OHE January 4, 1998 (Kawailoa Ridge)

Date: Mon, 4 Jan 1999 14:50:06 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (prorie@hekili.k12.hi.us>
Subject: Kawailoa Ridge

That's Kawailoa Ridge with a 'K'. Not Hawaii'loa Ridge! The two trails are on opposite sides of the island but they might as well be worlds apart in terms of the hiking experience.

Got out of bed at 6:51 a.m. on Saturday morning, January 2nd, and looked out the window. Once again the Ko'olau Range was completely clear of clouds and the weather forecast called for lots of sunshine. As a result, I decided to attempt a hike I'd done only once before back in 1997 with DKT, Dr. Peter Caldwell, Dr. Don Fox, Dr. Torrey Goodman, Lorie (a Kaiser Permanente nurse), Wing Ng, and Laredo Murray. Rain and heavy cloud cover dominated much of that day and I made a mental note to myself to return on a clear day to see what I missed.

Loaded up the Pat-mobile and took the H-2 freeway to Wahiawa Town. Traveled on Kamehameha Hwy toward Haleiwa but bypassed the historic north shore town via the Kamehameha By-pass. The by-pass became Kamehameha Hwy and I made a right onto Kawailoa Drive a short distance later. Several lovely date palms were visible as I approached the turnoff. Passed the Kawailoa Refuse Transfer Station on the left then drove thru an open gate and turned right onto Cane Haul Road. Switched back once to the left near a small cemetary, passed thru another open gate to reach Kawailoa Road, a paved cane road. Ascended gradually inland for about five miles thru the former cane fields. Kawailoa Road became Paalaa Uka Pupukea Road (a military road that winds thru the foothills of the leeward Ko'olau Range) as the thoroughfare narrowed, bordered on both sides by tall vegetation including some sugar cane stalks which struck the Pat-mobile scraping some of the paint off. "This is why you bought the car, remember?!" I told myself cringing with every blow as if the car was an extension of my own body.

Arrived at an intersection with a cane road, parked in some tall grass and continued on foot along the cane road at 8:40 a.m. Entered the Kawailoa Forest Reserve (elev. 1,269 ft) via a dirt road enduring a long (1.5 mile) series of ups and downs in route to the trailhead. Although a work out, the presence of many beautiful, tall Norfolk Island pines, Koa and eucalyptus trees made the road walk much more pleasant.

Reached the junction with the Kawailoa Ridge Trail (a four mile graded contour footpath built by the CCC in the 1930's) at 9:20 a.m. and turned left on it. Contoured on the left side of the ridge below its top, uluhe ferns encroaching upon the trail impeding progress and causing pain (the knee and upper leg scratches from the Kipapa Ridge hike were still sore).

Not long into the hike it began to drizzle and I could see large, ominous clouds forming toward the Ko'olua Range. At this point I considered turning back, esp. since the lower section of the trail (used by pig hunters) was not as open as in '97. But for some reason I decided to press on, pausing several times to chart my progress using Ball's "Hikers Guide".

Crossed over to the right side of the ridge which featured nice views to the south of the nearby valleys and ridges. Tramped thru a small clearing in the forest near a grove of guava trees, the location of a small pig wallow, hoof marks visible in the soft mud. Before switching to the left side of Kawailoa Ridge near ti leaf plants, I stopped to study the steep cliff of an adjacent ridge formed by a huge landslide, the ridge zig zagging as it dropped to the valley floor.

With one brief exception, the footpath remained on the left side of the ridge all the way to the summit contouring below various pu'us. Occasionally, the trail went along the ridge top at the dips between the hills, areas notorious for large amounts of uluhe, ankle deep mud and minor landslides. Took out my bolo knife to cut thru the uluhe. Had my first encounter with Australian tea just shy of a long bend in the trail. At this point the skies had cleared, the sun shining brightly, excellent visibility in all directions. Further ahead, I worked thru a grove of Australian tea then noticed a thick wire running between trees (used by the military to hang things?). Carefully negotiated a deep sink hole as the trail curved to form a semi-circle with the Australian tea grove (I could see the Australian tea directly across looking west). Spotted more thick wires and, gazing north, took pleasure from the lovely clumps of loulu (the tall variety) across the surrounding valleys and gullies. Recognized blue ribbon tied to trees periodically used to mark the route but with such a beautiful, clear day (an abundance of blue sky and sunshine) I never lost the trail.

After battling thru one of the worst sections of the day (a landslide/guava forest combo) I emerged, went around a bend in the ridge and began traveling on a segment characterized by less vegetation which contoured close to the ridge top. Observed other tall loulu palms, an intermittent stream in the gully below and took pleasure from the sweeping vistas of the unclouded Ko'olau summit ridge. Accomplished the final marvelous stretch, littered with many dead Australian tea trees chopped down by someone, passing a junction marked by metal grating (landing mats) and ascending briefly to the top of a flat-topped mound (helipad) (elev. 2,360 ft) at 12:50 p.m.

Collapsed from near exhaustion only to revive a minute later to enjoy terrific views of the north shore from Haleiwa to Kaena Point including the white foam of the huge waves breaking off the coast, the hazy Waianae Range, the south shore and the convoluted topography all around. Consumed an apple and a power bar then changed into long pants for the return trip.

Stood up and recognized one of the islands off Laie Point at 1:09 p.m. before reluctantly descending the mound. Made better progress on the way back due to the long pants (less pain) and the swath I had created coming up. Paused several times to delight in the beautiful afternoon and the wonderful sights including the native flora (koa, ohia, loulu trees to name a few), the surrounding wilderness (valleys, ridges and gullies), and the northern Ko'olua summit ridge. A cool, gentle breeze brought refreshment as well.

Retraced my steps and arrived at the trailhead in just a tad over three hours at 4:11 p.m. Pressing on, I tollerated the rollercoast action of the dirt road and breathed a sigh of relief when I observed the Pat-mobile still parked in the tall grass (break-in or auto theft is a real possibility at such a remote locale).

As a result of the positive hiking experience, a strong desire developed to return to the Kawailoa Ridge Trail again sometime in the near future. Following one last glance in the direction of the forest reserve, I reluctantly started the car at 5 p.m. and drove toward the Kawailoa Refuse Transfer Station. When I reached the gate near the small cemetary, I discovered that it was locked. I tried another road but to no avail. Ended up driving thru a corn field (not thru the corn stalks but on the dirt region surrounding it) in order to get past a concrete pillar next to the locked gate at the start of Plantation Road. Unfortunately, the gate on Kawailoa Drive near the refuse station was also locked. Gave the gate near Anahulu River a shot and spoke with nearby residents but in the end I had to wait until 6:30 p.m. for a bearded dude in a truck to arrive with the key. He let me out but communicated his displeasure in doing so.

Notes: Ball writes "Kawailoa is a bear of a hike through extremely wild and rugged terrain. It provides few rewards, but if you like solitude and a challenge, go for it."*

Kawailoa is a perfect example of how the mountains are being shut off from hikers by private land owners. If the gates are open, it is best to have someone drop you off near the Paalaa Uka Pupukea Road/cane road junction. Upon completing the Kawailoa Ridge Trail, one should head north along the Ko'olau Summit Trail for half a mile then descend the Laie Trail.


* Ball, Jr., Stuart M., THE HIKER'S GUIDE TO O'AHU. Honolulu: University Of Hawaii Press, 1993.

== Paka

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