OHE February 16, 1999 (Kuaokala campout--Pt 1)

Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 15:08:23 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (prorie@mailhost.k12.hi.us>
Subject: Kuaokala Campout Part 1

Had a wonderful time with a group of HTM'ers (with the exception of Randy ? - hopefully, he'll become a member soon) this past President's day weekend at the Mokuleia Campsite/Makua Rim region in the Waianae Mountains. I must admit that my expectations weren't very high for the trip but I told myself "do the campout at least once to discover what its all about".

Got off to a late start on Saturday (February 13) due to a morning committment and the fact that my parents were still in town (American Airlines pilot strike) but finished packing by 10:15 a.m. Headed west along the leeward coast bound for the Kaena Point Tracking Station. Upon completing the drive up the slope of Kuaokala (lit. "back of the sun") Ridge above Yokohama Bay and on Road 'B', I recognized the vehicles of other participants gathered in a dirt lot (elev. 1,300 ft), esp. that of Volker Hildebrandt ("Darn Overpopulation" bumper sticker) and parked the pat-mobile next to his truck.

Final preps ensued then I became a beast of burden (backpack in excess of 35 lbs.) and started moving toward the Kuaokala Trailhead at 11:53 a.m. The day was a gorgeous one with an almost cloudless sky (lots of blue sky), bright sunshine and a nice breeze. The initial section of the trail is best described as a woodsy, graded contour dominated mainly by introduced pine trees (pine cones occasionally littered the footpath). Further along, the work of a bulldozer had turned part of the trail into a firebreak and featured superb views of the leeward coast.

Eventually emerged from the forest, turned left along the edge of the ridge and traversed a narrow bare section. Reached the rim of Makua Valley and paused to take in the excellent vista.

Pressing on, I traveled east along the rim of the valley passing the terminus of the Kealia Trail (elev. 1,960 ft). Soon after, I dropped down to the Kuaokala Access Rd. a few minutes shy of 1 p.m. to continue the journey. The winding dirt thoroughfare was rather monotonous but did include a few Makua Valley overlooks.

At a junction I turned right and proceeded to climb steadily up an overgrown dirt road. A couple and their teenaged daughter passed me on their way down as I spotted for the first time that day the fence which runs along much of the Makua Rim at 1:30 p.m. Following a steep ascent via several short switchbacks, I had to stop and catch my breath at a location (elev. 2,108 ft) overlooking an abandoned Nike missile site. I could clearly see the whole north shore of Oahu from the vantage point.

I began tramping on the Makua Rim Trail a short distance later and entered the Pahole Natural Area Reserve where "native dryland forest vegetation begins to predominate"* at 1:49 p.m. "The predominant trees along the trail are 'ohi'a and koa. Less frequently seen are 'akoko and 'iliahi (sandlewood). Common shrubs along the trail are pukiawe and 'a'ali'i. You can also see the native herb, ko'oko'olau."*

Worked my way up the side of a hill on 12 short switchbacks then, at a small eroded stretch where the ridge started to descend, I sat down to consume a powerbar and half a liter of coolaid.

At 2:05 p.m. I resumed the trek but halted briefly again a short time later when I noticed a small area of the forest surrounded by a three foot aluminum wall and a barbed wire fence (I later found out that rare, endangered tree snails populate the tract).

Reached a breathtaking overlook of magnificent Makua Valley along the Makua Rim, the 'Ohikilolo triangular peak and "the imposing flanks of 'Ohikilolo Ridge"* visible across the valley. Endured roller coaster action and passed two Norfolk Island pines on the left, the infamous fence a constant nuisance, as I accomplished the remaining segment to a footpath which connects the Makua Rim and Mokuleia Trails.

Proceeded down slope off the rim to the Mokuleia Campsite (elev. 2,180 ft) where Lita Komura, Georgina Oka and Carole Moon greeted me, each of whom were busy putting up their tents at 2:45 p.m. 6.6 miles with a heavy pack in under three hours, not bad.

Spoke briefly with the three wahines and Lester Ohara then found an adequate spot to set up my tent. Ralph Valentino and Greg Kingsley assisted my efforts to set up my temporary abode and filled me in on the happenings up to that moment. A few of the campers had hiked down to Peacock Flats to get water. Meanwhile, Ralph and a new guy (Randy ?) had just completed digging a ditch below the campsite to serve as the lua (toilet) during our stay.

Once my tent was up and ready for occupancy, I placed most of my gear inside and joined Carole, Lita, Georgina, June Miyasato and Greg on a short hike of the Mokuleia Trail down to the stream to examine the water source. Although barely flowing, June, Lita and I filled our containers and started back to camp. Randy passed us going in the opposite direction intent on taking a bath in the stream. I felt it was possible but the others laughed to themselves.

Ken Suzuki, Inger Lidman and Volker were now back after successfully transporting bottled water they had found at one of the Peacock Flats camping areas, placing it inside the picnic shelter for all to use. Having hiked up from Dillingham Ranch, Dayle Turner was also present but only temporarily. Knowing Dayle farely well (and his disdain for road walking), it says a lot about his committment to people for him to walk all the way up (and back down) that single-lane paved road.

Most of the campers commenced dinner preparations between 5 and 6 p.m., Charlotte Yamane, Volker and I holding out until later. With many in the group endowed with the gift of gab, there was no shortage of conversation. John Darrah gave us his political view point (whether we wanted to hear it or not).

At approx. 6:15 p.m. most of us scrambled up the connector trail to the Makua Rim Trail. After turning left, we ascended steeply for a brief stretch to a nice overlook of lovely, undeveloped Makua Valley where we watched the sun set. When the sun disappeared, darkness set in and the stars/planets began to come out. First Venus and Saturn in a line above the Pacific Ocean then familiar constellations in the clear moonless night sky overhead. The temperature dropped to a nippy 60 degrees (made even cooler by a light breeze) as members of the group joked amongst themselves. Ken, the star/planet expert, pointed out many patterns of stars by name. Layers and layers of the celestial bodies could be seen due to our isolated locale in relation to the city of Honolulu. The lights of historic Haleiwa, Waialua Town and along the north shore toward Pupukea were also visible. In the foothills above Haleiwa and the territory up to and including the Northern Ko'olau Range, nothing but darkness (may it stay that way forever!).

After about an hour of star gazing, the group returned to the campsite. I lagged behind for some solitude and a few extra minutes of enjoyment. Upon returning to the picnic table, I joined Volker and Charlotte as the three of us cooked our evening meals.

Lively conversation continued as participants of the campout took pleasure from each others company. Most of the campers retired for the night soon after 9 p.m. with the exception of a small group who escorted Greg back to Peacock Flats and kept Lester company. They did not return until 1 a.m.

Next: Part 2 - A day hike toward Mount Ka'ala


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

== Paka

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