OHE February 8, 2000 (Keahiakahoe)

Date: Tue, 8 Feb 2000 12:42:30 -1000
From: Kay Ellen Lynch (klynch@hawaii.edu)
Subject: Pu'u Ke-ahi-a-Kahoe

Two fine opportunities for Sunday (2/6) hiking had me torn: Should I join Mabel's great crew planning to clear the Waimano trail . . . or follow plant guru Ken Suzuki on the regular club hike, Pu'u Ke-ahi-a-Kahoe?

After HTM pres Grant Oka's papal dispensation Saturday night at the clubhouse gathering, I decided to follow Ken. "If you haven't been on the Ke-ahi-a-Kahoe hike," Grant said, "you have to go. Especially if the weather is good."

The weather was perfect.

There were two other exceptional things on this hike: (1) the trail, which had been restored in some places with great effort (not just cleared); and (2) one big, perfect 'OHI'A LEHUA blossom -- yellow -- spotted by Ken as we descended the middle ridge.

Well, the views on this trail were pretty exceptional, too.

The hike began at 8:35 a.m. at the end of the road into Moanalua Valley. It proceeds on an old road to the back of the valley, then up a spur (where much of the trail restoration work was done) to Tripler Ridge. The trail goes on to the Ko'olau summit crest, for a total elevation gain of 2,600 feet. Our route then went left along the crest, past the "Haiku Stairs" leading off to windward. A little later, we turned left, returning to Moanalua by way of "the middle ridge." Round trip: 11 miles.

One thought in going on a scheduled club hike was that I would get to meet some of the regulars who don't come on the trail clearings.

Not a chance. Almost all of the 19 hikers shot off at a killer pace. We would see them only one more time . . . gaunt silhouettes far away, on the summit saddle, marching upward and onward through the blue haze.

After leader Ken signed in a couple of late arrivals, our little group marched off, too: Arnold, Justin, Ken and Kay. We were honored to be joined shortly by noted author Stuart Ball and his photographer-collaborator, Lynn Masuyama.

The road walk takes more than an hour but, as road walks go, it's nice. Dirt patches cushion the feet. Vegetation shades the whole way. It's interesting to observe the fitted cobles of the original road, and the countless concrete bridges and fords across meandering Moanalua Stream.

Once we hit the spur and began to really climb, a tremendous "teaching trail" unfolded.

Side by side were MAMAKI and 'AKOLEA. You can tell them apart, Ken said, because mamaki's leaves come off the stem one at a time (they're "alternate"), and 'akolea's leaves are attached to the stem two at a time (they're "opposite"). A few steps ahead was a third member of the nettle family, OLONA. Stems of this big-leaved plant gave one of the strongest natural fibers known. Line made of olona was a prize item in the shipping trade in the 1800s. (Olona also was used to make the netting to which feathers were tied -- the reason we still have examples of Hawaiian capes and feathered helmets.)

Later on, we got to compare MAUA and HAME, which also may look alike at times, and KOPIKO and 'AHAKEA -- two more common forest natives that confuse many.

We peered at flowers of MANONO. They looked just the way Kost had described them during Saturday night's slide show at the clubhouse: "like little anchors." And we noted the random red markings that make KALIA look "as though it had been in a fight," just as Kost said. (A frequent question along the way: "Is it edible?" Ken always answered: "Well, I don't know, but Kost would eat it. He eats everything!")

One of the uncommon plants seen was A'E, in abundance. And as the trail took us higher and higher, that gorgeous summit tapestry unfolded again: several forms of 'ohi'a, plus 'OHELO, strappy plants, sedges and grasses, and wind-dwarfed forms of many common native plants.

What was different this time, though, was that instead of being wind-whipped, cold and wet, we were comfortable. And while the foreground was a field of vivid greens, reds and browns, the distant ridges and urban areas floated in a blue haze -- a visual gift of the kona weather.

We reached our snack spot on the summit crest at 11:39, overlooking Ho'omaluhia and Kane'ohe, with Kailua and Waimanalo in the distance. There Ken made contact with Thomas Yoza and the trail-clearing crew already on the Waimano summit. Then we pressed on along the summit crest to our real lunch spot. This was a clearing by the survey marker for Pu'u Ke-ahi-a-Kahoe, where the trail to the Haiku Stairs veers off to the right. Along the summit saddle, before the lunch spot, we saw several different lobelias, two of them rare.

(According to "Place Names of Hawaii," "Pu'u Ke-ahi-a-Kahoe" literally means "the fire of Kahoe Hill." The story is that Kahoe lived inland and traded vegetables for fish from his brother who lived by the sea. Because his brother was stingy, Kahoe in retaliation cooked his vegetables in a cave. The smoke went out the other end, and so when the lowlanders came looking around at the smoky end, he could hide his vegetables from them.)

We had already had perhaps more plant treats than anyone has a right to expect on a single hike when Ken found that yellow 'ohi'a lehua flowerhead, waist-high, on the trail, shortly after we started our descent. Lynn and I spent a long time photographing it.

In high spirits, we completed the descent along sharp ridges at first and then more gradually down, through KOA-ULUHE forest and then GUAVA. As he had done earlier, Arnold would sometimes stride on ahead. Each time, we would be surprised and happy to find him waiting for us a little farther on.

When we hit the valley road again, out of Ken's pack tumbled cans of soda and fruit juice, still cool, for everyone.

Less than an hour later (4:30), we were back at the cars. Justin carved up a fresh pineapple and Ken produced a whole cooler of cold drinks.

Mahalo to all for a great day.


ABBOTT, I.A. 1992. La'au Hawai'i: Traditional Hawaiian Uses of Plants.
BALL JR., S.M. 1993. The Hikers Guide to O'ahu.
PUKUI, M.K., S.H. ELBERT and E.T. MOOKINI. 1974. Place Names of Hawaii.

Any mistakes are my own.


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