OHE February 6, 1999 (Alewa campout)

Date: Sat, 6 Feb 1999 21:19:16 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Alewa Ridge campout

Last night (2/5, Fri), Bill Melemai, his 13-year-old son Willy, and I overnighted on the ridge above Kamehameha Schools, and even though conditions were windy and a bit drizzly, we had an enjoyable time.

I have to credit Bill for providing the impetus for the campout because if it were up to me, I would've spent Friday night at home in front of the TV and/or computer. But Bill enjoys camping, and he never fails to give me a call when he has a yearning to head for the hills to pitch a tent and fire up a camp stove for some backcountry grub.

After putting in a day of work, we met yesterday afternoon at 5 p.m. by the Kalihi entrance gate of the Kamehameha Schools. I loaded my gear into Bill's Bronco, secured my vehicle, and jumped in with Bill for the drive up to the upper reaches of the Kamehameha campus where we unloaded three packs and I jumped out to wait for Bill's return. Willy was at a Valentine's dance at the Kamehameha intermediate school gym. The dance finished at 5:30, and by the time Bill picked up Willy, parked the car, and met me where we had left the packs, it was 5:55.

Fortunately, the campsite we had chosen was less than an hour's hike from where we started out, and we made it there just as darkness closed in. The route, by the way, took us up the Nuuanu side of the Kapalama Loop Trail, and our camp spot was a pleasant clearing we call Pig Jaw Flats, so named because a pig's jaw was hanging from the branch of an ohia tree at that clearing the first time Bill, Willy, and I hiked the trail about four years ago. Pig Jaw Flats, devoid of its namesake now, is about 10'x 10', is next to several large Norfolk Island Pine trees, and is about 200 meters from the summit of Napu'umaia, a prominent nob near the top of the loop trail.

The Flats offers a nice view of lower Nuuanu Valley and beyond to downtown Honolulu and the waterfront area. However, the threat of rain and trade wind gusts in the 40+ mph range had us more concerned with shelter placement and construction than with the views, so putting up our tents was the first order of business after we arrived. Double pegs and guy-lines affixed to trees helped to insure that our tents wouldn't go hurtling down the valley to the Oahu Country Club, and once we had our tents up, we moved into meal-preparation mode.

Bill had brought along a propane stove, but its effectiveness was hampered by the strong gusts and our inability to create an ample wind break. Although hungry, we remained patient and eventually were able to heat up some ramen spiced up with a can of pink salmon. Ono.

On camping outings, we like to hang out, talk story, and watch the stars, but doing that last night was terminated at 9 p.m. when the winds wouldn't relent and a rainshower swept by. Retreating to our tents, we prepared for a night in the mountains. For shelter, I had brought along my Eureka 5x7 Apex XT (about 5.5 lbs) while Bill and Willy were in a $44 Sports Authority special (also 5x7 and in the 5 lb. range) that more than held up to the strong winds despite its modest price tag. We all had self-inflating mattresses (an indispensible camping item, IMO), and for cover Willy was using a sleeping bag, Bill a light blanket, and I a lightweight cotton sleeping bag liner. Polypropelene thermal tops and bottoms added to our warmth.

Being warm, dry, and snug in adverse conditions while camping is a feeling I relish, and I was fortunate to be in that state last night on Alewa Ridge. The winds continued to whip all night, but our tents held up and we all were able to grab ample sleep, about seven hours in all for me.

We arose from our tents at 7 a.m. with a view of misty, damp Nuuanu Valley spread before us. The winds were still blowing forcefully, but the gusts were less frequent and the intensity had diminished to the 30s. For breakfast, we prepared and ate all the food we had remaining, including a can of Dinty Moore beef stew, a can of pink salmon, a can of mixed vegetables, ramen, dried ika (squid), Fig Newtons, and cocoa.

While packing our gear, we noticed some plant pots under a nearby ohia tree. These, plus the existence of a discernible trail that dropped down on Nuuanu side from our campsite, led us to conclude that some pakalolo growers might have (had) a crop growing in the vicinity.

After we'd finished packing and policing the area, we continued mauka up Alewa Ridge instead of heading back the way we had come. Bill wanted to hike partway up the ridge toward Lanihuli and I suggested after we did that we could descend the Kapalama Trail on the Kalihi side and then head down a side ridge that ends up by DeCorte Park off of Kalihi Street. Bill said that plan sounded good.

From our campsite, we needed less than half an hour to reach the top of the Kapalama Loop. At that point, we dropped our packs and continued mauka upridge. On the way up the first pu'u beyond the top of the loop, we passed Brandon Stone's trail that dropped down to Nuuanu. Two fairly new pink ribbons mark that junction. We continued upslope, slogging our way up a muddy hillside to reach the top of a large pu'u that converges with Kamanaiki Ridge. This past September, Wing and I came up Kamanaiki to this pu'u, and I pointed out to Bill the ribbons that marked the terminus of trail Wing and I had ascended. Bill was gung-ho to try the descent of Kamanaiki, but I discouraged his suggestion, noting that the trail would be too overgrown, muddy, and taxing (i.e. I wasn't in the mood to battle brush).

It is at this pu'u where Lanihuli in all its massive majesty comes into full view, and Bill was really psyched about the views and the pristine quality of the trail. There is also a pretty decent sheltered spot to pitch a tent atop the pu'u, and Bill announced his desire to return to camp there. Willy expressed his displeasure about lugging a big pack to that point, but I'm sure he'll join us whenever we return. A trip to the summit will also certainly be in the itinerary, and I look forward to that since Lanihuli is a beautiful place that not many people visit.

After our visit to the Lanihuli lookout pu'u, we headed back down the Alewa ridge trail, retrieved our packs, and continued makai on the Kalihi side of the Kapalama Loop Trail. We noticed fresh pua'a tracks on the loop trail, so we increased our chatter to alert any porkers that we were coming through. The winds had also diminished in force, and a day that had started out cloudy and blustery had turned into a clearer, sunnier one.

On the way down the loop trail, we scrambled through a couple of recent blowdowns and stopped to note the worsening decay of a trailside cabin. During our first trip around the loop a few years back, we were able to enter the cabin even though its roof had rotted away and its floors were sagging. Now, however, the cabin has imploded on itself and is just a pile of rotted lumber. A nearby wooden watertank has held its form but has long been out of use.

At a place where the loop trail bends sharply left and converges with a ridge from the Kalihi Valley side, we left the main route and headed right downslope on a faint trail. A single pink ribbon on the right marks this point and 20 yards down the faint trail there is a double ribbon. At first, I couldn't find the route, but after some hunting around, I located the trail and called Bill and Willy to come join me. It seems that someone has yanked down the ribbons Pat Rorie and I put up, but trash (from hunters?) hanging in trees and on laying on the ground indicated we were heading the right way. We also noticed pig tails ("tail" isn't a typo) on the trail at two different points.

The ridge leading to DeCorte Park doesn't get much traffic and it's become overgrown with vines and guava in places. Fortunately, most of the ridge is dryland forest topped with small ironwoods, so there isn't any ramrodding of consequence to do. Unfortunately, the views are minimal due to the low level vegetation, and the route isn't anything I'd call memorable or beautiful.

Nonetheless, it's nice to hike routes that aren't usually hiked, and Bill and Willy enjoyed the chance to try this ridge. We passed some interesting rock formations, including one mentioned in *Sites of Oahu*, and also a collapsed lean-to made of branches.

Eventually, we emerged at a rocky pu'u where we looked down to the left at the access road leading up to Kamehameha Schools. We agreed this pu'u would be a great place to place a sign or billboard to send a message to Bishop Estate trustee Lokelani Lindsey, and we amused ourselves by contemplating the effort Lindsey would go through to have the sign removed.

A few yards beyond that pu'u, we reached a junction where we left the ridge and descended to the right down to DeCorte Park. The descent takes a couple minutes, and no one was at the park when we arrived there. While Bill and Willy rested under a tree, I made a five-minute jog back to my car via Kalihi Street and returned to pick them up and head to the top of the Kamehameha campus where Bill had left his Bronco.

We were good and tired by this time, and after a delicious meal at a nearby Taco Time, we headed to our respective homes to clean up and spend the rest of the day relaxing (or, in my case, writing this). Tomorrow, I'll join the HTMC trail clearing gang out Mokuleia way. A report on how that goes will appear tomorrow night or sometime Monday.

Safe hiking to all,


Reply From: Wing C Ng (wing@lava.net>

Ugh! According to Ken Suzuki, one man hanged himself from a tree on that ridge, on a flat spot with a nice view of the ocean towards downtown side.

Since hearing that info., I did not want to hike that ridge alone, not to mention sleep out in the dark there .... :(((


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