OHE February 18, 2000 (Kipapa)

Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 08:12:52 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (prorie@k12.hi.us)
Subject: Koa Ridge

Also known as Kipapa Ridge, Stuart Ball writes...

"Kipapa Ridge is the longest, wildest hike on O'ahu. The route starts near Mililani and climbs the ridge south of Kipapa Stream. The hike ends at the top of the Ko'olau Range near the junction with the start (end) of the Ko'olau Summit Trail"*

For the past two weeks, light and variable winds have dominated O'ahu's weather, bringing vog from the Big Island, high humidity and clear summits. This past Saturday (Feb. 12) was no exception, and I made the summit of the Kipapa Ridge Trail my goal.

Shortly before 7 a.m. I departed my condo in Waikele to a glorious morning (a slight chill in the air, both mountain ranges completely clear) and drove to an undisclosed location near Waiawa Prison. Continuing on foot at 7:10 a.m., I tramped north for approx. 1.5 to 2 miles until reaching a junction with the Kipapa Ridge Trail in a grove of paperbarks a short distance mauka of Koa Ridge Ranch.

After putting on gators and downing half a liter of tang, I took off, heading mauka at 8:37 a.m. I hiked through a lengthy section of guava as the footpath contoured on the left side of the ridge, and met a handful of friendly pig hunters with their dogs just beyond the first (of two) grove of tall Traveler (fan) palms near a tall Norfolk Island pine (tall Norfolk Island pines dot the top of the ridge periodically almost all the way to the summit). The leader offered to give me Doug ?'s phone number (the owner of Koa Ridge Ranch) and a lift back to the Waiawa area if we met up again later in the day. Unfortunately, I forgot that I had a pen and paper; otherwise, I would have jotted down Doug's number for future reference.

Pressing on, I encountered scratchy uluhe protruding into the trail (long pants highly recommended for this hike) and passed the second grove of tall Traveler palms (Kipapa is the only trail on O'ahu that I can recall having Traveler palms). Further ahead, I endured the worst part of the footpath, a washed out contour on the right side of the ridge with a couple of huge blowdowns mixed in. This section probably needs to be rebuilt (clearing it to the wall would not be enough). Fortunately, the footpath crossed over to the left side where additional guava provided stable footing. Emerging from the guava, I walked through a hunter camp (flattened grass and a side trail descending to the floor of the gulch below) and enjoyed a sweeping view of the completely clear Ko'olau summit in the distance. Next came more uluhe, then a narrow, rocky ledge devoid of vegetation formed by a huge blowdown (Peter Caldwell blazed a detour above this segment, but I opted to take my chances on the ledge). While traveling through a pig wallow, I spoke out loud to discourage a confrontation...

"Back off! Coming at ya! Move away!"

At the beginning of a brief contour on the right side of the ridge, I paused to gain pleasure from another nice view spot of the final few Norfolks dotting the ridge crest ahead and the Ko'olau summit beyond them. Noticed a disturbing number of Australian Tea shrubs (Army environmentalists call it ma-nuke-a) on the slopes above and below the trail as it switched back to the left side of the ridge, and I carefully negotiated a few minor landslides prior to commencing the stretch that contours to the apex of a 25 foot waterfall. Pig damage, sugi? pines, the beautiful crimson flowers of ohia lehua and two lovely stands of tall loulu palms (one on each side of the gully where the trail fords the stream above the waterfall) were observed in route to the stream crossing. The "faucet" that normally flows was only a trickle, but I did obtain one liter of water from a small pool below the third of five switchbacks. Before the second switchback, I couldn't help but gaze at the tract where Gene Robinson and I once set up our slumberjack bivy tents following a grueling day of backpacking.

Desiring to achieve the summit so that I could spend as much time as possible there, I gained elevation via switchbacks two through five, then worked my way along the spectacular yet overgrown leeward contour section cut magnificently into a Ko'olau summit pu'u above several deep gulches. Paused on several occasions to enjoy the incredible vista of pristine leeward valleys and ridges including Koa Ridge, not to mention the Wahiawa Plain and the Waianae Range in the distance.

At the final bend in the trail I recognized several lobelia (the "cabbage on a stick" variety) and like a dorsal fin emerging from below the surface of the ocean, Mount Ohulehule became visible above the Ko'olau summit as I proceeded closer to the terminus of the hike! I passed the rusty metal stake (marking the junction with the Ko'olau Summit Trail), the lone tall loulu and reached the Ko'olau summit at a flat, grassy overlook (elev. 2,785 ft) at 12:23 p.m.

I immediately stretched out on the grassy summit region and took in the awesome windward sights. Familiar "friends" grabbed my attention - Pu'u Pauao in the distance, Pu'u Piei, Turnover, Ohulehule, Kanehoalani resembling a spiked WWI German helmet, Chinaman's Hat dead ahead, Kaneohe Bay, the huge hanging gulch below "the corner" on the steep southern wall of Waiahole Valley, the windward coast of O'ahu as it stretches to Makapu'u. The sun brilliantly lit up the verdant slopes of Piei, Turnover, and Kanehoalani. Ate lunch and memorized the surrounding, prominent geographical features until 2 p.m. when I reluctantly departed the special place (one of the finest view spots on O'ahu).

The return leg went without a hitch, but I never saw the hunters again. I arrived at the paperbarks at 5:45 p.m. and approached my vehicle as darkness set in at 7:02 p.m. Visible to the west: the silhouette of the completely clear Waianae Range with the golden hue of the setting sun above it, in addition to the half moon directly overhead - a perfect way to end a long but rewarding hike!

Notes: "Kipapa is the longest hike in this book. It's worth it, though, because it passes through some of the wildest back country on O'ahu. The final climb to the Ko'olau summit is so spectacular you may even forget how tired and beat up you really feel."*

Because of its length (16 miles round trip from Waiawa, 12 miles round trip from Koa Ridge Ranch) and nature (a bear of a hike), I only attempt the Kipapa Ridge Trail if I'm reasonable certain of a clear summit. One of the items on my hiking/backpacking adgenda is to camp at the summit of Kipapa and come out Waikane the next day during a series of light and variable wind days. However, its tough to just drop everything and go. I torked my left knee a few times on Saturday but thanks to ibuprophen, its sore but still operational.

According to HTMC trail clearing boss Mabel Kekina, Gentry Homes is planning to develope land near the Waiawa Prison. As much as I hate to see more urban sprawl, the new community may allow HTMC to gain access to Kipapa Ridge. In the meantime, I hope to contact Doug of Koa Ridge Ranch to find out if the club can conduct a super hike (limited number of participants, the most capable hikers) beginning from the ranch.


* Ball, Jr., Stuart M. THE HIKER'S GUIDE TO O'AHU. Honolulu: University Of Hawaii Press, 1993.

== Paka

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