OHE February 7, 1998

Date: Sat, 7 Feb 1998 20:22:47 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Kahaluu bushwhacking adventure

I headed to Kahaluu today (Saturday, 2/7) to do some clearing and exploring with Dr. Gene "Pua'a Chaser" Robinson and had an interesting outing to say the least.

Our goal was to push as far as we could on a ridge that leads to the Koolau summit at the high point of the Waimalu Middle Ridge. Gene did some preliminary exploring several months back and again a couple weeks ago, so he had a pretty decent grasp on the lay of the land.

Gene and I decided not to reveal the specifics of the launch point of the hike because the "T" thing is involved. And although we had no problem when we began the trek, our planned exit route had to be altered when a resident/caretaker unexpectedly was present at our point of departure.

We met at 9 a.m. at Kahaluu Elementary School and drove to the starting point. As we were prepping for the hike, a truck with three local males approached and stopped next to our vehicles. The driver asked if we were going hiking. After hesitating to answer for a few seconds I said we were. "Well I hope you're not planning to go through my yard," he said. "We're not going through anybody's yard," I replied courteously without hesitation. "If you're going hiking up in those mountains you have to go through somebody's yard," he shot back, also without hesitation. I repeated the assertion that we wouldn't be going through anybody's yard (a lie), and he nodded, eyed me suspiciously, and drove off.

We watched the truck head up the road, making sure it didn't turn into the driveway of the place we needed to go through to gain access to the ridge. When we saw it didn't, we began hiking mauka up the road and in a couple minutes, Gene and I were walking through a lot with a decayed, half-built structure located on it. At the end of the lot was an overgrown jeep road that we followed for awhile, placing ribbons along the way. At one point in the forest, we spotted a couple mounds that had the eerie look of graves. This locale gave us the heebie-jeebies, so we moved away quickly.

After about 15-20 minutes, we left the overgrown road and veered left up an embankment to gain the crest of a finger ridge that would take us to Kalahaku (lit. "proclaim the lord"), a pu'u just shy of 1,000 feet in elevation. Waihee Valley was to our right and the rural community of Kahaluu to our left as we climbed.

At about the 600 foot level, we encountered a gas-powered tiller on a well-graded trail someone had hammered and dug through a sea of strawberry guava (the user had obviously used the tiller, which was the size of a large lawnmower, to grade the trail). The trail led to an impressive no-walled wooden structure. The structure had a roof catchment system that emptied into two fifty gallon drums. These drums fed a water faucet and a shower!! The trail near the shelter was cobbled with large river rocks that obviously had to be hauled up the mountain. Tiki torches lined the path and the builder of this place even had even fashioned a tee-off area to whack golf balls mauka into Waihee Valley. Also there was a large propane barbecue stove, an Igloo cooler, a cast iron bench, and a barbell with weights.

Someone had put much work and time into this place and would certainly be upset knowing it had been discovered and tread upon. Gene and I reckoned the structure was not on private property but state forest reserve, but this is just a guess. What was clear is this place is more than just a kid's playhouse or where some homeless person is staying: someone has made a large-scale effort to build a superb switchback trail up the ridge and to construct the shelter. Pakalolo growers? We spotted no cannabis sativa in the area but Gene warned me to be on the lookout for trip wire traps nonetheless.

Having completed our exploration of this amazing place, Gene and I pushed on up the ridge on a trail that became more and more overgrown. Gene, with his handheld loppers, and I, with my machete, hacked away as we proceeded upslope. We passed an interesting chair-like boulder, bobbed and weaved through a tangle of hau (unusual to find this on a ridgetop so high in elevation), and finally topped out at Kalahaku, where we enjoyed fine views of Ahuimanu Valley to the south, Waihee Valley to the north, Kahaluu and Kaneohe Bay to the east, and the Koolau summit crest from Aiea Ridge to Eleao to the west.

After a short break at Kalahaku, we continued on the ridge in the direction of the Koolau summit. Looming ahead were six rocky outcroppings that Gene referred to as "the teeth." Upridge beyond the teeth was a very steep cliff that we hoped to reach the base of and perhaps set some rope/cable for a subsequent summit attempt.

Before reaching the first "tooth" we negotiated a couple smaller humps, placing cable on one. Plenty of vegetation was available for security on the ridge, which had narrowed a bit but wasn't overly dicey.

About 15 to 20 minutes upridge from Kalahaku, we reached the base of the first tooth (about 30-40 feet high) and decided to contour to the left of it instead of going over the top. We gingerly edged our way along the slope, grabbing available vegetation for security. Gene and I agreed a rope or cable would be helpful in this section but we held off using what we had for perhaps a more perilous section further on.

Eventually, we reached a sheer rockface where we could contour no more. Our only recourse was to climb upward to gain the crest of the tooth. Gene scrambled his way up, carefully ascending on loose rock and dirt (the stuff Wingo dreads). He gained the crest of tooth 1 and tied a rope to a clump of octopus trees growing at the top. Using the rope, I cautiously made my way up to the crest (we later found a ohia root in a more optimal place and re-tied the rope).

The top of the tooth was quite narrow with big drops both left and right. Using my machete to clear vegetation, I shuffled mauka with great care along an ever-thinning ridge. Gene implored me to be careful.

After progressing about 15 feet, I arrived at a spot where the ridge dipped and became razor thin. To my amazement, at my feet tied to the base of an ohia tree I found a new-looking black and orange rope that dropped out of sight over the edge of the razor ridge. "There's a rope here!" I yelled to Gene, who was just as amazed as I at the discovery. Somebody (Al Miller? Fred Dodge? Paka-lolo pau hana?) obviously had preceded us to this locale and had negotiated this perilous section which would almost by necessity require butt sliding and straddling the razor ridge while holding on the halloween-colored rope for dear life. True horror!

Gene joked that a skeleton of an unlucky hiker was hanging from the unseen end of this rope. Hearing this, I laughed nervously. After eyeballing the situation for several minutes, we decided against pushing any further (not because we're cowards, Wing) because Gene was scheduled to participate in the Oahu Perimeter Run that would begin in a few hours and he wanted some time to eat and rest prior. Since it was nearly 2 p.m. by this time, we tied a ribbon at the spot, looked longingly upslope at the other teeth and the steep section beyond, and began the return leg, vowing to return with climbing/rope experts like Pat Rorie, Torrey Goodman, and Ralph Valentino.

On the way back, we did more exploring at the structure site and discovered a nicely graded trail that dropped on the mauka side of the ridge down to the floor of Waihee Valley. Another amazing find! Did this lead to pakalolo patches? Apparently not for we found none.

When we reached the valley floor, Dr Robinson and I followed a dry streambed makai until arriving at the spot where we had first left the old jeep road and climbed up the ridge. Our exit was waylaid when we spotted a truck parked in the property we had crossed to gain access to the ridge when we began the hike. We opted against getting yelled at (or worse) by bushwhacking for an hour through jungle-like terrain to finally arrive back at our vehicles. So instead of crossing through the property and walking back to our vehciles the way we had come in (5 minutes), our jungle bushwhack exit took us much longer.

But we had fun and adventure on the way.

We departed at 4 p.m., ending an amazing and thrilling 7.5 hour day in the hills.


Reply From: Gene Robinson (gene@lava.net>

There's nothing more stimulating than a hint of danger, eh?

Dayle was being very diplomatic when he said that we had to turn back at the orange and black rope because of my previous appointment. We COULD have proceeded over the death ridge, but Dayle was appropriately cautious, used good judgement, and chose not to. I was a pure and simple clucking, scratching, pecking CHICKEN, with feathers all over! "The teeth" are interesting to behold from the valley below, but terrifying to be scrambling on!

We may have to wait for Torrey to get well before "the teeth" are attempted again.

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