OHE January 4, 1998 (b)

Date: Sun, 4 Jan 1998 22:35:11 -1000
From: Nathan Yuen (nyuen@lava.net>
Subject: Pu'u Kalena

Went with the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club today to clear the trail to Pu'u Kalena, the second highest-point on O'ahu which is the next peak over from Mount Ka'ala on the Waianae Range. As I drove early this morning through the gates of Schofield Barracks to the designated meeting place, I was just thrilled that the Waianae Mountains were almost entirely clear with only high clouds above--a perfect day to hike!

Starting at Kolekole Pass, we hiked on a dirt road through a few switchbacks before veering-off to ascend a steep crumbly face of the mountain. A few of the experienced hikers who had hiked this trail before commented that we were fortunate today because the ground was somewhat moist which held the crumbly particles together. Despite the relatively favorable conditions, I found the climb quite stenuous, which became even more harrowing when we reached an even steeper rocky ridge that became a rock climbing exercise at several sections. Pulling ourselves over the top of an unusual rock formation with a crack in it, I was pleased that we had reached the top of Pu'u Kumakali'i, the peak that overlooks Kolekole Pass.

From the top of Pu'u Kumakali'i, we had a fantastic 360 degree panoramic view of Wahiawa and central O'ahu to the east, Mount Ka'ala to the north, and Lualualei and Waianae to the west. With sun illuminating the Waianae coast, we admired the dark rounded dome-like formations of Pu'u o Hulu Kai and Pu'u o Hulu Uka on the edge of deep blue Maili coastline and the peak of Pu'u Heleakala further down the coast. We also could see massive Kamaile'unu Ridge which reaches from lush green Mount Kaala becoming drier and increasingly barren as it descends to just above the shallow azure waters of Pokai Bay.

After resting for a while to admire the view, we used our machetes, loppers, and other trail-clearing implements to hack at christmas berry, strawberry guava, and lantana which had overgrown the trail. Careful to not to destroy the native vegetation such as ohia, poli, and koa, we progessed along the trail until we encountered the first of several dike formations for which Kalena is renown. Formed by magma that was forced into cracks within the mountain and solidified, dike rocks are considerably denser and more resistant to erosion than the surrounding rock. Over the passage of time, the surrounding rock eroded away, leaving the dike rocks to form a rocky walkway two feet wide which perilously drop-off a hundred feet or so on either side. Gawking with open mouth at several spots, adrenaline coursed through my veins as I balanced on the edge to traverse these treacherous formations.

Since the trail to Kalena is ungraded, it forced us to climb up and down over each and every geological formation as we cleared the trail. After traversing several narrow dikes interspersed between several peaks and saddles, we ate lunch and rested for a bit before the final ascent to the top of Pu'u Kalena. As we began the final climb, the trail became much wetter and we encountered increasingly more native plants such as kupiko with their characteristic spiracles on the underside of their leaves, pukiawe with their tiny leaves which whorl around the woody stem amidst tiny crimson berries, kulumoa (Hawaiian mistletoe) which grow as a parasite on the branches of host trees, ohelu with their bright red tasty berries, and sprigs of maile which grow amidst the ohia. We even saw a farily rare lobelia which reportedly only grows in the remotest parts of the Waianaes.

For me, one of the highlights was coming a bit closer to fulfilling my quest to see a live pupu kuahiwi (hawaiian tree snail). While we did not see any living ones today, (we saw two empty pupu kuahiwi shells on the ground which were almost entirely brown in color but with a white edge that highlighted the spiral of the shell) we did see two other kinds of snails which are not native.

Anyway.... as we pulled ourselves up the final steep section to the top, I was just thrilled to have reached the summit Pu'u Kalena! , which is the second highest point on O'ahu some 3500 feet above sea level. Because it was getting late, we did not remain long at the top and returned back the way we had come. Asking some of the more experienced hikers about a connecting hike from Pu'u Kalena to Mount Ka'ala, I was told that a trail did exist, but that it was overgrown with nasty thorny blackberry. Undoubted a challenging hike that some lolos would love to try I bet... any takers? :-)

For me, the return back to Kolekole Pass severely tested my endurance. I dunno whether it was the five extra pounds I had gained over the holiday season, the vigor at which I enthusiastically attacked the lantana and christmas berry (which gave me blister in the palm of my hand), or that Venus no longer rises in the constellation of Taurus, :-) but the today's hike kicked my butt. Huffing and puffing like there was no tomorrow, I went through the 3-liters of water I brought like it was air. Fortunately for me, others who were in better shape permitted me to drink their water. I'm tired and sore... and will undoubted sleep well tonight.

Anyway... as we returned to the trailhead and reached to our cars, I was elated that I had traversed the legendary dikes of Kalena, almost seen a hawaiian tree snail, and admired the magnificent views of the Waianae coastline from ontop Pu'u Kalena. What a neat hike!

View some pictures Nathan took while on the hike.
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