OHE January 26, 1999 (Ahern Ditch)

Date: Tue, 26 Jan 1999 08:37:31 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Waiawa/Ahern Ditch TM

This past Sunday (1/24), about 20 of us showed up for the HTMC's trail maintenance outing near the Mililani Cemetery and Waiawa Correctional Facility. Cloudy, blustery, drizzly weather prevailed for most of the day, but we were able to get our work done, most notably the hammering open of a loop route from what was once an out-and-back one. OHE-L folks in attendance were Pat Rorie, Nathan Yuen, Carole K. Moon, Kim & Judy Roy, Thomas Yoza, Kris Corliss, Dusty Klein, and Ralph Valentino.

Trail boss Mabel Kekina divided us into two groups, with Group A assigned to continue beyond the exploratory route by Thomas and others in December (see http://www2.hawaii.edu/~turner/ohe/Dec98/12-26.html for details of that outing). Meanwhile, Group B would work on the usual route along the Ahern Ditch and then continue beyond the usual terminus of the club hike and work upridge until connecting with Group A.

The hike the club does is divided into three phases. Phase 1 involves winding through muddy, jungle-like gullies via dirt bike trails. Just past the trailhead is a steep descent that is tricky when muddy. After about half an hour, Phase 1 terminates with the ascent of a short, steep, eroded slope to an old road that extends mauka to makai.

A long tramp on the overgrown road characterizes Phase 2. As Thomas pointed out in his December write-up, many side trails and dirt roads come in on the left and right, so following the ribbons the club has put up will prevent going astray. After about half an hour into this phase, right after the road descends steeply, there is a significant junction that marks the beginning/end of the loop route we hammered out and is also the start of Phase 3. It was at that point that Groups A and B went their separate ways, with A proceeding straight ahead up a slope in the road and B heading right and down just before the road swings back to head makai.

Thomas, Pat, Nathan, Carole, and I were among those in Group A, and we followed the old road as it continued its gentle ascent into the Koolau foothills. After about 15 more minutes along the old road--now more of a dirt bike trail--we reached a junction where we turned right to follow a semi-obscure contour trail. About a quarter mile dead ahead at that junction is the ridge topped by pine trees where the Kipapa Trail sits. From the trailhead, we needed about 75 minutes to reach this junction.

We were finally on a hikers' trail and from that point on we took out our cutting tools and began clearing. Thomas and I pushed ahead of the main body of Group A, and I remarked to him how interesting this trail was as it swung hither and yon on the top of low ridges that served as natural bridges from one pu'u to another. When following ridges like these, I anticipate rollercoaster conditions, but Thomas assured me that the hiking was fairly gentle with no significant ups and downs.

We had to clear uluhe and some guava, but for the first hour, the blockages were minimal and we proceeded along steadily. After the most significant climb of the day, we reached the top of large pu'u (elev. 1,400) where the December group had come excruciatingly close to completing the loop but had bailed down a side ridge when time and uncertainty about locale became factors. At this pu'u, Group A regrouped and moved into heavy hammer mode since there was only a sliver of a swath or none at all.

As we moved forward, Thomas pointed out the hilltop where the club usually ends its hike. This served as a visual reference. As we hacked forward, we yelled out on occasion, hoping that members of Group B would hear us, return shouts, and provide a sound marker to guide us to a hoped-for union. The slopes we pushed forward on were uluhe covered and basically trackless, and Pat and I joked that hacking in such conditions was good practice for an upcoming traverse of Pe'ahinai'a. Once in awhile, we came upon clearings ripped out by pua'a, but we saw no pigs, no ribbons, and no old cuttings. There was plenty of maile and other native flora along the way and a happy absence of clidemia. We did come across some of the largest lantana I've ever encountered.

At about 11:15, as we were pounding down a broad slope of uluhe, we heard then saw our colleagues from Group B working their way toward us. The energy of our group rose noticeably as a result, and by 11:40 we had made the union with Group B, completing the connection of the new loop route.

We ate lunch at a hacked-out loge on the lee side of the ridge we'd just cleared, with wind whipping overhead to gusts of 40 mph at times. From this vantage point, we looked down into a steep gully where pua'a were probably romping around. To supplement the lunch we each had brought along, Lynn Agena had hunks of sweet potato pie for us and Nathan passed around a bag of mango-flavored pineapple that actually tasted like apricots. During lunch, Pat pointed out the Waiawa Gap along the Koolau summit crest, a section we'd hiked with Gene Robinson, Pete Caldwell, and Laredo Murray in October '97 (for those interested, there's a write-up of that trip at http://www2.hawaii.edu/~turner/ohe/Oct97/mother.htm ).

After lunch, Group A headed out via the way Group B had come in. Vice-versa for Group B. Pat, Thomas, and I--thinking that additional work was needed on the route we'd just opened--stayed with group B instead of completing the loop with A. Seeing a trail where a trackless slope of uluhe once existed, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment.

We all were back at the cars by 3:30, with Group A arriving at the trailhead a bit before Group B.

UH professor Mike Mottl will coordinate the club hike set for Sunday, Feb. 7. Those interested in that outing should meet in the back of Iolani Palace at 8 a.m. on 2/7 or call Mike at 254-6360 for info.

Aloha,

--DKT


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