OHE February 2, 2000 (Kaaumakua)

Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2000 16:25:09 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (prorie@k12.hi.us)

Pu'u Ka'aumakua, lit. "family deity hill" and the peak that towers high above Waikane Valley, is the finest panorama on O'ahu. On Sunday, January 30, Laredo "Rainbowman" Murray (teil green hair on this day) and I got together to visit this very special place. During the past month or so I've been in greatest hits mode (O'ahu's greatest hits, that is) hiking to a handful of my favorite locals (i.e. Ohulehule on Dec. 24, Ohikilolo triangular peak on January 17, Pu'u Keahi a Kahoe on January 23). Ka'aumakua was on my "to do" list, but I patiently waited for a light and variable wind, completely clear summit, winter day to attempt the hike. Sunday brought with it the ideal weather conditions; therefore, Laredo and I rendezvoused at his home in Haiku Valley at 8:30 a.m.

After final preparations, "Rainbowman" followed me on his dirt bike to the intersection of Kamehameha Hwy and Waikane Valley Road. I parked on the shoulder across from the intersection, and at approx. 9 a.m. we began riding on his bike (probably the most dangerous part of the day) on a dirt/gravel road to the Waiahole Ditch flume about three miles into Waikane Valley. On the way I uttered phrases to Laredo...

"Steady, keep it under control."

"No rush, we have plenty of time to get there."

Obviously, I'm not an advocate of dirt bike riding unless it avoids a lengthy road walk to a trailhead.

Once at the flume half an hour later, Laredo hid his two-wheeler between some trees and locked it up. We decided to gain the graded, contour Waiahole Ditch Trail via the stream bed to the right of the flume to avoid an area of jumbled up trees where the trail crosses a stagnant stream. This proved successful, and before we knew it, we were on the Ditch trail bound for the Waikane Saddle (aka Kahana Saddle). Steamy conditions prevailed, but no new significant blowdowns/landslides existed to impede our progress.

At 10:02 a.m. the two of us arrived at the Waikane Saddle and proceeded to the front to enjoy the superb view of Mount Ohulehule dead ahead and lush, verdant Waikane Valley spread out before us with Kaneohe Bay in the background.

Pressing on, we began hiking the Waikane contour trail directly mauka of the saddle. We "swam" through a "sea" of clidemia, and beheld a couple of new, minor blowdowns prior to the first overlook of Kahana Valley where the trail juts out on a spur ridge. Continuing to contour on the Kahana Valley facing slope, Laredo and I encountered the ginger section, and I removed my bolo knife to cut a path for the return leg.

Next, we contoured below an exposed, moisture covered, sheer rock wall, reached the second overlook of Kahana Valley obscured by guava trees, and, further ahead, carefully negotiated a deep gut in the footpath.

Later, the two of us worked into and out of a prominent gully, steadily gaining elevation en route to the third overlook of Kahana. We halted briefly at the overlook to gaze at massive Pu'u Pauao across the valley, the Ko'olau Summit Trail (KST) etched into the Ko'olau summit ridge, and the Schofield Trail terminus. Shortly thereafter, we made it to the fourth overlook of Kahana. Take a look at the bottom photo on the last page of the photo section in Ball's "Hiker's Guide". The picture was taken by Al Miller from the fourth overlook in 1990.

Leaving the fourth overlook behind, Laredo and I began the long, breath-taking contour section to the junction with the KST above the deepest corner of Kahana Valley. In a few places the footpath is right on the edge of the cliff and should be dug out to insure safe passage. We traveled into and out of a series of small hanging gullies and noticed numerous loulu palms above and below the trail, including the tall variety, during the stretch.

At 11:28 a.m. the two of us reached the Waikane/KST junction at a rusty metal stake (about one hour and fifteen minutes hiking time from the Waikane Saddle to the junction) and stopped for a breather. I observed a group of lobeliads to the right of the junction and pointed it out to Laredo.

Desiring to gain the summit of Pu'u Ka'aumakua by noon, Laredo and I continued our pilgrimage switching back once while ascending the flank of the ridge. We eventually attained the summit ridge line and crossed over to the leeward side of the Ko'olau Range. After contouring into and out of two gullies, we reached the base of Ka'aumakua in a third gully just past a dead loulu (only the stump remains). We departed the KST and climbed steeply to the flat grassy summit of FAMILY DEITY HILL (elev. 2,681 ft), identified by three benchmarks, arriving there a few minutes prior to 12.

Due to the light winds, the Ko'olau Range was almost completely clear in both directions, providing a magnificent panorama from the pinnacle. Laredo and I stretched out on the grassy summit and consumed our respective lunches, delighted in the wonderful vistas, and sun bathed. I brought a memobook and wrote down almost all of the significant landmarks I could recognize while Laredo took a nap.

Visible to the north: the steep west wall of Punalu'u Valley including 2000-foot sheer cliffs, massive Pu'u Pauao, the KST etched into the windward slope along Pauao and beyond the Schofield terminus, the north shore.

Visible to the west: the Ewa plain, the Wahiawa plain, the Waianae Range from Makakilo to Mokuleia featuring Palikea, Pohakea Pass, Pu'u Kaua, Pu'u Kanehoa, Pu'u Hapapa, Kolekole Pass, Pu'u KuMakali'i, Pu'u Kalena, Mount Ka'ala, Pu'u Kamaohanui.

Visible to the south: the south shore, Pearl Harbor, the Salt Lake condo towers, Kipapa Ridge dotted periodically with lone Norfolk Island pines, the final spectacular contour section of the Kipapa Ridge Trail, the summit region of Kipapa Ridge.

Visible to windward: lush verdant Punalu'u Valley, Pu'u Piei, Pauao Ridge separating Punalu'u and Kahana valleys, six miles deep Kahana Valley with its albezia trees, Pu'u o'Kila, Pu'u Koiele, the massive ridge containing Pu'u Turnover and Pu'u Manamana, Waikane Valley directly below, the front area of Ka'a'awa Valley, dorsal fin shaped Mount Ohulehule dead ahead, Pu'u Kanehoalani "peeking" over Ohulehule's "shoulder", Ohulehule's southeast ridge including Pu'u Pueo, Chinaman's Hat, the Waiahole Valley Norfolk Island pine grove, expansive multihued Kaneohe Bay (aqua green, yellows, deep blue), Mokapu Peninsula, the Mokulua Islands, Ka'iwa Ridge, Rabbit Island, much of the Ko'olau Range to Makapu'u, triple-peaked Olomana, three prominent windward "shoulders" - the closest dropping down into Waikane Valley, the one in the middle separating Temple Valley and Lolekaa Valley, and the third being Piliwale Ridge with the twin summits of Konahuanui above it, the west side of Moloka'i in the distance.

Visible directly below to leeward: unnamed, undeveloped leeward Ko'olau valleys and ridges with their convoluted topography.

A good variety of native plants surrounded the grassy summit: lapalapa, ohi'a lehua, lobelia, kanawao to name but a few. Unfortunately, I also detected pig rooting near one of the benchmarks - "their rooting has severely damaged the native plants along parts of the trail, thus allowing introduced species to gain a foothold"*.

At 3:12 p.m., having spent over 3 hours on the summit of Ka'aumakua, Laredo and I reluctantly departed the peak, commencing the return leg of our journey. On our way down, we paused occasionally to memorize the sights and clear the Waikane contour trail of a small number of fallen branches/trees. We arrived at the Waikane Saddle at 4:32 p.m., and stared in awe at the huge albezias bordering the Ditch trail en route to the flume.

When the two of us reached the dirt/gravel road, I began preparing myself mentally for the dirt bike ride back to Kamehameha Hwy. Out of consideration for my delicate nerves, Laredo took it slow and easy, traveling at speeds of only 5 to 10 mph. Not far from the end of the road, we noticed a group of men gathered in a field mauka of our position, and, upon arriving at the intersection with Waikane Valley Road, found the gate to be illegally locked. Using a tricky maneuver, Laredo managed to guide his bike around the gate onto Waikane Valley Road. From there we motored to Kamehameha Hwy and bid each other farewell at 5:48 p.m.

Notes: There are photos on display at the HTMC clubhouse taken by Al Miller from the summit of Pu'u Ka'aumakua. In late November of last year, Dayle Turner reported that the Waikane contour trail was getting overgrown again. While this is true, the graded contour footpath is a freeway compared to what Laredo and I encountered in February of '97. Give this hike a try! We need to keep the Waikane contour trail open. However, use caution on the final section beyond the fourth overlook. "Don't look at the view and walk at the same time."*


* Ball, Jr., Stuart M. THE BACKPACKERS GUIDE TO HAWAI'I. Honolulu: University Of Hawaii Press, 1996.

== Paka

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