OHE December 22, 1998 (Halawa)

Date: Tue, 22 Dec 1998 11:43:46 -1000
From: Greg Kingsley (gkingsle@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Halawa Ridge, 19DEC98

Stream Status:  (Halawa) "Barely Babbling Brook"
Trail Status:  "Firm Squish"
Clearing Required:  Chain-sawing at first 1/4th.
Weather:  Excellent - no rain
Summit Visibility:  0 - 1 miles

I had planned to return to Halawa Ridge ever since participating in the HTMC's Fall '98 trail clearing (see Dayle's and my write-up dated 25OCT98 [http://www2.hawaii.edu/~turner/ohe/Oct98/10-25b.html] or the club hike write-up by Paka [http://www2.hawaii.edu/~turner/ohe/Nov98/11-10.html]. Because the bulk mass of uluhe whiched consumed the latter part of the first half, a good majority of us were occupied with slashing and tossing. As a result, we didn't even make the "crossover" point (about halfway along the trail). Two months later, feeling a need to get outdoors and complete an unfinished hike, I returned to court its summit.

After being side-tracked nearly three hours from my alotted start time (I was curious enough to listen to the impeachment speeches!), I began the trek from the gardens at 9:47 AM, after helping a mountain biker with directions to the H-3 maintenance road. Soon, I had passed the gaging station and barely-stream (elev. 160 feet), zipping through the woods and under the highway overpass, until meeting up with the H-3 maintenance road. I was glad to see our markers were still intact, leading the way up the steep ridgeside along a snaking rock & soil path. I freshened a couple of faded ones with new replacements. By 10:15 AM, I had topped out the climb (elev. 640 feet) and side-trailed toward the dirt road. Along the way, I had to side-step a couple of large fallen limbs smack dab in the middle of the path. I tried to clear them, but they were just too heavy.

I proceeded unhindered along the barren, sun-stroked dirt road, using the parallel Aiea Ridge to the left as a reference to how far I had to go. I occasionally turned back to take in the view of west Honolulu and Pearl Harbor. Prior to reaching the rutted incline and forest cover, I reached two trucks parked roadside with dog cages in the back. I had remembered Dayle Turner's comment about the thriving wild pig population in the valley between the north and south forks of early Halawa Ridge. I wondered if they had gone into this valley and saw a clearing to the right. Being curious, I stepped to the edge to see if I could find the trail they might have used. Of course, my question was answered as the rancid scent of doggie-doo squeezing from under my left boot turned my stomach: yep, they had gone this way, all right!

Luckily, I still had a stretch of dusty-red road to travel before the actual trailhead. I reached another 4WD truck, but this time a gray, camo-suited hunter with rifle shoulder-slung was either standing guard or lookout. I confirmed with him where the other hunters had gone - into the valley or onto the ridge. He told me the earlier and I continued on my way with less worry. By about 11:00 AM, I reached the "Halawa Barrel" boundary tablet (with triangulation pole) which marked a corner of the Honolulu Watershed boundary with the Ewa Forest Reserve.

I proceeded onto the wooded trail, into a narrow corridor through guava trees fronting light-green velvet moss-lined rock tiers. I took notice to how well-stripped the footpath was of guavas and it clued me to the fact that fruit-flies do a great job consuming fallen fruit, but nothing beats the daily foraging of pigs. I kept this in mind. My favorite part of the trail - the eucalyptus forest - came next as my steps crunched with every footstep on the dry carpet of leaves. As I was marvelling at the trail clear of the fallen trees (thanks to Rueben, specifically), I came across a severe blowdown requiring me to hike up and around it. Apparently, the gusts of two weeks ago caused this and peppered the rest of the trail with fallen limbs. On the return, however, I found you could weave in and out of it, though it would be faster to detour into the trees above it.

As the canopied trail withered out to become a long stretch through uluhe, I met up with a bunch of hunters and their pack of dogs - the same ones who had gone into the valley. I eyed the canines, wondering which was the culprit for my left shoe. We chatted for a few moments and though friendly, they were rather tight-lipped about their (illegal) hunting exploits. They were surprised to hear that I was aiming for the summit. Based on the cobwebs I was spitting out later on the trail, I surmised that they had started in the valley, worked up to the north/south fork junction, and were returning along the ridge trail.

I continued along the grade which barely seemed to be ascending, observing how palm-grass seedlings were taking hold of the areas we had battled with. The heavy transpiration of the valley's thick vegetation was rising, engulfing me in a steamy waft. I noted a wonderful scent amidst the eucalyptus and ferns, but couldn't figure out its hidden flowering origin. The footing moistened after I passed the "crossover" - the point in the trail where it switches from the south side to the north side of the ridgeline. At this point, I had already reached the final 100-yards of the H-3 Highway and stopped along the way to examine the tunnel entrance and operations center from above. I could see the clouds beginning to squat onto Koolau spine and I accordingly quickened my pace. The trail's incline became a bit more pronounced and its track began to contour into and out of the gullies. I munched on some trail mix as I ducked under the overhanging vegetation.

At 1:45 PM, about four hours from the start, I finally reached the "summit": a junction with a saddle (elev. 2,200 feet) between a 200-foot peak to the north and a 80-foot peak to the south. I started up the northern peak, but seeing as how the clouds had begun to envelope the area, I stopped halfway for lunch. The white stuff continued to shoot up the mountain face and pour over my spot. As a result, the view drifted in and out, never showing me anything beyond the entrance of Haiku Valley.

Time was definitely not about to allow me to hike along the rim to the northern Haiku Stairs and a jaunt to Puu Keahi a Kahoe and southern stairs was out of the question. So, I gulped down some cranberry juice, had a little bite to eat, and listened to the chirping of a baby bird in a nest nearby. I leaned back into the vegetation whenever the view became obscured by white. At one point, I felt so relaxed, all alone, sprawled in the cold, moist air on a sloped carpet of shin-high shrubs, that I fell asleep. Luckily, I only napped for about ten minutes.

After about an hour, I gave up on getting a good panoramic shot of the valley and Kaneohe Bay. Getting back by 6 PM was my goal. When I got back to the lower portions of the trail, the trees' shadows were mimicking a sunset and I began to worry about the emergence of pigs along my path. Though my shuffling through branches and leaves were making enough of a racket, I began to sing and whistle aloud to warn animals around the bends and in the bushes of my approach (and partially for my own entertainment). Then again, most anything would dart from the cacaphony of my singing.

The trek back was a lot quicker than I had imagined - even with flower-picking (no, nothing native) and camera-shots along the way, I made it back to the boundary marker in a shy under two hours, 30 minutes. From there, I heard loud calls and whistle-blowing and felt as though I might've had a stranded hiker to contend with. As I got closer, I realized it was the same hunters I had passed nearly five hours prior. When I got to them, they told me they were missing two dogs - a black one and a white speckled one. I reported that I was making enough of a commotion (*grin*) along the ridge that any dog would have soon followed. They thanked me and I left them behind with a good luck well-wish. I guess they figured that the dogs were long lost somewhere for my scent would have undoubtedly led them back to the trail by that point - they packed up and trucked down the road. Nice guys, though, they offered to give me a ride as they drove past, but I was within a hundred yards of the turnoff and gratiously declined.

Making my way through the brush to the top of the hillside, I began the shuffle back into North Halawa Valley. Suddenly, I heard a rustle in my aft-right quarter and turned to see something black begin a quick trot towards my path. I thought, "hey - it's the dog!" and wondered how I'd ever find the owners who had already gone home (or what I'd do with it since I couldn't quite take him along on my motorcycle). As I was about to call out to the animal, it broke into the clear area of the trail, no more than five feet in front of me - and I froze. It was a black pig on a "friendly" gait past my position with a smile on its snout. I must've startled it from its forraging as I watched it disappear into the brush to my forward-left quarter. Of course, I was happy when the trail finally banked right and farther away from whereever it was hiding. I was also thankful that it didn't happen to have little family members along when I surprised it!

By 6:04 PM, a little over three hours from leaving the summit and about eight hours from starting the day, I had made it back to the gaging station along Halawa Stream. I lumbered back to my bike thinking only about all that OHE-L chat about sorbathane inserts! At least the bottom of my shoes were clean...

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