OHE December 16, 1997

Date: Tue, 16 Dec 1997 08:46:56 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (prorie@hekili.k12.hi.us>
Subject: Re: Pu'u Ka'aumakua 

Pu'u Ka'aumakua (lit. "the family god"), approx. elevation 2,700 feet, is the distinct hilltop on the Ko'olau summit crest high above Waikane Valley. Dr. Peter Caldwell, Dr. Don Fox and myself made the summit our goal as we met at the end of California Ave. in Wahiawa on Sunday morning, Dec. 14th.

After final preps the three of us started up a trail near the large water tanks at 7:15 a.m. The route went by the Wahiawa Hills trailhead and allowed us to bypass army buildings and part of a dirt road near training facilities. Don reminded Pete and I to keep quiet lest we be discovered by some soldiers. The trail eventually put us on the dirt road and we continued our hike toward the Schofield-Waikane (S-W) trailhead. It was overcast with a slight drizzle coming down.

Reached the S-W trailhead at 8 a.m. without being detected and took a short break. Don climbed a small hill to spock the summit crest. With Pete's eternal optimism winning the day ("Don't worry. The sun will come out and it'll clear up !") we proceeded up the trail. The cloudy conditions persisted with occasional rain showers as I led our group along S-W. The three of us were in awe of the work that someone (the Army ?) had done to the trail for the first two miles. It was in excellent shape (uluhe not only cut to the wall but in some spots seven feet above the footpath !). Unfortunely the beautiful work came to an end and the last 4 miles or so were overgrown. HTMC trail clearing crew will have its work cut out for them (us) when the time comes to clear S-W. Perhaps whoever did the work on the first two miles will come back and finish the job.

Pete, Don and I made good time and arrived at the S-W summit (elev. 2,360 ft) at approx. 11 a.m. We were totally socked in but turned right and headed for Pu'u Ka'aumakua using the Ko'olau Summit Trail (KST) nevertheless at 11:12 a.m. Pete went first followed by myself and Don. On the way the clouds opened up briefly giving us wonderful views of Ohulehule and Kaneohe Bay. We were hopeful of better things as the day progressed. Took pleasure from the presence of many loulu patches in the area.

Reached the junction with the Waikane contour trail marked by a rusty metal stake and ascended, remaining on the KST. At 11:42 a.m. Pete, Don and I entered the long leeward stretch of the KST which was mostly overgrown and contained a couple of landslides. I tied ribbon to trees periodically to preserve the route. Thirty minutes later the three of us reached the area where Don had rediscovered the trail during the Kipapa-Schofield "day" hike (a notorious trip in June of this year which also included Gene Robinson, Dayle Turner, and Laredo Murray that ended at 11:30 p.m.). Don and Peter decided to turn around at this point and proceed to the summit of Pu'u Ka'aumakua. I had hoped to travel along the KST that we had bypassed in June but it would have to wait for another day.

The three of us lead by Peter backtracked a short distance along the KST and then ascended the leeward side of Ka'aumakua somewhat steeply. Screams of delight came from Peter when he reached the summit crest and took in the breathtaking views (almost all of the clouds had disappeared). Don and I joined him in celebration as our group arrived at the Pu'u Ka'aumakua summit at 12:30 p.m.

The location consisted of low grass (ideal for setting up a tent) and had three benchmarks. It also offered one of the best view points on the island. Dead ahead was the pyramid shaped Mount Ohulehule. The jagged peaks of Pu'u Kanehoalani were behind and just to the right of Ohulehule. Lush Waikane Valley was directly below with Kaneohe Bay, Mokapu Penninsula, the Mokulua Islands, Kaiwa Ridge, Rabbit Island, Makapu'u Point, Olomana to the right as one pans in that direcion. On the far right was the continuation of the Ko'olau summit crest. Part of the KST was visible in that direction. To the left (north) were Punalu'u Valley, Pu'u Piei, lovely Kahana Valley, Turnover and the true Manamana. On the far left we could see the final stretch of S-W and the KST cut magnificently into the side of the summit ridge. The Norfolk island pines dotting Kipapa Ridge, the south shore, Pearl Harbor, the Wahiawa Plain, almost the entire Waianae Mountain Range and the north shore were visible behind us. Pete took plenty of photos and then the three of us sat down to eat lunch.

At 1:15 p.m. Don and Pete began descending the ridge which faces Ohulehule and leads to the true Waikane Saddle (another objective of our trip was to create a new trail from the summit of Pu'u Ka'aumakua to the lower part of the Waikane contour trail). I followed at a distance tying ribbon, taking photos and enjoying the awesome vistas. We encountered a variety of native flora and phauna including lapalapa and were careful not disturb them unless it was necessary.

At 2:05 p.m. Peter and Don reached a point where the ridge narrowed with steep drop offs on both sides and was clogged with vegetation. I gave it a look and agreed with them not to proceed any further. As we climbed back up to the summit I removed the ribbon and got there first. The three of us reassembled at 2:40 p.m.

After deciding to descend the Waikane contour trail we took in the outstanding panoramic views one final time. On our way down from the top of Ka'aumakua I tied ribbon to mark the route to this special place. We reached the leeward KST and moved toward the junction with the Waikane Trail. On the way Pete took more photos and he and I studied the convoluted topography below the trail. We recognized a stream and noted an interesting cone shaped region where several side ridges intersected.

Shortly before 3:30 p.m. Don, Peter and I began hiking along the Waikane Trail. I led the way and had my bolo knife drawn to cut a path where necessary. We carefully made it around the upper section which resembled a narrow shelf. It didn't seem as scary this time (Dayle Turner, Wing Ng and myself experienced some "true horror" when we came down the trail a few months ago) mainly because I tried to stay as close to the wall as possible and concentrate on trail clearing instead of thinking about the 1000 foot drop off only a few feet away !

After going around a couple of bends (sections which jutted out toward Kahana Valley) in the trail the danger subsided and it was a matter of plowing thru overgrowth and watching our footing for loose rock. Passed underneath a chinese banyon, over an intermittent stream as the trail contoured deep inside the ridge, and thru a large landslide. The trail then took us past a steep rock face followed by the exit point of our first attempt at reaching Ka'aumakua's summit via the ridge line.

Continuing on without a break the three of us carefully worked our way over another landslide and finally reached the Waikane Saddle at 5:05 p.m. Next we climbed to the high point of the saddle and took a break. A passing shower pelted us. Don and I made phone calls on his cellular to arrange a ride back to Don's Nuuanu home and ultimately to Wahiawa.

The three of us started descending the Waiahole Ditch Trail at 5:40 p.m. and reached the floom where the trail begins at 6:14 p.m. On our way down we noticed some new "low bridges", trees which had fallen into the trail since the last time we were in the area. Peter, Don and I walked briskly in the dark using flashlights to navigate over the dirt road which intersects Waikane Valley Road and upon reaching the end discovered Dayle Turner's truck parked in front of the gate. He welcomed us and provided large drinks and bags of potato chips for our consumption. We were very grateful and thanked him. It was 7:15 p.m. A few minutes later Peter, Don and I piled into Dayle's Jeep Charokee and he drove us to Don's home. Don then dropped Peter off and took me back to Wahiawa.

== Patrick


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