OHE February 23, 2000 (Mokuleia backpack)

Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2000 06:52:11 -1000
From: "STONE, J. BRANDON" (802005%cchpd@co.honolulu.hi.us)
Subject: mokuleia/ohe

The Mokuleia backpacking trip was great! Many thanks to Judy and Kim and Ralph and Lester and everyone else who contributed time and trucks and other resources to make it happen. Thanks also to the powers that be for the best possible weather conditions: dry and clear most of the time. The group split into smaller teams for various explorations and excursions. I'm not going to write a complete report of the entire trip, but I will describe a couple of daytrips. And I will note that on the hike into camp, I spotted a rare Achatinella moustellina (sp?) snail sitting quite contentedly on an olapua leaf right beside the Makua Rim Trail, about 40 minutes after the Nike site and about five minutes before the snail exclosure. To be honest, I wasn't even looking for this snail. I never find snails. But this one was right in front of me, big as life, and his stripes formed a little bullseye that even I could not miss.

During a trip to Peacock Flat in November 1999, a number of people (a dwindling number, as events unfolded) participated in a search for what I'll call Mokuleia Springs. The springs tantalize on the topo, and, because the stream next to the Mokuleia campsite has been drier than usual the last couple of years (bone dry last weekend), a reliable water source in the area has become very important. In November we made several passes trying to figure out where the springs were. On the last one, shortly before our departure, Kay Lynch and I got to a eucalyptus-covered ridge overlooking what we thought was the valley that contained the springs. We had no time to go down into the valley, though. The quest was put on hold until February.

After hiking in last Saturday, and hiking down to pick up the water that Lester had generously trucked in for us, we all made dinner and then repaired to the rimtop for sunset viewing and postprandial libations. Kay pointed out the peak on Ohikilolo Ridge, far away across Makua Valley, where she had worked on perilous slopes with an Army environmental team. As darkness gathered, I announced to those assembled that on the morrow those who wished could accompany us to the springs. This was to be no hunt, for we knew exactly where the fabled waters lay. Some will claim that I promised a fifteen minute stroll to the source, which may have been a wee bit of an exaggeration, but my optimism was justified by no less an authority than Yukon Jack.

The next day I was gratified to find myself with no less than five boon companions: Kay Lynch, Ken Suzuki, Kim Roy, Judy Roy, and John Darrah. Off we went down the Mokuleia Trail (MT), down into the gully in which lies the stream that once served as our water source. The dust was thick in the streambed. On we went along the MT, past the exclosure containing many rare plants, around a couple of outward bends and into the next drainage. We passed an area on the with some ribbons in which we had meandered many times in November and soon thereafter came to a huge banyan right in the trail. Beyond that, the MT dropped into another small gully and came to another dry stream crossing with a downed banana plant and several keikis starting to come up. This is the first genuine streambed crossing after the stream which formerly provided us with water.

We turned right, upstream, following an obscure trail to the right of a small, dry waterfall and then continued up the streambed for about five or ten minutes. When we approached another series of small waterfalls which would make progress difficult, we looked to the left for the pink ribbons that Kay had tied on our last journey. There they were, leading the way up and to the left, basically contouring and climbing to the crest of the eucalyptus ridge. Much of the way is through very tightly spaced guava. After an altitude gain of about 200' we popped out on a fairly open ridgetop. This is as far as Kay and I had gotten in November.

We explored downridge for a few minutes, but then decided that it was better to go upridge in order to find the springs. Back up we went, but before we got all the way to our original junction, we turned off the ridge, away from the valley we'd come from and down into the next. We moved slowly across rolling slopes, eventually finding ourselves on a high promentory that we decided was on the far side of the springs. Back we went again, looping towards the eucalyptus ridge, but before getting there, we chose to descend a spur that seemed to offer a good chance to get down into the area where the springs were supposed to be according to our reading of the topo.

Somewhere on the way to this spur, we had an encounter with a 25' sheer waterfall that didn't want to be descended. First, Judy stood on a mound of dust and twigs that had settled on the lip of the falls, making Kim nervous and causing him to request her to step back for her own safety. Kim then proceeded to support himself on a slender guava which was clinging to the edge of the falls. When it looked as though he might try to descend along a series of minute toeholds, Judy felt it necessary to express her own concern for him, just for the sake of symmetry. Judy and I then slabbed across the left wall of the gully without realizing that everyone else had retreated along an easy path to the top of the spur. We all safely reunited on the spur. As we descended, there were confusing little drainages on our left and right, and it was not always clear where our best line lay; sometimes we couldn't even tell where the spine of our spur was.

We continued down the spur until we found ourselves in a patch of native forest. We'd been in replanted or invasive forest for so long that it was a shock to be surrounded by soapberry (lonomea) and papala. Hunger overtook us and we snacked. Unfortunately, John had taken the 15-minute trip statement as gospel and had brought no food, nor was there any watercress nearby, so we all shared. All morning we had been stopping and map-reading every few minutes, but now we felt we must be near the gushing springs. Much discussion ensued about which route to take: to the gully on the left, the gully on the right, or straight ahead down an ever-steepening spur. The consensus seemed to favor the right-side gully, so down we went. Not long after, Judy said that she saw water dead ahead.

In a trice we were all standing beside a small, but definitely flowing stream. Actually, there were two forks, both flowing, that joined only a few feet from where we came down. Our examinations soon revealed that both forks were dry no more than 50 yards upstream, but that water flowed in a series of lovely waterfalls and very small pools (wash basin size at most) at least 100 yards downstream, which was as far as Judy and Kim went in that direction. Amazingly, taro and bananas grew beside the stream! Maidenhair ferns grew near the waterfalls and mamake, papala kepau, and papala were also present. We had found a veritable oasis. Finally, we tried to pin down the location of one of the springs as precisely as possible. The water seems to emerge directly into a muddy, rocky area in the streambed--not as romantic as we had hoped--but within a few yards it flows clear and shining over hard rock.

Gratified by our find and ready for lunch, we headed in the most efficient line back up the spur to the eucalyptus ridge, and then upridge perhaps 100 yards to the point where we had originally emerged onto the ridge. We marked this way very clearly and removed some of our original, meandering markers so that future spring seekers should have an easier time of it. Then we retraced our steps down the other side of the eucalpytus ridge, through the narrowly-spaced guava to the streambed, down the streambed to the junction at the bananas with the Mokuleia Trail, and back to the campsite. All of our markers are pink. The return trip took us one hour. That's a long way to go for water, but not that much farther than going down to Lester's truck at Peacock Flat. We may never have to use the springs as our primary water source, but at least we know that it's there.

The trip to the spring should make a nice dayhike for future campouts, and can almost certainly be extended into a variety of loops. We are fairly certain that heading down the eucalyptus ridge to a junction with the MT will be doable, as will heading up the eucalpytus ridge to the 2397' knoll marked on the topo and then on to the Makua Rim Trail. It may also be possible to head downstream, but it will be a very long trip to the point where the road to Mt. Kaala crosses the stream.

In the afternoon, though we were tired from the morning's exertions, Ken and Kay and I (aka "the Plant People") hiked another loop. We headed from the campsite up to the Makua Rim Trail, turned right and ascended to a major knoll, and descended along a fence which forms a T junction with the Makua Rim Trail fence. After maybe 15 or 20 minutes of fence walking we had seen no trails leading down into the valley, so I jumped the fence at a likely point and looked around. I started to go down a steep, obscure "trail" with great bravado, thinking I would be called back at any second. Instead, Kay and Ken showed up just behind me, so we were committed to the trip down this spur. Whatever "trail" we were following was no better than a bad pig trail, but we managed to keep on losing altitude, sometimes on our bottoms. We found two little pieces of ribbon with "Clyde 97" written on them, probably referring to Clyde Imada of the Bishop Museum and the year he came through. Kay later said that she had thought we would have to return by going up this spur, but Ken and I told her that there was no way in the world that we were going back up there. We knew from the start that we were going down the spur and out the streambed.

And that is what we did. The way along the streambed was beautiful and our only regret was not having the time to go upstream from the spot where we joined it. Even so, it was an inviting area. We saw no really rare trees, as we had been hoping, but we did see a rare native fern (Cyrtomium caryotideum). Eventually we came to the lower fenceline and a fancy arrangement of cables and "gates" spanning the streambed. Not too much farther along we hit the road, just around the corner from Peacock Flat, and from there we hoofed it back to camp. This entire loop took about three hours, from two to five pm or so.

On Monday, the Plant People left camp a few minutes before the crowd and spent the extra time going down the gully just around the corner (with the Claoxylon and Urera beside the trail). We descended the gully for five minutes and started looking for an endangered Alectryon (mahoe) that Ken had often visited. At first he thought it was a goner, wiped out by a flood in the area over three years before, but finally he found it clinging to the valley wall. It had seen better days, but at least it was still hanging in there (literally: it had fallen over and reoriented itself). Another specimen next to it looked in worse shape. As we moved back up and put our packs on, the remaining campers came around the bend, and we all headed back to our cars and civilization, left with only the enticing and ineradicable aroma of Grant's brownies.


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