OHE December 27, 1999 (Aiea Loop/Little Waimalu)

Date: Mon, 27 Dec 1999 06:34:58 -1000
From: "STONE, J. BRANDON" (802005%cchpd@co.honolulu.hi.us)
Subject: Aiea to Little Waimalu/ohe

I've long been fascinated by the idea of creating a route that runs across several Leeward Koolau valleys at mid-altitude. Such a route would go up and down great ridges, cross clear streams with deep pools, and pass through enjoyable mesic forest (not too wet, not too dry). It would afford endless opportunities for loop hikes, one-way hikes, and even superhikes. Best of all, the route already exists. It's just a matter (for the most part) of stringing together a bunch of lesser-used trails.

Yesterday Kay Lynch and I filled in the last gap in such a route between Aiea Ridge and the Waimano Trail. I've done every part of the route myself except for a short stretch atop Onikiniki Ridge that I know has been done by HTMCers. The route that exists right now is not efficient or easy to follow, but it will get you across many miles and many valleys. Extending it to Manana would be easy; I just haven't done all of that yet.

It was raining in Honolulu when we set out for Aiea, though there was some blue sky to Leeward. The heavy skies contained themselves all morning, but at lunchtime it poured for about a half hour and it rained lightly the rest of the afternoon.

We started out walking at 9 am along the Ewa portion of the Aiea Loop Trail. At Pu'u Uau we headed down the long spur to Kalauao Stream. There's a great variety of native plants along the way: Zylosma (maua), Nestegis (olopua), Rauvolfia (hao), Cyanea angustifolia (a lobeliad), Diospyros hillebrandii (lama lau li'i), Chamaesyce (akoko), Wikstroemia (akia), and much more. At the bottom the stream was flowing clear. We walked upstream for about 15 minutes, crossing the stream several times, until we passed the largest pool in that section of the stream and, moments later, came to a very distinctive rock shelf that spans the stream. I always think of this shelf as the Sun Rocks because they're great for sunning after dipping into the pool, though the pool did not beckon yesterday. This spot is just makai of a sharp bend to the left as you move upstream.

After a quick snack at 11:15 am we started along the trail, but within fifty feet or so we turned left and headed up an obvious spur. There are signs of a trail here if you look sharply. I had seen this on earlier trips but had never had a chance to ascend. We saw old machete marks most of the way up the ridge, and the trail itself was pretty clear, though overgrown, most of the way. (OK, maybe "clear" is an exaggeration, but if I parted the uluhe with my hands, I could often see a definite path down there.) There are, however, plenty of pig trails that can be confusing. In the lower section we saw more Rauvolfia (hao), lots of lama, and a couple of things we weren't sure of and couldn't get close to; one may have been Pisonia (papala kepau). As we neared the crest of the main ridge, the vegetation opened up into an ohia lehua/koa/sandalwood/uluhe/kupukupu forest. Beautiful. Great views in all directions, obscured though they were by clouds and mist. But that portion of the trail was most overgrown so it took awhile to swim upstream through the ferns.

At the top we popped out onto the Onikiniki Ridge trail described by Dayle Turner on 10-24-99 (Little Waimalu Loop). I think that we emerged onto the pu'u just mauka of the one labelled 1574 on the topo. Kay was flagging the junction while I walked mauka toward a vantage point. Just then the skies opened up and I dove into the underbrush and made a little pua'a nest. We ate lunch buried in there under a pukiawe bush, actually surrounded on all sides and above by the vegetation. It didn't keep us dry, but did shelter us from the wind. We got cold quickly and started to retrace our steps about 1pm.

The rain let up quite a bit and we were soon back at the stream and then at the turnoff back up to the Loop Trail. Instead of heading back up to Pu'u Uau, we took the contour trail that emerges near one of the powerlines on the trail. I had only done this once, a couple of years ago, and was looking forward to seeing it again. Some people must use it because it was pretty clear. We passed a great looking little waterfall in the back of the first gully on the way up. Much farther along I was about to comment on the lack of interesting plants when I realized that I was standing by a Charpentiera (papala), which is not all that common. Eventually the contour trail quits contouring and heads straight up a spur to the Loop Trail for about a quarter mile. The trip out was short, but the hard-packed mud was so slick that I was able to demonstrate what it looks like when my feet go out from under me.

For anyone crazy enough to want to do this, the way to get from Aiea to Waimano is this: Aiea Loop to Pu'u Uau; down to Kalauao Stream; upstream to the Sun Rocks; up the spur on the left to Onikiniki Ridge; mauka on that ridge to the junction with Little Waimalu Ridge; turn sharply left (makai) and follow Little Waimalu Ridge back to "Burned Ridge"; descend to the Waimalu Ditch Trail; follow it mauka down to the stream and up to the foot of Waimalu Middle Ridge; head not up the Middle Ridge, but up the spur that will take you to Waiau Ridge (finding the right spur will be confusing, but HTMC did this route earlier this year); once on Waiau Ridge, head mauka past the Big Dip and beyond to about the "1800" label on the topo; head down the spur into Waimano Valley; if you pick the correct spur, you'll come out at the stream right beside the dilapidated cabin; take the short, steep trail up from the stream to the Waimano Trail; head makai to journey's end at the Waimano trailhead. Could superhikers make this in one day? I don't think so. I know I don't plan to.

I've done half the work of getting from the Waimano Trail near the cabin to the Manana Trail near the helipad. The remainder involves getting over a middle ridge that lies between the two. Beyond Manana lies Waiawa Valley. I don't know anything about the mauka portion of that valley. If you were to make your way across its many drainages, though, you'd be able to exit along the Kipapa Ridge Trail.

My goodness, this is fun!


Reply From: Gene Robinson (gene@lava.net)

Thanks, Brandon. Good work!

The best way to keep the trail open is to use it, and I'll try. Any consistency to the ribbons along the route?


Reply From: "STONE, J. BRANDON" (802005%cchpd@co.honolulu.hi.us)


None whatsoever. In fact, over much of the route any ribbons are likely to get torn down. We found a bunch on the ground when we descended Burned Ridge from Waimalu Little Ridge to the Waimalu Ditch Trail last week. For now, though, our orange ones are flagging the new segment from Kalauao Stream up to Onikiniki Ridge. If you're coming up that ridge from your backyard (so to speak), then look for orange ribbons at the junction. Turn right and head down to Kalauao; the way should be obvious for a few months at least. We flagged the way between Waiau Ridge and Waimalu Stream several months ago; I have no idea if the ribbons are still there. The route from Waiau Ridge down to the dilapidated cabin in Waimano Valley is probably rough and unflagged. I did that a couple of years ago. The way from the cabin up to the Waimano Trail should be pretty obvious. It's very short and very steep.

Just writing about this makes me want to go live back there for a week or two. The babbling brooks...the magnificent vistas...the noble forests. BTW, we saw some of the biggest ohia lehua we've ever seen on this island yesterday, on the way up the spur from Kalauao to Onikiniki Ridge. Move over, pua'a!


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