OHE December 29, 1998 (Palolo Middle Ridge)

Date: Tue, 29 Dec 1998 08:16:23 -1000
From: "Kirby D. Young" (kirbyd@teleport.com>
Subject: Palolo Middle Ridge, 12-3-98

I asked my mom (in the hospital for a few days) if there was a hike she would like hearing a story about if I went out for a mid-afternoon ramble. She replied, yes - she wanted to hear about a ridge rising from the middle of Palolo Valley. She had hiked its first portion enjoyably several times, but had always been stopped by a threatening keep-out sign (and fence?). Would it possible to get past the sign and fence she wanted to know. What lay beyond? (Why she thought it would be easy for me to surpass such an obstacle, I'm not sure). It was clear to me from a quick examination of a topo map that the ridge was not a complete stranger to me as I'd hiked its far mauka portion on an HTMC Ka'au Crater hike a couple of years earlier.

Making a mental note of her instructions regarding circumventing a wall near a Chinese school (?), I drove into the valley on 10th Ave. After a couple of bonehead turns on some side streets, I realized that the wall was on 10th Ave itself where it turns sharply left at the base of the middle ridge. Parking a bit further on, I walked back on 10th along the base of the wall to where it ended at the entrance to the Palolo Chinese Home (map name). Here it was easy to surmount the wall, traverse a few yards, and then turn abruptly right onto a trail shaded by Banyan trees as it began directly assaulting the nose of the ridge. I made the turn upwards at about 1:50 PM.

It's a straight shot up the ridge to an initial high point, and no matter what the pace, one can't help but gain elevation pretty darn fast (topo map shows about 550' in 1/4 mile). Most of the climb was through very open, grassy slopes, with great views down Palolo Valley to the sea. Looking right as I climbed, I could see the big initial dip suffered by the Lanipo Trail on nearby Mau'umae Ridge. It seemed that only a few minutes were necessary for me to reach a point as high as this Lanipo low point, a sad testament to that route, I guess. (Poor Lanipo never gets any OHE write-ups.)

The initial summit had a small group of Ironwood trees providing shelter from the strong tradewinds that day. This is really a great destination in itself given the trees and the pronounced height of the ridge above the valley floor. Was there a downside? Yes, in the sense that, past this point, the path became much less distinct. I could also see that with the dips ahead, it would be a long time before I would regain the elevation I had just achieved.

Donning long pants, I walked with more impunity to leg scratches. There were several step-downs in the ridge where ancient Ko'olau lava flows have been eroded through to the next flow beneath. These made good view/rest stops. One had a very nicely shaped natural seat in it. Strong winds buffeted me all along here, but I had great views into the valleys on both sides, with the more rural Pukele Stream to my left, and residences near Wai'omao Stream on the right.

As I came upon a power-line pole, the near lack of a trail behind me changed to a very wide swath for easy walking and power pole maintenance in the next quarter mile. Guava trees began to stake out their claim on the ridge. Past a low point in the ridge, the left side suddenly dropped vertically about 40-50 ft, persisting in this manner for 100 yds or more. The topo map marks this area as a man-made "borrow pit". Proceeding gradually up through guava, the trail was sometimes hacked clear and sometimes overgrown as I passed the occasional power pole.

At the top of a prominent hump, the trail suddenly widened to road-width, dropping, a la a big roller-coaster dip, into a broad swale. With the ridge dropping and the valley of Pukele stream on my left rising, the "road" soon bordered on a significant stretch of cultivated bananas and new irrigation piping. No doubt, I was in full "T-word" mode here, which made me a bit uncomfortable.

I encountered a narrow paved road coming up from the left (Pukele area). I followed it steeply up as it turned onto the now-low middle ridge mauka of the banana cultivation. There was a house on the left with an unlived-in look, and on the right an ancient bulldozer grown over, surrounded, and trapped by a Banyan tree. Passed two long driveways (?) on my left and saw a small water tank at the terminus of the road immediately ahead. At this point I veered right and up off the road (no distinct tread here however), passing briefly through open grass and beneath a power-line tower. My objective was to keep on the indistinct crest of the increasingly steep ridge. Past the power-line tower I entered guava forest where, much to my surprise, there was suddenly a very distinct trail. I was even more surprised when, 20 yds later, I came to a junction with another trail climbing up from the right. It was the route I had previously hiked as part of an HTMC Ka'au excursion in 1996! I was suddenly on familiar ground.

I decided I couldn't come this far without attempting to punch it on to Ka'au Crater itself. After a steady climb, the trail leveled off somewhat, and I could keep track of my progress by seeing how far I was from power-line towers located on the Ka'au Crater rim. The increasingly dense and moist vegetation was a nice contrast to the drier ridge behind me. Arriving at the lip of the Crater, I followed the trail to the left for a better view, finding one after about 20 yds. Here I had an unobstructed view down 150-200' to the very flat and wet crater floor (1/4 mile wide). The far wall of the crater rose almost vertically 800' to the cloud-covered Ko'olau crest. Soaking in the views and the strong trades, I lingered 5-10 min. here at this geologically-recent topographic anomaly.

Began the walk back about 4:10 PM. At the trail junction I pondered descending left to the valley bottom, but opted not to do so given the long looping return that would be needed on Wai'omao Road. Continued to backtrack along the middle ridge, quickly and quietly passing the various signs of enhabitation. Rollercoaster, power lines, guava, and the long gradual climb to the makai summit of the middle ridge followed. As I enjoyed the sound of the strong winds and low sun at the latter point, I noticed that it looked like a long way down to the bottom of Palolo Valley! The descent was so steep and fast my ears popped much like in an airplane. I arrived at 10th Ave. and my car at about 5:30 PM.

As for the hike-stopping signs my Mom had seen? Their location and fate remain a mystery.


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