OHE December 13, 1999 (Mililani Mauka)



Date: Mon, 13 Dec 1999 07:02:14 -1000
From: "STONE, J. BRANDON" (802005%cchpd@co.honolulu.hi.us>
Subject: Mililani Mauka/ohe-l

Nine of us returned yesterday (12-13-99) to Mililani Mauka to look for better access to the ridge trail that some of us descended on 11-14-99. June Miyasato, Lynn Agena, Thomas Yoza, Steve Montgomery, Charlotte Yamane, Lita Komura, Carole Moon, and I were along, and Lester Ohara was there to lead us down more side trails and tunnels than we could ever remember.

We started out at 8 am from the fifth street up on the right, as before. Only two days before, it turned out, Castle and Cooke had begun posting guards to keep people off the roads into the back of Mililani Mauka, probably to prevent dumping and thefts of construction materials (new development is coming to that area). We detoured toward Waikakalaua Stream, went through an old Civil Defense tunnel that Lester had found, and eventually came up to the ridge before the farm. We then went along the road toward the water tank (heading south, I think), but soon left that for a dirt road that descended into the gully beside our target ridge. At the bottom, the road deteriorated completely into mud, bamboo, and tall grass. We contoured around the base of our target ridge, heading basically mauka, sometimes slipping through the lower portions of strawberry guava-covered slopes, and eventually picked up the road again. An overhead powerline is an important landmark at the start of the ascent.

Partway up toward the target ridge the road splits. One fork leads up to the lychee orchard beside the farm and the other heads mauka. We followed the mauka fork until it wound around a spur and came within 100 yds of the target ridgetop. An easy walk through open scrub got us to the main trail through eucalyptus, and another 20 minutes or so put us out of the alien forest and into open koa, sandalwood, and uluhe-covered slopes. I believe that it was almost 10:50 am by that time.

We got to the farthest point we had reached a month before by around 11:30 am and settled down in the damp uluhe for lunch, minus Lester, who had stopped one or two pu'u behind us. I think that the lunchspot is on the pu'u about 1/2 inch to the left of the "1400" label on the topo. The day was always overcast and occasionally rainy, but the wind was not too strong and we were pretty warm as long as we were moving.

After a quick lunch we were on the move again. The trail was in pretty good shape, considering that there couldn't be much traffic back there. We did see hunter trash eventually: several plastic bottles stuck onto twigs and a few MRE and other packages littering the ground. Perhaps hunters have a more direct route to the back, or maybe some of them have gotten permission to go directly through the farm; otherwise, it's hard to understand how and why they would go so far mauka.

The streambed in the gully on our right came up quite close to the ridge crest and stayed near the trail for quite awhile. At one point a clear sidetrail descended to the stream. I went down 50 yds or so and got as close as I could; it would have taken major uluhe surgery to actually get down to the streambed. I could hear water, but that wasn't surprising yesterday. Eventually the ridge trail veered sharply to the right as the gully came to an end and we ascended to a pu'u, joining a ridge coming in on our right. On the topo, this pu'u is at the point on the ridge nearest the word "EWA." We never got beyond the open koa forest. By our farthest point, we were beginning to see some kopiko, ahakea, and 'ohi'a lehua, plus a lone kawa'u.

We headed home after that, retracing our steps to the eucalyptus, through the scrub, and down to the upper end of the dirt road. "Lester," we cried out, expecting to see him waiting for us somewhere around there. Alas, no Lester. Soon thereafter we reached the fork which promised us an easier way out, according to Lester--through the lychee orchard. We spotted Lester's footprints in the mud. Sure enough, we soon saw the inviting green lawns of the orchard ahead, but we also saw the buildings off to the right. For the rest of our adventure there was much periodic discussion of how stealthy we needed to be. Steve (having been busted last time) and Thomas were most in favor of stealth and I was ready to just stroll out like I owned the place, but we wound up going the stealth route, threading our way through guava and pushing through tall grass for hundreds of yards along the outer edge of the orchard, always trying to avoid a steep slope on our left. Finally, we broke out of the grass onto a dirt road (where we spotted Lester's prints again) which was hidden from the buildings and soon led us out to the paved road to the water tank, just on the inside of the locked gate.

Thomas, still favoring maximum stealth and wanting a "clean" getaway, led us away from the paved road back to our cars, thinking that there was another parallel road not far away. The next hour is a blur in my mind. All I can remember is tall grass and more tall grass, plus some kupukupu fern. It's amazing how far you can go without hitting a road. We finally followed a compass bearing to the NW and emerged onto the paved road, which was now unguarded. Whew! We started down the wide, streetlight-lined boulevard and what do we see but Lester's black pickup heading our way. We're back at our cars in a jif, enjoying goodies, and discussing the adventure by around 5:30 pm. Thomas is stoked, calling it a great exploration. The rest of us are looking for warm, dry clothes.

At that point we discover that Lester had never actually travelled in or out through the orchard, so we all broke new ground. It turns out that Lester had been waiting for us at the margin of the eucalyptus, but then he'd heard and seen a group on the opposite ridge, across the Waikakalaua, yelling and waving at him. He figured that it was us (it wasn't, of course) and, fearing that we would beat him out, he hightailed it through the orchard, apparently being somewhat less stealthy than we were, but avoiding detection nonetheless.

The only practical way to explore farther up the ridge, in my opinion, will be to get permission from the owner or manager of the farm so that we can drive directly to the farm, park there, and cut a couple of hours off of each end of the trip. If that can be done, then we'll have access to a beautiful area and an existing trail.

Brandon


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