Pat and Dayle probably went on to a trail-clearing today Sunday. I had enough exercise and stay in town today to write.
The last superhike I did was the Kawailoa-Laie traverse back in April. This Poamoho-Waikane certainly pales next to mega-feats like the Poamoho-Laie, and the Kipapa-Schofield traverses, but it is nothing to sneer at. It probably exceeds Kawailoa-Laie in strenuousness.
It started innocuously enough. Pat proposed to go up Poamoho, go on to Schofield-Waikane summit and then the same way. They did this back in April on an easy camping trip. So I thought nothing of it, did not bring cellular phone, space blanket, not even a flashlight.
We met 8 am (which I even thought was kind of late) at Pearlridge, and went together in Pat's car to Poamoho trailhead. We started hiking at 9 am and reached the trailhead itself at 9:30. Poamoho appears to be open, and there is even hunters' sign in station.
Poamoho is wide open, and uneventfully, we got to the top at 11:25. We notice that the Cline memorial at the top was ripped off.
Someone (who was it?) then proposed going down Waikane instead of backtracking, and all three heartily concurred. Cell phones were whipped out to make calls to get transportation. I remark that there is round-island bus, and one can always take the bus.
After resting a bit, we started on the Koolau Summit Trail towards Schofield-Waikane at 11:50. The first part was leeward and congested with vegetation, but not too badly. To the right we can see a flat area where two lakes form from the stream, headwater of Poamoho Stream, and we wonder if that's the bog that was recently "discovered". Then we passed the old cabin, of which nothing remains now, except for some concrete pillars lying on the ground. I was remarking that a pig encounter occurs on all previous KST trips, and in no time, we saw and heard any angry pig in flat ground few feet below the trail on the leeward side.
In a little over half an hour, the trail turned to windward, and essentially remained there all the way. The very first windward section is truly spectacular, and pictures were duly taken. Afterwards the trail becomes more congested with vegetation and is still quite good. Dayle took the lead and Pat stayed to the rear, presumably to conserve energy for the Waikane section.
We got to the Schofield summit at 2:15 and had lunch. Pat tried cell- phone friends, and remarked "we are on a mountain peak". Dayle and I started laughing hysterically, and Pat moved away to continue talking to avoid giving wrong impressions with this background noise. I ventured the opinion that in 1990, when Waikane was clear, it took 2 hours or so to go down, and so Pat was talking about 5 or 6 pm for the car pickup.
I was quite wrong. We moved again at 2:50. The trail is still passable and looked quite familiar from my 1990 hike. I looked in the distance and saw the familiar view of Waikane etched into the hillside going down and presumably KST veering to the right and up. I recall that in 1990 I could not see the junction and wanted to look for it. Funny, missed it again.
For excitement soon intrudes. Waikane trail was built by someone (Civilian Conservation Corps?) and was some 3 feet wide dug in well into the hillside. When it was clear in 1990, it was perfectly safe, and I didn't realize there was any danger even though it actually clings to a cliff-face dropping 1,500 feet vertically down. Alas, it is not clear in 1997! What remains of the trail is the last 2 inches on the left. It is not clear where the edge is located, and there is really no clear edge for it simply slopes off 45 degrees downwards and then abruptly turns to 90 degrees downwards for 1,500 feet. Pat walked on this leftmost edge, but Dayle was more cautious and used his ample bulldozing power to force down the vegetation to the right to create a path. I followed in Dayle's footsteps and furiously lopped off 6 feet tall clidemias. This caused our "hiking" to slow down to a snail's, or some crawler's pace, for I was crawling! Any misstep may drop me down 1500 feet. In some safer places I tried walking faster and almost instantly started falling off, and so I did not dare to attempt any heroics when the edge drops straight down.
It was 6 pm, 3 hours 10 min. later, when the trail levels off and I recognized that it is reaching the "true" Waikane Saddle. Soon it actually crosses the Saddle, and Dayle was sitting there drinking water. Pat was exploring more straight ahead. The ridge continues ahead eventually to reach Ohulehule, Pat's favorite mountain on Oahu. It also forks to the left to contour down into Kahana Valley, eventually paralleling a ditch to an intake that is the end of the classic Kahana Valley hike. Pat returns soon and we started down at 6:15.
The rest of the trail is uneventful. The route contours on and on, over and under many fallen trees. I remember the route differently, and Pat and Dayle were way in front. I started yelling, and they yelled back. They were sitting on a jeep road below. They told me that they went down some ravine. I don't like ravines, and since I can see them below, I made a beeline down the slope, holding on to trees.
It must be 6:45 or so. They have rearranged rides, which will arrive 7:30. I know that at 7:45, it becomes pitch-dark. I remember it doesn't take too long to come out ....
I must have remembered wrong, or we took another shorter route back in 1990. The road was wide open and about as easy as Ala Moana Shopping Center, but it just keeps going on and on. 7:30, and it gets pitch-dark when under tree cover. 7:45, and it gets pitch-dark, period. I can see a faint white shape in front, and that's Pat, shimmering mud puddles, and something white scattered on the ground, which must be fallen vegetation, and I can't see anything else. Pat has an Indiglo watch, and he turned it on once as "flashlight" ....
I can't even see what time it is, but this seems to go on for an eternity until I see a faint light in the distance, and sounds of a motorcycle: must be near the highway! Then actual car headlight! There is a fenced gate that I almost collided with, and beyond are one passenger car and one truck, both with shining headlights! You can't believe how much I valued a light-bulb at that point in time.
Salvation is here: the truck was Dayle's brother's. It was 8 pm. As I gazed skywards, it was so dark that I could see myriads of stars, a bright twin that may be Castor and Pollux that I have not seen in years. The sky has been clear all day, giving us fantastic views, and it has stayed clear now when it is dark.
Next time I'll bring flashlight.
I went up there many times in the late '60's and early '70's. I could drive my Plymouth Barracuda right up to the ditch - which made for a relatively short hike up to the KST. The short distance to the Saddle was sweet because it was wide, clear, and paved in rock in places.
My mom knew somebody in the HTMC who told her not to let me go up there because of that quarter mile section of sheer drop-off. It was in such poor condition at that time that they had stopped using it - it must have been fixed up since then if it was OK in 1990. I said "OK, Ma" and went anyways - there was a wonderful grass clearing just a little way down the Schofield Trail that made for an excellent base camp.
I rarely saw anyone else up there, but the trails seemed to be in pretty reasonable shape - got lost going out Schofield once, though, and eventually wound up in a live-ammo military practice area. The guys were cool, though, and gave me a ride out. For awhile around 1970 the KST just north from Schofield was impassable due to a major slide.