OHE December 29, 1998 (Pupukea-KST)

Date: Tue, 29 Dec 1998 15:42:09 -1000
From: Greg Kingsley (gkingsle@hawaii.edu>
Subject: KST - Pupukea/Malaekahana, 27DEC98

Trail Status:  "Mushy Muddy Muck"
Clearing Required:  Extensive toward Malaekahana Ridge
Weather:  Excellent - overcast, gentle breeze
Summit Visibility:  10 - 15 miles

On Sunday, the HTMC's trail-clearers headed out to the convoluted foothills of the northern-most Koolaus to clear one and exhume another of two trails. A hefty turnout coagulated at the entrance of the Boy Scout Camp at the terminus of Pupukea Road, where most of us left our more timid of vehicles parked. In order to bypass the rather lengthy dirt road, several vehicles were volunteered to ferry us deep into Pupukea Paumalu Forest Reserve territory. I later found out it was once a land reserved for ancient priests and kahunas(1). We had the key to the first gate - thanks to Steve Brown. Much appreciation for the rides provided by several members, including Thomas Yoza and Ralph Valentino. What would have been a time-consuming walk in and inevitably a tedious bore on the way out, the nearly two-mile trek was transversed in quick fashion. Mahalo, gang!

Trail-boss Mabel Kekina collected us at the perpendicular fork on the main dirt road where each of the 4WD vehicles were neatly sidelined. To the left (North) was the gated jeep-trail to the Girl Scout Camp (Camp Paumalu) and straight ahead (East) was the gated entrance deeper into Army domain. The majority of us, including regulars June Miyasato, Lynn Agena, Jason Sunada, and Georgina Oka, were to venture forth onto the Kaunala Trail. Amidst the group, I also saw Charlotte Yamane, Bill Gorst, Ellyn Tong, Steve Brown, and John Hall. The smaller group planned to drag (in addition to our standard implements) two chainsaws, an axe and hand-saw, off to the Koolau Summit Trail (KST).

We filtered through the steel-tube gate (elev. 1,300 feet) and hustled down the wide dirt road. The gravel and mud path, which contours the border along the northern end of Kawailoa Forest Reserve, quietly led us into the Kahuku Forest Reserve. Half a mile later, where the road veers north (elev. 1,400 feet), the KST-group banked right onto the trail toward KST's start. The rest of the clearers continued along the road toward the left-hand turnoff of the Kaunala Trail extension.

Hearing the rave reviews over the last few months about it, I was eager to check out the KST for the first time. In addition to myself, the KST-group included Pat Rorie, Ralph Valentino, Kim & Judy Roy, Dayle Turner, Grant Oka, Jim Pushaw, and Steve Poor.

Fifteen minutes from the turn-off and through a trickling trail of wet clay rocks, we reached a shaded, three-spoke junction and the wooden sign with opposing yellow arrows and the words "Koolau Lookout" and "Koolau Summit Trail" nicely carved and painted. Another sign across the other pointed out the way back to Pupukea. Turning the corner, I trotted off to catch up with the group (I had wasted a few minutes fumbling with my camera to take a picture of the sign). I hooked up with Steve Poor for a few minutes and had a nice chat about the native flora, surfing, and hiking in general. He was adopting a gentle pace in search of unknown vegetation to investigate upon his return home.

I moved on and linked up with the group, dragging through the ever-deepening mud. We took a scenic diversion up a gentle knob to the 1,860-foot benchmark (don't remember the name... "Hina"?). The route can clearly be discerned on the lower edge of the Kahuku-Quad Topo. From it, the confused geography toward the coast towns of Laie and Kahuku puts definition to all those squiggles and disjointed zig-zags seen on the topo. It all resembled a bowl of jello-cubes covered with a carpet of green fuzz.

An hour or two later, I learned that the Kahuku Trail emerged onto that peak, but upon the return-trip, I didn't see it. However, it's definitely on the topo.

In all, we spent about 1.5-hours on a graded trek along gentle ups and downs before getting to the overgrowth. The main spine of the Koolau Range seemed to be trying to find form and definition as we worked our way southeast. Her ridgeline rounded and her peaks filed down by the winds and rains of the Pacific's trades, the gulches and ridge off-shoots were just ripples in comparison to the sharpened edges and honed valleys of miles south. In the gentle descents into the low-lying trembles of her spine, the trail collected sopping amounts of water and above ankle-high mud. Moisture-laden is definitely an understatement as to how wet this trail was. I could clearly see where the gushing streams, such as the Kawainui and Kawaiiki a few miles away, as visited a few months prior (see write-ups dated 07NOV98 and 08NOV98,respectively), were getting their ample supply of water!

Upon reaching our work site, I had already been covered from boot to thigh with mud ranging from red clay to gray goop to brown slime. Some of this mud had a putrid scent to it - a lather of decaying plant material and pig droppings and urination. "Lepto-mud!" Grant called it, for the potential Leptospirosis hazard hidden within. Ironically, though I had been slipping and sliding, I didn't fall once on my butt and yet I was thickly coated with the gunk.

Our swashbuckling crew brandished its tools and grunts against the mass of guava. Judy, Jim and I hung back to assist Grant's chainsawing and work with our own tools. It was difficult to help the chainsawers as we were tightly enveloped by the light-brown hardwood. In theory, we were to toss the "spears" and get them out of the way. This proved futile for me as the canopy of guava limbs frequently ricocheted them back my way. I resigned to machete-whacking the smaller trees while threading the bigger ones (cut by Grant) into the sides or jamming them into the muddy pools underfoot. We pressed on as far as we could for 1.5 hours, reaching a clearing by noon for lunch. Twix, mango-candy, and mustard pretzels were passed around - yum!

The day continued as such after the 30-minute lunchbreak. Steve Poor had to turn back for a prior engagement while the rest of us returned to the bush-beating. The guava forest thinned out into uluhe and Australian tea. At 2:30 PM, within sight of Malaekahana Ridge, it was decided to turn back. We were at least 30 - 40 minutes from that particular junction (assuming a cleared trail).

On the return, Paka dashed to the Koolau Lookout which was a five or ten minute trek from the three-way junction. We all made it out before 5 PM where we found most of the Kaunala-TC gang long gone. Luckily, tasty morsels were left for us to gorge on, thanks to Mabel, June, and Jason (did I forget someone?)! My mud-packed legs seemed to worry several clean evening-strollers headed for the standard state Kaunala Trail. Of course, Ralph worked their fears a little as they passed by! (*grin*)

Happy New Year!


For More Info...

"Opaeula/Kawaiiki, 07NOV98": www2.hawaii.edu/~turner/ohe/Nov98/11-13.html

"Kawainui, 08NOV98": www2.hawaii.edu/~turner/ohe/Nov98/11-14.html

1 S. M. Kamakau, KA MOOLELO O NA KAMEHAMEHA: KUOKOA. June 27, 1868

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