OHE December 19, 1997 (b)

Date: Fri, 19 Dec 1997 23:15:05 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Kuliouou Bowl

Recent write-ups by Pete and Pat put me in the hiking mood and since I had some free time to spend, I was east-Oahu bound today (12/19, Fri) to tackle the Kuliouou Bowl, a name Art Neilson has given to the circuit I'd be doing.

I parked my vehicle on Kuliouou Road by the community park. After filling my canteen at the park and readying my pack, I set off on foot up the road, turning left on Papahehi Place. The trail begins in a vacant lot on the left, proceeds through koa haole, drops down into a dry streambed, and climbs a finger ridge (Wing refers to this as yet another "middle" ridge) through dry, scrub terrain. The true west ridge of Kuliouou Valley was above me to the left and across the valley to my right was Kuliouou east with its freeway-like switchback route to the summit. On a couple of occasions I could see people hiking up or down the switchbacks and if they were looking my way I'd be easily visible in my trademark puka orange shirt.

In about 10 minutes, I reached a nice ironwood grove, a great place to take a nap if I didn't have a long haul ahead of me. The middle-ridge trail is akin to Waialae Nui, which I'd done recently with Pat, Art, and Wing, in that it was relatively pristine and devoid of mudholes and man-created erosion. The route involves more ascending than Waialae Nui but the climbing isn't overly harsh.

The great thing about the hike was that rain was absent today. Yesterday, (12/18) I had tried the bowl loop but decided against completing the circuit after ascending the eastside switchbacks and encountering windy, rainy, and slippery conditions at the summit. When I awoke to clear conditions today, I knew I'd better take advantage of it.

The middle ridge climbs steadily, passing through stands of guava and a couple more ironwood groves. I also recognized specimens of sandalwood, lama, and lobelia. Uluhe and ohia come into play at about the 1,600 foot level, and it was at this point where scrambling commenced, with the previous day's rain creating some looseness underfoot. Plenty of ohia roots and sturdy clidemia clumps are available for handholds.

The scrambling section isn't long and when completed I had my first clear visual scan of the summit crest ahead of me. Also ahead was a semi-narrow dike and two cable sections. The dike is easy to traverse if one is careful. The first cable section is situated on the left side of a hill scarred by erosion and crumbly rock. Affixed to a tree, the cable is of the thick, tan-colored, telephone-wire variety. As Wing mentioned in a past write-up, the cable isn't an absolute necessity here since the slope isn't overly steep and foot- and handholds are adequate. But it certainly is welcome. The second cable, attached to a metal stake, is also of the "not-essential-but-welcome" variety and helps one climb up a badly eroded 15-foot slope.

The summit was still about 10 minutes away after the cable sections were negotiated and patches of clouds whipping over the crest ahead had me worried that a whiteout could be approaching. But the weather held and finally I topped out a little over 90 minutes after starting. The total climb from trailhead to summit is about 2,200 feet and the ache in my legs confirmed this.

The summit of Kuliouou west is a small nob that is distinct when looking up from the windward side (I found this to be true while driving home through Waimanalo after the hike). The crest dips on both sides of this nob, eventually climbing to the summit of Kulepeamoa Ridge to the west and to Pu'u o Kona to the east. I rested for about 10 minutes at this locale, enjoying the view of the windward side and the vertical flutes of the Koolau Range to the west. I gave brief thought to heading west to tag Kulepeamoa and then return but decided to stick to my original plan to hike east along the crest to Pu'u o Kona and onward to Kuliouou east and down the switchback freeway.

The summit route didn't appear heavily travelled but a definite trail exists. I unsheathed my machete and did some hacking as I made my way carefully on the crest. As I mentioned, the spine drops down before ascending to o Kona. Some sections are crumbly and in places I had to be careful not to step on a collapsing dirt shelf. Fortunately, the leeward side of the crest is, for the most part, gentle relative to the sheer precipice to windward bringing to mind the summit crest adage: If you have to fall, fall to leeward. :-)

One point of interest were several thick-trunked guava trees with branches whipped nearly leafless by the constant onslaught of ka makani up the slopes from Waimanalo. The smell of cow manure wafted up the mountainside.

The crossover to Pu'u o Kona took about 30 minutes and I spent about 15 minutes resting and exploring this mystical place after reaching it. I ventured briefly down the bearclaw ridge that drops to windward. The upper section certainly isn't overly menacing. HTMC daredevil Fred Dodge and legend John Hall are among the folks I know who have done this ridge, and Paka-lolo and I have talked about giving it a go at some point.

The hike back to the apex of Kuliouou east from o Kona took 15 minutes and I left a bottle with a notepad and pen there for others to add their comments. I descended the freeway trail leisurely, enjoying the view of the ridge across the valley I had climbed and of a small waterfall in the valley below.

On my way down, near the makeshift lean-to, I passed a summit-bound couple. Noticing some dirt on my legs (I didn't wear long pants) and a few fresh scratches on my arms (from thimbleberry branches), the man of the couple asked if the trail ahead was more than they anticipated. While I explained what I had done, the couple, after smiling initially, eyed me like I was some deranged nut-case. "But you can go back down the same way you've come up," I advised them. Relieved giggles followed.

I began the hike at 1 p.m. and by 5:00 I was in my vehicle at the drive-thru of Hawaii Kai Taco Bell ordering a couple of my beloved bean burritos and an extra-large diet Coke. I always enjoy the drive past the Lanai Lookout, Halona blowhole, Makapuu, and through Waimanalo--even moreso after eating some burritos and after I've hiked in the Koolaus like I did today.

I'm sure other drivers must have wondered what I was gawking at while I drove on Kalanianaole through Waimanalo. If only they knew. :-)

--Dayle


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