OHE December 7, 1998 (Schofield)

Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 22:39:19 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Schofield Trail Maintenance

First off, I admit that Schofield isn't one of my favorite trails, but after yesterday's (12/6/98) HTMC maintenance outing, it's moved up a notch or four in my personal rankings. The day looked like it would be a fine one when we met at 8 a.m. near the end of California Avenue out Wahiawa way, but as we in Hawaii know, a balmy day can transform into a wet, blustery one as fast as Pat Rorie can hike.

Because we had permission from the Army, we drove the 2-mile dirt road from the Ranger training area to the Schofield trailhead. The road was peppered with several good-sized mudholes, but the worst rutted sections had been recently regraded so that Ralph and Mabel were able to steer their respective vehicles thru mudland without major incident.

Hopeful that we'd hike under pleasant conditions, we hit the trail at 9 a.m. after hearing Mabel's instructions to "do what you can." We've had bigger turnouts for trail clearing, but the gang in attendance yesterday, 18 in all, was ready to lay waste to all the pesky clidemia and uluhe cluttering the way. In addition to Mabel, Ralph, and I, also turning out were Pat Rorie, Carole K. Moon, Ken Suzuki, Grant and Georgina Oka, Kris Corliss, Arnold Fujioka, Judy and Kim Roy, Lynn Agena, Nathan Yuen, June Miyasato, Bill Gorst, Jay Feldman, and John Hoover.

One of the nice aspects about clearing this route is that Na Ala Hele maintains the first two miles. Accordingly, we zipped along during that span, pausing occasionally to toss aside fallen branches toppled by the wind blasts of the past week or so. Because I like to get into a steady rhythm when hiking, I zipped ahead and was shadowed by Jay, a man I enjoy chatting with. Always with a proposition in mind, Jay's current one is to form a HTMC beer & pizza committee which would meet four or five times a year to brainstorm and hash out ideas regarding the club.

An orange PVC pipe in the trail marked the end of the improved Na Ala Hele segment. A few minutes prior, we passed a distinct, wide trail heading left down a broad, gentle side ridge to Kaukonahua Stream. And this trail is further mauka than the one mentioned as Point C on page 94 of Stuart Ball's book. What surprised me is that I'd never noticed this trail before during the handful of times I've hiked Schofield. Jay and I talked about revisiting it to either make a loop with the Point C trail or perhaps to find a route up to the ridge where the Poamoho trail resides. I reckon Brandon Stone has explored this area and can shed some light for us.

Speaking of side trails, I spotted another about 20 to 30 minutes beyond the orange PVC marker. Like the previous side route, I'd not noticed the latter on prior hikes. I did explore this one briefly yesterday, spying a healthy trailside lobeliad while doing so. Overgrown and not tramped down, this path is clearly less traveled and would require some hacking and huffing to get thru.

Beyond the lower 1.5 hours, the upper segment of the trail opens up to some outstanding unobscured ridge walking. A graded route, Schofield is more rollercoaster-ish than Waimano but not nearly as rugged as Manana, the kingpin of up-and-down hiking on Oahu. Fortunately, high clouds, brisk winds, and brief drizzle showers helped to increase our comfort level. At last year's maintenance outing, we endured a miserable humid, windless day when more than a couple of us ran out of water and were hobbled by cramping legs and general discomfort. With the past outing in mind, I welcomed the cool weather yesterday.

Also welcome was the decent condition of the trail. Of course, there was mud, uluhe, and clidemia but not in quantities I've seen on past hikes and maintenance outings. With such favorable conditions, a group of eight made steady progress, machetes swinging most of the way, and topped out in three hours.

For those who haven't visited there, the Schofield terminus is one of the better viewspots on the island. From the summit perch, dead ahead is Kahana Valley, bookended by Piei ridge on the left and Pu'u o Mahie ridge (home of Pu'u Manamana) on the right. Pat's beloved Ohulehule, its peak crowned by clouds yesterday, adds to the drama of the setting. Beyond these landmarks are Kahana Bay, the Kaaawa/Kualoa coastline and Kaneohe Bay. Beautiful.

The wind ripped forcefully during our 30-minute lunch break at the summit. Thankfully, because of the cornice-like configuration of the windward-facing part of the summit ridge, there was decent shelter just a few feet back of the ridgeline. In fact, for those so inclined, camping a few feet from the ridgeline would have been a more protected spot than at the flat-topped (and exposed) clearing usually used as a campspot.

Lunch breaks are always pleasant on trail clearing outings. For one thing, supplemental food runs rampant. Nathan, for instance, traditionally passes around li hing mango and lately jalapeno pretzel bits. Meanwhile, Lynn and June are reliable suppliers of baked goods, ranging from brownies to frosted mango bread, and candy, respectively. Of course, I always do my part by eating my share of these contributions to lighten the load of the contributor . In addition to the trail grub, talk-story time is fun, with Kim the undisputed master of one-liners and impersonations.

By 12:30, the first wave had completed lunch and had reversed field to begin the return trip. Prior to setting out in the morning, Pat and I talked about making a quick 30-minute jaunt from the terminus over to Pu'u Kaaumakua; however, the rainy, windy conditions squelched that plan. So downward wave 1 headed. About 15 minutes from the top, we met wave 2, led by Pat, Judy Roy, Ken Suzuki, Grant Oka, among others. Standing on an open ridge while pelted by wind-driven rain, Grant and I chatted for a couple minutes about the condition of my buddy Bill Melemai (he's doing fine after a recent pacemaker operation) and about how we're reaching the age threshhold where health problems pop up unannounced and unexpected. For the record, Grant, Bill, and I are 45, 43, and 40, respectively. With many good years ahead, hopefully.

While the others in the first wave pushed on, Arnold and I hung back to clear some of the brushier segments in the upper 1/3 of the route. After about 20 minutes, Arnold surged ahead, and I spent a good hour and a half working and hiking alone. Actually, I didn't mind that at all because I like solitary trekking now and then. Plus, I figured that blitzing to reach the trailhead would mean waiting an hour or so for the members of wave 2 to come out, so why rush? So I didn't, and my reward was the best experience on Schofield ever. Now and then I scanned the humps toward the summit to look for members of wave 2. No sign.

The weather was peculiar. It'd rain and blow for several minutes, and then the sun would fight to poke through the clouds. This cycle repeated three or four times until the rain emerged the victor. I started to feel chilled soon after emerging at the trailhead at 3:30. The rest of wave 1 had reached the start point just prior, and Mabel drove Bill Gorst, Jay, John Hoover, and Carole to California Avenue. Meanwhile, Nathan, Arnold, Lynn, Kim, and I settled down in the back of Ralph's truck to wait for Ralph and his wave 2 comadres and compadres. Not one to wait around, Arnold decided to walk the two miles to the Ranger HQ after hanging with us for a few minutes. Thinking I'd hiked all I was going to hike for the day, I discouraged the others from following Arnold's lead, saying that the walk on the dirt road was hellish (my disdain for pre- and post-hike road walking is well-documented) and that wave 2 would be arriving soon.

But soon wasn't soon enough.

We waited in the back of Ralph's truck for 75 minutes, enduring the equivalent of a blizzard in the Koolaus. Thankfully, Nathan had a spare parka in his pack else I might have suffered mild hypothermia. Agreeing that it'd be better to walk out than to wait any longer in the chilly rain, we set off at 4:45, hoping that nothing went amiss with members of wave 2. Nathan wasted no time and jogged off down the road, vanishing into the gloom.

To my delight, the road walk went much better than anticipated. For one thing, I felt better (and warmer) moving. What's more, the squishy state of the road reduced the jarring I'd usually experience. Plus Kim and I had some laughs while trying to hike by or thru the gauntlet of mudholes. To sum up, the road walk was surprisingly pleasant.

We reached our cars at 5:35, Nathan and Arnold having long departed by then, and ten minutes later Ralph's truck and Mabel's SUV pulled up with the wave 2 gang. We packed up our gear and drove to Wahiawa District Park for our traditional post-clearing refreshments, highlighted by Mabel's pumpkin cobbler and Lynn's combo bean/beef dip. Famished from the long day in the mountains, everyone shoveled down this feast with enthusiasm.

This Sunday's maintenance outing will have us traverse the windward side tri-pu'u of Olomana, Ahiki, and Pakui. For some added thrills, Ralph is eager to try the backside descent of Pakui. Those without ropes or cables need not apply.

Safe hiking to all,


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