OHE December 5, 1999 (Pu'u o Kona with HTMC)

Date: Sun, 5 Dec 1999 20:34:44 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Pu'u o Kona trail maintenance

The winds were whipping in the 40-50 mph range today along the ridges above Kuliouou Valley, but the HTMC trail maintenance crew was still able to complete the task of clearing the 6-mile Pu'u o Kona route for the 12/19 club outing (members-only).

The bulk of us worked the route opposite of the way members will hike it in a couple weeks. We met at 8 on Papahehi Place and went up the middle ridge of the valley, clearing as we climbed. The first half mile of the middle ridge was fairly open, ala the rocky dryland area around Makapuu, and not much work was needed there. After that, we had to do more hacking with our cutting tools, felling mostly Christmas berry, guava, and palm grass.

About a mile up the middle ridge, we reached uluhe and clidemia territory. As a consequence, we had to spend more time opening up the trail, which by its overgrown disposition seems to see minimal hiker traffic. By this point, we were at the 1,200 foot level, with another 1,200 feet of climbing to reach the summit crest about a half mile west of Pu'u o Kona.

At the 1.7 mile mark (elevation 2,200 ft.), we reached the first of two cable sections. A new orange cable is available to climb the left side of a steep, partly rocky/partly eroded pu'u. While being battered by strong winds, we rested for a few minutes atop this pu'u after safely using the cable. We then climbed a badly eroded slope with the aid of another sturdy cable, with the wind showing no signs of abating.

The hilltop above the second cable section is notable for three things: it is where the west ridge of Kuliouou merges with the middle ridge we climbed; it is where the waterfall trail from Kuliouou Valley tops out; and it is 50 meters above the remains of a crashed plane. Many of us descended the Kuliouou-facing side of the pu'u to examine the wreckage, with Jim Pushaw displaying the biggest enthusiasm for exploring the remnants of the long-ago mishap.

There are a couple narrow sections after pu'u 2,200 and we took our time negotiating these given the balance-disturbing blasts of the wind. All went well, which wasn't the case a few years ago for a female club member who fell and was injured in this area. Mishap-free, we reached the Koolau summit (elev. 2,400) between 11 and 11:15, and without pause commenced the crossover to Pu'u o Kona and onward to the terminus of the Kuliouou state trail.

The strong winds gave clouds no chance to hover along the summit, and during the crossover we enjoyed clear views down to Waimanalo. Of note was a field filled with bright red poinsettas, a shimmering contrast to the green and brown fields around it.

The summit section from the topping out point of Kuliouou west to the state trail terminus (elev. 2,028 ft.) is three-quarters of a mile and was badly overgrown with clidemia and palm grass. Clearing as best as we could, we reached the latter at high noon on the dot. Waiting there for us were Mabel Kekina, Deetsie Chave, and Lita Komura, who'd reached there via trails in Kaalakei Valley and Mauna o Ahi ridge.

We all sat down to eat lunch at a semi-sheltered depression just to the lee of the summit clearing. In addition to the folks already mentioned, on hand were Dusty Klein, Ken Suzuki, Carole K. Moon, June Miyasato, Charlotte Yamane, Georgina Oka, Nathan Yuen, Jason Sunada, Bill Gorst, Thomas Yoza, Jay Feldman, Lynn Agena (who shared a batch of ono-kine chocolate brownies), and Mike Algiers, who'll coordinate the 12/19 club outing. There also was a new volunteer with us, but I did not catch his name.

The nineteen of us weren't the only ones at the summit of the state trail. I counted at least ten other folks and one small, feisty dog there at one time or another while we ate lunch. Always good to see others enjoying the outdoors.

Around 12:45, a rain squall put us in pack and depart mode, with most of the group heading down the state trail, and some of us continuing another half mile southeast along the crest to the top-out point of Mauna o Ahi ridge (elev. 1,720). For those who've never been to this spot, it's just east of a set of high powerline poles and just west of another set of poles. This junction is well marked now but may not be after the club hike.

Our descent of Mauna o Ahi was about half a mile. On the way down, Jason blitzed by me at just short of running pace. There are few I've hiked with who can go up and down slopes with the speed and agility of Jason (Pat Rorie is in the same category). Nathan remarked that Jason must have hoofs like a goat.

During the descent, we reached a significant, heavily-ribboned junction where we turned sharply right to follow an old jeep road that contours along the back of Kaalakei Valley at approximately the 800-ft. level. This old road is fairly open, so much so that mountain bikers use it, at least that's my assumption based on the bike tracks I saw.

After crossing a rocky streambed with a trickle of water in it, we followed the old road as it continued to contour, this time makai. At the next junction, we veered right and up to follow a trail that would climb gradually up to the crest of Kuliouou's east ridge (straight ahead, the old road continued makai down Kaalakei Valley).

Once we reached the ridgetop, we followed a trail makai for a couple hundred meters then turned right to follow a trail downslope to reach the start of the Kuliouou state trail. Jason, Georgina, and the new guy continued makai on Kuliouou East and eventually descended the ridge near where Georgina lives at the start of Kuliouou Valley. That threesome then walked back on Kuliouou Road to meet us at the community park near Papahehi Place.

See maps of the route at


By 3:00, we all were gathered at the park for our post-outing refreshment fest (save for Ken, who took off to go golfing, and Dusty, who took off for home). Mabel served up some delicious bread pudding, which we all enjoyed.

Next Sunday's trail maintenance outing will be Olomana. Meeting time is 8 a.m. along the access road to the Luana Hills Golf Course. Some folks will also be doing a non-HTMC exploratory hike up in Mililani Mauka. For details about that, email Tom Yoza (tyoza@gte.net).

I hope others on the list had a chance to do some hiking today. (hint) Hike narratives are always welcome. (/hint)



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