OHE February 19, 2000 (Kolowalu-Olympus-Waiakeakua)

Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2000 22:10:04 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu)
Subject: Kolowalu-Olympus-Waiakeakua

Today, Jay Feldman and I completed a loop around the eastern upper bowl of Manoa Valley, partly as a Saturday workout hike and partly to do a look-see and get some clearing done for an upcoming HTMC hike I'm going to coordinate on 3/18. Jay and I were supposed to meet on Alani Drive in the Woodlawn area of Manoa at 8:30, but I was delayed (my sister, her husband, & their son are visiting from the mainland) and I didn't arrive at Alani until 9. I later found out that Jay, a punctual sort, arrived at the appointed hour, waited for 20 minutes, and then set off up the Kolowalu trail, probably thinking I'd come along sooner or later. Rich Jacobson also was on the trail, opting to launch at Waahila Park instead of Woodlawn.

After readying my stuff, I set off at 9:10, hiking up Kolowalu at a chug-a-lug pace. Kolowalu, albeit steep and no-nonsense, was in good shape--not muddy & no blowdowns. I've heard that a local running club and some ultra-distance runners use Kolowalu as a workout route, and I can understand why, given its easy accessibility and steep grade, great for leg strength development. As I neared Kolowalu's junction with the Waahila Ridge Trail, I came upon a couple meditating in lotus positions on a tarp in the middle of the trail. The wahine apologized for blocking the path, and I apologized for disrupting their mantras.

When I reached the Kolowalu-Waahila junction a couple minutes later, I continued upridge toward Olympus without pause, looking for signs that someone was ahead of me. At that point, I was uncertain if Rich or Jay were on the trail since Jay had emailed me the night before to say he might not turn out because he was feeling somewhat under the weather and Rich had said he would be starting at Waahila Park.

Not far past the guava branch ladder, I saw fresh cleat marks. I reckoned these were made my Rich and/or Jay, since both wear football shoes while hiking. A few minutes later, when I reached the first significant pu'u where the first clear view of the upper ridge and Olympus itself is available, I spotted two hikers about a quarter mile ahead. Since I was hiking without glasses or contacts (my vision is 20-100), I couldn't verify if the duo was indeed Rich and Jay. I later found out both were carrying walkie-talkies and had been trying to radio me; however, during my hasty departure from home prior to the hike, I had forgotten mine.

When the duo was making the final climb to Olympus, they turned, saw me coming up the ridge, and yelled out. Familiar voices! It was Jay and Rich. Good deal. Rich continued on to the summit of Olympus while Jay waited for me at the junction with the Olympus-Castle trail. Rich, because he was hampered by knee pain, told us he wouldn't be doing the crossover on the crest and would be heading back down Waahila Ridge to his car at the park.

Jay, meanwhile, was in green-light mode to hike along the crest to get to the terminus of Manoa Middle Ridge, which I will unofficially christen and henceforth refer to as Waiakeakua Ridge. Jay told me had never hiked the section of the Koolaus between Olympus and Konahuanui and was looking forward to doing part of it today. So at a few minutes before 11 a.m., off Jay and I went, making good time on the recently reopened section of Olympus-Castle. Kudos to Wing Ng, Mark Short, Greg Kingsley, Randy Jackson, and others for the work.

We needed less than half an hour to reach the infamous Sedan Rock (still cable-less) and Ironwood razor ridge. Moving along carefully, Jay and I negotiated both without incident. Rich, watching us (with binoculars?) from Olympus, radioed Jay to say the Sedan Rock looked like a piece of cake. In effect, it isn't too risky though care must be taken to avoid a mishap. The ironwood section, though narrow, has many solid handholds and also isn't too bad danger-wise.

Beyond the saddle where the Sedan Rock and Ironwood section are, there is about a quarter mile of ridge to negotiate to gain about 300 feet of elevation to reach the summit of Waiakeakua Ridge. Brandon Stone, Wing Ng, and I came up this ridge last August (for details of this see www2.hawaii.edu/~turner/ohe/Aug99/8-21.html), and a week later a group of us went down this ridge after crossing over from Konahuanui (see www2.hawaii.edu/~turner/ohe/Aug99/8-29.html).

Today, Jay and I reached the summit of Waiakeakua Ridge just before noon, and given the time of day and our need for rest and refueling, we sat down there to eat lunch. It was a beautiful day, with clear views down onto the Maunawili Demo Trail, of Maunawili Valley, of Olomana, of the crest toward Konahuanui and toward Olympus and beyond to Lanipo and points further east. For lunch, I wolfed down a can of sardines (and, no, I didn't hang the can in a tree) and glugged an ample amount of water (I was lugging 5 liters). Jay, I think, dined on his usual fruit salad concoction, and while we ate and rested, we talked at length about our respective dealings with people, about folks we were always glad to have hiking with us, and a bunch of other topics. It was an enjoyable lunch.

Forty minutes after we plopped down, we were on our feet again, sharpening our machetes and warming up stiffened joints and muscles for the descent of Waiakeakua. A ribbon marked this junction and I tied a couple others for good measure so that this turnoff will be clearly recognizable for the folks who are on the hike I'll coordinate on 3/18 (for that, we'll start in Kuliouou and once on the crest head westbound to descend Waiakeakua to Manoa Valley).

The swath created on 8/29 was still readily apparent, and Jay and I did touch up clearing (mostly uluhe) as we made our way down a broad, steep section. We reminded ourselves not to make the swath too wide since doing so would give pests like clidemia a chance to get established.

After the steep descent, the ridge dipped into a small saddle and climbed briefly to a flat-topped pu'u (1,935 on the topo map). At that pu'u we veered right to continue our descent, continuing to hack at uluhe as we hiked. The ridge remained generally broad, with a non-visible Waiakeakua Stream hundreds of feet below us on the left.

It was about this time (between 1 and 1:30) that we received a radio call from Rich, who said while heading down Waahila Ridge he ran into three folks I knew. The folks were Hiram, Tammy, and Peter, who I backpacked with (Haleakala) last summer. Today, they were either doing a training hike for an upcoming backpack trip or they were hiking up Waahila to campout (I was unclear which it was). Whatever the case, it was good to hear they were out enjoying the day.

Meanwhile, Jay and I continued down the ridge, chopping uluhe and, further down, fiddlewood (tons of the latter). We crossed a very narrow (six inches wide) but short (3-foot) section then continued to pound away at fiddlewood (by this point, Jay had holstered his machete and was attacking the stuff with his loppers).

We passed a rope tied to a tree (don't know who left this and what for) and then reached the point where we departed the ridge to head right to descend into a dark bamboo grove. An orange ribbon and a blue plastic bag tied to a bamboo stalk marks this junction. A fallen tree obscured the first part of the slope where we had to leave the ridge to dip into the bamboo, but we tied a couple of ribbons to make this more obvious.

We followed ribbons (sometimes orange, sometimes pink) down through the bamboo, and when we lost sight of any markers, we continued to descend while fading to the left, a direction I remembered we needed to take based on the two previous times I'd hiked in the bamboo. As I had hoped, we encountered ribbons again, and, using recall and some previously-placed markers, we found our way to Waiakeakua Stream, which we rockhopped across. A short scramble up a slope covered with jumbled vegetation brought us to the Waiakeakua Stream trail at the foot of a steep set of concrete stairs. It was between 3:30 and 4:00 at the time.

We climbed the stairs and continued along the stream trail. Within 100 meters past the top of the stairs, I recognized a faint trail that climbed the hillside on the right that would take us to the Pu'u Pia Trail. This faint trail up the hillside commences in a scattered grove of fan palms and is directly across a good-sized banyan tree.

The hillside was steep, not long (200 meters?), and covered with ample guava trees for handholds. Before we knew it, Jay and I were standing on the Pia Trail, glad we had completed the last ascent of the day. The hike along the Pia Trail to its junction with the Kolowalu Trail and, soon thereafter, the trailhead at Alani Drive, took maybe fifteen minutes. On the way, we met a lone hiker examining flora with a plant book, complete with ample photos.

When we arrived at the junction of Alani and Woodlawn, it was about 4:15. Standing next to my vehicle was Jason Sunada, who had spent part of the afternoon cruising along Waiakeakua Stream (he lives in Manoa). We talked to Jason for a few minutes, then boarded our vehicles to head for home. On the way, I stopped at the Texaco Foodmart on East Manoa Road and purchased a two-liter bottle of Diet Pepsi for $.99 and two hotdogs (I ate these bunless) for $.99. Great deals!

In summary, the outing was an enjoyable one on a very beautiful day on Oahu. Jay and I talked about suggesting that Waiakeakua Ridge be added to the HTMC roster of hikes as part of the same loop we did today or one that would include an ascent of Konahuanui and a crossover on the summit as we did on 8/29/99. I think folks will enjoy either or both of these hikes.

Hike on,


Reply From: Thomas Yoza (tyoza@gte.net)

I took today off from trail maintenance duties so I could take my Mom and Aunt to a luncheon at the Tree Tops restaurant at Paradise Park, deep inside Manoa valley. In the restaurant are many old pictures showing what Manoa looked like before the massive development of the valley. Anyway, there was a framed poster at the entrance with a story about Waiakeakua.


In a time long, long ago, the great gods Kane and Kanaloa came down from their mystical island of Kuaihelani and walked these islands as men, seeking diversion and merriment in their travels. Their journey brought them into the lush valley of Manoa where they came to seek the 'awa plant, which, when mashed with water made a most intoxicating and refreshing drink. Deeper and deeper into the valley they ventured until they reached the foot of the great mountain peak, Konahuanui. There they found what they were looking for.

"Ah", cried Kanaloa, " the 'awa in this valley is surely the finest we have seen. But where shall I go to find water?"

"There is water here", Kane whispered. "SSShhh, can you hear it?" With that he struck the mountainside with mighty blows of his staff, (see, even the gods used trekking poles) and a spring of fresh, cool water burst forth creating a large, clear pool among the fallen rocks. The two gods drank their fill of 'awa that night and in the morning went on their merry way.

But this magical pool remained and because it was created by such great gods, it became the special property of only the highest chiefs. When Kamehameha the great ruled these islands, its water was sacred to him alone. And the pool is here to this day, hidden a little deeper in the valley under a protective canopy of mountain apple trees, its cool, sweet water flowing gently into Manoa stream. It is known today as it has been known since the gods walked the earth as Wai-a-ke-akua, "water of the gods".

Geezs! I hope you guys didn't wash you muddy boots in the pool!!!

Aloha, Thomas

Reply From: Tammy Nasu (hnt001@hawaii.rr.com)

Just responding to your post of Saturday's hike...Yes, Hiram, Peter and I were backpacking up the Kolowalu trail. That part was a killer. After we hit the Olympus trail, we met Rich. We tried to radio you and Jay but I guess we didn't have a line of sight. We set up camp around 2pm at the major clearing just before hitting the Koolau ridge. We then hiked up toward Olympus and got some pictures at the lookout. Then we returned to camp and rested. Hiram and I were in a 3-person tent and Peter had his bivy. It was super windy and we felt the effects when we went to sleep. Our tent kept compressing and the rain fly was flapping like crazy. Neither of us got much sleep. I would say it was about 40 mph winds. In the late morning, we packed up and went up toward Waiakeakua but eventually stopped because of time and the trail didn't look too alluring. Peter went on ahead and got to the boulder but couldn't get past it. If you go back to the trail, you'll see where he tried to blaze around the boulder. We then returned via Kolowalu. My parents live right down the street so we just walked to their house. Perhaps next time we will start from Waahila!

All-in-all it was a good experience. We had great weather except for some haze and the wind. I guess normally the ridge is clouded over but it wasn't this weekend.


p.s. Here's a picture of our campsite.

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