OHE December 2, 1999 (KST to Castle)



Date: Thu, 2 Dec 1999 10:56:43 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (prorie@k12.hi.us>
Subject: Another Attempt at the Silver Trail

Requiring a minimum of four days and covering some of the wildest, muddiest terrain in the State, the Silver Trail (Pupukea to Moanalua Valley named in honor of HTMC legend Silver Piliwale) is the toughest backpacking trip in all the Hawaiian Islands. Even Mauna Loa with its alpine status has been rendered "cupcake" in comparison thanks to diamox and acclimation. Three men set out to tame this "beast" on Thanksgiving weekend 1999 but had to abort the attempt due to blustery weather and fatigue.

Roger Breton, Gene Robinson, and Patrick Rorie met at the end of Ala Aolani Street in Moanalua Valley at 6 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 25. A short time later, Dayle Turner arrived and drove the threesome to the Pupukea Boy Scout Camp on O'ahu's north shore. The weather report called for mostly sunny skies with trade winds 10 to 25 mph, but clouds completely engulfed the crest of the Ko'olau Mountain Range that morning.

Following final preps, the four men proceeded on foot along a dirt road at 7:13 a.m. and soon entered the Kahuku Range, an Army training area. About three quarters of a mile later and a few minutes past 8 a.m., the group reached the start of the Ko'olau Summit Trail (KST), a graded contour footpath built by the CCC in the 1930's. Dayle bid Roger, Gene and Patrick a good hike and a happy thanksgiving, then headed back toward the Boy Scout camp.

The three backpackers began tramping on the Summit Trail with Roger leading the way. Foggy conditions limited visibility but gusty breezes kept the men cool and allowed them to travel briskly without requiring much water consumption. The men first encountered the infamous Ko'olau mud as they approached the Pupukea Summit pu'u and completed the contour of the peak a few minutes beyond 9 a.m. through thick stands of strawberry guava, an abundance of fruit littering the trail. As the group crushed the strawberry guavas under foot, Gene and Roger joked that they were in the process of making strawberry guava wine.

The KST broke out onto the windward side of the Ko'olau crest for a stretch and the clouds opened up briefly revealing the Laie coast and Mokuauia Island (better known as Goat Island), the reference point to chart progress on the Summit Trail. Clumps of tall loulu palms also began appearing on both sides of the summit ridge and Patrick halted on a few occasions to study them, esp. the bent ones that appeared to grow that way due to the primarily trade wind gusts.

At 11:20 a.m. the trio arrived at a grove of Australian tea (ma-nuke-a to Army botonists) and the junction with the Malaekahana Ridge Trail but did not pause to take a break. An open section ensued and gale force winds pummeled the men nearly knocking them off their feet. They worked their way around low lying hills bypassing overgrown leeward sections of the KST with Roger reaching the Laie foxhole and the sign marking the Laie Trail at approx. 12 noon. Patrick arrived five minutes later and waited for Gene. By now the fog had lifted giving Roger, Gene and Patrick outstanding views of the Laie coast, the Wahiawa Plain, the Waianae Range, the north shore in the direction of Ka'ena Point and the surrounding convoluted topography.

When Patrick observed Gene approaching below the foxhole, he continued hiking on the Summit Trail toward Kawailoa. Roger allowed Patrick to pass, and together they traveled to the Kawailoa summit region plopping down on a campsite to windward of the marsh and flat-topped mound (helipad) at 12:37 p.m. (the place where Patrick, Carole Moon, Ken Suzuki and June Miyasato set up their tents during the HTMC KST trek in late July of this year). Patrick consumed a balance bar and a package of graham crackers and eventually Gene arrived and also sat down to rest.

Located at the terminus of the CCC Kawailoa Ridge Trail, the Kawailoa summit area has an eerie feel to it. A collapsed wooden platform on the helipad could be mistaken for the remains of an alien spacecraft. A marsh covered with several dead ma-nuke-a trees and a few metal landing mats strewn about the territory also contribute to its mystique.

After refueling and relaxing, Roger and Patrick stood up and walked south a short distance minus their heavy packs and dropped down to a small waterfall to obtain H2O which they treated with iodine. Gene, carrying all the water he would need to get him to Poamoho, did not accompany them, however.

Upon rejoining Gene, the trio saddled up again and crossed the marsh at 1:25 p.m. While Gene and Roger proceeded to Pu'u Ka'inapua'a (lit. "pig procession hill"), Patrick paused at the top of the helipad to enjoy the partially obscured leeward vista of the Wahiawa Plain and Waianae Range.

Careful not to fall too far behind his colleagues, Rorie regained the KST and closed the gap on Roger and Gene. More clumps of tall loulu appeared and lapalapa, as well as other native plants of the rain forest, became very apparent. Nevertheless, the men had to endure deeper mud and increasing overgrowth. On one of the leeward sections, Patrick observed a lovely, vertical waterfall in the distance above upper Kawainui Stream and, further ahead, the men became fogged in as they arrived at the former locale of the Kahuku Cabin, strong winds blasting through the region.

Patrick took the ram-rod position to give Roger a break, and beyond a narrow defile the view of spectacular Kaipapa'u Gulch was completely hidden by mist. The footpath switched to leeward and the threesome passed a huge rock in the middle of the trail. They cautiously negotiated a section of the KST that had been rerouted along a landslide, Roger's favorite stretch of the KST (sarcasm). Subsequent to the slide but still on the leeward side of the summit ridge, Patrick, Roger and Gene plowed through a grit-your-teeth segment of thick clidemia, then Roger assumed the lead position and the fog lifted. The men got pounded again by the wind as the Summit Trail leveled out in an open grassy area, and Patrick halted at a pleasant overlook of the windward side recognizing the Laie coast and Goat Island (now to the north rather than to the east as it had been just past the Pupukea Summit pu'u).

While high above and completely in back of a beautiful, pristine leeward Ko'olau valley, Patrick shouted several times and delighted in the fact that he could hear his voice reverberate. Gene, bringing up the rear, also experienced this phenomena using his own inflection.

The KST crossed back and forth from windward to leeward and climbed steadily toward the Castle/KST junction, the trio's day one goal. Normally, a traveler of the KST looks forward to and appreciates the windward sections because of their relative openness, but on this day, because of the gale force winds, Roger, Patrick and Gene actually preferred to be on the leeward despite the additional vegetation and deep mud pits.

During the final half mile to the terminus of the Castle Trail, Patrick struggled with negative thoughts brought on by the exhaustion and pain he felt.

"Why am I up here?... I could have gone to Hakalau this weekend!... I'm never doing this again!!!"

But Rorie corrected his attitude by telling himself to look around at the beautiful native flora, esp. the abundance of ohia lehua, to seize the rewards of the trip no matter how small.

Finally, at 4:52 p.m. and completely engulfed in fog, the threesome reached the Castle/KST junction marked by a grey PVC pipe sticking out of the ground, a rusty metal stake (the old junction marker) behind it leaning against an embankment. Patrick walked to a ledge at the very end of the Castle Trail and sat down.

After a break, the trio set up their tents, Roger and Gene in an open grassy area on the Summit Trail while Patrick chose the ledge he had been sitting on, a tract protected from the wind just wide enough for his slumberjack bivy. Due to the chilly conditions, Roger and Gene retreated to the shelter of their canvas converings almost as soon as they were erected. Patrick, on the other hand, sat next to his tent and reflected on the day's events. Gene boiled water for Roger and himself which they used to prepare and consume the evening meal, and the two men talked strategy. Later, Patrick ate dinner and shared a story about mutant wild boar ("they picked up our scent at Kawailoa, and they'll be coming through here tonight!" he predicted), along with the legends of Wade Johnson and Geraldine Cline (no disrespect intended). Before retiring for the night, Roger contacted Dayle via cell phone to give him the status of the group and to nail down Friday's rendezvous point and time.

Next: Day 2 - The Trip Ends Prematurely

== Paka


Return to OHE top | Return to Oahu Hike Tales | Email Dayle