trees to snag on to. Compounding the dire circumstance was that none of my colleagues were in eye- or ear-shot at the time. Mark, Dusty, Steve, and Rob were way ahead, and the others were behind, around the corner I'd just swung past. In other words, if I fell here, no one might ever know.

Not good.

Accordingly, I made up my mind I wasn't going to slide down any further. Going straight up wasn't an option since my fall had obliterated a good deal of the vegetation in my slide path. So after tossing one of my hiking poles up onto the trail, I began edging my way to the right, testing vegetation for solidness. Not far above to the right was a large clump of clidemia, a weed that has a redeeming feature of being a pretty reliable handhold. After kicking my toes into the mountain to establish footholds, I then lunged upward for the clidemia, putting faith that this patch of the usually dreaded weed would be solidly anchored.

It held.

I then was able to hoist my carcass onto the trail, where I rolled over onto my back, eyes skyward, heart pumping near full tilt. "What a #$$%ing bonehead," I barked, the previously terminated cursing now resuming.

But I knew I had to settle myself before continuing, and I did, spending a few minutes drinking water, taking deep breaths, and eating a power bar. That done, I set off again, still moving quickly but with much more attention paid to foot placement.

The rest of the summit crossover went without incident (read: no more falls), with the views to windward the most spectacular I've experienced along this stretch. When cloudless, the section from Poamoho to Schofield is one of the most awesome on Oahu, and we were blessed with cloudfree conditions on this day. Good deal.

By 10:45, I was on my way down the Schofield Trail at high speed, my cleated shoes and hiking poles doing what they were designed to do. The late morning and early afternoon became scorching hot. But I don't loathe sweat--I love it, in fact. And moving down the trail quickly and alone, I enjoyed my most pleasant descent of Schofield ever. Radio checks with Pat at 11 and noon kept me updated on the pace and disposition of the other folks, Pat reporting steady progress and no problems.

At 1:15, I reached the Schofield trailhead, and waiting there were Rob and Mark. Steve and Dusty pulled in in the next ten minutes. After a welcome half-hour rest, we shoved off for the 3-mile walk on the dirt road to California Avenue, my spirits high knowing the end was near.

Rob, Mark, Dusty, Steve, and I emerged by the water tanks at the end of California Avenue at 2:45. Greeting us there were Mark's son, Ryan, and my friend, Bill Melemai. Bill had brought cold drinks and made cold cut sandwiches for us, and we ravenously consumed these while rehashing the past couple day's events. Thanks to Bill and Ryan.

Jumping into Ryan's Trooper, Mark, Dusty and Rob said their goodbyes and headed home to the windward side. Meanwhile, Steve awaited the arrival of his wife, who he'd called an hour earlier with my cell phone. Bill had driven to California Ave. in Ken's SUV and not long after we arrived there, Donna, Bill's wife, drove up in Pat's Honda SUV (Ken's, Pat's, and Brandon's vehicles had been left at Bill & Donna's house near Mililani on Friday). I had left my Cherokee at California Ave on Friday morning and it was good to see it still there intact.

Since the others would probably not arrive for a couple more hours, Bill and Donna jumped in my vehicle and we headed over to their house where I could shower, get something to eat (Bill had bought me the massive plate lunch I'd dreamed about--fried rice, eggs, luncheon meat), and relax.

At 4:00, Ken, using his cell phone, called Bill's house, reporting he and the six other folks on the trail were still about an hour from the trailhead, with another hour of roadwalking to log after that to reach California Avenue. Could we drive up the dirt road to the trailhead to pick them up? (I think Ken was actually asking for Carole and/or June). Bill was talking to Ken at the time, and said that'd be no problem. Ken would call again at 5.

After Bill hung up, I told him it would be more fitting if everyone walked all the way to California Avenue. Catch a ride? Hey, the rest of us humped it to the end. "They'll thank me for having to walk out," I told Bill. "I'll talk to Ken when he calls at five."

A little after 5:00, Ken called, reporting they'd reached the trailhead. When I told him of my decision, he said okay, without protest or fanfare (Ken is not a griper and I respect him highly). From what I found out later, Carole, who was really looking forward to the ride, didn't protest either. She simply gobbled a power bar, shouldered her pack, and set off down the dirt road at a fast clip.

Because they wouldn't reach California Avenue until 6:00, Bill (driving Brandon's car) and I (driving mine) didn't have to leave Bill's house until 5:30. Bill had made some more sandwiches for the final seven and I stopped at the store to pick up some chips and drinks.

At a little past 6:00 p.m., the HTMC Ko'olau Summit Trail backpack came to a successful conclusion when Brandon, Kay, Thomas, June, Carole, Ken, and Pat walked out of the forest and onto California Avenue. Packs were un-shouldered, food and drinks were gobbled down, pictures taken (me on the left), and more stories shared. Though understandably tired, everyone was jubilant about having made it all the way.

By tradition, the next KST backpack will be held five years hence in 2004. However, we might not wait that long since I've already received a request from an HTMC member to coordinate a similar trip in the summer of 2000.

Sheesh, is there no end to the friggin nut cases out there? :-)

Mahalo to all who made this trip a success.


View a webpage with pics of the trip.
See a map of the approximate route. | Map of the day 3 route.
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